The Poor Murdered Woman
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Lesley Nelson-Burns


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This ballad was printed in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society in 1902. It was collected by Lucy Broadwood in Surrey in 1897. It was originally taken down by a Mr. Foster from the singing of a laborer. He was told the words described a real event. The Vicar of Leatherhead told him that the ballad is based on the discovery and burial of a woman who was found in the common field of the parish of Leatherhead on January 15, 1834. According to a woman who remembered the events, the author of the ballad was Mr. Fairs, a brickmaker.

Hankey was supposed to be Yankee and John Simms was supposed to be John Sinn.

It was Hankey the squire, as I have heard say,
Who rode out a-hunting on one Saturday.
They hunted all day, but nothing they found
But a poor murdered woman, laid on the cold ground.

About eight o'clock, boys, our dogs they throwed off,
On Leatherhead Common, and that was the spot;
They tried all the bushes, but nothing they found
But a poor murdered woman, laid on the cold ground.

They whipped their dogs off, and kept them away,
For I do think it's proper he should have fair play;
They tried all the bushes, but nothing they found
But a poor murdered woman, laid on the cold ground.

They mounted their horses, and rode off the ground,
They rode to the village,and alarmed it all round,
'It is late in the evening, I am sorry to say,
She can not be removed until the next day.'

The next Sunday morning, about eight o'clock,
Some hundreds of people to the spot they did flock;
For to see the poor creature your hearts would have bled,
Some odious violence had come to her head.

She was took off the common, and down to some inn,
And the man that has kept it, his name is John Simms.
The coroner was sent for, the jury they joined,
And soon they concluded, and settled their mind.

Her coffin was brought; in it she was laid,
And took to the churchyard that was called Leatherhead,
No father, no mother, nor no friend, I'm told,
Come to see that poor creature put under the mould.

So now I'll conclude, and finish my song,
And those that have done it, they will find themselves wrong.
For the last day of Judgment the trumpet will sound,
And their souls not in heaven, I'm afraid, won't be found.

From English Traditional Songs and Carols
See Bibliography for full information.