The Sheffield Apprentice (Kenneth Peacock)

See also: Lonely Sarah (MacEdward Leach)

I was brought up in Sheffield
though not of low degree,
My parents doted on me,
having no child but me;
I revelled in such pleasures
as where my fancy lay,
Till I was bound apprentice
and all my joys fled away.

I did not like my master,
he did not use me well,
I took a resolution
not long with him to dwell;
Unknown to my poor mother dear,
from him I ran away,
I steered my course to London,
oh cursèd was that day!

A handsome fine young lady
from Ireland was there,
She offered me great riches
to serve her for a year;
And after long persuading
with her I did agree,
For to go and live in Ireland
which proved my destiny.

I had not been in Ireland
but a year, two, or three,
Before my kind mistress
she fell in love with me;
She said her gold and silver,
her houses and her land,
If I'd consent for to marry her,
would be at my command.

My mistress had a waiting-maid
and 'twas her I did love well,
She courted me my heart away,
all my thoughts on her did dwell;
I only loved that fair one
more better than my life,
And if jealousy had not proved so severe
I would have made her my wife.

I said, "My honorable mistress,
how can I wed you both
When I have made a promise,
likewise a solemn oath,
When I have made a promise
to a young waiting-maid?
Oh, excuse me, my kind mistress,
for she has my heart instead.

Oh, then in angry passion
she said I'd done her wrong,
She swore she'd be avenged
before it was too long;
She had been so perplexèd
she could not be my wife,
She then took up a project
for to take away my life.

'Twas early the next morning
that this young couple were seen,
As they were a-walking
down in the garden green;
Taking a ring from her finger
as I was passing by,
She slipped it in my pocket
and for it I must die.

My mistress swore I'd robbed her
and quickly I was brought,
Before a gray old justice
to answer for my fault;
Long time I pleaded innocent
but 'twas of no avail,
She swore so hard against me
that I was put in jail.

And now to the assizes
they have brought me at last,
The justices and magistrates
on me have sentence passed;
From the place of my confinement
they brought me to a tree,
In sight of my cruel mistress
all hangèd for to be.

Come all you judge and jury
just as you're standing by,
Don't glory in my downfall,
but pity me as I die;
I'm going to die quite innocent
and bid this world adieu,
Fare you well sweet lovely Polly dear,
I'll die for the love of you.

####.... Author unknown. Variant of a British broadside ballad [Laws O39] American Balladry From British Broadsides (G Malcolm Laws, 1957). Also a variant of a 19th-century British broadside ballad, Sheffeld Apprentice, published by W Armstrong (Liverpool) sometime between 1820 and 1824, and archived at the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads, shelfmark: Harding B 28(23) ....####

Collected in 1960 by Kenneth Peacock from George Reid [1882-1975] of Codroy, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 3, pp.709-710, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

A variant was collected in 1951 from John Connors [1890-1971] of Placentia, NL, and published as Lonely Sarah in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

Kenneth Peacock noted that in another variant from Codroy, sung by Mrs Mary Ann Galpin [1872-1962] of Codroy, NL, the apprentice meets the rich lady in Belfast, not London; and she takes him to Holland, not Ireland. Verse five in the above text is from this variant. This broadside ballad has been widely collected from oral tradition in North America and England. The Newfoundland tune was the best Peacock had seen.

¹ The first two lines of the tenth verse were missing from Peacock's recording and replaced by GEST into this text from similar variants.
² Assizes were the county courts of England which were replaced in 1971 by crown courts.


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GEST Songs Of
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