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Origins: Boston Burglar

DigiTrad:
THE BOSTON BURGLAR


Related threads:
Lyr Req: Louisville Burglar (6)
Lyr Add: Bound for Sydney Town (Warren Fahey) (2)


Jimmy C 10 Apr 07 - 06:12 PM
GUEST 10 Apr 07 - 06:31 PM
Charley Noble 10 Apr 07 - 07:08 PM
Peace 10 Apr 07 - 07:15 PM
GUEST,Lighter 10 Apr 07 - 08:51 PM
Peace 10 Apr 07 - 08:53 PM
GUEST,Lighter 10 Apr 07 - 08:57 PM
Peace 10 Apr 07 - 09:10 PM
GUEST,Lighter 10 Apr 07 - 09:19 PM
Charley Noble 10 Apr 07 - 10:04 PM
Jimmy C 11 Apr 07 - 12:35 AM
Betsy 11 Apr 07 - 03:27 AM
Charley Noble 11 Apr 07 - 08:07 AM
Charley Noble 11 Apr 07 - 10:16 AM
masato sakurai 11 Apr 07 - 10:40 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 11 Apr 07 - 03:43 PM
oldhippie 11 Apr 07 - 04:48 PM
GUEST,Lighter 11 Apr 07 - 06:33 PM
oldhippie 11 Nov 08 - 06:06 PM
Mark Ross 11 Nov 08 - 07:55 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 11 Nov 08 - 09:10 PM
Amos 11 Nov 08 - 09:14 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 11 Nov 08 - 10:37 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 11 Nov 08 - 11:40 PM
SINSULL 12 Nov 08 - 01:13 PM
Lighter 12 Nov 08 - 06:09 PM
Joe_F 24 Jul 12 - 02:09 PM
Lighter 27 May 16 - 10:25 AM
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Subject: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: Jimmy C
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 06:12 PM

The Boston Burglar.

Fact or Fiction ????.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 06:31 PM

http://maxhunter.missouristate.edu/0685/index.html

Note the 1928 date at the bottom of the page.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: Charley Noble
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 07:08 PM

Here's a link to what's in the DT: Click here!

I always heard the line as "In iron chains he's bound..."

This song certainly goes back to the 19th century. I believe it was collected in READ 'EM AND WEEP.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: Peace
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 07:15 PM

"The Boston Burglar and McAffie's Confession are derivatives of Old World ballads;"

from http://72.14.253.104/search?q=cache:02v_PkDS3E4J:www.bartleby.com/228/0408.html+%22the+boston+burglar%22,+history&hl=en&ct=clnk&


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 08:51 PM

Fiction, a rewrite of "Botany Bay":

http://bodley24.bodley.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/acwwweng/ballads/image.pl?ref=Harding+B+11(4372)&id=05309.gif&seq=1&size=0

I believe "The Boston Burglar" was in print so early as 1888, but I don't have the reference handy.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: Peace
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 08:53 PM

JSTOR: The Skillet Lickers: A Study of a Hillbilly String Band and ..."Boston Burglar" may not have been learned from oral sources, since a published version of 1888 had become widely popular.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 08:57 PM

Make it 1881, according to John Harrington Cox's "Folk-Songs of West Virginia," 1925, p. 296. It was "sung [on the vaudeville stage] by Dan MacCarthy" and copyrighted by Wehman of N.Y., a prominent publisher of song books.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: Peace
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 09:10 PM

"The Boston Burglar would seem to be an Americanised version of the British song Botany Bay. "The Boston Burglar. Sung by Dan MacCarthy" was copyrighted in 1881 by H. J. Wehman (New York) and published by him as both a broadside (no. 480) and in The Vocalists's Favorite Songster of 1885. Gavin Greig noted three versions of the song in Scotland, and commented that, 'the song has got quite naturalised in this country'. The Irish collector Sam Henry also noted the song from a singer in Coleraine and it may be that Charlie Whiting's version comes from the recording made in 1940 by the Irish singer Delia Murphy, a recording that was once played frequently on the radio in England. (Delia's recording can now be heard on the CD 'From Galway to Dublin' Rounder CD1087.)

Song transcribed by Dan Quinn

Song notes: Mike Yates"

from

www.veteran.co.uk/vt154cd_words.htm


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 09:19 PM

Sorry. Cox's book is correctly titled "Folk-Songs of the South."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: Charley Noble
Date: 10 Apr 07 - 10:04 PM

I think Peace has nailed this one.

Charley Noble, too lazy to try to access his library


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: Jimmy C
Date: 11 Apr 07 - 12:35 AM

Thanks all,

I sing this song but always wanted to know more about it. I have a few old Delia Murphy recordings. I will pay them a visit.

I was always confused by the verse that started " I put my foot on an east bound train" or " They placed me on an east bound train"
If you go east from Boston you are in the Atlantic ?.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: Betsy
Date: 11 Apr 07 - 03:27 AM

Hi All,
I can't give any fancy references as per others, but this song was fairly popular in the 60's with Irish and Brit. folk singers .
I'm as confused as with Jimmy C above and overlap views with others .
This is how I heard it first , and , this verse gives a double meaning to "bound" - but I suppose it just evolved that way........

I was put on board an east-bound train on a cold December day
And at every station that we passed I'd hear the people say
There goes that Boston Burglar, in cold chains he is bound
And one way or another , he's bound for Charlestown


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: Charley Noble
Date: 11 Apr 07 - 08:07 AM

"Charlestown" is apparently where the penitentiary is located. Why Charlestown would be reached by an "east-bound" train is a bit of a puzzle but if you go east for enough you should be able to reach Charlestown via the great circle route, although the "iron chains" might get a little rusty by then.

I always envisioned the line about his aged father "standing at the bar" having reference to how he choose to console himself. However, the line about his aged mother "just tearing out her old gray locks with the tears all streaming down" seemed particularly poignant, no one in the band could keep a straight face. Of course at that time none of us had any gray hairs to speak of.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: Charley Noble
Date: 11 Apr 07 - 10:16 AM

Well, I finally dug up my copy of READ 'EM AND WEEP, edited by Sigmund Spaeth, © 1926. His discussion of "The Boston Burglar" is on pages 177-179 and Spaeth says that M. J. Fitzpatrick should be credited with the authorship, with the copyright being held by Edw. B. Marks Music Co. Here are the lyrics that he has:

I was born in Boston, a city we all know well –
Brought up by honest parents, the truth to you I'll tell,
Brought up by honest parents, and raised most tenderly,
Till I became a sporting man at the age of twenty-three.

VERSE 2
My character was taken, and I was sent to jail,
My friends found it was in vain to get me out on bail;
The jury found me guilty, the clerk he wrote it down;
The Judge then passed my sentence and I was sent to Charlestown.

VERSE 3
See my aged father, a-standing at the bar;
Likewise my aged mother, a-tearing of her hair;
Yes, tearing of her old gray locks, while the tears came pouring down,
Saying, "Son, dear son, what have you done, that you're sent to Chralestown?"

VERSE 4
I was put on board an Eastern train, one cold December day,
And at ev'ry station that we passed I'd hear the people say,
"There goes the Boston Burglar, in strong chains he is bound,
For some great crime or another, he is off to Charlestown."

VERSE 5
Is a girl in Boston, a girl that I love well,
And when I get my liberty, along with her I'll dwell,
And if ever I get my liberty, bad company I'll shun,
Likewise night prowling, gambling, and also drinking rum.

VERSE 6
All you who have your liberty, pray keep it if you can,
And don't go 'round the streets at night to break the laws of man;
For if you do you'll surely rue, and find yourself like me,
Who is serving out a twenty-year year term, in the penitentiary.

Very similar to what has been posted above and what is inthe DT.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: masato sakurai
Date: 11 Apr 07 - 10:40 AM

The tune to "The Boston Burglar" sung by Max Hunter (linked by GUEST - Date: 10 Apr 07 - 06:31 PM above) is "The Sidewalks of New York."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 11 Apr 07 - 03:43 PM

Pete Coe does a terrific version of this song on his CD 'In Paper Houses' (Backshift Music, BASH CD53, 2004).


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: oldhippie
Date: 11 Apr 07 - 04:48 PM

I have a good version by the Kilkenny Krew of St Johns Newfoundland - self titled CD


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 11 Apr 07 - 06:33 PM

Might as well mention that there are at least two well-known tunes, one major, the other modal. The former is sung by Delia Murphy, IIRC. The latter is that given by O Lochlainn in "Irish Street Ballads." It was used by Ewan MacColl for his song beginning, "I am a wagon-driver, boys, Bill Healey is my name."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: oldhippie
Date: 11 Nov 08 - 06:06 PM

Re: the Eastbound train - there is a version with the words "They put me on the passenger one cold, cold winter day" which takes away the eastbound to Charlestown question.

I also have an ending that follows the verses:

"O people, you in freedom, pray keep so if you can,
Remember that it's evil to break the laws of man;
For sad it is to find yourself in such a fix as me,
A-facing twenty-three years in penitentiary."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: Mark Ross
Date: 11 Nov 08 - 07:55 PM

The New Lost City Ramblers recorded this as THE LOUISVILLE BURGLAR.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 11 Nov 08 - 09:10 PM

The original Boston Burglar?

Levi Ames was executed for burglary in Boston in 1773, age 22.

The poem written for this event is some 30 verses long.

AN ADDRESS TO THE INHABITANTS OF BOSTON, (particulary to the thoughtless YOUTH) Occasioned by the Execution of LEVI AMES,
who so early in Life, as not 22 Years of Age, must quit the Stage of action in this awful Manner. He was tried for BURGLARY on the 7th of September, and after a fair and impartial examination of Facts, the JURY went out but soon return'd, who upon their Oaths pronounced him GUILTY.

1
The day's far spent, the night comes on apace,
Rebellious man has almost run his race;
This day brings forth the fruits of sin and shame,
Which shews the frailty of the human frame.
--------
10
Investigate, use every means to find,
This wretched nuisance now to all mankind;
Bring him to justice, let him share his fate,
See if his life must have a longer date.
-------------
12
The judges speak, and all with doe consent,
Firmly agree he has his life mispent;
The proof's so strong they do in conscience say,
He for all this his life at last must pay.
------------
17
The Day's appointed that this must take place,
A grief uncommon covers every face;
This is the Day, the mournful Hour is nigh,
Man in the Morning of his Life must die.

Broadside at American Memory, printed in Boston, Oct. 3, 1773. Complete with a drawing of the gallows, the hangman on a ladder doing the honors, and hanged Levi Ames.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: Amos
Date: 11 Nov 08 - 09:14 PM

Oddly enough I learned this song transposed to Louisville, with the major verses being the same.

A


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Subject: Lyr. Add: The Jail at Morgantown
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 11 Nov 08 - 10:37 PM

Randolph, in "Ozark Folksongs," says "The "Louisville Burglar" song is evidently a southern variant of the well-known "Boston Burglar" piece, once copyrighted by Edwin B. Marks and credited to M. J. Fitzpatrick, but derived directly from the old English ballad of "Botany Bay...." No. 136, "The Louisville Burglar," vol. 2, pp. 37-39. Two versions from Missouri, the first sees the man bound for Frankfort town. The last two verses:

I loved a girl in Louisville,
A place you all know well,
An' if I ever gain sweet liberty
Together we will dwell.

Together we will spend our days,
An' shun bad company,
Quit drinkin' of cheap whiskey, boys,
While out upon a spree.

In the second version, the boy is bound for Jefferson town, but longs to go back to his girl in Springfield.
-----------------------------------

Lyr. Add: THE JAIL AT MORGANTOWN

1
I was born in West Virginia, a place we all know well,
Brought up by honest parents, the truth to you I'll tell,
Brought up by honest parents, and raised most tenderly,
Till I became a roving lad, which proved my destiny.
2
My friends would oftimes say to me, and oftimes would relate,
A home of thieves or drunkards would sometime be my fate,
But I paid no regards to them, and in bad company roamed,
And now to-day I may be found in the jail at Morgantown.
3
My character was taken, and I was sent to jail;
My friends tried to bail me out, but it proved no avail;
The judge he heard the evidence, and the clerk he wrote it down,
The jury found me guilty, and I was sent to Morgantown.
4
You ought to have heard my father, a-pleading at the bar;
Likewise my angel mother, tearing out her hair,
A-tearing out her silver locks, and the tears from her eyes dropped down:
"O son! O son! what have you done that you are going to Morgantown?"
5
They took me away on an eastern train on a cold and stormy day,
And every station we passed through, you could hear the people say;
"There goes a noted burglar, in chains he's bound down;
For some bad crime or other he's going to Morgantown."
6
'T is you have the liberty, pray keep it while you can,
And don't go out, my boy, to-night, and break the laws of man;
For if you do, you'll surely find in chains they'll bind you down,
And you'll be spending the best of your days in the jail at Morgantown.

"The Boston Burglar," no. 84, version B, pp. 297-298, J. H. Cox, editor, 1925, "Folk-Songs of the South," Dover reprint. Collected in Morgantown, West Virginia.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 11 Nov 08 - 11:40 PM

"To Huntsville" [TX] is a fragment of the ballad in Scarborough, 1925, "On the Trail of Negro Folk-Songs," pp. 243-244, no data.
Last verse:

Now if you see my Lula, please tell her for me,
I've done quit drinking and gambling, poor boy,
And getting on my sprees.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: SINSULL
Date: 12 Nov 08 - 01:13 PM

I learned this from my Dad. The same version as Charlie Noble's with minor changes to the last verse:

Oh you who have your freedom, pray keep it if you can
And don't go 'round the streets at night and break the laws of man.
For if you do you'll surely rue behind these bars like me.
I'm serving the sum of twenty one years in the penitentiary.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: Lighter
Date: 12 Nov 08 - 06:09 PM

Seems to me there's a Library of Congress recording,from Kentucky, of an odd version of this called "Frank James the Gambler." It's about the same as the Boston version but has a very different tune.

Can anyone supply both?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: Joe_F
Date: 24 Jul 12 - 02:09 PM

As to the geography, note that one of the versions calls the train "eastern" rather than "eastbound". However, either reading makes it unlikely that the trial took place in Boston; Charlestown at present is part of Boston, and at the time would have been just to the north of it, so that a train would not have been required.

There was indeed a prison in Charlestown -- the one at which Sacco & Vanzetti were executed. Its site is now occupied by Bunker Hill Community College.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Boston Burglar
From: Lighter
Date: 27 May 16 - 10:25 AM

Eight years after I mentioned "Frank James," the lyrics are still not available online. Nor is the tune.

Here are the words, from Library of Congress Folk Music of the United States, Anglo-American Songs and Ballads, Album 14: It was sung by L. D. Smith at Swannanoa, N.C., in 1946:

                  FRANK JAMES, THE ROVING GAMBLER

I was raised up in Louisville, a town you all know well,
Raised up by honest parents, to you the truth I'll tell.
Raised up by honest parents most kind and tenderly,
Until I came a drinking man at the age of twenty-three.

'S I used to be a poor boy, and I worked upon the square,
I learned to pocket money, and I did not take it fair.
'S I worked out day by day, by night I'd rob and steal,
So when I'd make a great big haul, how happy I would feel.

'S I used to ride a big bay horrse and drive the buggy fine,
'S I courted a lady and I often called her mine.
'S I courted her for beauty and to me love was great,
For when she saw me coming, she'd meet me at the gate.

One night when I lay sleeping, I dreamed a frightful dream.
'S I dreamed I was in Asheville on some clear purple stream.
My friends had all forsaken me, no one to go my bail,
As I woke up broken-hearted in Hawthorne's county jail.

Around came the jailer about ten o'clock,
The keys in his hands, he pressed them to the lock.
"Cheer up, cheer up, my prisoner," I thought I heard the old boss say.
"They'll end you 'round the mountain one 'leven long years to stay."

Then around came my sweetheart about eleven o'clock.
The novel in her hand, she pressed it to the lock.
"Cheer up, cheer up, my Frankie," I thought I heard the old boss say.
"They'll send you 'round the mountain,
                               some 'leven long years to stay."

Then around came my mother about twelve o'clock.
With a bible in her hand, she pressed it to the lock.
Says, "Turn to the 25th chapter of Matthew,
                                  go read both night and day.
Remember your old mother, and don't forget to pray."

They put me on a northbound train bound for the Frankfort town.
'S every station I passed through, the people would seem to say,
"Yander goes Frank James the burglar for some big crime or other,
He's bound for the Frankfort jail."

This owes as much to "The Bravest Cowboy" as it does to "The Boston Burglar." There's also new material. "Purple" obviously rationalizes the unfamiliar "purling."

The words are occasionally incoherent. I haven't found a "Hawthorne" in Missouri, North Carolina, or Missouri.

The mother of Frank and Jesse James moved to Missouri from Kentucky, but otherwise the real Frank (1843-1915) had no connection with either Kentucky or North Carolina. He spent a year in prison, in Missouri, in 1882-83, then went straight. Frank James was not especially known as a gambler, and the song may refer to an entirely different, or fantasized, Frank James.


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