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Origins: Young Johnson

Steve Gardham 04 Feb 10 - 05:35 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 04 Feb 10 - 06:25 PM
MGM·Lion 05 Feb 10 - 08:27 AM
Steve Gardham 05 Feb 10 - 02:45 PM
RTim 05 Feb 10 - 02:49 PM
RTim 05 Feb 10 - 02:56 PM
Steve Gardham 06 Feb 10 - 03:01 PM
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Subject: Origins: Young Johnson
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 05:35 PM

Here's a hard one. Can't find it in the DT. Not surprising as there's only one known oral version collected by Gardiner from James Rampton, Whitchurch, Hampshire, 1906. Published in The Wanton Seed and even then Frank Purslow has had to augment it from broadsides. There are plenty of broadsides starting around 1800 with the 'Young Johnston/Johnson' title. However what appears to be an earlier version printed by Hurd of Shaftesbury, Dorset, has for title 'Young C------___, Or, a warning to Young men.' The arrangement of the stanzas makes better sense.

I'm convinced it's a genuine 'execution' ballad. It fulfils all the stylistic criteria and it has the ring of truth about it. The lad was apparently well-off and well-liked by wealthy ladies who offered £500 to reprieve him. He was convicted of forging a bill (banknote)and was hanged which was the usual punishment regardless of status upto 1830.
I would guess the case was quite high profile. The change of name to Johnson could have come about when a few years later another case came up and the broadside printers wouldn't waste a good ballad. The Johnson version seems to have been much more popular.

Come all young Men of Learning good
A Warning take by me,
Keep your Hands from Pen and Paper
That is call'd Forgery:
It was my ready Wit and Learning good
brought me unto this Place,
And I stood trembling at the Bar
To all my Friends' Disgrace.

My Name it is young C------___,
How cruel is my Fate,
Neither Lands nor Livings can save me
My Crime it is so great;
For the Ladies all around me stand,
Five Hundred Pounds they'd give,
All for the life of C------___,
If they would him reprieve.

Then up spoke one of the Grand Jury--
Saying, Ladies that ne'er can be,
For if you'd give Ten Thousand Pounds,
We never could set him free;
For we have his signing lying by,
As will show in the forged Bill,
And we must hang young C------___,
Tho' it's all against our Will.

Then C------___'s Trial being over--
he was condemn'd to die,
Which caused many aching hearts,
And many a wat'ry Eye;
I am cut off all in my Bloom,
Hard is my Fate, cry'd he,
For the Want of Wit and Conduct
Has prov'd my Misery.

As C------___ went up the Scaffold--
So boldly up spoke he,
So freely I forgive this World--
If this World will forgive me;
And with a placid Countenance
He made a gracious Bow--
Saying--Farewell, farewell, Companions all,
This World I bid adieu.

If anyone has better research facilities it would be great to pinpoint the origins of this one. I tried Googling and came up with several candidates whose names begin with C who were convicted and sentenced to death for forgery of a banknote c1790-1830 and if I could get onto the new trials website I might be able to narrow it down.

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Subject: RE: Origins: Young Johnson
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 04 Feb 10 - 06:25 PM

You can see the two verses and the tune that Gardiner collected on the EFDSS - Take Six site, reference is GG/1/5/230 (alternative reference H230; I don't know how to link to the entry directly). Note the singer's name appears to be Rempton, not Rampton (though The Wanton Seed and my Roud index both give that)


  Come all you lads and a warning a warning take by me,
  Never touch pen ink nor paper for it's called forgery,
  It was my wit and learning that brought me to this place,
  Now at the bar I am arraigned my parents to disgrace.

  Young Johnson being a clever lad well-dressed from top to toe,
  When the judge condemned him for to die, tears from his eyes did flow,
  His uncle he was standing by reading a forgery will,
  Saying we must hang young Johnson though much against our will.

  Source: Collected by George Gardiner from James Rempton.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Young Johnson
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 08:27 AM

A caveat - not to be confused with the ballad Young Johnstone, Child #88, which is often called Young Johnston/Johnson. Entirely different song.

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Subject: RE: Origins: Young Johnson
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 02:45 PM

Thanks, Mick and Michael.
I've now had time to look at and compare all of the extant broadsides and the result is very interesting. It's not often you can trace the geographical spread of a ballad with much accuracy but the variations in this one show earliest as posted above and printed in Dorset (not necessarily the first) then to Hampshire(Young Johnson) with Oxlade of Portsea, then to London with Pitts and followers, spreading north to Birmingham and Manchester and another thread to Chesterfield, York, Newcastle and Cumbria and in the latter 4 he becomes Young Johnston to further confuse with the Child ballad. All printings possibly before 1820.
I'm still convinced it's based on at least one actual event.

Mick, yes the mss give Rempton. I think a quick check of local names should sort this one.

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Subject: RE: Origins: Young Johnson
From: RTim
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 02:49 PM

Do I assume that you are looking at Young Johnson because of your work on Wanton Seed?

And - as Young Johnson is the LAST in the book, can anything be assume by that fact, ie. Is it close to completion?

Best - Tim Radford
ps. Would you like an updated copy of all my Bio. notes on George Blake (even post my Cd production)?

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Subject: RE: Origins: Young Johnson
From: RTim
Date: 05 Feb 10 - 02:56 PM

By the way, and I am sure you know this; the original music manuscript for this and the other two songs collected from him, clear shows the singers name as Rampton, and only one of (Frank Purslow's) typed pages has Rempton.

I have not looked at the notebooks.
Tim Radford

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Subject: RE: Origins: Young Johnson
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 06 Feb 10 - 03:01 PM

Hi Tim,
Yes I am on the last song but it all needs typing up and checking by an editor yet. It was decided to include bio info in the next volume so we are saving that, but whoever works on this, perhaps yourself? the info on George Blake will be very useful.
Thanks for the Rampton info. I'll check the notebooks if I can get at them. I would imagine if there was any doubt a look at the area's genealogy details would clear it up.

I am only working on text histories. Someone else is doing the tunes and I think Malcolm had already checked for mistakes on tunes and texts. I've found one or two anyway.

What would be useful, if there are any tracks on your CD that coincide with Wanton Seed or in fact the next 2 books, is a track list so I can include it in with the notes please.

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