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Lyr Req: 'Jackson on the Scaffold'

McGrath of Harlow 02 Jul 03 - 05:37 AM
Teribus 02 Jul 03 - 06:05 AM
greg stephens 02 Jul 03 - 07:17 AM
McGrath of Harlow 02 Jul 03 - 07:26 AM
Giac 02 Jul 03 - 03:17 PM
McGrath of Harlow 02 Jul 03 - 03:22 PM
greg stephens 02 Jul 03 - 04:05 PM
BanjoRay 02 Jul 03 - 04:59 PM
McGrath of Harlow 03 Jul 03 - 05:50 PM
McGrath of Harlow 03 Jul 03 - 05:53 PM
McGrath of Harlow 05 Jul 03 - 07:58 AM
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Subject: Lyr Req: 'Jackson on the Scaffold'
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 02 Jul 03 - 05:37 AM

Here's an item from today's Notes and Queries in the Guardian - I thought I'd see if we can com up with an answer:

"My grandfather, born in 1872, used to sing a ballad called Jackson on the Scafold, supposedly a true account of a hanging at Strangeways jail, Manchester, which had been a cause célebre. Who was Jackson, and what was his crime? (Kaye McGann, Strandlake, Oxon)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Jackson on the Scaffold'
From: Teribus
Date: 02 Jul 03 - 06:05 AM

Could this be the man in the song??

"A young man called John Jackson, who had been a plumber by trade, was mortified when his teenage idol Charles Peace was hanged at Leeds' Armley prison on the 25th February 1879. After a session of heavy drinking in the pubs of Leeds he made up his mind to join the army. He was convicted of horse stealing while serving with the army and was sentenced to six months in prison which he began to serve at Wakefield prison and from which he managed to escape. He was recaptured and sent to Armley prison in Leeds from which he was released in the summer of 1885. He was soon breaking into houses and was to move to Manchester by 1888, where he was caught red handed outside one of the properties. He was sentenced to another 6 months - this time in Strangeways. His old plumbing skills were to come in useful when the matron of Strangeways smelt gas in her home. Jackson was taken to the house in charge of warder Webb on Tuesday the 22nd of May 1888. After completing the repair he hit Webb on the back of the head with a hammer, fracturing his skull. He stole Webb's boots and then escaped into the roof void from where he was able to remove the slates with the hammer (murder weapon) and get out onto the roof. He was thus able to escape from the matron's house and get down into the street. On the run he supported himself by house breaking, as usual, before being finally caught in Bradford on the 2nd of June 1888, where he gave himself up without a struggle and immediately confessed to the killing. He was taken back to Manchester for trial. He was convicted of Webb's murder and hanged by James Berry on Tuesday the 7th of August. Jackson was described in a contemporary newspaper report as "a daring and adroit criminal, the recital of whose exploits caused wonder and consternation throughout the land".


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Jackson on the Scaffold'
From: greg stephens
Date: 02 Jul 03 - 07:17 AM

Another snippet of useless( I hope) information, not relevant to Jackson, but concerning hangman Berry mentioned above. He it was who settled the mechanics of the long-drop method of hanging. The technical thing to solve was having the drop long enough to kill the person instantly, but not so long as to rip the head off. Berry came up with the formula 112 divided by the weight of the prisoner in stone, this gives the appropriate length of the drop in feet. (There were minor modifications to this according to musculataure of the neck etc).


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Jackson on the Scaffold'
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 02 Jul 03 - 07:26 AM

That sounds like it must be the right one. Promptly done, Teribus. I see from Google this comes from this page about Strangeways Prison Some grisly stuff on that site isn't there?

Now we just need to find the actual ballad. Or ballads. 1879 is late for a "scaffold" ballad I believe. My impression is that, after public executions in England ended a few years earlier in 1868, they wen't out of fashion.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Jackson on the Scaffold'
From: Giac
Date: 02 Jul 03 - 03:17 PM

Thanks Greg, I'd never really thought about the possibility of the head being ripped off. Fascinating. Can visualize Mr. Berry sitting in his little home with piles of papers of figures and sketches. After all, it was his job, and I'm sure he liked things neat; no ugly neckbones sticking up like a chicken with its head wrung off. And it would be much more tidy to return the corpse, with head, to the family.

There ought to be a song in that.

Mary


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Jackson on the Scaffold'
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 02 Jul 03 - 03:22 PM

I wonder if he tested it out on the quiet?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Jackson on the Scaffold'
From: greg stephens
Date: 02 Jul 03 - 04:05 PM

Glac: there is a song in that! In fact that is where I got the facts from.
The chorus goes:

One hundred and twelve that's the magic number
Divided by the weight of the body in stone
You work it out and then you've got
The length of drop in feet
Three cheers for Hangman Berry
His system never can be beat

Written by David Wood


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Jackson on the Scaffold'
From: BanjoRay
Date: 02 Jul 03 - 04:59 PM

Folk connection - Teribus mentioned that Jackson's teenage Idol was Charlie Peace. It just so happens that Charlie played the fiddle, which is now owned by a friend in the Peak District who plays Old Time tunes on it. Another friend, an OT banjo playing ex-policeman from London told us that his great grandfather, also a policeman, was responsible for arresting Charlie Peace, who apparently jumped over a wall while running from a crime and landed on him. I can't think what the moral of all this is. Good, though.
It would be great if someone actually knew the words of Jackson On The Scaffold.
Cheers
Ray


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Jackson on the Scaffold'
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 Jul 03 - 05:50 PM

Anyone got any ideas about this? Any ballad collections that might cover this period? I'm getting curious about this song.

Here is a link to The Life of Charles Peace, John Jackson's hero.

According to this Charley Peace was not only a fiddler, but played a few other instruments - and his day job during much of his burgling life was described as "dealer in musical instruments", and there are a few examples of his verse - for example, when his sister died he wrote this, which could have come from a Carter Family song:

"I was so long with pain opprest
That wore my strength away;
It made me long for endless rest
Which never can decay."


Writes H.B.Irving, author of the life I linked to just there: "In Charley Peace alone is revived that good-humoured popularity which in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries fell to the lot of Claude Duval, Dick Turpin and Jack Sheppard."

One of us you might even say. So are there any ballads about him? "Peace songs" with a difference.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Jackson on the Scaffold'
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 Jul 03 - 05:53 PM

I just did a check, and Charley Peace does get a mention in one song in the DT anyway - "I'm Henery The Eighth I am." In the final verse.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Jackson on the Scaffold'
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 05 Jul 03 - 07:58 AM

Anyone with any informatioin or suggestions on:

a)John Jackson

b>Charley Peace

???


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