The Jolly Bold Robber!

This is one of the traditional songs that I love to sing; it is lively and exciting!

Difficulty level: Intermediate. Overall I’d say this song would be hard for a beginner and is better suited to someone with a few years experience. The chords I have given below are the ones I use and are easy to follow and play, I usually strum them because of the timing which I believe is in 6/8, which makes it hard for me to finger pick, although it can be done. The melody however covers quite a big range, jumping about from low to high and high to low rather suddenly, so is better suited to experienced singers, but of course I would not want to put anyone off, so if you love it just keep practicing and take your time.

This song tells the story of a young sailor; he has just got leave from his ship and set off to London to see his sweetheart when he is accosted by a Jolly Bold Robber! The robber had already stolen a lot of money and really he was being greedy attacking the sailor as well. A long fight ensues with the sailor winning out in the end, happily for anyone who likes to see good being victorious!

This is a traditional English folk song ascribed to the early 1800’s, collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Cecil Sharp.

It seems to be a fairly obscure song, if one is to base that on who has played it over the last fifty years, which I think is odd considering what a great story it is and the excitement it conjures! It has been variously played by Nic Jones, Brass Monkey, Roy Harris with Martin Carthy, and can be found on the 1958 Ewan MacColl and A.L. Lloyd cd Bold Sportsmen All

I have never seen it performed, and I first heard it and fell in love with it on an LP by Nick Dow called Burd Margaret that a boyfriend I had in my late teens had found in a record shop, I still love that whole LP to this day, it had quite an effect upon me and I was immediately inspired to learn The Jolly Bold Robber. I have always really enjoyed songs of this bent, with a bit of excitement and for some reason where the baddy gets his comeuppance.

The Jolly Bold Robber

Am                            C                   G               Am

Come all you good people that like to go tippling,

Am                      C                G                   Am

I prey you give attention, listen to me song

Am                 C               G               Em

Ill sing you a ditty of a jolly bold robber,

           Am             G         Em                        Am

Stood seven feet tall in proportion quite strong


Well he’s robbed lawyer Morgan and old lady Dawkings

Five hundred bright guineas from each one of them

As he was a walking, well he met with a sailor

Bold as a lion he strewed up to him


Deliver all your money oh you saucy young sailor

You’ve plenty of gold in your pockets I see

Aye aye says the sailor, well I’ve got a bit of money

But I’m buggered if I see why I should give it to thee.


I’ve just left me ship and given the pressgang the slip

I’m bound up to London my sweetheart to see

I’ve four bright sovereigns to pay for our sweet lodgings

I pray jolly robber don’t take them from me.


The Jolly bold robber struck the saucy young sailor

A blow like a pole axe and brought him to the ground

Aye Aye says the sailor, you’ve struck me quite heavy

And now I’ll endeavour to return it in again.


Well it’s them boys they stripped and like lambkins they skipped

They fought blow for blow like the soldiers in the fields

At the ninety-seventh meeting it was a completing,

The saucy young sailor the bold robber then killed.


Says the saucy young sailor to the blood stained robber

I pray that you take no offence by me

If I had just robbed a thousand bright guineas

I’d never have stopped a poor bugger like me.


I really like this version by Gavin Davenport! :


I hope you have found this post interesting and informative or even useful! Please share it, ah go on!

With thanks to Mainly Norfolk a really useful website stuffed with information about traditional English folk music!

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