The History of Lincoln Waites
The Lincolnshire Farmer's Daughter
c.1650 - 1850
This is one of a group of songs that share the same theme - of a girl outwitting a highwayman or robber. This gives rise to their more common title of "The Highwayman Outwitted". Versions of this song can be found in: Laws' "American Balladry from British Broadsides", "The Roud Folk Song Index" and the Bodleian Library. One version was collected by Frank Kidson from the singing of Kate Thompson of Knaresborough, during the 1880s. In A Pedlar's Pack of Songs and Ballads, Logan quotes a version entitled "The Maid of Rygate".
Lincolnshire versions exist in the following collections:
- The collection of Mrs E H Rudkin
- (transcribed by Miss L A Peart from the singing of Robert Brader (Lusby))
- The Collection of R S Thomson
- (from the singing of Mrs Jessie Kidd (Grimsby))
- The Collection of Cecil Sharp
- (number 2060 in the Vaughan-Williams Library)
Singers arbitrarily changed the farmer's residence to suit their own location - so the farmer and his daughter now variously hail from Lincolnshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Sheffield, etc. Other titles are "The Rich Farmer in Cheshire [or Chester or Chesterfield], and "The Devonshire Farmer's Daughter".
Highwaymen were particularly active between the end of the Civil War and the arrival of the railways. The end of the war saw the national network of horse-drawn coaches expand. These coaches carried the wealthy. At the same time there were many ex-royalist soldiers who had lost their homes (and their prospects of a lawful life) in the civil war. For 150-200 years, generations of highwaymen robbed their way around the country while the forces of law and order vainly attempted to stop them. Informers were hired, rewards offered, highwaymen were hanged in public and their families were not allowed to bury the bodies, instead they were ordered to remain hanging to rot on the gibbet. None of this was sufficient deterrent.
The last highwayman to hang in England was Huffum White. It was August 1813.
Where the criminal justice system failed to rid the country of highwaymen, economic and industrial developments succeeded. The growth of banking and the introduction of cheques reduced the amount of cash in transit. William Pitt's Act For Restricting Cash Payments cut it even more. Enclosure Acts took the common land which had once provided highwaymen with cover. The appearance of the railways also impacted upon coaching trade (coaches had provided highwaymen with their richest pickings).
On 4 August 1846 a Midland Railway train arrived in the City of Lincoln. In 1848, Lincoln Railways station was built. So although this song was sung to Kidson in the 1880s, its theme suggests that it dates from a time when highwaymen were still active - possibly between 1650 and 1850.
The Tune most often associated with these words is "The Crafty Maid's Policy".
If you would like to hear my own arrangement of the tune - please click the following link:
- In Lincolnshire lived a rich farmer,
- And his daughter to market would go,
- Thinking that nobody would harm her,
- As she rode to and fro.
- Till she met with a lusty highwayman,
- Her pockets he drew from her sides,
- And as she stood shivering and shaking,
- He gave her the bridle to hold.
- From stirrup to saddle she mounted,
- She threw her legs o'er like a man,
- All the way that she gallop'd she shouted,
- "Now catch me you rogue, if you can!"
- This highwayman soon followed after,
- A bullet from his pistol let fly,
- He ran, but he could not come at her,
- His boots they so hampered his knees.
- As she rode o'er her father's green pastures
- It had just struck eleven by the clock,
- Her father was sorely affrighted
- To see her ride home in her smock.
- O daughter! What has been the matter,
- You've tarried so long from your home?
- O father! I've been so affrighted,
- But still I have come to no harm.
- Then he pulled from behind her a portmanteau,
- With several articles more,
- And ninety score of bright guineas,
- He tumbled them out on the floor.
- O father, this is a grand portion,
- It will keep the wild wolf from the door,
- O daughter, it is a grand portion,
- Unto thee I will give as much more.
- Then here is a health to the lass,
- That the risk of her life she has run,
- She trick'd the highwayman completely,
- Out of his horse, his money and gold.