“Jack Robinson”


Robinson lands in Portsmouth with "prize money." He recognizes the alehouse landlady to be Polly. He shows her the handkerchief she had given him. She says she married when someone told her he had died. "He was off before you could say Jack Robinson"

Supplemental text

Jack Robinson
  Partial text(s)

          *** A ***

Jack Robson

From Helen Creighton, Songs and Ballads from Nova Scotia, #40, pp. 79-80.
"Sung by Mr. Ben Henneberry, Devil's Island."

The voyage is over, and home at last
My good ship in Portsmith arrived at last,
The sails all furled and the anchor cast,
  The happiest of the crew was Jack Robson.

(10 additional stanzas)


Jack Robinson shares this theme with the (older?) French ballads: the sailor/soldier returns after a long absence, stops at an inn, recognizes the hostess as his sweetheart/wife, and leaves when she explains that she has married because he had been reported dead.

The attribution is from the wordorigins site explaining "faster than you can say Jack Robinson":"there was a very popular song by Thomas Hudson in the early 19th century that told the story of a sailor of that name who returns to find his lady married to another. Given the date, it is obviously not the origin."

A description -- posted by the bookseller Olde Musick & Cokery Books, Hobart, Australia, on the Abebooks site -- of _The Spider & the Fly and A Frog He Would a Wooing Go_ by Thomas Hudson and W Wilson: "The composer/singer Thomas Hudson (1791-1844) was one of the stars of the very early music hall/supper clubs and indeed for many years ran his own theatrical tavern near Covent Garden and is considered one of the original constituents that developed into the music hall . He published his songs yearly from 1818-31 and his most notable were Jack Robinson The Lively Flea and of course The Spider & the Fly written in the 1830s and most famously sung by Henry Russell. Here coupled with A Frog He would a Wooing Go made notable by amongst others the famous clown Grimaldi in 1837." - BS

Same tune

  • The College Hornpipe (per broadsides Bodleian Firth c.13(200), Bodleian Harding B 16(117a), Bodleian Johnson Ballads fol. 132, Bodleian Harding B 11(53))
  • The Heart of a True British Oak, or The College Hornpipe (per broadside Bodleian Firth c.13(199))

Cross references

  • cf. "Brave Marin" (Brave Sailor) (theme)
  • cf. "Le Jeune Militaire" (The Young Soldier) (theme)


  • Bodleian, Firth c.13(200), "Jack Robinson," T. Birt (London), 1828-1829; also Harding B 11(1847), Harding B 17(143b), Harding B 11(52), Johnson Ballads 2587, Harding B 16(117a), Harding B 11(51), Johnson Ballads fol. 132 [barely legible], Firth c.13(199), Harding B 11(53), "Jack Robinson"


  1. Creighton-NovaScotia 40, "Jack Robson" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. ST CrNS040 (Partial)
  3. Roud #1794
  4. BI, CrNS040


Author: Thomas Hudson(1791-1844)
Earliest date: before 1830 (broadside, Firth c.13(200))
Found in: Canada(Mar)