“The Bad Girl's Lament (St. James' Hospital; The Young Girl Cut Down in her Prime)”


The bad girl tells of how she reveled at the ale-house and the dance hall, then found herself in the poorhouse, and now is at death's door. She makes her final requests, and asks that young sailors carry her coffin


One of the large group of ballads ("The Bard of Armagh," "Saint James Hospital," "The Streets of Laredo") ultimately derived from "The Unfortunate Rake." All use the same tune and metre, and all involve a person dying as a result of a wild life, but the nature of the tragedy varies according to local circumstances. There is a certain amount of cross-fertilization between versions; see the cross-references. - RBW

Legman provides extensive notes to the entire "Unfortunate Rake" song cycle in Randolph-Legman II. - EC

There is a particular sub-family of this type, which I've heard done up-tempo with a rather different tune. The Darling "One Morning in May" text appears to belong here. If there is a characteristic line, it seems to be the one "My body is elevated [by the mercury treatments for venereal disease] and I am bound to die." - RBW

Without hearing Platt's & Baker's recordings, I can't tell whether this is "Bad Girl's Lament" or "Unfortunate Rake," but I'm playing the percentages and putting them here. - PJS

For the treatment of syphilis prior to the twentieth century, see the notes to "The Unfortunate Rake." - RBW

Cross references


  • James "Iron Head" Baker, "St. James Hospital" (AFS 204 B1, 206 A2, 1934)
  • (AFS 718 B1, 1936)
  • Tom Lenihan, "Saint James' Hospital" (on IRTLenihan01)
  • Mose "Clear Rock" Platt, "St. James Hospital" (AFS 194 B2, 1933)


  1. Laws Q26, "The Bad Girl's Lament (St. James' Hospital; The Young Girl Cut Down in her Prime)"
  2. Munnelly/Deasy-Lenihan 21, "Saint James' Hospital" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Peacock, pp. 420-421, "Annie Franklin" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Friedman, p. 426, "The Bad Girl's Lament (St. James Hospital)" (1 text)
  5. Fowke/Johnston, pp. 160-161, "The Bad Girl's Lament" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Creighton-NovaScotia 102, "Bad Girl's Lament" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Mackenzie 119, "The Bad Girl's Lament" (1 text)
  8. Randolph-Legman II, pp. 604-608, "The Bad Girl's Lament" (1 text)
  9. Lomax-FSNA 97, "The Bad Girl" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. Darling-NAS, p. 8, "One Morning in May" (1 text)
  11. DT 350, UNFORTLS*
  12. Roud #2
  13. BI, LQ26


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1928 (Mackenzie)
Keywords: drink poverty death
Found in: Canada(Mar,Newf) Britain(England) US(So) Ireland