“The Wexford Girl (The Oxford, Lexington, or Knoxville Girl; The Cruel Miller; etc.)”


The singer invites the girl for a walk. They discuss their wedding. Then he takes up a club and attacks her. She begs him to spare her life. He beats her to death and throws her in the river. He is taken and hanged


Ozark folklore links this to the murder of one Lula Noel, whose body was discovered by the Cowskin River in Missouri in 1892. The song, however, is obviously older. Doerflinger traces it to a broadside about a murder committed at Reading, England in 1774. - RBW

Botkin, following Cox (who follows Belden), traces it to a British broadside, "Berkshire Tragedy" or "The Wittam Miller", circa 1700. - NR

Laws also lists this broadside in his catalog (it is, indeed, one of the texts he prints), but adopts his title based on common traditional usage.

Laws, in fact, draws a stemma, starting from the "Berkshire Tragedy," and listing a total of seven "recensions" (p. 119), though he considers the broadside to be merely of eighteenth century date. I have a problem with the whole reconstruction, though: It's too literary. Even if one assumes the original ballad was a broadside (and I think Laws assumes this more often than is justified), it does not follow that its entire history is found in the broadsides. The song is so common that one must suspect the larger share of the broadsides to be derived from tradition, rather than being the source of tradition. - RBW

In Peacock pp. 638-640 version A the girl is pregnant, as in Laws' text of "The Cruel Miller" ( _American Ballads from British Broadsides_ chapter IV, p. 111).

Broadside Bodleian Firth b.28(40a), printed in London between 1800 and 1811, has 22 8-line verses; shelfmark Antiq. c. E.9(125), with the same text as Firth b.28(40a) has an estimated print date of c.1700. These are all clearly recognizable as the same ballad, down to the "bleeding at the nose" line. - BS

The "Love and Murder" broadsides listed here should not be confused with the other numerous broadsides of that title, many of which are versions of The Cruel Ship's Carpenter (The Gosport Tragedy; Pretty Polly) [Laws P36A/B]. ["Love and Murder" is a very common title for broadsides, which I suppose proves that cheap journalism is not a modern invention. - RBW] - BS, (RBW)

Cross references

  • cf. "The Banks of the Ohio" [Laws F5] (plot)
  • cf. "Camden Town" (plot)


  • Bodleian, Antiq. c. E.9(125), "The Berkshire Trgedy [sic]" or "The Wittam Miller" ("Young men and maidens all give ear"), unknown, c.1700; also Firth c.17(216), "The Berkshire Tragedy" or "The Wittam Miller," unknown, 1796; Harding B 6(100), Douce Ballads 3(1b), Harding B 6(101), Harding B 6(102), Firth b.28(40a), "The Berkshire Tragedy" or "The Wittam Miller"; Harding B 6(96), "The Berkshire Trgedy [sic]" or "The Wittam Miller"; Harding B 6(98), "The Wittham-Miller" or "The Berkshire Tragedy"; 2806 c.17(40), Harding B 28(224), "Bloody Miller" ("My parents educated, and good learning gave to me"); Firth c.17(110), Harding B 11(752), Harding B 11(753), Harding B 11(754), Harding B 11(755), "[The] Cruel Miller"; Harding B 15(74a), "Cruel Miller" or "Love and Murder"; Firth c.17(109), "Cruel Miller" or "Love and Murder!"


  • Blue Sky Boys, "Story of the Knoxville Girl" (Montgomery Ward 7327, c. 1937)
  • Cope Brothers, "Knoxville Girl" (King 589, 1947)
  • Mary Delaney, "Town of Linsborough" (on IRTravellers01)
  • Foster & James "The Knoxville Girl" (Supertone 9260, 1928) [also issued as by Jim Burke, possibly a pseudonym for Doc Roberts]
  • Marie Hare, "The Wexford Lass" (on MRMHare01)
  • Louisiana Lou, "The Export Girl" (Bluebird B-5424, 1934)
  • Asa Martin & James [Doc] Roberts "Knoxville Girl" (Conqueror 7837, 1931)
  • Lester McFarland & Robert Gardner, "The Knoxville Girl" (Brunswick 110/Vocalion 5121, 1927)
  • Aulton Ray, "Maxwell Girl" (Gennett 6205/Champion 15332/Challenge 335 [as Charlie Prescott]/Silvertone 5084, 1927; Supertone 9250, 1928; on KMM [as Taylor's Kentucky Boys])
  • Arthur Tanner, "The Knoxville Girl" (Silvertone 3515, 1926) (Columbia 15145-D, 1927)
  • Mildred Tuttle, "Expert Town (The Oxford Girl)" (AFS; on LC12)


  1. Laws P35, "The Wexford Girl (The Oxford, Lexington, or Knoxville Girl; The Cruel Miller; etc.)" (Laws gives three broadside texts on pp. 104-112 of ABFBB)
  2. Belden, pp. 133-136, "The Oxford Girl" (2 texts)
  3. Randolph 150, "The Noel Girl" (7 texts plus 3 excerpts and 2 fragments, 5 tunes)
  4. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 108-111, "The Noel Girl" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 150A)
  5. Eddy 104, "The Murdered Girl" (8 texts, 2 tunes, but Laws assigns the B text to "The Banks of the Ohio" and omits the others. It would appear that Eddy's A and C texts belong here)
  6. Gardner/Chickering 19, "The Knoxville Girl" (2 texts)
  7. BrownII 65, "The Lexington Murder" (3 texts plus 6 excerpts, 1 fragment, and mention of 3 more)
  8. Chappell-FSRA 63, "Nell Cropsey, III" (1 text, which despite its title does not mention Cropsey and appears to be simply a version of this song with perhaps some mixture with "Banks of the Ohio")
  9. Hudson 30, pp. 141-143, "The Wexford Girl" (1 text)
  10. Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 159-164, "The Wexford Girl; Hanged I Shall Be; The Prentice Boy" (3 texts, which despite the collective title are all called "Knoxville Girl"; 1 tune on p. 402)
  11. Shellans, pp. 68-69, "The Jealous Lover" (1 text, 1 tune, probably this but with some curious variants which hint at recomposition)
  12. Brewster 36, "The Wexford Girl (The Cruel Miller)" (1 text)
  13. Flanders/Brown, pp. 88-90, "Hang-ed I Shall Be" (1 text, 1 tune)
  14. SharpAp 71, "The Miller's Apprentice, or The Oxford Tragedy" (5 texts, 5 tunes)
  15. Greenleaf/Mansfield 56, "Wexford City" (1 text)
  16. Peacock, pp. 634-636, "The Wexford Girl" (2 texts, 2 tunes); pp. 638-640, "The Worcester Tragedy" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  17. Mackenzie 115, "Waterford Town" (1 text)
  18. Manny/Wilson 98, "The Wexford Lass" (1 text, 1 tune)
  19. Leach, pp. 785-787, "The Lexington Murder" (2 texts)
  20. Doerflinger, pp. 288-290, "The Wexford Girl" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  21. Friedman, p. 225, "The Wexford Girl" (1 text+5 fragments of another text)
  22. Warner 7, "The Waxford Girl" (1 text, 1 tune)
  23. Cohen/Seeger/Wood, pp. 150-151, "Knoxville Girl" (1 text, 1 tune)
  24. Botkin-SoFolklr, p. 737, "The Knoxville Girl" (1 text, 1 tune)
  25. Kennedy 327, "The Oxford Girl" (1 text, 1 tune)
  26. Abrahams/Foss, pp. 115-116, "Knoxville Girl" (1 text, 1 tune)
  27. JHCox 90, "The Wesford Girl" (2 texts)
  28. MacSeegTrav 75, "The Wexford Girl" (1 text, 1 tune)
  29. Silber-FSWB, p. 224, "Knoxville Girl" (1 text)
  30. BBI, ZN1624, "Let all pretending Lovers"; ZN3196, "Young men and maidens all, give ear unto what I relate"
  32. Roud #263
  33. BI, LP35


Alternate titles: “The Oxford Tragedy”; “The Expert Girl”; “Johnny McDowell”; “The Prentice Boy”; “The Cruel Miller”; “The Miller Boy”; “Never Let the Devil Get the Upper Hand of You (Carter Family version)”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1796 (broadside, Bodleian Firth c.17(216); c.1700 (broadside, Bodleian Antiq. c. E.9(125))
Found in: US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,SE,So) Canada(Mar,Newf) Britain(Scotland,England) Ireland