“The Wild and Wicked Youth”


The singer recounts his (boyhood and) life, telling of his many daring robberies. Now, alas, he is condemned to die, and must leave his family. He concludes with directions for his funeral


The Bodleian "The Wild and Wicked Youth" broadsides, and OLochlainn-More 35, include a version of the lines

"I robbed Lord Mansfield I do declare, ...

Lord Fielding's gang they did me pursue And taken I was, by that cursed crew."

The Bodleian notes to 2806 c.16(325) include references to the cast of characters: "Fielding, John, Sir, d. 1780; Mansfield, W.R., Baron Sandhurst, 1819-1876"

Broadside Bodleian Harding B 26(67) is another example of the "I robbed Lord Mansfield I do declare" group. Zimmermann's fragment seems to be from this version. In this case he falls in with "Fieldskin gang." - BS

Given the date of the song, I would think the Mansfield involved more likely to be William Murray, first Earl of Mansfield (1706-1793), who was Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench from 1756. This has at least sometimes been corrupted to Lord Melbourne, presumably William Lamb, second Viscount Melbourne (1779-1848), the Prime Minister (on and off) from 1834 to 1841. But Mansfield is closer to the Era of the Highwaymen -- and, as Chief Justice, someone they would doubtless enjoy taking.

Fielding in fact might refer to John Fielding or his brother Henry, the author (died 1755). Henry Fielding was driven by poverty to take a post as Commissioner of the Peace for Middlesex in 1748. John Fielding, despite being blind, succeeded him in 1754 -- and dramatically improved law enforcement, though he didn't have the funding to carry out all his reforms. Still, he did enough that life became much harder for the highwaymen.

"Fielding's Gang" is presumably the Bow Street Patrol, founded by the Fieldings as the first almost-national police force in England. - RBW

The "Ramblin' Boy" versions of this song shouldn't be confused with the Tom Paxton song, "My Ramblin' Boy." - PJS

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Harding B 25(2054), "The Wild and Wicked Youth," T. Birt (London), 1828-1829; also Firth c.17(208), Harding B 11(576), Harding B 15(376a), Harding B 11(939), Firth c.17(6), Harding B 16(307a), Harding B 11(4205), Harding B 11(4211), Harding B 11(4212), Firth b.34(314), Harding B 11(3519A), Firth c.17(7), 2806 c.16(325), Harding B 17(338a), Harding B 20(117), Harding B 17(337b), "The Wild and Wicked Youth"; Harding B 28(235), "The Highway Man's Fate"; Harding B 26(67), "The Bold and Undaunted Youth" ("In Stephen's-green I was bred and born"), J. Moore (Belfast), 1852-1868


  • O. J. Abbott, "The Bold and Undaunted Youth (The Rambling Boy)" (on Abbott1)
  • Clarence Ashley & Tex Isley, "Rude and Rambling Man" (on Ashley01)
  • Justus Begley, "The Roving Boy" (AFS, 1937; on KMM)
  • Jumbo Brightwell, "Newry Town" (on Voice03)
  • Carter Family, "The Rambling Boy" (Bluebird B-8990, 1941/Bluebird 33-0512, 1944)
  • Wade Mainer, "Ramblin' Boy" (Bluebird 33-0512, 1944)
  • New Lost City Ramblers, "Rambling Boy" (on NLCR05)
  • Riley Puckett, "Ramblin' Boy" (Columbia 15605-D, 1930)
  • Bob Scarce, "Newlyn Town" (on FSB7)


  1. Laws L12, "The Rambling Boy (Wild and Wicked Youth)"
  2. Belden, pp. 136-137, "The Rambling Boy" (1 text)
  3. Randolph 148, "The Rambling Boy" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  4. Warner 101, "The Rambling Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Sharp-100E 83, "The Robber" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Fuson, pp. 63-64, "The Rich Rambler" (1 text)
  7. Cambiaire, pp. 43-44, "The Wretched Rambling Boy" (1 text)
  8. Ritchie-Southern, pp. 91-92, "The Reckless and Rambling Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Combs/Wilgus 90, pp. 184-185, "The Rich and Rambling Boy" (1 text)
  10. Kennedy 326, "Newlyn Town" (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. OLochlainn-More 35, "The Newry Highwayman" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. Zimmermann p. 96, "The Bold and Undaunted Youth" (1 text fragment)
  13. BrownII 121, "The Rambing Boy" (1 text)
  14. Lomax-FSNA 96, "The Ramblin' Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  15. Cohen/Seeger/Wood, pp. 130-131, "The Rambling Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  16. Thorp/Fife XIII, pp. 148-190 (29-30), "Cow Boy's Lament" (22 texts, 7 tunes, the "L" text being in fact a version of this piece)
  17. Darling-NAS, pp. 106-107, "The Rambling Boy" (1 text)
  18. DT 423, (RAKERAMB*)
  19. Roud #490
  20. BI, LL12


Alternate titles: “The Rake and Rambling Boy”; “Adieu Adieu”; “The Flash Lad”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1830 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 25(2054))
Found in: US(Ap,SE,So) Britain(England,Scotland) Ireland Canada(Ont)