A true and Tragical SONG, concerning Captain JOHN BOLTON,


A true and Tragical SONG, concerning Captain JOHN BOLTON,


of Bulmer, near Castle-Howard, who after a Trial of Nine Hours, at York-Castle, on Monday the 27th of March, 1775, for the wilful Murder of ELIZABETH RAINBOW, an Ackworth Girl, his Apprentice; was found Guilty, and immediately received Sentence to be executed at Tyburn near York on Wednesday following, but on the same morning he strangled himself in the Cell where he was confined, and so put a period to his wicked and desperate Life. His Body was then pursuant to his Sentence, given given to the Surgeons at York Infirmary to be dissected and anatomized.


Captain seduces his female apprentice and after finding out she is pregnant murders her. He then kills himself in jail rather than be publicly executed.

Digital Object

Image / Audio Credit

British Library - Roxburghe, Shelfmark: C.20.f.9.453; EBBA 31133

Set to tune of...

Fair Lady lay your costly Robes aside


GOOD Christian people all, both old and young,
Pray give attention to this tragic song:
My days are shortned by my vicious life,
And I must leave my children and my wife.

When I was prisoner to York-Castle brought,
My mind was filld with dismal, pensive thought;
Conscious of guilt, it filled my heart with woe;
Such terrors I before did never know.

When at the bar of justice I did stand,
With guilty conscience and uplifted hand,
The Court straitway then unto me they said,
What say you Bolton to the charge here laid?

In my defence I for a while did plead,
Sad sentence to evade (which I did dread)
But my efforts did me no kind of good,
For I must suffer, and pay blood for blood.

To take her life I did premeditate;
Which now has brought me to this wretched fate.
And may my death on all a terror strike,
That none may ever after do the like.

Murder prepense it is the worst of crimes,
And calls aloud for vengeance at all times,
May none hereafter be like me undone,
But always strive the Tempters snares to shun.

By me she was seducd in her life-time,
Which addeth guilt to guilt, and crime to crime.
By me she was debauched and defild,
And then by me was murderd, and her child.

Inhuman and unparalleld the case,
I pray God give all mortal men more grace,
Nones been more vile, more guilty in the land,
How shall I at the great Tribunal stand?

I should have been her guardian and her friend,
I did an orphan take her for that end,
But Satan did my morals so subdue,
That I did take her life and infants too.

To poison her it was my full intent,
But Providence did that design prevent,
Then by a rope, fast twisted with a fife,
I strangled her, and took her precious life.

My Counsel I did hope would get me clear,
But such a train of proofs there did appear,
Which made the Court and Jury for to cry
Hes guilty, let the wicked culprit die.

When I in fetters in York-Castle lay,
The morning of my execution day,
For to prevent the multitude to see
Myself exposed on the fatal tree.

I then did perpetrate my last vile crime,
And put a final end unto my time,
Myself I strangled in the lonesome cell,
And ceased in this transit world to dwell.

Method of Punishment






Execution Location


Tune Data

Fair Lady lay your costly Robes aside, is also known as Death and the Lady (Simpson 1966, pp. 169-70).




“A true and Tragical SONG, concerning Captain JOHN BOLTON,,” Execution Ballads, accessed April 23, 2024, https://omeka.cloud.unimelb.edu.au/execution-ballads/items/show/861.

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