The Word on the Street
home | background | illustrations | distribution | highlights | search & browse | resources | contact us

Broadside ballad entitled 'The Confession of James Bryce'


Confession of James Bryce.'

I am a poor unhappy man, James Bryce it is my name,
I murdered my brother in-law, I may tell it with shame;
I for the same in Edinburgh the 12th of March was tried
But the charge against me there I solemnly denied.

When my trial it came on it's guilty I was found,
I then was taken back to jail and in strong irons bound,
Now on the third day of April I am doomed to die,
Since I am condemned, my friends, the truth I'll not deny.

John Geddes was a man for whom I had a great respect,
To relieve me in time of need he never did neglect;
At Blaw Wearie in West Calder, he dwelt in a lonely cot,
'Twas three pounds on a watch from him I lately got.

Geddes and I at labouring did work many a day,
He never thought I was the man would take his life away,
It's known my brother-in-law and I never were at strife,
It's eighteen years and more since I took his sister to wife.

The twenty-sixth of December to West Calder I went,
It s for to rob my brother-in-law it was my whole intent;
When I came unto his house, admittance soon I got,
I said I wanted money, but give it he would not.

From angry words it came to blows, don't murder me he said,
With that I seized a pair of tongs that stood by the fireside,
I did leave him a lifeless corps there stretched on the floor,
I robbed him of what he had and then made fast the door.

From West Calder to Airdrie town I did take my way,
I was there I safely did arrive by nine o'clock next day ;
When I sat down by the fireside the watches I did show,
My son cries that's my uncle's watch, the ribbon I do know.

When the news of the murder arrived in Airdrie,
I heard some of the neighbours did leave the blame on me,
I sent my wife to Glasgow town next morning by the dawn,
One of the watches instantly 'twas for me she did pawn.

I roved about from town to town, in no place could I dwell,
My crime it was so horrible my conscience felt an hell;
Every day I was in dread they'd take me by surprise,
So I cut off my whiskers thinking myself to disguise.

On, the twelfth of January I arrived in Damfries,
In Maxwelltown I was taken that day by the police ;
While I was lying in my bed I was a prisoner made,
I was bound in irons and to Edinburgh conveyed.

Now till the third of April in chains I here must lie.
For it is on that day my friends I am doomed to die;
The murder of my brother-in-law I rue when it's too late,
Let every one take warning now by my untimely fate.

When Cain his brother Abel siew he thought it very odd.
To be banished from his friends off to the land of Nod.
But O my friends I fear there is no banishment for me;
A few days more and I'll be launched into eternity.

previous pageprevious          
Date of publication: 1844   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.74(337a)
Broadside ballad entitled 'The Confession of James Bryce'
View larger image

NLS home page   |   Digital gallery   |   Credits

National Library of Scotland © 2004

National Library of Scotland