The ballad of a Highwayman.

A youth once gave thought to a romantic image of a Highwayman. In his enabled mind he saw him sat high in the saddle on a black and shiny horse and away,over the fields they would race the wind.

This is the tale of such a boy. Born in Wolverhampton,  England, on 16th September 1880.

By the age of four years old his father a teacher of Latin and Greek was offered a job at a college in Aberysthwyth in South Wales. The boys name Alfred Noyes and he grew to write some of the best poetry ever thought up. What he gave to us in 1906 was a ballad in two parts of a true story but he held back on a name for his Highwayman.

in this account I attempt to find out just who he based this work upon. Most of it he invented himself to build the plot further.

Alfred Noyes 1926.Noyes Noyes

Noyes was able to read his work for a BBC recording in 1950 and to me his expressive way of delivering his poem entitled the Highwayman brought to me a small child a love of poems that would last my whole life. It perhaps was the thrilling tale of a man with no name who risked his life to keep his promise to return to his love that inspired all that is fine and noble in mankind within my tiny mind. That fact that this man was a robber a murderous road user thief and often on a stolen horse fascinated me until later in life one comes to see that killer on the road just a thug and scoundrel who stole for his way of life in drink and love of women in his arms. A few had been robbed by Crown of their lands during Civil War and could not find honest work. This gave another level to the dress code of a Highwayman robber. It was a wide spread curse of honest people but as with all folk lore it is seen almost as a hero on a stolen horse.


Margaret Lockwood as a female Highwayman in the movie from 1945 Wicked Lady.


That singular evil fact should not distract from the beauty of Alfred Noyes great tale in any shape or form as what this poem is is a great masterpiece within the English language.


The last refrain tells of the ghosts of both lovers and is the haunting line that is remembered.

And still of a winters night, they say,when the wind is in the trees,

When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas ,

When the road is ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,

A highwayman comes riding.

A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn -yard

And taps with his whip at the on the shutters,but all is locked and barred;

He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there

But Bess, the landlords black eyed daughter,

Bess, the landlords daughter ,

Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

It is my hope that reading this  will bring you to search for the reading in full on line or in poetry books. In it I find not just a poem but the base history of England and the very moving tale of love and danger. Two sides of the fence unite in love forever in the immortal words of a a craftsman in poetry.

The man who was in the mind of the youthful Noyes I discovered was in fact Dick Turpin a real nasty man not worth mention . Born on 21st September in that year of grace 1706 in Hempstead Essex. But it was his ride to York on Black Bess that must have given the writer the inspiration to give us this poem. Then Turpin never made that ride Nevison another earlier Highwayman rode to York in fast time changing horses 3 times in order to escape capture. Then Alfred Noyes never claimed to be a historian but he was a genius with words.

Yours with regards Sir Kevin.


Copyright Kevin James Parr Bt 2019


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