Charlie Peace

The remarkable tale of the notorious burglar, murderer and master of disguise.

Now gather ye and lend an ear in search of sorry tales
And stay a while to talk of deadly deeds
Crook your necks and drink your beer as murder is regaled
Don’t give a cuss for the scoundrel Charlie Peace

In Sheffield was the tale begun an honest cobbler’s lad
The last of four in 1832
At 14 years his luck was done his fortune all gone bad
A cripple now and little could he do
And soon enough another year his father passed away
And Charlie’s heart had more than had its fill
His thoughts and words they did appear more dreadful every day
And bitter tears had turned his temper ill

To felony of crude renown the boy did turn his hand
To housebreaking and robbery he strayed
Plundering those hardy towns across the northern land
In daylight hours his innocence was played
But courts and the assizes came familiar with his name
And common was refusal of a bail
Now twenty years unwise did pass with just himself to blame
For all but three were spent alone in gaol

With liberty it would appear his lesson had been learned
But soon enough a wicked thing was done
Within four years his errant ways had more than just returned
A constable lay murdered by his gun
Across the fields by lighted moon escap’ed by a breath
A blameless man to justice then was brought
Poor Willie Habron was his name and sentenced all to death
While Charlie Peace the killer watched in court

And then with covetous desires a neighbour’s wife became
The target of his unrequited charms
But as she stood against him for to slight his little game
The desperate man once more did take up arms
So when ‘er husband intervened intending them to part
And bring to task all notion of his love
Old Charlie left a bullet in his temple and his heart
And sent him to his maker up above

Now on the run he soon became a master of disguise
In Bristol, Oxford, Birmingham and York
Justice for the misdemeanours kept at bay with lies
He took upon the aspect of a hawk
His countenance was twisted for to keep himself from harm
And fruits of his deceit were made in full
A transformation so complete that bearing a false arm
He lodged with a Police sergeant in Hull

And Charlie took a mistress by the name of Susan Grey
He charmed her at the barrel of a gun
To Nottingham he did repair to steal most every day
But soon again he was all on the run
To London town he made his way for treasures to be near
And Thompson was the alias he’d keep
By day a hearty citizen by night a buccaneer
But now the seeds of treachery he’d reap

Late one night in Blackheath ‘neath a dark October sky
As Thompson was about his rotten trade
A Constable named Robinson alert and calm of eye
Did watch him as he carried out his raid
Then Charlie leapt the window calling “Son, I’ll do you harm”
But the officer pursued him as he fled
Three shots fired at the copper and he took one in the arm
But he wrestled him then cracked him in the head

They sent him up to Sheffield to face the court’s disdain
But even this was not without its play
With spring’ed heels at Kiveton Park he jumped clean from the train
But the warders fell upon him where he lay
Determined were the jury so to hang his ragged frame
Their meeting was just seven minutes long
And while a rope did end his days another played his game
As children skipped to Charlie Peace’s song

I love Charlie Charlie was a thief
Charlie killed a copper Charlie came to grief
When the coppers caught him they hung him on a rope
Poor old Charlie you haven’t got a hope