THE BALLAD OF SWIFT NICK
OF SWIFT NICK
By Josie Whitehead
Come, all raise your glasses and drink to Swift Nick,
A highwayman known to be handsome and quick;
A man who could outwit the young and the old,
But ended his days on the gallows, we’re told.
There's a story I’ve heard, which is known to be true,
But in case you don’t know it, I’ll tell it to you:
This royalist highwayman rode his bay mare
From Kent up to York in a day I declare!
Quite early one morning, one bright summer’s day,
He robbed a rich sailor, then went on his way.
He travelled to York on his faithful bay horse,
Arriving at sunset, with short breaks of course.
He travelled for two hundred miles on that day,
But this wasn’t the end of the story, they say,
For he washed, he changed and made sure he was seen
When he spoke to the Lord Mayor at York Bowling Green.
The two men agreed on a bet which was made,
The time of the bet being clearly displayed:
'Eight in the evening' - he wrote this quite clear,
Yet, Nick was arrested for thieving, I fear.
When charged with the theft at Gad’s Hill, he replied:
'But I have an alibi here by my side,
For the Lord Mayor of York, a man of renown,
Will remember at eight I was there in his town.'
The betting slip showed them the time so 'twas clear
That he couldn’t be charged, so up went a cheer.
He later admitted the journey he’d made
By boasting to all of the trick he had played.
Now, even King Charles was impressed by his feat
Endorsing that Nick, being far from a cheat,
Was a royalist highwayman – one much admired -
A profession to which many young men aspired.
So let’s give a toast to the cunning Swift Nick
Who neatly deceived everyone with his trick.
But remember, young villains, don’t make the same trek
For Nick ended his days with a rope round his neck.
Copyright on all my poems
This was one of almost 400 poems which were published in 5 books in 2010 by AMS Educational Leeds. Teachers and children right across West Yorkshire in many schools chose it for publication. Swift Nick was from West Yorkshire (Wakefield) so it is a pleasure to write about such a famous, or should I say infamous, character from our region. Josie