Folkestone Murder, The
The Folkestone Murder
The song tells of an actual murder, of sisters Caroline (19) and Maria Back (17), by Dedia Redanies, a private in the British Swiss Legion based at Shorncliffe Barracks near Folkestone. Bedanies was tried for murder and hanged at Maidstone gaol, January 1857.
For details of the murder, see http://www.planetslade.com/broadside-ballads-foreigners-downfall.html. That site contains the text of The Foreigner's Downfall, another contemporary ballad written about the murder, and which does not appear to have been preserved in oral tradition.
Charlie Bridger from Stone-in-Oxney also had a full version, with very similar tune and words. Francis Collinson collected a couple of versions in Kent in the 1940s - see below - but also found the song in Buckinghamshire and Dorset. Truncated versions have been recorded from a number of Southern English Traveller singers, for example Charlie Scamp.
Version from George Spicer
- Kind friends come pay attention and listen to my song
It is about a murder, it won't detain you long
'Twas near the town of Folkestone this shocking deed was done
Maria and sweet Caroline were murdered by Switzerland John.
- He came unto their parents' house at nine o'clock one night
But little did poor Caroline think he owed her any spite.
"Will you walk with me, dear Caroline?" the murderer did say,
And she agreed to accompany him to Shorncliffe Camp next day.
- Said the mother to the daughter "You'd better stay at home.
It is not fit for you to go with that young man alone.
You'd better take your sister to go along with you,
Then I have no objection, dear daughter, you may go."
- Early next morning, before the break of day
Maria and sweet Caroline from Dover town did stray.
But before they reached to Folkestone the villain drew a knife,
Maria and sweet Caroline he took away their lives.
- Down on the ground the sisters fell, all in their blooming years
For mercy cried, "We're innocent", their eyes were filled with tears.
He plunged the knife into their breasts, their lovely breasts so deep,
He robb'd them of their own sweet lives and left them there to sleep.
- Three times he kissed their pale cold cheeks as they lay on the ground,
He took the capes from off their backs, for on him they were found.
He said "Farewell dear Caroline, your blood my hands have stained.
No more on earth shall I see you ,but in heaven we'll meet again."
- Early next morning their bodies they were found
At a lonely spot called Steady Hall, a-bleeding on the ground.
And if ever you go unto that spot, these letters you will find
Cut deeply in the grass so green: Maria and Caroline.
- When the news it reached their parents' ears, they cried, "What shall we do?
Maria has been murdered, and lovely Caroline too"
They pulled and tore their old grey hair, in sorrow and in shame
And tears they rolled in torrents from their poor aged cheeks.
- This murderer has been taken, his companions to him deny
And he is sent to Maidstone and is condemned to die
He said, "Farewell" to all his friends "In this world I am alone
And have to die for murder, far from my native home."
- "The dismal bell is tolling, the scaffold I must prepare
I trust in heaven my soul shall rest and meet dear Caroline there.
Now all young man take warning from this sad fate of mine
To the memory of Maria Back and lovely Caroline."
Version from Charlie Bridger
- All people pay attention and listen to my song.
I’ll tell you of a murder, it won’t detain you long.
It was near the town of Folkestone, this shocking deed was done.
Maria and sweet Caroline were murdered by Switzerland John.
- He went unto their father’s house at nine o’clock one night,
And little did poor Caroline think he owed her any spite.
“Will you take a walk, dear Caroline, along with me?” cried he
And she agreed to accompany him to Shoreham cliff next day.
- Her mother said “Dear daughter, you’d better stay at home,
For I do not think that it’s safe for you to go with that man alone
You had better take your sister, along with you to run”.
“Dear mother, I’ve no objection. Dear sister, you may come”.
- So early in the morning, before the break of day,
Maria and sweet Caroline from Dover they did stray.
But before they reached at Folkestone, the villain he drew his knife.
Maria and sweet Caroline, he took away their life.
- Down on the ground the sisters fell just in their blooming youth,
“For mercy” cried the innocents, their eyes were filled with tears.
He plunged the dagger in their breasts, their lovely breasts so deep.
He robbed them of their own sweet life and left them there to sleep.
- He kissed their pale lips as they lay on the ground.
He took their capes from off their backs and on him they were found.
He said “Farewell, sweet Caroline, your blood my hands has stained,
No more on earth shall I see you but in heaven we’ll meet again”.
- At seven o’clock next morning, the bodies they were found
In a lonely spot near Folkestone, lay bleeding on the ground.
And if you go unto that spot, these letters you will find
Cut deeply into the soft green turf – Maria and Caroline.
- When the prisoner he was taken, his own life he tried to take,
But he was taken to Maidstone jail and there condemned to die.
He said “Farewell to all my friends in this world I’m left alone.
I’m doomed to die for murder far from my native home.
- “Hark the solemn bell is tolling, for the scaffold I must prepare.
I hope that in heaven my soul may rest and meet Maria there.
Now all young men take warning and beware of this fate of mine,
And all young women think of Maria and lovely Caroline.
Version from Danny Brazil
Recorded by Gwilym Davies, Staverton, Glos, 30.9.77
on MTCD345-7 The Brazil Family: Down by the Old Riverside
- Come all you feeling people and listen to my song,
I'll tell you of a murder and it won't contain you long;
It was near a place called Folescombe, his murder it was done,
Maria and sweet Caroline was murdered by Thistlin John.
- The murderer came to her house at eight o'clock at night,
But little did poor innocent think that he owed her any spite;
"Will you take a walk dearest Caroline," this murderer he did say,
Then fell aquaint with him to Shoreham cliff next day.
- The mother to the daughter, "You had better stay at home,
I do not think it is safe for you to go with that man alone;
You had better have your sister to walk along with you,
Then I'll have no rejections, dear daughter you may go."
- Early the next morning, just at the break of day,
Maria and sweet Caroline from Dover they did stray;
Before they reached near Folescombe, this villain he drew his knife,
Maria and sweet Caroline, he took away their lives.
- Down on the ground her bleeding found, all in the bloom of the year,
"Mercy!" cried the poor innocent child with her eyes all filled with tears;
He drew the dagger into her breast, her lovely breast so deep,
He robbed them of their sweet lives and left them there to sleep.
- When the news it did reach home they cried, "What shall I do,
Poor Maria's murdered and lovely Caroline too."
And if you go unto the spot, there's letters you will find
Cut deeply into the turf, Maria and Caroline.
- The murderer he was taken, his own life for to try,
And he was sent to Maidstone jail and there condemned to die;
Come all you young men take a warning, be aware of the fate of mine,
And think of Maria and lovely Caroline.
Versions collected by Francis Collinson
COL/1/2 The Folkestone Murderer
From William Crampton, Smarden, Kent; October 1945:
COL/1/16 The Folkestone Murderer
From W. Buckland, Cippenham, Bucks:
COL/1/20 The Folkestone Murder