we know about Patrick Magee comes from the Middlesex
sessions records. Together with Claude Du Val,
a much more famous highwayman, he was indicted
for a robbery on the highway committed on 1st
Du Val and Magee were tried together at the
gaol delivery sessions for Middlesex that began
on 14 January, 1669/70. They were found guilty
by the jury.
Both highwaymen were condemned to be hanged.
Du Val was hanged at Tyburn on Friday 21 January;
according to some accounts, it was quite an
event, since a number of well-born ladies are
said to have accompanied him to the gallows
as mourners. It is fairly certain that Magee
will have gone to the gallows at the same time
as Du Val.
Come to see the wicked highwayman,
Patrick Magee have you? You think its safe now I'm
locked in chains in Newgate gaol.
Cell at Newgate
I think half the fine ladies and
gentlemen in London have come to stare at me. They
never gave me a second glance when I was just another
poor Irish fellow selling fruit in the streets.
How they despised my countrymen!
Starved and beaten in their own land they came to
seek a living as weavers, porters, sellers of fruit
and trinkets and labourers.
But now I am a famous fellow!
They not only pay the gaolers for the privilege of
looking upon me but sometimes talk to me as well!
They don't stay long. The smell and damp make them
afraid for their own health. It is only four years
or so since the plague and the great fire of London
when half this hell pit was burnt down.
What little food we get is thrown
to us as if we were dogs and we sit amongst our own
waste in our dark cell. No wonder they are afraid
to breathe. And the cold. January sitting and freezing
amongst Newgate's stones. The only comfort is to buy
hard drink and sing yourself senseless.
The other day, when the trial was done, we had a ballad-maker
here. He took note of everything I said and will make
my life and adventures into a famous song.
So on Friday, when I ride to Tyburn
on the hangman’s cart, I shall hear the sound
of the ballad-sellers bellowing a song about Patrick
On the way to Tyburn Gallows
[Laughs and sings lines from a
mock ballad made up by himself ( tune: Packington's
I am a bold padder, Magee is my name,
A wild Irish tory who scorns to be tame,
I robbed on the highways and milked every purse,
And for your high gallows I care not a curse.
He asked a lot of questions, that
ballad-making cully: when did I first go on the highway?
Well, what would you rather do
- tramp through the streets, rain or shine, with a
heavy basket of apples on your head, shouting yourself
hoarse, [loud, singsong] “Come buy my ripe pippins!
Come buy my ripe pippins!”
Or ride a fine horse with a good
coat on your back, a sound pair of boots, and your
pockets clinking with money?
I learned to ride when I was a
boy on my father’s farm in Clanawley in the
County of Fermanagh.
But that was during the wars.
More than once the British planters came and burnt
Violent scenes with soldiers, C17th
Maguire’s troops, our own
people, took our horses, one by one.
Last came the English army, Ludlow’s
men, and drove us off our land. They wanted the land
for the new settlers - English and Scottish - and
had no regard for us.
We were treated as less than the
meanest dog in our own country. The pride of ancient
families was destroyed and we had to find our way,
living in the barren hills and bogs. So many of us
My mother was already dead by
then. Soon after we lost the farm, my father and brother
died of the plague
So I left and came to England
on the boat. There’s work in London for a lad
with a strong back. I made what living I could as
a labourer but I soon grew tired of being treated
badly and living in rough houses.
One night I went to play cards
in Knockfergus. Not Knockfergus in Ireland, but Knockfergus
by the Tower, where we poor Irish live.
At the table was a man called
Claude Du Val. The great Claude Du Val, one of the
bravest highwaymen who ever lived.
After we’d come to know each other, he asked
me if I’d ever thought to go upon the pad -
you know robbing the traveller's on the road.
I’ll swear no oath to your
English king, but I took an oath of loyalty to Captain
Du Val and the gang.
Three years ago that was, near
enough. Three years of hearing the people call me
‘sir’ and ‘Master Magee’.
Brave times we had together; lurking
in some thicket till the travellers came by, and then
we’d ride out and surprise them: [shouts] “Stand
and deliver your purse!” Oh, it is always a
joy to see them jump and turn pale when they see the
But I’ve never shed anyone’s
blood. I would never do that.
I tell you, it’s a hard
law, your English law, a merciless, bloody law, that
drives an Irishman off his land, then hangs him just
for taking a few purses.