Auld Robin Grey

From a Police Report in the Sydney Gazette, 28th of January 1837

William Lee, with a vest of plush buttoned over his chest, which blushed at the position both of itself and master, was called upon to account for singing a melancholy ditty, to the pale faced moon, and keeping the drowsy guardians of the peace from their customary naps.

A charley stated that proceeding along the margin of cockle-bay, near the quarries, he heard the most unearthly sounds proceeding from the abyss beneath; having heard of such things as mermaids combing their hair, and singing stanzas to the moon, he thought perhaps it might arise from some such cause, and being of an enterprising and speculative turn, he dashed down the bank to the waters edge; all was still; he paused and reflected for a few seconds, a gentle shudder creeping over him at the thought that he was all alone, and should it be a lady inhabitant of the deep, she might take a fancy to his phiz, and carry him to the regions below. Scarcely had this idea obtruded upon him, than he heard a low melancholy voice singing “Auld Robin Grey.”

Looking around, what should he espy, but Lee seated upon a stone, his head resting upon the open palm of his left hand, his red vest blushing with becoming ardour. Finding that he was true flesh and blood, he advanced to him, and taking by the shoulder, shook him once. This had not the slightest effect ; Lee continued the strain, and the charley shook him twice – ’twas useless, at the third shake Lee leaped upon his feet, and throwing back his hair, which was long and dishevelled, he exclaimed with a fiery glance at the disturber, ‘”dar’st thou plunge with me into yon angry flood?”

The charley was amazed at such a question at such a time, and without more ado, he siezed Lee by the collar, and with coaxing and pushing, he got him to the watch house, still singing as he went. Lee having heard the charge to the end with a good deal of fidgetting, in which the vest appeared to participate, he handed out five shillings, and together with the red plush, went his way.


Played and arranged by Roland Clarke.


L., J. H. (1807). 3 Receuil (sic) Des airs, arranges pour piano forte. Retrieved March 6, 2020, from

POLICE INCIDENTS. (1837, January 28). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 3. Retrieved January 30, 2017, from

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