Introduction to Sam Hall
On March 10th 1849 a man called Percival Leigh went to Drury Lane to see William Gribbon Ross’s performance of Sam Hall, the chimney sweep turned thief who was hanged in 1707.
Ross was a major hit for over ten years in the early music halls.
Percival Leigh wrote
The Thing that did most take me was to see and hear one Ross sing the Song of SAM HALL the Chimney-Sweep, going to be hanged at Tyburn.
He did sing to a dismal Psalm-Tune, how that he had been a great Thief, and was now about to pay for all with his Life; and thereupon he swore an Oath which did make me somewhat shiver, though many laughed.
At the End of each Verse he did repeat his Oath.
Last of all, how that he should go up to the Gallows; and ended by cursing them all round.
Methinks it had been a Sermon to a Rogue to hear him, and I wish it may have done good to some of the Company.
Yet was his cursing very horrible, though to not a few it seemed a high Joke; but I do doubt that they understood the Song and did only relish the Oaths.
Ladies and Gentlemen…