"Galloping Dick," convicted at the Lent Assizes, 1800, at Aylesbury, and executed for a Highway Robbery
THIS daring highwayman, for his bold riding when pursued, obtained the name of "Galloping Dick." He was born at a village in Herefordshire. His father was a gentleman's servant, and was frequently in London, Bath, and other places, with his master; consequently he could not bestow that strict attention to the education and morals of his son which his own conduct gave every proof he would otherwise have done.
Young Dick gave very early proofs of that daring wicked disposition which afterwards rendered him so infamously noted. If any mischievous project was set on foot among his companions young Dick was sure to be their leader, and promoted it as far as lay in his power.
Dick's father, finding him, when fifteen years of age, make little progress in learning, and given to such mischievous pranks, resolved to employ him under his own eye. The coachman being at this time in want of a stable-boy, young Dick was taken to fill up the vacancy. He took great delight in his new employment, and, being a smart and active youth, was taken much notice of in the family. As he paid particular attention to the horses, he soon made astonishing progress in the management of them.
About a year afterwards young Dick came to London with the family. During their stay in town the postilion was taken ill and Dick was appointed to supply his place till he recovered, which was not very long.
Dick was now stripped of his fine livery, and sent back to his station as a stable-boy. This his haughty spirit could not brook. Fond of dress, and being thought a man of con-sequence, he resolved to look out for another place. Accordingly he told his father his resolution, and asked his advice. His father, knowing he was well qualified, in respect to the management of horses, told him he would look out one for him.
A circumstance happened that very afternoon which highly gratified our hero's pride. A lady who frequently visited the family, being in want of a postilion, asked Dick's master what had become of his late postilion. Being informed he was in his stable, and was very fit for her employ, he was sent for, and hired.
Dick was now completely his own master, and for some time behaved to the satisfaction of his mistress. He was a great favourite in the family, particularly among the female part. He was now in his twentieth year, and though not what may be termed handsome, there was certainly some thing very agreeable, if not captivating, in his person. For some time he lived happily in this family, until his mistress discovered him in an improper situation with one of her female servants, when she immediately discharged him. Nor could any intercession afterwards prevail upon her to reinstate him.
He soon afterwards got another place, in which he did not long remain. He had at this time got connected with some other servants of a loose character and, their manner of drinking, gaming and idleness suiting his disposition, he soon became one of them. After losing several good places, by negligence, he applied to a livery-stable in Piccadilly, and obtained employment.
Dick's father now died, and left him the sum of fifty-seven pounds, which he had saved during the time he lived in the family. With this sum Dick started as a gentleman. He left his place, bought mourning, frequented the theatres, etc. One evening, at Drury Lane, he got seated beside a female who particularly engaged his attention. He took her to be a modest lady, and was very much chagrined when she readily granted his request to conduct her home. He resolved to leave her, but found his resolution fail him; and at the end of the play he conducted her home to her residence in St George's Fields, and stayed with her the whole night. Next morning, after making her a handsome present, he took his leave, with a promise of soon repeating his visit. He went home, but this artful courtesan had so completely enamoured him that he could not rest many hours without paying her another visit, and but for the accidental visit of some companions he would have returned immediately. With them he reluctantly spent the day, and in the evening flew again on the impatient wings of desire to his dear Nancy.
She thought him to be a person of considerable property, from the specimen she had of his generosity, and received him with every mark of endearment in her power. Indeed she was as complete a mistress of the art of wheedling as perhaps any female of the present day. At the time Richard Ferguson became acquainted with her she was the first favourite of several noted highwaymen and housebreakers, who, in turn, all had their favoured hours. While they could supply cash to indulge her in every species of luxury and extravagance she would artfully declare no other man on earth shared her affections with them; but when their money was once expended, cold treatment, or perhaps worse, compelled them to hazard their lives for the purpose of again enjoying those favours which any reasonable thinking man would have spurned.
Unfortunately for himself, Ferguson became as complete a dupe as ever she had ensnared. What money he possessed, what he could obtain by borrowing or otherwise, was all lavished on this insatiable female, and he was, after all, in danger of being discarded. Not able to bear the thought of entirely parting with his dear Nancy, he went to an inn in Piccadilly, offered himself as a postilion, and was accepted. Whenever he could obtain a little money he fled with impatience to his fair Dulcinea and squandered it away in the same thoughtless manner.
As he drove post-chaises on the different roads round the metropolis he frequently saw his rivals on the road gaily mounted and dressed. One day, while driving a gentleman on the North Road, the chaise was stopped by the noted Abershaw and another, with crepe over their faces. Abershaw stood by the driver till the other went up to the chaise and robbed the gentleman. The wind being very high blew the crepe off his face, and gave Ferguson a full view of him. They stared at each other, but, before a word could pass, some company came up, and the two highwaymen galloped off.
At this period Ferguson was under the frowns of his mistress, for want of money. He and Abershaw knew each other perfectly, having often met together at Nancy's. Abershaw was very uneasy at the discovery, which he communicated to his companion. A consultation was immediately held, and they resolved to wait at an inn on the road for the return of Ferguson, and bribe him, to prevent a discovery. They accordingly went to the inn, and when Ferguson came back, and stopped to water his horses, the waiter was ordered to send him in. After some conversation Dick accepted the present offered him, and agreed to meet them that night, to partake of a good supper.
With this fresh supply of cash he fled to his Nancy. But she was otherwise engaged, and did not expect him so soon to possess sufficient for her notice (being now acquainted with his situation in life), so she absolutely refused to admit him and shut the door in his face. Mad with the reception he had met with, he quitted the house, and resolved never to visit her more; which he strictly adhered to.
Nettled to the soul, he was proceeding homewards when he met the highwayman who accompanied Abershaw, and went with him to the place of rendezvous in the Borough, where he was received by those assembled with every mark of attention. They supped sumptuously, drank wine, and spent the time in noisy mirth. This exactly suited Ferguson: he joined in their mirth, and, when sufficiently elevated, very eagerly closed with a proposition to become one of their number. He was, according to their forms, immediately initiated.
When the plan of their next depredations on the public was settled, Ferguson was not immediately called into action, as it was suggested by one of the members that he could be better employed in giving information, at their rendezvous, of the departure of gentlemen from the inn where he lived, etc., whereby those who were most likely to afford a proper booty might be waylaid and robbed. This diabolical plan he followed successfully for some time, taking care to learn from the drivers the time post-chaises were ordered from other inns, etc. He shared, very often, considerable sums, which he quickly squandered away in gambling, drunkenness and debauchery.
At length he lost his place, and consequently his knowledge respecting travellers became confined, and he was obliged himself to go on the road. As a highwayman he was remarkably successful. Of a daring disposition, he defied danger, and, from his skill in horses, took care to provide himself with a good one, whereby he could effect his escape. He and two others stopped two gentlemen on the Edgware Road, and robbed them; soon after, other three gentlemen came up, who pursued them, and Ferguson's two companions were taken, tried and executed. When his associates complimented him on his escape he triumphantly asserted that he would gallop a horse with any man in the kingdom.
He now indulged himself in every excess; his amours were very numerous, particularly among those married women whom he could, by presents or otherwise, induce to listen to his brutal desires. He prevailed upon the wives of two publicans in the Borough to elope with him, and carried on several private intrigues with others.
At one of the last places in which he lived he was frequently employed to drive post-chaises between Hounslow and London, and notwithstanding he drove close by his old companion, Abershaw, where he hung in irons, it had no effect in altering his morals. To follow him through the various exploits in which he was afterwards engaged would require volumes to enumerate. He was at length apprehended, and taken to Bow Street; thence conveyed to Aylesbury, Bucks, and there tried and convicted of a highway robbery in that county.
When he found himself left for execution he seriously prepared for his approaching end; and when he came to the fatal tree he met his awful fate with a becoming resolution, inspired by the firm hopes of the pardon of all his transgressions through the merits of his blessed Redeemer.
Galloping Dick took a hasty road to perdition. Happy had it been for him had he chosen the safe path of virtue, and run a good race.