The Oath Of The Canting Crew

The Oath Of The Canting Crew
From The Life of Bampfylde Moore Carew, by ROBERT GOADBY.

I, Crank Cuffin, swear to be 1 Notes
True to this fraternity;
That I will in all obey
Rule and order of the lay.
Never blow the gab or squeak; 2 reveal secrets
Never snitch to bum or beak; 3 betray to bailif or magistrate
But religiously maintain
Authority of those who reign
Over Stop Hole Abbey green, 4 Notes
Be their tawny king, or queen.
In their cause alone will fight;
Think what they think, wrong or right;
Serve them truly, and no other,
And be faithful to my brother;
Suffer none, from far or near,
With their rights to interfere;
No strange Abram, ruffler crack, 5 Notes
Hooker of another pack,
Rogue or rascal, frater, maunderer, 6 Notes; beggar
Irish toyle, or other wanderer; 7 Notes
No dimber, dambler, angler, dancer,
Prig of cackler, prig of prancer;
No swigman, swaddler, clapper-dudgeon;
Cadge-gloak, curtal, or curmudgeon;
No whip-jack, palliard, patrico;
No jarkman, be he high or low;
No dummerar, or romany;
No member of the family;
No ballad-basket, bouncing buffer,
Nor any other, will I suffer;
But stall-off now and for ever
All outtiers whatsoever;
And as I keep to the foregone,
So may help me Salamon! [By the mass!]


Bamfylde Moore Carew, the King of the Gypsies, born in 1693, was the son of the Rector of Bickley, near Tiverton. It is related that to avoid punishment for a boyish freak he, with some companions, ran away and joined the gypsies. After a year and a half Carew returned for a time, but soon rejoined his old friends. His career was a long series of swindling and imposture, very ingeniously carried out, occasionally deceiving people who should have known him well. His restless nature then drove him to embark for Newfoundland, where he stopped but a short time, and on his return he pretended to be the mate of a vessel, and eloped with the daughter of a respectable apothecary of Newcastle on Tyne, whom he afterwards married. He continued his course of vagabond roguery for some time, and when Clause Patch, a king, or chief of the gypsies, died, Carew was elected his successor. He was convicted of being an idle vagrant, and sentenced to be transported to Maryland. On his arrival he attempted to escape, was captured, and made to wear a heavy iron collar, escaped again, and fell into the hands of some friendly Indians, who relieved him of his collar. He took an early opportunity of leaving his new friends, and got into Pennsylvania. Here he pretended to be a Quaker, and as such made his way to Philadelphia, thence to New York, and afterwards to New London, where he embarked for England. He escaped impressment on board a man-of-war by pricking his hands and face, and rubbing in bay salt and gunpowder, so as to simulate smallpox. After his landing he continued his impostures, found out his wife and daughter, and seems to have wandered into Scotland about 1745, and is said to have accompanied the Pretender to Carlisle and Derby. The record of his life from this time is but a series of frauds and deceptions, and but little is absolutely known of his career, except that a relative, Sir Thomas Carew of Hackern, offered to provide for him if he would give up his wandering life. This he refused to do, but it is believed that he eventually did so after he had gained some prizes in the lottery. The date of his death is uncertain. It is generally given, but on no authority, as being in 1770 but ‘I. P.’, writing from Tiverton, in Notes and Queries, 2nd series, vol. IV, p. 522, says that he died in 1758. The story of his life in detail is found in the well-known, and certainly much-printed, Life and Adventures of Bamfylde Moore Carew, the earliest edition of which (1745) describes him on the title-page as “the Noted Devonshire Stroller and Dogstealer”. This book professes to have been “noted by himself during his passage to America”, but though no doubt the facts were supplied by Carew himself, the actual authorship is uncertain, though the balance of probability lies with Robert Goadby, a printer and compiler of Sherborne Dorsetshire, who printed an edition in 1749. A correspondent of Notes and Queries, however, states that Mrs. Goadby wrote it from Carew’s dictation. [N. and Q. 2 S iii. 4; iv. 330, 440, 522],

Line 1. Crank Cuffin = Queer Cove = a rogue. Line 9. Stop-hole Abbey, “the nick-name of the chief rendezvous of the Canting Crew ”.—(B. E., Dict. Cant. Crew, 1696). Line 17. Abram = formerly a mendicant lunatic of Bethlehem Hospital who on certain days was allowed to go out begging: hence a beggar feigning madness. Ruffler crack = an expert rogue. Line 18. Hooker = “peryllous and most wicked Knaves... for, as they walke a day times, from house to house, to demaund Charite... well noting what they see... that will they be sure to have... for they customably carry with them a staffe of V. of VI. foote long, in which within one ynch of the tope thereof, ys a lytle hole bored through, in which hole they putte an yron hoke, and with the same they wyll pluck unto them quickly anything that they may reche therewith.”—(Harman, Caveat, 1869, p. 35, 36). Line 19. Frater = “such as beg with a sham-patent or brief for Spitals, Prisons, Fires, etc.”—(B. E.). Line 20. Irish toyle = a beggar-thief, working under pretence of peddling pins, lace, and such-like wares. Line 21. Dimber-damber = the chief of a gang: also an expert thief. Angler = hooker (see ante). Line 23. swigman = a beggar peddling haberdashery to cover theft and roguery. Clapperdogeon = a beggar born and bred, see note p. 210, tenth line from bottom. Line 24. Curtal—“a curtall is much like to the upright man (that is, one in authority, who may ”call to account“, ”command a share“, chastise those under him, and ”force any of their women to serve his turn“), but hys authority is not fully so great. He useth commonly to go with a short cloke, like to grey Friers, and his woman with him in like livery, which he calleth his Altham if she be hys wyfe, and if she be his harlot, she is called hys Doxy.”—(HARMAN). Line 25. Whip-jack = a rogue begging with a counterfeit license. Palliard = a beggar born and bred. Patrico = a hedge-priest. Line 26. Jarkman = “he that can write and reade, and sometime speake latin. He useth to make counterfaite licenses which they call gybes, and sets to seales, in their language called Jarkes.”—(HARMAN). Line 27. Dommerar = a rogue pretending deaf and dumb. Romany = a gipsy. Line 28. The family = the fraternity of vagabonds.

Taken from Musa Pedestris, Three Centuries of Canting Songs and Slang Rhymes [1536―1896], collected and annotated by John S. Farmer.

previous * next


. . .
A Beggar I’ll Be
A Budg And Snudg Song
The Maunder’s Praise Of His Strowling Mort
The Rum-Mort’s Praise Of Her Faithless Maunder
The Black Procession
Frisky Moll’s Song
The Canter’s Serenade
Retoure My Dear Dell
The Vain Dreamer
When My Dimber Dell I Courted
The Oath Of The Canting Crew
Come All You Buffers Gay
The Potato Man
A Slang Pastoral
Ye Scamps, Ye Pads, Ye Divers
The Sandman’s Wedding
The Happy Pair
The Bunter’s Christening
The Masqueraders
The Flash Man of St. Giles
A Leary Mot
. . .