J.R. Birchall was an English con man who murdered another young Englishman named Frederick Benwell near Gobles Ontario in 1889. (The whole sordid but complicated story is too long to be told here but can be found in one of the links below.) His trial was an international sensation and he was hanged in the Woodstock Jail. This "death row ballad" was well-known in Ontario up into the 1950s. Birchall stole a lot of things in his life - amongst them apparently, the melody and most of the lyrics of his own ballad. This song was clearly adapted from "The Ballad of Charles Guiteau". Mr. Guiteau was the assassin who had killed American President McKinley a decade before. LaRena Clark sings the song in the audio clip below. There is a separate entry with information on LaRena Clark.
|Title||Ballad of J.R. Birchall (The) - LaRena Clark|
|Subject||Social Life & Love Songs of LaRena Clark|
|Keywords||Bennell Birchall Woodstock|
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