This song is based on a true story. In 1856, a Serbian soldier named Dedea Redanies, who was a private with the British Swiss Legion, struck up a friendship with a family called Back, from Dover. On 2 August 1856, Redanies and the two Back girls, Caroline aged 19 and Maria aged 17, set off to walk from Dover to Folkstone. Later the girls were found stabbed to death. Redanies was arrested, charged and found guilty. He was hanged in Folkstone on New Year’s Day 1857.
Strangely, the song recounting the murder was not noted until 50 years later. Sharp did not encounter it at all and most collected versions, nearly all from England, have been found since 1940. It seems to have found favour particularly amongst gypsy singers. In the only collected Gloucestershire version, Mr Brazil’s gruff voice underscores the drama of the narrative.