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The song was composed about 1830 with words written by Thomas Haynes Bayly (1797-1839) and music by Sir Henry Bishop (1786-1855). Bayly was born in Bath but buried in Cheltenham. The direct inspiration for Bayly’s rendition was probably “Ginevra” a poem published in 1822 by the English poet Samuel Rogers, telling much the same story.
The song was printed on broadsheets and soon taken up by country singers on both sides of the Atlantic as a Christmas party piece. Curiously, many performers state that the location of the tragedy is somewhere near where they live.