ALIAS GALLOPING DICK,
EXECUTED FOR HIGHWAY ROBBERY.
(from The Newgate Calendar vol. 3, 1825. 291-95)
But few desperadoeson the road gained so much notoriety as this daring highwayman, who, for his bold riding when pursued, obtained the name of Galloping Dick.
This extraordinary character was born at a village in Herefordshire. His father was a gentleman's servant, and, being frequently in London, Bath, and other places with his master, 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 was sent to school at an early age, but made very little progress; nor could a master of some eminence, under whom he was for some time, instil the commonest school education into him.
He gave very early proofs of that daring wicked disposition, which afterwards rendered him infamously noted. While among his companions, if any mischievous project was set on foot, young Dick was sure to be their leader, and promoted it as far as in his power.
At about fifteen years of age, his father, finding him make so small a 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 very much noticed 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 postillion [sic] 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 consequence, he resolved to look out for another place. Accordingly he told his father of 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 for one for him.
A circumstance happened that very afternoon, highly gratifying to 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 one. Being informed he was in his place, 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 something very agreeable, if not captivating, in his person. For some time he lived happily in this family, until his mistress discovering him in an improper situation with one of her female servants, she discharged him immediately; 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 at 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 commenced gentleman. He left his place, bought mourning, frequented the theatres, &c. One evening, at Drury Lane, he got seated by a female, who particularly engaged his attention. He took her to be a modest lady, and was very much chagrined at finding her readily granting 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 stopped 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 courtezan had so completely enamoured him, that he could not rest many hours without seeing her again, and, but for the accidental visit of some companions, 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, suspecting him to be a person of considerable property, from the specimen she had of his generosity, 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, had all 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, their money once expended, cold treatment, or perhaps worse, compelled them to hazard their lives for the purpose of again enjoying those favours which any thinking reasonable man would have spurned at.
Unfortunately for himself, Ferguson became as complete a dupe as any she had ever insnared. 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. He was a total stranger to her connexions with the gentlemen of the road, though he knew he bestowed her favours on others.
Not able to bear the thoughts 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 flew 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, driving a gentleman on the north road, the chaise was stopped by the noted Abershaw and another, with crapes 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 crape off his face, and gave Ferguson a full view of him. They stared at each other; but, before a word could pass, some company coming up, the two highwaymen galloped off.
At this period Ferguson was under the frowns of his mistress, for want of money. They perfectly knew each other, from 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 it was 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 of the present offered him, and agreed to meet them that night, to partake of a good supper.
With this fresh recruit of cash he flew to his Nancy: but she being otherwise engaged, and not expecting him so soon to possess sufficient for her notice (being now acquainted with his situation in life), 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 never visited her more.
Ferguson, nettled to the soul, 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, &c. whereby those who were most likely to afford a proper booty might be waylaid and robbed. This diabolical plan he followed too successfully for some time; taking care to learn from the drivers the time post-chaises were ordered from the other inns, &c. 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. Of this we shall mention one remarkable instance. Two others and himself stopped two gentlemen on the Edgware Road, and robbed them; soon after, three other gentlemen coming up, they pursued, 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.
We have given a faithful detail of the early part of the life of this noted highwayman, and the manner of his first taking to the road. To follow him through the various wicked exploits in which he was afterwards engaged would fill volumes. We shall therefore only state, that the number of robberies committed round the metropolis, in which he was concerned, was very great.
At the same time that he lived at different inns, as a post-chaise driver, he went on the road, and kept up a connexion with almost every infamous character of the day.
He was repeatedly in custody at Bow Street, suspected of different highway robberies; and had been tried at the Old Bailey; but nothing could be fully brought home, till the crime for which he suffered. He was apprehended by some patrols belonging to Bow Street, and conveyed to Aylesbury, Bucks; there tried at Lent assizes, 1800, for a highway robbery committed in that county; and convicted.
When he found himself left for execution, he seriously prepared for his approaching end, and met his fate with a becoming resolution, and such a religious resignation as could only be inspired by the firm of the pardon of all his transgressions, through the merits of his blessed Redeemer.
Galloping Dick, as this unfortunate man has been styled, seemed, indeed, to have taken a hasty road to perdition. Happy had it been for him had he chosen the safe path of virtue, and ran a good race!