The Man They Could Not Hang

unknown (VHS, UK, 1992)

Track Listing


Album History

In 1975 the BBC produced The Man They Could Not Hang for television, a programme about John 'Babbacombe' Lee who was born in Abbotskerswell, Devon, and in 1885 was convicted on circumstantial evidence & sentenced to death for the murder of Emma Keyse; he was bound & hooded 3 times and each time the trap doors failed to open and so he became the first man to escape a drop-hanging system. His sentence was converted to 22 years hard labour and he became a celebrity. In the programme Melvyn Bragg investigates various Devonian theories as to his escape - witchcraft, bribery etc. The programme is illustrated by stills and Australian silent movie footage, with new songs from Fairport Convention and broadsides by Martin Carthy.

It was recorded on 24 September, 1974 and first broadcast on 1st February, 1975. Most of the songs are from the LP Babbacombe Lee and are performed by an unusual Fairport line-up (Donahue / Nicol / Mattacks / Pegg / Swarbrick), including 'Breakfast in Mayfair' performed by Sandy Denny (three verses) and Simon Nicol (last verse) also performed was non-album track 'Farewell to a Poor Man's Son'. The original broadcast ran 90 minutes and was written and produced by Mark Kidel and Edited by Bill Morton. The programme was repeated on 26th June 1975 in a shorter edit running 74 minutes which did not feature Sandy Denny.

In 1992, the BBC planned to release The Man They Could Not Hang on video, but it never came out.

Songs featured in the original broadcast are:
1. Little Did I Think
2. Introduction/Instrumental Theme
3. I Was 16
4. John lee
5. The Mysterious Stranger - Instrumental
6. Breakfast In Mayfair - Sandy Denny
7. Broadside ballad - Martin Carthy
8. Instrumental Theme (reprise)
9. Cell Song (part 1)
10. The Time Is Near
11. Dream Song
12. Exeter Jail - Martin Carthy
13. Cell Song (part 2)
14. Fiddle Theme
15. Cell Song - Instrumental Theme
16. (Farewell To A) Poor Man's Son

Fairport Convention
1992 (UK)
  • BBC, London
BBC Video