The Ballad of John Marron preview


John Marron
Mother, Mrs. Marron
Prosecution, Mr. Oliphant
Defence Lawyer, Mr. John Smith
Edward Nicholson
William Armstrong
PC Dobson
2 Guards
7 Members of the Jury who are the strong singers and musicians

(As the audience enter, Mrs. Marron sits along in the jury box looking very upset and trying not to weep. John Smith enters.)

SMITH: Ah. Mrs. Marron. Apologies for my late arrival. There was not a carriage to be had in the whole of Carlisle.

MRS M: I am simply grateful, Sir, that you are here.

SMITH: My fees, Madam. You have succeeded in raising the money?

MRS M: John is everything to me, Sir. I will give you all that I have.

SMITH: I fear this business may need all that you have and more, Mrs. Marron. Clerk!

(Clerk enters)


SMITH: Why has he not been brought up?

CLERK: It is customary practice to keep him below, in the cells.

SMITH: I will guarantee his good conduct. Tell the guards to bring him up, if you please.

CLERK: Are you sure?

SMITH: Yes. He will be less afraid if he is more familiar with the court before the trial.

CLERK: (consults his paper) He’s been in court before.

SMITH: But not this court, clerk. Now fetch him up, if you please. Time is short.

CLERK: Very well. Be it on your own head.

(Clerk shouts)

CLERK: Guards! Bring the prisoner up, please.

(John Marron enters, held roughly by two guards).

MRS. M: John!

SMITH: Let him go, please.

GUARD 1: Never. He’s been nothing but trouble ever since we got him.

GUARD 2: So we’ll just hang on to him. Sir!

SMITH: I said – let him go please.

GUARD 1: If you’re sure, Sir.

SMITH: I am. Release him.

(Reluctantly the guards let him go and John immediately makes a bolt for the door. The guards run after him and capture him by the door)

MRS M: John, stop this. You will not get away.

GUARD 1: Begging your pardon, Sir, he should be back in his cell.

GUARD 2: It’s more than my job’s worth –

SMITH: (Interrupts) Yes, yes, of course. Just put him in the witness box.  And stay close.

(They do this, and one guard takes a stick out)

SMITH: Leave him!

GUARD 1: He has the look of defiance in him, Sir.

GUARD 2: It will go hard on him if he is found Guilty.

MRS M: John, stop this please.

SMITH: John, your mother is right. You must not try to run away. It is hopeless, and will not help your case. There are many in high places who think that all young people are potential criminals. By acting like this, you merely confirm their opinion. Now, tell me your side of the story.

JOHN: I’m innocent Sir. I swear it. What else is there? And why am I brought here to this place? It scares me Sir.

MRS M: John. Tell Mr. Smith what happened.


SMITH: Young man, I am appointed by your mother to conduct your defence. It is costing her all she has saved in this world. But I cannot help you if you will not help yourself.


MRS M: Please John. (pause) Mr. Smith, John has to do his father’s rounds. his father has a bad back from pulling those heavy rubbish carts. John has to do it, it only brings in a few pennies but without it we should starve. If John goes to prison, what shall I do?

SMITH: You must be prepared for a prison sentence Madam. But, with luck and the right attitude, we may shorten his sentence. John, I do not believe you are an unintelligent boy.

JOHN: He hates us young ones, Sir. Calls us names and that. Accuses us of stealing from his cart. Once, I was doing my father’s rounds and he comes up to me and says I’ve stolen fish from him. So he jumps onto my cart and starts throwing the rubbish into the street. Said he’d prove I was a thief.

SMITH: And what did he find, John?

JOHN: Nothing, Sir. But I had to pick up the rubbish again. He just left it.

SMITH: I see. And what of the day in question?

JOHN: Well, I saw him moving fast through the streets, whipping his poor horse and shouting at people to get out of his way. So I jumped onto the back of his car, just for a laugh like, but then he flicks his whip at me and catches me full in the face. It fair hurt, Sir.

SMITH: I see. And is that mark on your face the result of being caught with the whip?

JOHN: Yes.

(Smith walks across to examine it more closely)

MRS M: That fishmonger hates the young ones, Sir. Always flicking his whip at them to ‘teach them manners’ he says. Says they’re always up to no good.

JOHN: Aye, even the clever ones on their way home from the school.

MRS M: My John’s not bad, Sir. Just naughty and high-spirited.

SMITH: I understand. But tell me truthfully, did you take his whip?


MRS M: Speak up, John.

JOHN: Yes, Sir. I was angry. He’d hurt me with it and it was so unfair, what with him accusing me of stealing and all.

SMITH: I understand. But as a defence it is flimsy in the extreme. Our best hope is in a plea for leniency. Throw ourselves upon the mercy of the court.

JOHN: Never. That fishmonger hates us. He never found a thing on my cart. I wouldn’t steal his rotten stinking fish.

SMITH: Very well. You may plead Not Guilty if you wish. That, young man, is one of the few rights you have left. But I would advise you against it.

JOHN: I’m telling you, I won’t do it.

SMITH: Mrs. Marron, in less than an hour a jury will deliver their verdict from the very spot where you are now. It will go easier for you if you saved everybody’s time.

MRS M: I fear his mind is set, Sir. He is stubborn, like his father.

SMITH: Yes, I’m sure you’re right. (To Mrs Marron) Although he has a previous conviction I would hope his sentence is not too harsh.

MRS M: He won’t be transported will he? Most of them never come back.

SMITH: Good lord, no. 6 months hard labour perhaps – 3 if he admits his guilt.

JOHN: I won’t do it. What about the way he treated me?

MRS M: Here is your money, Sir.

SMITH: You can pay me afterwards, Mrs. Marron. I may call upon you both to testify. Understood?

MRS M: Yes, Sir.

JOHN: Yes, Sir.

(The Judge enters. He is taken aback by the presence of people in the Court)

JUDGE: May I ask what is going on.

SMITH: I am John Smith, Your Honour. I have taken on the defence of your next case.

JUDGE: I see. And who is he?

GUARD 1: John Marron, Your Honour. The accused in your next case.

JUDGE: But I have not yet called the Court to order. What is he doing here?

GUARD 2: Mr Smith asked to see him, Your Honour.

JUDGE: What! You are using my Court Room to interview your client? You will confine him to the cells, where he belongs. Take him down.

(The guards do this)

JUDGE: And who is this?

CLERK: The accused’s mother, Your Honour.

JUDGE: Mr. Smith, your contempt for the dignity of my Court will count against you in this case. Get her out of here. And ask Mr. Oliphant to come in, will you.

(The Clerk does this. Mr. Oliphant enters)

JUDGE: Ah, good day to you Sir. You are to conduct the prosecution?

MR O: Yes, Your Honour.

JUDGE: Excellent, Mr. Oliphant. I always look forward to cases in your charge. You can be relied upon to be brief and to the point. And you shall need to be today. I have a lunch appointment with the Mayor upon completion of this case. Mr. Smith?

SMITH: Your Honour?

JUDGE: Stick to the facts, if you please. Do not attempt to influence proceedings by emphasising poverty or lack of education. That is an insult to the law-abiding poor.

SMITH: Yes, Your Honour.

JUDGE: If you delay my lunch appointment it shall go hard with you. Clear?

SMITH: Yes, Your Honour.

JUDGE: Court will begin in five minutes.

(Judge exits. Everyone else, including the jury, enters)



We’ve heard his name’s John
Sadness hangs heavy ‘round him
He’ll soon be gone
His trial will last half an hour
How guilty he looks
No learning no books
But we just don’t care who he is
And we just don’t give a damn about him

‘Cause he’s just a teenage dirtbag baby
He’s guilty as charged and we don’t mean maybe
He’s just a lowlife, we’re gonna send him down

His mother is poor
She’s tried her best to raise him
But you can be sure
His future is lonely and bleak
His father’s too old
Or so we’ve been told
But we just don’t care who he is
And we just don’t give a damn about him

‘Cause he’s just a teenage dirtbag baby
He’s just a lowlife, we’re gonna send him down

Oh yeah dirtbag, no, and he won’t admit he’s guilty
He’s guilty as charged and we don’t mean maybe
Oh yeah dirtbag, no, and he won’t admit he’s guilty

It’s his day in court
He’ll be frightened and lonely
But we’ll keep it short
He’s guilty and he has to pay
This isn’t fake
His lip starts to shake
But we just don’t care who he is
And we just don’t give a damn about him

‘Cause he’s just a teenage dirtbag baby
Yeah he’s just a teenage dirtbag baby
He’s just a lowlife, we’re gonna send him down

Oh yeah dirtbag, no, and he won’t admit he’s guilty
Oh yeah dirtbag, no, and he won’t admit he’s guilty


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