Nonfiction

Dick Turpin

27 February 2013

Let me get this out of the way. Dick Turpin was a bit of a dick. In fact, he was worse than that. He was a chump.

Dick Turpin was a violent thug who roamed the English countryside in the first half of the 18th Century. He was baptised in 1705 and began his career somewhat appropriately as a butcher. He married his childhood sweetheart, opened up a butchery of his own, and showed every sign of settling down and growing up to be a respectable member of the community.

Instead, he became a complete fuck-knuckle.

At some point in his mid-twenties, he was caught stealing two oxen from a local farmer, so Turpin did the sensible thing and fled town, establishing a pattern of chumpy cowardice that would recur throughout his life—commit a crime, cock it up, run away.

He later resurfaced in Epping Forest as a member of the Gregory (or Essex) Gang—a kindly and chivalrous group who started off stealing livestock, but soon found it much more practical to break into farms and beat, torture and/or rape the inhabitants until they handed over their valuables. Eventually, the gang was rounded up and captured. Not Turpin, though. When constables raided a cottage in which they were hiding, he jumped out a window and ran away.

Because a life of violent crime is just so joyous and fulfilling, Turpin then began operating as a highwayman. On one occasion, he spied a particularly gentrified young dandy riding along and Turpin attempted to rob him. He then discovered that the victim was one Tom King, the most infamous bandit of the era. King, rather than busting a cap in the punk-ass motherfucker, apparently admired his chutzpah and together they became an unstoppable crime-committing duo.
It should not come as a shock to hear that Turpin fucked this up.

One fine day in 1737, Turpin was riding to London when he impulsively horse-jacked a man named Major. Major—as his name may suggest—was not one to take guff. He made a stack of leaflets describing his stolen steed and handed them out in public houses across London, and the horse was easily traced back to the Whitechapel Inn where Turpin had stabled it. That night, Turpin sent King to collect the animal, but when King arrived he was arrested by awaiting constables. Turpin charged in to rescue his comrade, firing wildly—so wildly, in fact, that King was killed, while the constables escaped unharmed.

Turpin, of course, fled, and finally ended up in Yorkshire, where he went by the name John Palmer and went to great lengths to hide his true, chumpy identity. Operating out of York, he would steal livestock in neighbouring Lincolnshire by night, and live it up with the gentry of York by day. He became quite wealthy, and for a little while everything was going his way.

Returning from a hunting trip with da boiiiiizzzzzzzz, Turpin spied a particularly tasty-looking cockerel strutting across the way. Being in the mood for yet more killing, Dick shot the cock, only to discover that it had belonged to his landlord. And so, ‘John Palmer’ was soon brought up before the local magistrate. After some investigation, the sudden disappearance of various sheep and horses around Lincoln was connected to Palmer.

Due to a highly unlikely coincidence, it was discovered that Palmer was in fact Dick Turpin, and he then faced many additional charges of theft, assault, murder and generally being a knob. He was hanged in 1739 at the age of 33, dying the way he lived—like a complete chump.


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