Chapter Thirteen 1


Hey Ho Raggedy-O

 

 

Chapter 13 – page 2

 

There were also cases of men whose actual names were recorded as William Barlow or Billy Barlow, who were of sufficient interest to earn them at least a mention here. They were all known as Billy Barlow. At least one of them may have used the name as an alias. Several certainly used the name Billy Barlow because of the famous character. Some probably did. Some may have no connection at all. Again, there is no evidence that any of them assumed Billy Barlow’s character.

 

1840. Castaway Billy Barlow

A castaway called Billy Barlow was living on the island of Pohnpei in Micronesia in 1840.

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Nothing else is known of him to date. An English friend of mine, singer Ian Russell, remembers that a song about Billy Barlow was known in the engine rooms of the Merchant Navy ships, where he once worked. He has forgotten the details.

 

1845. Australian Aboriginal Rebel Billy Barlow

An Aboriginal resistance leader called Dundalli was hanged in a particularly, if unintentionally, cruel manner in Brisbane, Queensland, in 1855. His lieutenants were named as Make-i-light and Billy Barlow. Dundalli had conducted a brave but ultimately unsuccessful campaign, involving murder and robbery, against the white settlers, for ten years before he was caught. Make-i-light was captured in 1847, after the ambush and killing of two timber workers with the unlikely names of Waller and Boller. There is no account of the fate of Billy Barlow.

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There are Aboriginal and White families by the name of Barlow living in that part of Queensland. None are related to the famous Robert “Billy” Barlow and anyway they preceded his arrival there in the 1860s. However the character Billy Barlow was known from George Coppin’s appearances in Sydney, well within the time-frame discussed here.

1850. Reverend Billy Barlow

A William Barlow in Alabama, whose occupation was listed as carpenter and farmer in the United States census of 1850, was called, in one record, Reverend Billy Barlow. There was an English clergyman by the name of William Barlow back in the 1700s, who was chubby like Coppin’s Billy Barlow, though very serious in his powdered wig. He was unlikely to have been known in Alabama. More likely that, if Alabama’s Billy was nicknamed after anyone, it was the music-hall Billy Barlow.

 

1878. Reporter Billy Barlow

A reporter whose name is given as Billy Barlow wrote from Salt City, Kansas, in June 1879, about a steamship under the command of Commodore Berkey, that had “…… made another successful voyage down the raging Arkansas, with less water than Columbus started to sail on……”

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1881. Billy the Kid’s Patsy

This is how Billy the Kid met his fate:
The bright moon was shining, the hour it was late,
Shot down by Pat Garrett who once was his friend,
The young outlaw’s life had met its sad end.

From Billy the Kid – Author unknown.

Billy The Kid

There is an alternate legend told about the killing of Henry McCarty/William Bonney/Billy the Kid. It was, and still is, told by those who believe that Billy didn’t die that night in 1881. The official story is that Billy the Kid, accompanied by several friends, rode into Fort Sumner, New Mexico, late on a moonlit night in July. Sheriff Pat Garrett shot and killed the Kid in the bedroom of a ranch-house owned by Pete Maxwell.

Garrett was inside the darkened bedroom when Billy came to the door, asking, “Quien Es?” (“Who is it?”). Billy was fluent in Spanish, and not too much need be read into the fact that he used that language here. Garrett shot Billy in the chest, from inside the room, killing him instantly. The body was identified by witnesses — all of them friends of Billy or Garrett or both — and a legend that swiftly outgrew its main character was born. After his death Billy the Kid progressed from petty criminal and general nuisance, (with the blood of a few men on his hands), to folk-hero.

The other account of his death has him riding to the ranch-house with his companion, Billy Barlow, a Mexican (possibly half-Mexican) who was a little younger than, but otherwise closely resembled, the Kid. As told this way, it was Billy Barlow who entered the dark room with the question, “Quien Es?”, and Billy Barlow who took the bullet that night. The idea is based on the fact that there is reason to believe that a cover-up story of the episode would have suited Garrett just as well as the truth would, so long as Garrett got the credit for killing the Kid.

Brushy Bill

Subsequently, according to this alternate legend, the Kid, wounded but not fatally, fled to Mexico. In 1940 an old man, who shared many of the Kid’s characteristics, was discovered in Texas. He was known as Brushy Bill Roberts.

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A wonderful time was had by all in the merry dance that followed. It was from here that the alternate story arose, and here that the name Billy Barlow first turned up. This name does not appear in any official records, although this means little in the days before the West was tamed, when outlaws frequently used aliases. (Compare this with convicts transported to Australia using Billy Barlow as an alias.)

If this alternate story is true, then it would seem that Billy Barlow appears in Billy the Kid’s life in the role of the Billy Blin of old legend — the faithful servant who solves a problem for his human master. In this case he sacrifices his life. Since the Billy Blin was (is?) supernatural, and presumably immortal, the sacrifice was perhaps not what it seemed.

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Wodin exploring the wisdom of the Dead?
“Quien Es?”
“La Muerte.”

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HEY HO RAGGEDY-O:
A Study of the Billy Barlow Phenomenon
(written by Joy Hildebrand)

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