Henry's Songbook

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Let Ramensky Go

  • (Roddy McMillan)

            Alley-ee alley-ay alley-oo alley-oh
            Open up your prison gates
            And let Ramensky go

    There was a lad in Glesga town, Ramensky was his name
    Johnny didnae know it then but he was set for fame

    Now Johnny was a gentle lad, there was only one thing wrong
    He had an itch to strike it rich and trouble came along
    He did a wee bit job or two, he blew them open wide
    But they caught him and they tried him and they bunged him right inside

    And when they let him out he said he'd do his best but then
    He yielded tae temptation and they bunged him in again
    Now Johnny made the headlines, entertained the boys below
    When he climbed up tae the prison roof and gave a one-man show

    But when the war was raging the brass-hats had a plan
    Tae purloin some information, but they couldnae find a man
    So they nobbled John in prison, asked if he would take a chance
    Then they dropped him in a parachute beyond the coast of France

    Then Johnny was a hero, they shook him by the hand
    For stealing secret documents frae the German High Command
    So Johnny was rewarded for the job he did sae well
    They granted him a pardon frae the prison and the cell

    But Johnny was in error when he tried his hand once more
    For they caught him at a blastin', and it wasnae worth the score

    The jury pled for mercy, but the judge's voice was heard
    Ten years without remission, and that's my final word
    Ten years, my lord, that's far too long, wee Johnny cried in vain
    For if you send me up for ten I'll never come out again

    Oh give me another chance, my lord, I'm tellin' you no lie
    But if you send me up for ten I'll sicken and I'll die

    Now Peterhead's a fortress, its walls are thick and stout
    But it couldnae hold wee Johnny when he felt like walking out
    Five times he took a powder, he left them in a fix
    And every day they sweat and pray in case he makes it six

    (as sung by Josh MacRae)

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1958:] Twelve hours after Johnny Ramensky had done his fifth and most baffling "vanishing act" in Peterhead jail yesterday it was not known whether he was INSIDE or OUTSIDE the prison. This was admitted late last night by a Scottish Home Department spokesman. Here is the sequence of events leading up to the cracksman's third escape in ten months.

    Because of rain, 45 prisoners, including Ramensky, were being exercised in one of Peterhead's large prison halls. At 1.40, the exercise ended and the squad began a 50 to 70-yard march, in organised lines to the tailor's shop. At 1.43, they arrived at the shop WITHOUT RAMENSKY.

    The alarm was raised. Every corner of the prison was searched. But there was no trace of the "King of Peterhead". No rope or ladder with which he could have scaled the jail's 18-foot wall was found. One theory was that Ramensky had a key to the back door of the tailor's shop, which is only ten feet from the wall. For it is believed that he had a key for the tailor's shop door on his October break-out. Out went the word to police all over the country: "Ramensky's free again."

    Two hunts went on - in swirling snow and at temperatures below freezing point - for the 53-year-old convict who, despite ill-health, had made another freedom bid. Throughout the whole of the North of Scotland road blocks and police checks sprang up. Tracker dogs went out. A strong cordon was thrown round the immediate prison area. For on his last bid in October, Ramensky was found, after 40 hours of freedom only 200 yards from the prison. It was ill-health that beat him then. He collapsed after a child spotted him in a barn.

    [...]. Last night people living in the Peterhead area spoke of him without fear. For he is known as "Gentle John" and those beside the prison take bets on how long he will stay free. His escape in February this year lasted 24 hours, before he was caught in Peterhead's main street wearing a warder's cap and a long black coat.

    One question was being asked: Why does he keep on doing it, at his age and in his state of health? A police officer who knows him well said last night: "Johnny never expects to get far when he breaks out now ... he's just got to do it to prove that he still can."

    Here is a description of the clothes worn by the wartime Commando who cracked safes behind enemy lines: Brown moleskin trousers, brown battledress tunic, brown jersey, blue and white striped shirt, black leather shoes ... and possibly wearing a cap. (Daily Record, Dec 18)

    The six-day hunt for gentle Johnny Ramensky was called-off last night. And baffled police admitted: "There are still no clues." [...] The authorities believe that 53-year-old Ramensky, if still alive, is bound to make a mistake sometime, or to leave a clue somewhere. It is understood that police opinion is split over the reason for the absence of a "trail." Some feel he is dead in the sea, but others are convinced he is in the Peterhead area, possibly quite near the prison, and is being fed and sheltered. (Daily Record, Dec 23)

  • [1959:] Johnny Ramensky (53), the safe-breaker who made a sensational jail-break from Peterhead prison, remaining at liberty for nine days, is back in prison. He was caught at Persley, on the north bank of the River Don about three miles from Aberdeen. A police spokesman said after the capture that Ramensky was looking wonderfully well, apart from being footsore, and considering the long period he had been on the run. He was dressed in blue dungarees and a green jersey and his shoes were cracked and torn. It is understood that no police charges are impending against Ramensky on account of his escape. There have been no reports of break-ins or thefts. His fifth escape has evoked wide-spread sympathy amongst the public. During the war Ramensky was an instructor to Allied agents in blowing safes. (Weekly Scotsman, Jan 2)

  • [1959:] Probably no figure is better known in Scotland to-day than Johnny Ramensky. And it is undoubtedly true that almost all people, regardless of the rights or wrongs of his case, felt some sympathy for the man who detested prison so strongly that he broke out of Scotland's strongest jail five times. This is the aspect that affected me, certainly, "There are nae horizons in a twenty-foot cell". (Norman Buchan about The Ballad of Johnny Ramensky, by himself, to the tune of Jamie Foyers, Weekly Scotsman, July 15)

  • [1963:] Written by Roddy Macmillan about the five escapes from Peterhead jail of Ramensky the safe-breaker, who was 'employed' during World War II as a cracksman-commando to break safes in enemy territory, given a free pardon at the end of the war and subsequently jailed again for safe-breaking. His escapes were spectacular, his freedom short-lived, but many people thought, perhaps sentimentally, that he should have been given another pardon. (Notes 'Edinburgh Folk Festival, vol. 2')

  • [1996:] [Photo of] 'Gentle' Johnny Ramensky, master safe blower and prison escapee after a release celebration at his Eglinton Street home. In the war he was released from prison to go behind enemy lines, crack safes and steal German war secrets. (Glasgow. The People's Story, ed. by Paul Harris, no 212)


Quelle: Scotland

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aktualisiert am 11.09.2000