The Ballad of Norman Thorne

(based on the true story of the chicken run murder which took place in Crowborough, East Sussex)

In Kensal Green in London Town near the turn of the century
Was born a boy called Norman Thorne to an honest family
And Norman was an honest sort and a very straight furrow ploughed
To do his mother credit and to make his father proud.

Now Norman served his God so well with a heart so pure,
At the Band of Hope and Sunday School so steadfast and sure
And at his local chapel he was a guiding light
That others chose to follow through the perils of the night.

Now Norman heard the bugle call in the war to end all wars
He fought for country, King and God and proudly upheld the cause
Then came the peace, the fighting ceased in the year 1918
And with cheerful optimism he went back to his routine.

And Jesus Christ loves Norman Thorne,T he Bible tells him so
As he starins his eyes to read by the candle's glow.

Now Elsie Cameron lived close by, her family from those parts
And she walked out with Norman and they became sweethearts,
And very soon they were engaged to start their life anew
Prepared to face the brave new world of 1922.

Now Norman worked at the factory of the Fiat Company
A good job with a future in an expanding industry
Then came the trade depression and the works closed down and died,
And like so many heroes he was quickly cast aside

But he was not downhearted, it was all a part of God's scheme,
With £100 from his father, he would build upon a dream,
He set off for the Sussex countryside, he bought a piece of land
To start up his own chicken farm, on his own two feet to stand.

In a twelve by seven wooden shed, Norman he would dwell
With only a fire to light the nights and the water from a well,
And only the clucking of the hens to share his new abode
A home fit for a hero in a field off Blackness Road.

And Jesus Christ loves Norman Thorne,The Bible tells him so
As he strains his eyes to read by the candle's glow.

Now Elsie stayed in London, with her father she did stay
Working as a lady typist to save for her wedding day
And she would catch the Sussex train as often as she could
To be with her Englishman in his castle made of wood.

"Oh, Elsie, my dear Elsie, I can just about make ends meet
And we shall have our wedding day when I get on my feet.
God moves in mysterious ways and I will heed his call
In the local chapel and the village Sunday school."

For two whole years he laboured, carried out his daily toil,
But he found he made no fortune from this piece of God's own soil
In the Summer he was quite content in the glow of the evening light
But he had only the hens for company in the long cold winters' nights.

Now it was hard to read the Bible as the fading fire glowed red
And the Devil came to Norman as he sat in his shed,
"Oh, get behind me, Satan !" said Norman,"that won't do!"
The devil said, "No, I'm standing here right in front of you."

Now waiting for Elsie's visits, it vexed the poor man sore
And the nights were very long in the cold January of 1924,
He took himself to the village dance at the Waterloo Hall close by,
There he met Bessie Caldicott with her wide laughing eyes.

Now Norman smoked no cigarette, he drank no beer or gin,
Nor fell in with the crowd at the Naked Lady or other dens of sin,
But Norman fell for Bessie, a slave to all her charms
And Bessie fell for the young man who ran the poultry farm.

"Oh, Bessie, darling Bessie, I want you for my wife,
You are the dearest and sweetest thing to happen in my life,
But I am to be wed to Elsie Cameron, and what's more,"he said.
"I am condemned to a long cold life in a loveless marriage bed."

"Oh, Bessie, dearest Bessie, what can I do or say ?
Jesus never loved a woman to be tempted in this way
I find no word in the Bible to help or comfort me-
I am a man between two fires, the devil and the deep blue sea."

"Oh, Norman, dearest Norman," Elsie Cameron did say,
It seems to me you've changed of late, you seem so far away."
And after she went back to London a letter he did send
To break off their engagement saying they could still be friends.

But Elsie would noot be deterred, "Norman Thorne," she said,
"You will not marry Bessie, it will be me you wed,
For I am carrying your child, on you I have first claim,
That child we got in your in your wooden shack that needs to bear your name."

"Oh, get you back to London Town, you have no claim on me
And I will wed my Bessie, of you I shall be free;
Oh, get you back to London Town, on me you have no claim."
And he sent Elsie back to her father on the morning train.

And Jesus Christ loves Norman Thorne,The Bible tells him so
As he strains his eyes to read by the candle's glow.

Now Elsie went to a fortune teller, "Your future is quite clear,
You will be a married woman by Christmas of this year;"
So she put on a silken jumper, and new shoes she put on,
And stole out of her father's house to win back Norman Thorne.

Now, her father had told Elsie to make a brand new start:
"Forget, forget that Norman Thorne, the man who broke your heart."
He went to look in his daughter's room and found that she was gone,
And so he sent a telegram to that cursed Norman Thorne.

"I have not seen your daughter, she is not here, I swear."
So her father sent for the police, "Please, find her about where.
She left with just a suitcase to me it is quite plain,
Intending to see Norman Thorne she caught the Sussex train."

"Of Elsie Cameron," said Norman, " "I've had no sight or sound,
I fear she's jumped off London Bridge, a thinking to be drowned
Or fallen by the wayside in some dark ditch or stream
To be taken by the gypsies or the mormons it would seem."

Now three weeks passed and still no clue to Elsie Cameron's fate,
With all the investigations Norman did co-operate,
Through all of mid-December, all over Christmastide,
Norman had his true love, Bessie, standing by his side.

Now, Norman gave assistance, he gave all the help he could-
He even gave the paper Elsie's photo, a likeness oh so good.
He said,"You can search my land, I'll ask no reason why."
The police belived the man of God who would not tell a lie.

Well, Annie Price, she lived alone, saw the paper quite by chance,
She cast her eyes on Elsie's photo, with a passing glance.
"As I was out a walking, on that very date,
I saw the woman in that photo pass through Norman's gate."

"Oh, fetch the men from Scotland Yard, new evidence to try."
And chief Inspector Gillan arrived most speedily,
"The finger points at Norman Thorne, disregarding his concern,
Dig up his farm and search his land, leave not a stone unturned."

So PC Philpott very soon got busy with his spade,
And soon in the potato patch a discovery he made.
And there inside a suitcase, not far beneath the ground,
Elsie Cameron's clothes and shoes were very quickly found.

"Oh, wicked, wicked Norman Thorne, what a crime you've done -
For you have foully murdered poor Elsie Cameron!"
"Oh, I have done no murder!" Norman did exclaim,"Oh listen to my story which I will now explain."

"Yes, Elsie came to visit me, a thinking to be wed.
I went out to meet Bessie and left Elsie at my shed.
When I returned home later, what a dreadful scene:
The sight of Elsie's lifeless body hanging from a beam"

"I thought that I would get the blame for Elsie's desperate deed,
And so I would dispose of her upon the greatest speed,
And, working with a hacksaw, by the firelight
I cut up Elsie Cameron in the middle of the night."

The Police started digging, and very soon they found
The pieces of Elsie Cameron, scattered all around-
All neatly bound in sackcloth, atonement for her sins,
Like one of Norman's chickens all neatly tied with string.


"Oh, never such a sight I've seen, ever in all my years!"
Not even men who were blown to hell out in Flanders fields."
As they gazed upon Norman's handiwork and his final deadly sin;
The sight of Elsie's severed head inside a biscuit tin.

And Jesus Christ loves Norman Thorne,The Bible tells him so
As he strains his eyes to read by the candle's glow.

Now the eminent Mr Spilsbury gave evidence for the Crown,
Well learned in pathology, a man of high renown,
He said no strangulating noose had stifled Elsie's breath,
But vicious blows to the head and face had brought about her death.

Now the eminent Dr Bronte said, "I beg to disagree!"
As they dug up Elsie's pieces from Willesdon Cemetery.
"I have found broken blood vessels in her neck so it would seem
That Elsie Cameron did indeed hang lifeless from that beam."

The police said "Let's prove this story false or show it true.
We will suspend a hundredweight to see what it will do."
A clear indentation in the beam where it weighed,
But no such mark seen on the beam by Elsie's body made.

"Oh, gentlemen of the jury, you now have to decide
If Norman Thorne has told the truth or on his oath has lied.
The jury took but half an hour, the chairman he spoke out:
"We find our verdict guilty beyond reasonable doubt."

The judge put his black cap squarely on his head.
"I sentence you, John Norman Thorne, to hang till you are dead.
No nore you'll dance with Bessie, and you shall have no hope,
Except to dance in Wandsworth jail at the end of a rope."

"Oh, father,dearest father, oh don't you cry for me,
For I have been a martyr to Mr Spilsbury."
The Home Secretary said "No reprieve, I find the case quite clear."
And Norman went to meet his maker in the April of that year.

And Jesus Christ loves Norman Thorne,The Bible tells him so
As he strains his eyes to read by the candle's glow.

Well, who knows the true story of that night so long ago
Elsie, Norman and their God are the only ones to know,
But many of that jury spent restless nights in bed
And thought they heard the ghost of Norman calling from his shed.

Now did he tell the honest truth or was it all a lie ?
Was justice done to Norman Thorne, did he deserve to die?
Or for mothers to tell their children: "If you don't behave,
Norman Thorne will cut you up and drag you to your grave."

Now even Mr Conan Doyle himself cast doubts upon this case,
And felt somewhat uneasy about poor Norman's fate,
But on one thing all expert views are wholly reconciled:
Elsie Cameron was never expecting any child.

In Kensal Green in London Town near the turn of the century
Was born a boy called Norman Thorne to an honest family
And Norman was an honest sort and a very straight furrow ploughed
To do his mother credit and to make his father proud.

And Jesus Christ loved Norman Thorne,The Bible told him so
As he strained his eyes to read by the candle's glow.

( I am indebted to my namesake Rupert Taylor for his
"Murders of Old Sussex",(Countryside Books, 1991).

I wrote the song because my mother has Norman Thorne's signature in a book given as a Sunday school prize.