Mad Martins

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"Shoot the Bishop!"



Who has come to disturb my sleep,
These three nights?
And rouse my antipathies festering deep,
These three nights?

A heavenly visitor,
Bow in hand;
Come to deliver
God's fierce command.

First night:
He smiled sweetly;
He looked upon me kindly,
He glanced upon me tenderly,

And he said:
Shoot the Bishop!”

But I did nothing,
I said nothing;
I was embarrassed and perplexed.

Who has come to disturb my rest,
These three nights?
And put my earnestness to the test,
These three nights?

God’s holy messenger,
To set out my mission
Against the sins of the clergy,
And their lack of contrition.

Second night:
He did not smile;
He gazed upon me mournfully,
He stared upon me sorrowfully,

And he cried:
“Jonathan! Jonathan!!
Shoot the Bishop! Shoot the Bishop!”

I loaded my pistol,
But resolved nothing;
I was strengthened, yet unwilling.

“I passed another miserable day;
I wanted to do what was right
- I was afraid of doing what was wrong,
And another night came.”

Third night:
He was displeased;
He frowned upon me angrily,
He glared upon me dreadfully;

And he thundered:
“Jonathan! Jonathan!! Jonathan!!!
Shoot the Bishop! Shoot the Bishop! Shoot the Bishop!”

My scruples were removed,
My purpose was now clear;
To betray the scriptures and do murder.

I talked of blood and the field of Armageddon;
It was clear that I was to be the hand,
that was “To pour out the cup of the wine
Of the fierceness of the wrath of God”.

I confided in my wife,
But to my plan she then attested;
Betraying me to the magistrate,
Who then had me arrested.

Yet, as they led me to my cell,
Sure as a doom-laden bell,
Once more the mandate fell,
As I heard the angel yell:

“Jonathan! Jonathan!! Jonathan!!! Jonathan!!!!
Shoot the Bishop! Shoot the Bishop! Shoot the Bishop! Shoot the Bishop!”

(Lyrics & Music: Gary Miller / incorporating quotes attributed to Jonathan Martin)

© 2017 Whippet Records

Copyright Control MCPS/PRS

The Honourable & Right Rev. Edward Legge 1767-1827 LLD, Lord Bishop of Oxford [after a watercolour by Thomas Owen], c1816-1827.


Additional Text

Jonathan left the Navy when his ship was broken up in 1810, returning to Norton, near Stockton-on-Tees, where he worked as a tanner and married his first wife, Martha, who bore him a son, Richard, in 1814. Jonathan’s time in the Navy, however, had given him a love of roving, “which prevented him from settling down to regular employment”.

After his parents died, he became a Wesleyan preacher in 1814, strongly denouncing the Church of England and gaining a reputation for disrupting church services. His passionate religious fervour led him to indulge in frequent fits of rage against the clergy, coming to a head with his plot to assassinate the Bishop of Oxford, Edward Legge, at a confirmation service in Stockton in 1817, for which he was arrested, tried and committed as a lunatic at West Auckland asylum.

Jonathan described the Bishop of Oxford thus, “I was astonished at the wonderful size of the bishop. I had never seen so corpulent a man before. Surely he hath drunk a great deal of wine for his stomach’s sake.”


Recording Credits

Gary Miller - Lead & Backing Vocals, Acoustic Guitar 
Iain Petrie - Piano, Keyboards, Glockenspiel, Electric Guitar, Drum Programming, Atmospheric Sound Effects, Backing Vocals 
Jennie Beasty - Fiddle 
Glenn Miller - Electronically Distorted Accordion 
Mick Tyas - Backing Vocals 
Barbara Petrie - Harmony Vocals


Video Clips

'"Shoot the Bishop!"' live at the Premiere of
'Mad Martins: The Story of the Martin Brothers'
The City Theatre, Durham, England, 5th October 2019