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Ballad of a Bold, Bad Man

This jaunty song, still frequently requested by students, has a fascinating history rooted in another Wellesley tradition: Hoop Rolling!

Louise Tibbetts Smith '39 wrote the song to recount the tale of an interloper who posed as a Wellesley senior to compete in the spring Hoop Rolling race. Clad in a graduation gown, complete with a flowered cap, Ned Read of the Harvard Lampoon posed as "Peggy Read" and managed to stake out a competitive place at the front of the crowd by claiming his little sister had saved him the spot. 

Against all odds, Ned won the race and was rushed by a celebratory crowd. It was soon discovered that he was not a Wellesley student at all, and he was promptly chased into Lake Waban. Today, Wellesley students echo this storied day by throwing the rightful winner of Hoop Rolling into the lake as part of the congratulatory celebration.  


Read the May 5th, 1939 edition of the Wellesley College News
for a firsthand account of the "hoopla" that inspired the song! 

 

The Harvard rascal Ned Read in disguise posing as "Peggy Read" prior to the race, and "flung in the drink" of Lake Waban after being discovered 

The Traveling Wellesley Ballad

Ballad of a Bold, Bad Man found its way to a boys' summer camp in New Hampshire via camp counselor alumna Brigid Ruf '14. The camp was looking for some new songs and picked Louise's song from the Wellesley Song Book. It was later discovered that Ned Read, the subject of the song, was a former camper! Read all about it on the Camp Pemigewassett website.

Lyrics

Oh! Many an old alumna will remember with a thrill
The First of May when ’39 was gathered on the Hill,
For among the smiling maidens, like a serpent in the grass,
Stood a masquerading Harvard man who cried, “They shall not pass!”

Sing hey the handsome Harvard man who posed as a Wellesley lass,
Sing hey the Senior gown that made him one of the Senior class,
Sing hey the Harvard Crimson flashing so triumphantly,
But tra-la-la tra-la-la tra-la-la-la!
The Wellesley Blue for me.

He murmured as he took his place at 7:23,
“My little sister, Mary Smith, has saved this place for me.”
Not hoops nor rhododendrons could check the villain’s stride.
He won the race, was crowned the class’s best prospective bride.

Sing hey the handsome Harvard man who posed as a Wellesley lass,
Sing hey the Senior gown that made him one of the Senior class,
Sing hey the Harvard Crimson flashing so triumphantly,
But tra-la-la tra-la-la tra-la-la-la!
The Wellesley Blue for me.

But as the crown was placed upon the wig that had concealed,
It slipped from off the May Queen’s brow; the rascal was revealed.
From many mouths the cry arose of, “Treason! She’s a man!”
The pseudo-queen grew deathly pale; he quickly turned and ran.

Sing hey the handsome Harvard man who posed as a Wellesley lass,
Sing hey the Senior gown that made him one of the Senior class,
Sing hey the Harvard Crimson flashing so triumphantly,
But tra-la-la tra-la-la tra-la-la-la!
The Wellesley Blue for me.

The crowd pursued him to the lake; they threw him in the drink.
They laughed and said, “It’s up to you, either to swim or sink,”
And then returned triumphantly to crown the rightful queen,
On the most historic May Day that our alma mater’s seen.

Louise's senior photo from the 1939 Legenda yearbook 

"Lou" Tibbetts Smith at her 80th Reunion in 2019

Click the video below to watch Louise Tibbetts Smith '39 speak about her experience writing "A Ballad of A Bold, Bad Man" before leading alumnae in a round of her song at Reunion 2019

Today's winners are thrown in the lake just like Ned. Here is Ashley Gramolini '10, winner of Hoop Rolling, after taking a celebratory dunk!

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