“An humble Petition of the Pigs, to restore their ancient Privilege of foraging in the Woods during the Acorn Season”
I recently spent a happy afternoon digitising some of my old vinyl LPs. Among them were three albums by Tundra – the duo of Doug and Sue Hudson – who were superstars on the Kent folk scene in the late seventies and early eighties. Their live performances were always very entertaining, while on record the musical arrangements were enhanced by the presence of various members of Fiddler’s Dram and the Oyster Ceilidh Band.
This song appeared on what I think was their first “proper” LP, A Kentish Garland. Lord knows how they stumbled upon this little gem, hidden away in the November 1809 edition of the Sporting Magazine. Or, to give it its full title, The Sporting Magazine, Or Monthly Calendar of the Transactions of The Turf, The Chase, And every other Diversion Interesting to the Man of Pleasure Enterprize and Spirits.
This piece is included in a section headed
THE HIGH COURT OF DIANA.
and indeed it takes a rare poetic genius to think of rhyming “before ‘em” with “decorum”.
The pigs’ complaint is occasioned by the ending of the ancient custom of Pannage as a result of the spread of Enclosure in the County. It is unclear whether the author is, beneath his satire, genuinely complaining about the ending of Pannage, or parodying the complaints of those protesting against Enclosure.
Many of Tundra’s songs were taken from broadsides and other printed sources, which gave the words but no tunes. Sometimes these words would be fitted to a traditional tune, but I assume that in many cases Doug and/or Sue composed a suitable tune – I imagine that was the case with this song.
I’d not sung the song for many years, but listening to the LP again after a similarly lengthy interval, I remembered how much I used to enjoy singing it; and was pleased to find that it only took a couple of run-throughs for the words to come back to me.
I’ll end by quoting from the original album sleevenotes
Porcine plaisanterie at its peak! It may seem trivial to you or me but foraging for acorns in the woods was a basic pleasure of life for pigs in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Imagine their disgruntlement at the removal of this their ancient right. The question is – who originally wrote the song? Was it Shakespeare, or – Bacon?
Petition Of The Pigs In Kent