Posts tagged ‘Hunting’

April 29, 2016

Week 245 – Dido, Bendigo

Learned from Mike Waterson, on The Watersons’ eponymous 1966 LP (the red one).

As A.L.Lloyd pointed out in his sleevenotes “the name of the sporting duke may vary, the list of hounds stays much the same”. Although, in the three broadside versions which you can find on Broadside Ballads Online, the second hound’s name is not Bendigo but Spendigo, or Spandigo.

The Sportsman's Companion - including 'Dido, a favourite hunting song'. Printed by Pitts of Seven Dials, London, between 1819 and 1844. From Broadside Ballads Online.

The Sportsman’s Companion – including ‘Dido, a favourite hunting song’. Printed by Pitts of Seven Dials, London, between 1819 and 1844. From Broadside Ballads Online.

There was a time when I used to sing this quite a lot at Oyster Morris music sessions. But up until a few weeks ago, when I decided to revive the song for this blog, I probably hadn’t sung it for twenty years or more. And I have to confess that it took me a while to remember which fox went for its cover and which for the river, and what their respective fates were. In fact, as a result of a simple mishearing of what Mike Waterson was singing, I think I must always have reordered the sequence of events. The Watersons’ third verse – according to this transcription at least – runs

Well the next fox being old and his trials fast a-dawning,
He’s made straight away for the river.
Well the fox he has jumped in but an hound jumped after him:
It was Traveller who straited him forever.

Actually the line on the Yorkshire Garland site seems to make more sense

It was Traveller a-striding in for ever.

and listening again to the Watersons version, I think what Mike sang was

It was Traveller who strided him for ever.

Either way, I’ve always sung

It was Traveller destroyed his life forever.

After which, of course, there was no possibility of said fox running across the plain in the next verse. Hence my reordering of the verses.

Dido, Bendigo

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November 23, 2014

Week 170 – William Rufus

One last song learned from the LP Who owns the game? (see Week 165 and Week 166). Mike Yates and John Howson recorded this one from Roy Last of Mendlesham Green.

Roy Last. Photo by John Howson (?) from the EATMT website.

Roy Last. Photo by John Howson (?) from the EATMT website.

It tells, of course, of the death of King William II, aka William Rufus, who succeeded his father William (the Conqueror) in 1087, and was killed whilst on a hunting trip in the New Forest on 2nd August 1100; today the Rufus Stone marks the spot.

Historians are divided as to whether this was simply a hunting accident, or an assassination. Either is entirely plausible. The fact that, immediately afterwards, his brother Henry rushed off to Winchester to seize the treasury, and had himself crowned just days later in London without waiting for either the Archbishop of Canterbury of York to arrive, might support the idea that this was a premeditated killing. But equally it might just be evidence of quick thinking on Henry’s part – you didn’t get far as a member of the Norman, Angevin or Plantagenet royal families if you weren’t prepared to take the bull by the horns, and snatch at every opportunity for self-advancement.

The Rufus Stone in the shade, New Forest -; from Wikimedia Commons.

The Rufus Stone in the shade, New Forest –; from Wikimedia Commons.

I had always assumed that the song dates from the later nineteenth century (it begins “800 years ago, sir”). In fact I’ve just found it as ‘The Ballad of William Rufus’, seven verses long, in The Romance of the Scarlet Leaf: And Other Poems; with Adaptations from the Provençal Troubadours by Lyndhurst-based versifier Hamilton Aide, published 1865 by Edward Moxon & Co. There is a note to say “This ballad has become popular in the New Forest. Several of the songs that follow have been set to music, and are published”. The songs in question are not traditional or anonymous verses which the author has rescued from obscurity, they are by Aine himself. ‘The Ballad of William Rufus’ was popular enough to be quoted in Two Knapsacks A Novel of Canadian Summer Life by John Campbell (1840-1904). Somehow it must also have made its way to Suffolk. I wonder if Roy Last might have learned it at school?

The song has been rarely collected in tradition. Cecil Sharp got a version from the rather wonderfully monikered  Theophilus George Pritchard at Compton Martin, Somerset in December 1905. And there is a version in Vaughan Williams’ MS, noted in 1954 from New Forest artist Juanita Berlin – here’s a 1956 Pathé film about Juanita and her husband Sven, if you’re interested.

The song’s use in the New Forest – as a spoken prologue to a Mummers’ play – is also mentioned in Chapter 2 of The Fire Kindlers: The Story Of The Purkis Family, a (slightly fanciful) family history written in the late 1930s by  Leslie S. Purkis. The Purkis family, it seems, were historically charcoal burners in the New Forest. And legend has it that it was a member of the family who discovered the dead king’s body, and carried it in his cart to Winchester.

William Rufus

January 25, 2014

Week 127 – Gentlemen of High Renown

A hunting song from the Copper Family repertoire. I must have been singing this since about October 1976. That’s when my friend Mike was given the single LP taken from A Song for Every Season. We taped it, then over a couple of Sunday afternoons, went through the entire album, writing down the words of each song line by line. I’d learn the tune and Mike took the bass. Hey presto! repertoire more than doubled in size almost overnight!

There are a couple of verses in this song where you might think that it’s going to take the fox’s side. But if that’s what you were hoping, you’re in for a disappointment – in the last verse Bold Reynard begs for mercy, but is denied in no uncertain terms.

Gentlemen of High Renown

November 23, 2013

Week 118 – The White Hare

Another song learned from the fabulous Joseph Taylor of Saxby-All Saints, Lincolnshire. I think the first recording of the song I heard was on the Watersons’ eponymous red LP. Their version was based on that communicated to Frank Kidson by his tireless informant Mr Charles Lolley of Leeds. Publishing the song in his Traditional Tunes Kidson – always a man to favour tunes over lyrics – commented

Musicians will, I think, congratulate Mr. Lolley upon obtaining such a fine and sterling old air. I wish I could say as much for the words.

Which is a bit harsh.

It can’t have been too long after hearing The Watersons that I came across the recording by Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick on their album But Two Came By. Martin’s version is that sung by Joseph Taylor, which I first heard in my student days. Finding the classic Leader LP Unto Brigg Fair in Blackwell’s Music Shop in Oxford, I immediately coughed up the £4.50, or whatever records cost back in those days. Whatever it cost, it was money well spent. These days, you can find a recording of Joseph Taylor singing the song on The Voice of the People Volume 18.

There’s a lot of interesting information about the origin of this song on the Yorkshire Garland website, and some nineteenth century examples of broadside printings of the song on the Bodleian’s Ballads Online website. The copy shown was paired with a comic ditty entitled ‘Who’s your hatter’. Not sure it’s quite my style, but someone out there must surely fancy learning a song which includes such great lines as

Come pull up your trousers and go along slap
And purchase a Flipiday Flobbody hat.

The White Hare, broadside ballad from the Bodleian Collection.

The White Hare, broadside ballad from the Bodleian Collection.

The White Hare

October 12, 2013

Week 112 – Hare Hunting Song

Here’s one from the archive – from a demo tape I made c1995 with Chris Wood. You can find a later recording of the song (again with Chris on guitar and harmony vocals) on my now-downloadable-but-originally-cassette-only album Love, Death and the Cossack. As I wrote on the cassette liner notes

I have an ambivalent attitude towards hunting songs, but was won over to the Westmorland Hare hunting song by its gloriously pompous words.  Brave boys only need apply!

Inspired to learn the song by the Watersons’ version (under the title  ‘The Morning Looks Charming’) on their 1966 LP A Yorkshire Garland, I subsequently had the words from Roy Palmer’s English Country Songbook.

The song was collected by Frank Kidson in Westmorland in 1902, from a Mr. Cropper – and here it is from Kidson’s manuscript, now available on the EFDSS Full English site.

Hare Hunting Song, from the Kidson MSS, via the Full English archive.

Hare Hunting Song, from the Kidson MSS, via the Full English archive.

The song has also been collected in Cumberland and Yorkshire – from the singing of the famous Holme Valley huntsmen. But looking at the  Roud index it’s clear that this is not a peculiarly Northern song, a version also having been collected at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

Frank Kidson’s handwritten note on the MS copy above led me to The Vocal Enchantress. Presenting An Elegant Selection of the Most Favourite Hunting, Sea, Love, & Miscellaneous Songs, Sung by Edwin, Bannister, Webster, Mrs. Cargill, Mrs. Kennedy, Mrs. Wrighten, &c. &c. &c. With the Music prefixed to each (1783). And here indeed is our song, in Part 1 pages 38-39.

Hare Hunting Song

Andy Turner: vocals

Chris Wood: guitar, vocals

February 2, 2013

Week 76 – The Setting of the Sun

This is quite the jolliest version of ‘Polly Vaughan’ that I’ve come across.

Dave Parry introduced me to the song, which he’d found in Sabine Baring-Gould’s Songs of the West (the 1905 edition, for which Cecil Sharp acted as musical editor). Baring-Gould collected the song on 12 July 1893 from Sam Fone of Mary Tavy in Devon. The words as printed in Songs of the West struck me at the time as having been rewritten and unnecessarily prettified by Baring-Gould, and now that we can see the original – thanks to Martin Graebe and the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library – I think my suspicions are confirmed. In any case, I retained only the tune, first verse and chorus, with the remaining verses taken from what I’d probably consider the definitive version of this song, from the great Harry Cox.

Incidentally, I’ve always thought that the “I shot my true love because I thought she was a swan” argument a rather dodgy line of defence. Wasn’t killing one of the Queen’s swans a crime which was subject to fairly severe penalties?

On an even more trivial note, although – I assure you – I have never been an avid watcher of Neighbours, I vaguely recall that in the late 1980s there was a plot where a young man did indeed shoot his girlfriend in a freak hunting accident. Although this may not have been a swan-related shooting. And I’m not saying for sure that the scriptwriters were familiar with the Polly Vaughan / Molly Bawn / Shooting of his dear family of ballads…

The Setting of the Sun, from Baring-Gould's notebook. Image copyright the Wren Music Trust, via the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library.

The Setting of the Sun, from Baring-Gould’s notebook. Image copyright the Wren Music Trust, via the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library.

The Setting of the Sun

Andy Turner: vocal, C/G anglo-concertina