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The Black Fox

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 1081 ; trad.]

Eileen Pratt sang Graham Pratt’s song The Black Fox unaccompanied in 1980 on their Dingle’s album To Friend and Foe. They noted:

Graham wrote this anti-hunting song, which was inspired by a Yorkshire legend. According to the story the devil takes the form of a black fox, whose audacity at first challenges the huntsmen but finally has them careering back to town in terror. Verses eight and nine were originally printed as part of the legend in a book on British folklore by Katherine Briggs.

Chris Foster sang The Black Fox in 1979 on his Topic album All Things in Common. Graham and Eileen Pratt sang on two other songs on this album but not on this one. Chris Foster noted:

A song by Graham Pratt with a twist in the tail, an antidote to all the songs celebrating killing foxes.

Janice Burns and Jon Doran sang The Black Fox on their 2022 CD No More the Green Hills. They noted:

Another hunting song but in this case the hunters, rather satisfyingly, become the hunted. This song was masterfully written by Graham Pratt and completely encapsulates the thrill of the chase.

This video shows Janice Burns and Jon Doran at the Traverse Theatre in May 2021:


Graham and Eileen Pratt sing The Black Fox

As we were out a hunting
One morning in the spring,
Both hounds and horses running well
Made the hills and valleys ring.

But to out great misfortune
No fox there could be found,
And the huntsmen cursed and swore but still
No fox moved over the ground.

Up spoke our master huntsman
At the head of hounds rode he,
“Well we have ridden for a full three hours
But no fox have we seen.

“And there is strength in me
And I will have my chase,
And if only the Devil himself come by
We’d run him such a race.”

And then there sprung like lightening
A fox from out his hole;
His fur was the colour of a starless night,
His eyes like burning coals.

They chased him over the valley,
They chased him over the field,
They chased him down to the riverbank
But never would he yield.

He’s jumped into the water
And he’s swam to the other side,
He’s laughed so hard that the greenwood shook
Then he’s turned to the huntsmen and cried:

“Ride on my gallant huntsmen when must I come again?
Oh never shall you want a fox to chase a lonely plain.
And when your need is greatest, just call upon My Name,
I will come and you shall have the best of sport and game.”

All the men looked up in wonder,
All the hounds ran back to hide,
For the fox had changed to the Devil himself
Where he stood at the other side.

And men and hounds and horses
Went flying back to town,
And hard on their heels came a little black fox
Laughing as he cried.

“Ride on my gallant huntsmen when must I come again?
Oh never shall you want a fox to chase a lonely plain.”