> Joseph Taylor > Songs > The White Hare of Oldham
> The Watersons > Songs > The White Hare of Howden
> Shirley Collins > Songs > The White Hare
> Martin Carthy > Songs > White Hare

The White Hare / Howden Town

[ Roud 1110 ; TYG 79 ; Ballad Index RcTWhiHa ; VWML FK/11/196/3 , PG/5/28 , PG/6/9 ; Bodleian Roud 1110 ; trad.]

Joseph Taylor sang this song as The White Hare of Oldham. It was recorded by Percy Grainger in 1908, released in 1972 on the LP Unto Brigg Fair, and included in 1998 on the Topic anthology To Catch a Fine Buck Was My Delight (The Voice of the People Volume 18). The original album's sleeve notes state:

Other versions KTT, KP, SM, PB. Sound recordings BBC 19336. Tom and Jim Smith are names that occur with great frequency through successive generations of huntsmen in the employ of the Earl of Yarborough especially in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The Watersons with Mike in lead sang The White Hare of Howden in 1966 on their album The Watersons. Like all but one tracks from this LP, it was re-released in 1994 on the CD Early Days. A.L. Lloyd commented in the sleeve notes:

Frank Kidson obtained this from his indefatigable assistant, Mr. Lolley, and printed it in his Traditional Tunes. This version, the one the Watersons sing, locates the hunt firmly in Yorkshire but the song has been collected elsewhere. Percy Grainger, a pioneer in the use of mechanical recording devices with which to collect folk songs, recorded the fine singer Joseph Taylor singing it in 1906. Taylor came from Brigg, Lincolnshire, far across the Humber from the Watersons home at Hull. They made up their own words for the chorus.

Martin Carthy also recorded White Hare (of Howden) with Dave Swarbrick in 1968 for their album But Two Came By; it was also included in 1971 on the compilations This Is… Martin Carthy and Focus on Folk. His chorus is very similar to that of Joseph Tailor. Shirley Collins, Royston Wood and Lal and Mike Waterson sang a nearly identical version of The White Hare in 1971 on No Roses.

The High Level Ranters sang The White Hare of Howden in 1977 on their and Martyn Wyndham-Read' Broadside Records album English Sporting Ballads.

Brian Peters sang The Oldham White Hare in 1989 on his Harbourtown album Fools of Fortune. He commented in his sleeve notes:

While animals in folklore usually have special qualities, and The Oldham White Hare is surely one for the roll of honour that includes sundry white horses, hinds and whales, I sing this song in tribute to my friend and mentor, the late Harry Boardman, who had it from Trevor Smallet of Saddleworth.

John Roberts & Tony Barrand sang The White Hare in 1998 on their CD Heartoutbursts: English Folksongs collected by Percy Grainger. They commented in their notes:

A hunting song from Joseph Taylor. This was on one of the seven discs he made for the Gramophone Company. Grainger had recorded one stanza in 1906. It is interesting to note that Mr Taylor's memory of texts was not his strong point, and in many instances he could recall few, if any, verses to a song. Fortunately this failing did not seem to extend to his memory for tunes, which, almost without exception, are among the finest ever recovered in English tradition.

Pilgrims' Way recorded this song as Howden Town for their download-only 2011 Christmas album on the Fellside label, Shining Gently All Around, and again for their 2016 Fellside album Red Diesel. They commented:

The dramatic hunt for a white hare, from Joseph Taylor of Lincolnshire, via Booker T and the MGs.

Danny Spooner sang The White Hare of Howden in 2011 on his CD The Fox, The Hare and the Poacher's Fate.

Andy Turner learned The White Hare from the Watersons's eponymous album The Watersons and sang it as the November 23, 2013 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Lyrics

Joseph Taylor: The White Hare of Oldham

Near Oldham town, near Oldham town, as I have heard them tell;
There once was a white hare that used there for to dwell;
She'd been hunted by beagles and greyhounds so fair,
But ne'er a one amongst them could come near this old white hare,
With me ri-tol-the-didel-ol, the-ri-tol-the-day.

They went to the place where the white hare used to lie;
They uncoupléd their beagles and beginning for to try,
They uncoupléd their beagles and they beat the bushes round,
But there was never a white hare not there to be found,
With me ri-tol-the-didel-ol, the-ri-tol-the-day.

There was Jim Smith the huntsman and Tom the whipper-in;
Go down to yonder furze-side to see if she be in;
With that she took a jump me-boys, and away she did run,
And yonder she is going, don't you see her gentlemen,
With me ri-tol-the-didel-ol, the-ri-tol-the-day.

The footmen they did run and the horsemen they did ride;
Such holloa-ing and shouting there was on every side,
Such holloa-ing and shouting I never before had known
And all the men kept crying, “Tally O, tally O,”
With me ri-tol-the-didel-ol, the-ri-tol-the-day.

There was twenty good beagles that caused this hare to die,
There was not one amongst them above a foot high
The number of the dogs there, never could be found
And never better hunting upon old English ground,
With me ri-tol-the-didel-ol, the-ri-tol-the-day.

The Watersons: The White Hare of Howden

In Howden town, in Howden town, as I have heard them tell
Oh once there was a white hare uséd there to dwell
She's been hunted by the greyhounds and the beagle dogs so fair
But there's never one amongst them can come up to this white hare

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
For she's faster than the black and she's bonnier than the brown
And there's not a dog in England as'll ever bring her down

Oh and when they came unto the place where this white hare did lie
The beagles they uncoupled and they began to try
And then all the crafty greyhounds they beat the bush around
But there never was a white hare in that field to be found

Oh says Jimmy the bold huntsman then to Tom the whipper-in
Go look in yonder fernside to see if she lies in
Well with that she gave a jump boys fast away she ran
And it's yonder that she's going just as fast as e'er she can

Oh both horse and foot they did them unto the place draw nigh
Thinking that the white hare was going for to die
But she slipped out of the bush boys over Howden Hill
And the beagles and the greyhounds they was one short in the kill

Martin Carthy: White Hare

Near Howden town, near Howden town, as I have heard them say tell
There once was a white hare that used there for to dwell
She's been hunted be beagles and greyhounds so fair
But there wasn't a one amongst them could come near this old white hare
With me right foll the diddle-o me right foll the day

They went to the place where the white hare used to lie
They uncoupléd the beagles and beginned her to try
They uncoupléd the beagles and they beat the bushes round
But there never was a white hare not there to be found
With me right foll the diddle-o me right foll the day

There was Jim Smith the huntsman and Tom the whipper-in
Were down to yonder fernside to see if she be in
With that she took a jump me boys and away she did run
And yonder she is going don't you see her gentlemen
With me right foll the diddle-o me right foll the day

Oh the footmen they did run and the huntsmen they did ride
Such hollering and shouting there was on every side
Such hollering and shouting I never before have known
And all the men were crying, Tallyho, tallyho!
With me right foll the diddle-o me right foll the day

There was twenty good beagles that causéd her to die
There wasn't a one among them above a foot high
The number of the beagles there never could be found
And never was there such hunting upon our English ground
With me right foll the diddle-o me right foll the day

Shirley Collins: The White Hare

Near Howden town, near Howden town, as I have heard them tell
There once was a white hare that used there for to dwell.
She's been hunted be beagles and greyhounds so fair,
But there's never one amongst them could come near this old white hare,
With me right fol-de-diddle-o right fol-de-day.

They went into the place where the white hare used to lie,
They uncoupléd the beagles and beginnin' for to try.
They uncoupléd the beagles and beat the bushes round
But there never was a white hare not there to be found,
With me right fol-de-diddle-o right fol-de-day.

There was Jim Smith, the huntsman, and Tom, the whipper-in,
Went down to yonder fernside to see if she be in;
With that she took a jump me boys and away she did run
And yonder she is going don't you see her gentlemen,
With me right fol-de-diddle-o right fol-de-day.

The footmen they did run and the huntsmen they did ride,
Such hollering and shouting there was on every side.
Such hollering and shouting I never before have known,
And all of them were crying, Tallyho, tallyho!
With me right fol-de-diddle-o right fol-de-day.

There was twenty good beagles that caused her for to die,
There wasn't a one among them above a foot high,
The number of the beagles there never could be found
And never was there such hunting upon our English ground,
With me right fol-de-diddle-o right fol-de-day.

Acknowledgements and Links

See also the Mudcat Café threads Lyr Req: White Hare and Lyr Add: The White Hare (from the Watersons).