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John Parfit

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 55725 ; James Flynn]

The Flynn Brothers sang James Flynn’s song John Parfit in 1979 on their EP Time and Chance and in 1991 on their eponymous CD The Flynn Brothers. The latter album was produced by Martin Carthy.

Martin Carthy sang John Parfit on his 1998 album Signs of Life. He noted:

It was a consuming rage, felt by James Flynn, of the Flynn Brothers, at the events related in John Parfit, that led to the writing of the song, events which took place at the Duke of Norfolk’s estates in Yorkshire in 1978. Nothing was done about it at the time, nor has anything been done since. James and his brothers sing it slightly different (Oh, all right, I changed it a bit) and in great harmony.


Martin Carthy sings John Parfit

Parfit went out one cold dark night
Walking the Yorkshire woods all round
Thinking to find some game to eat
Along the frosted ground

He heard the pheasant in the trees
Innocent to the wild owl call
Come the keeper’s stealthy tread
His mean heart wrapped in gall

The Duke of Norfolk’s game keeper
Out to the woodland come
Protecting life, so it be killed
On a sporting day for fun

He give chase to John Parfit
All in the lonely copse that night
Struggling beneath the bare branched trees
In the foxes’ silent sight

A shot was fired and, sad to tell,
Laid John Parfit on the ground
For a moment’s rage and carelessness
Precious blood flowed down

In the light of dawn
Brown leaves on mossy ground
On a woodland place where death has come
Golden sun shown down

The game keeper was told go free
For it was said that there was no crime
That a man was killed and stupidly
Nobody seemed to mind

The world’s a tattered and rusty place
Drowning memories of countless men
Guardians guard by earthly fence
But who will guard the guardians?