> Martin Carthy > Songs > John Peel

John Peel / D’Ye Ken John Peel?

[ Roud 1239 ; Ballad Index FSWB208 ; Wiltshire 152 ; DT JOHNPEEL ; Mudcat 4518 ; words John Woodcock Graves, music trad.]

Mickey Moscrop sang John Peel in a recording made in 1953 in either the Crown and Thistle, Rockcliffe, or the Plough Inn, Wreay. This was published in 1982 on the Reynard album Pass the Jug Round: Traditional Songs and Music From Cumberland; it was reissued in 2001 on Veteran. Sue Ellen noted:

Arguably Cumberland’s most famous son, the statesman farmer and huntsman John Peel lived from 1776 to 1854 in the Caldbeck area. He would probably never have been remembered today if his friend John Woodcock Graves of Wigton had not in about 1832 written the song which was to spread his fame worldwide. The song was published by Carlisle writer and bookseller George Coward (under the pseudonym of Sidney Gilpin) in his Songs and Ballads of Cumberland in 1866 in an anglicised form—the original had been in broad Cumberland dialect. A few years later William Metcalf, organist at Carlisle Cathedral, heard the song being sung to its original air, the Border rant Bonnie Annie, and it took his fancy. He altered the tune somewhat and it was performed in public in 1869 in Carlisle and also at a Cumberland Benevolent Society dance in London, where Metcalf sold 100 copies of the song. From that time it just took off until it was sung, whistled and hummed everywhere. The tune changed again, becoming a somewhat simpler version of Metcalf’s and in this form it was published in the National Song Book in 1906. It is now regarded as the archetypal Cumbrian song, and is certainly still sung widely in the country, especially at hunt meets, as well as being adopted as the regimental marching tune of the Border Regiment.

The Liverpool Spinners sang John Peel on their 1962 Topic EP Songs Spun in Liverpool.

Dave and Toni Arthur sang John Peel in 1967 on their first duo album, Morning Stands on Tiptoe. They noted:

The original John Peel was written in Cumberland dialect in 1832 by a friend of Peel’s called John Woodcock Greaves, and the words were put to the air of Bonnie Annie. The final version, as agreed between Greaves and his publisher, was printed in Sidney Gilpin’s Songs and Ballads of Cumberland in 1866. The song was apparently put into its present musical form by Mr. William Metcalfe in 1869. It has been translated from the Cumberland dialect somewhere along the way but nobody seems to know by whom.

The Pennine Folk sang John Peel on their 1968 album Both Sides of the Pennines. They noted:

Perhaps England’s most famous hunting song. Of Cumberland origin with a roaring chorus, this number is familiar to folk enthusiasts from Bournemouth to Barrow.

Skinch sang John Peel in 1976 on the second album on the Fellside label, The Best of BBC Radio Carlisle’s Folk Workshop.

The New High Level Ranters sang John Peel in 1982 on their eponymous Topic album The New High Level Ranters.

Martin Carthy sang John Peel in 1984 on Martyn Wyndham-Read et al.’s Greenwich Village album The Old Songs.


Dave and Toni Arthur sings John Peel

D’ye mind John Peel in the days gone by?
How he cheered on the hounds with his jovial cry,
And the blast of his horn echoed loudly and high
As it rang o’er the fields in the morning.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Bright Phyllis he rode like a brave man and true
With his hounds on ahead and the fox full in view
While the green valleys rang with his loud whoop-haloo
And the blast of his horn in the morning.

Then away through the gorse-break, o’er moorland and fell,
O’er swift-rolling rivers and deep craggy dell,
John Peel was the foremost, that Reynard could tell
With his horn sounding shrill in the morning.

Oh, blithe was his heart when the death drew nigh
And cheery the glance of his bright blue eye
As he bore off the brush and waved it on high
With his horn sounding shrill in the morning.

Then a bumper, a bumper we’ll swell in acclaim
And drain it with pride at the shrine of his fame
For long may each hunstman remember his name
And the blast of his horn in the morning.

Martin Carthy sings John Peel

D’ye ken John Peel with his coat so gay?
Do ye ken John Peel at the break of day?
Do ye ken John Peel when he’s far, far away
With his hounds and his horn in the morning?

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Oh, the sound of his horn brought me from my bed
And the cry of his hounds which me oftimes led,
For Peel’s “view hullo” would awaken the dead
Or a fox from his lair in the morning.

Yes, I ken John Peel, Ruby too,
Ranter and Ringwood and Bellman and True.
From a find to a check, from a check to a view
From a view to the death in the morning.

Then here’s to John Peel from my heart and soul
Let’s drink to his health, let’s finish the bowl,
We’ll follow John Peel through fair and through foul
If we want a good hunt in the morning.

D’ye ken John Peel with his coat so gay?
He liv’d at Troutbeck once on a day,
Now he has gone far, far, far away,
We shall ne’er hear his voice in the morning.