> Martin Carthy > Songs > William Taylor the Poacher

William Taylor the Poacher / Keepers and Poachers

[ Roud 851 ; Ballad Index K254 ; trad.]

George ‘Pop’ Maynard sang William Taylor at home in Copthorne, Sussex, in 1956. This was recorded for the BBC by Peter Kennedy and published in 1976 on Maynard's Topic LP Ye Subjects of England: Traditional Songs from Sussex and in 1999 on the anthology To Catch a Fine Buck Was My Delight (The Voice of the People Series, Vol. 18). Mike Yates commented:

Understandably many of Pop's songs were concerned with poaching. William Taylor is not the well-known song in which a young girl joins the army in search of her true-love, but a rather lesser-known song which Cecil Sharp found once in Middlesex and which turns up occasionally in the mouth of gypsies.

Brian Pearson sang this song as Keepers and Poachers in 1968 on the Critics Group's album Waterloo:Peterloo: English Folk Songs and Broadsides 1780-1830.

Jack Smith sang Young Taylor on the Musical Traditions anthology King's Head Folk Club Traditional performers at this London Folk Club 1968-1970.

Dave Burland sang The Keepers and the Poachers in 1972 on his eponymous Trailer album Dave Burland. The album's sleeve notes commented:

From The Journals of the E.F.D.S.S. William Taylor (the Taylors were a large and ubiquitous family) suffers the ultimate penalty for the illegal taking of game.

Jasper Smith of Epsom, Surrey, sang a fragment of You Subjects of England (William Taylor) in a recording made by Mike Yates in 1972-75 on the Topic album Songs of the Open Road: Gypsies, Travellers & Country Singers and on the 2003 Musical Traditions anthology Here's Luck to a Man: Gypsy Songs and Music from South-East England. Rod Stradling commented in the latter's accompanying booklet:

Of all poaching songs known to southern English Gypsies, none has proved so popular as this ballad of William Taylor—and yet, very few have sung it to collectors. Structurally, the song is based on The King and the Keeper (see track 4) and many Gypsies who know William Taylor also know part, if not all, of the older ballad. In complete sets, Young Taylor is caught by the keepers, but at his trial he refuses to lay information against his mates, hence the line, “Before I would round, I would die for you all.” Philip Donnellan recorded it for the BBC from Sam Larner in 1958, and both Bob Hart and George Dunn had it in their repertoires.

And Martin Carthy sang this song as William Taylor the Poacher on his 1976 album Crown of Horn. He commented in the sleeve notes:

William Taylor the Poacher is another song from George Maynard collected by Ken Stubbs. It does not seem to have been reported very often. I know nothing about it except that I like it and have done since I first saw it.

Rod Stradling sang Young Taylor at the Golden Fleece in Stroud in the early 2000s. This was included in 2005 on the Musical Traditions anthology Songs from the Golden Fleece.

Andy Turner sang William Taylor as the September 24, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week. In his blog he acknowledges Pop Maynard and Martin Carthy as his source.

Lyrics

Pop Maynard sings William Taylor

Ye subjects of England, come listen a while,
I'll sing you a ditty that'll cause you to smile.
𝄆 'Tis concerning some poachers and keepers also
That fought in these covers some winters ago. 𝄇

“Now, when we go in, boys, good luck to us all.”
Our guns they do rattle and the pheasants do fall,
𝄆 But in less than ten minutes twelve keepers we spied,
“Get you gone, you bold poachers, how dare you come nigh.” 𝄇

Saying one to the other, “Now, what shall we do?”
Saying one to the other, “We all will stand true.”
𝄆 So they did agree for to all be as one
And to fight in these covers till the battle was won. 𝄇

Now, there's one William Taylor who won't run away
When five of those keepers all on him did play.
𝄆 Young Taylor being weary, he sat down to rest,
Young Taylor was taken though he fought the best. 𝄇

Now, the judges and jury to him they did say,
“If you will confess now, your sweet life we'll save.”
𝄆 “Oh no,” said young Taylor, “That won't do at all;
Now ,since you have got me, I will die for them all.” 𝄇

Now, there's none like young Taylor; no never was yet,
There's none like young Taylor; no never was yet.
There's none like young Taylor you keepers all know
That fought in those covers some winters ago.

Jasper Smith sings You Subjects of England (William Taylor)

Come all you young subjects, and listen a-while,
Now a story I will tell you, I'm sure that you'll smile.
We'll go to some cover where there's luck for us all,
Our guns they will rattle and pheasants will fall.

Now we haven't been in there not a scarce half-an-hour,
Oh, the woods they were mine, soon them keepers drawed near.
But it's just like Young Taylor, that's my time to call,
Before I would round, I would die for you all.

Now the woods they were mine, and the keepers also,
As we fell through those covers some winters ago.
But it's just like Young Taylor, that's my time to call,
Our guns they did rattle and pheasants did fall.

Martin Carthy sings William Taylor the Poacher

Ye subjects of England, come listen a while,
I will sing you a ditty that'll cause you to smile.
It's concerning some poachers and keepers also
That fought in these covers some winters ago.

“Now, when we go in, boys, good luck to us all.”
Our guns do rattle and the pheasants do fall,
But in less than ten minutes twelve keepers we did spy,
“Get you gone, you bold poachers, how dare you come nigh.”

Says one to the other, “Now, what shall we do?”
Says one to the other, “We all will stand true.”
So they did agree for to all be as one
And to fight in these covers till battle was won.

Now, there's one William Taylor who won't run away
When nine of those keepers all on him did play.
Young Taylor being weary, he sat down to rest,
Young Taylor was taken though he fought the best.

Now, judges and juries to him they did say,
“If you will confess now, your sweet life we'll save.”
“Oh no,” says young Taylor, “That won't do at all;
But now since you've got me I'll die for them all.”

Now, there's none like young Taylor nor never was yet,
There is none like young Taylor nor never was yet.
There's none like young Taylor you keepers all know
That fought in those covers some winters ago.

Acknowledgements

As Keeper and Poachers, this was copied from Peter Kennedy (ed.), Folksongs of Britain and Ireland by Wolfgang Hell. Changes to the text to conform to Martin Carthy's singing by Garry Gillard.