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Hunting the Cutty Wren

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 47959 ; Les Barker, trad.]

Hunting the Cutty Wren is an argument from Les Barker’s book Pup Yours.

Martin Carthy and June Tabor sang Hunting the Cutty Wren backed by Norma Waterson, Leyley Davies, Alison Younger, and Eliza Carthy on The Mrs Ackroyd Band’s 1990 album Oranges and Lemmings. Les Barker noted:

Made popular by the late Percy ‘Stupid’ Sedgwick, last of the very thin Baroldswick wren hunters.

Compare this to Martin Carthy’s The Wren on Prince Heathen, The Watersons’ Joy, Health, Love and Peace on Sound, Sound Your Instruments of Joy, and Steeleye Span’s The King on Please to See the King and Hunting the Wren on The Journey. All these versions can be found next to each other on the definitive Martin Carthy anthology The Carthy Chronicles too.

Related versions without Martin Carthy are Steeleye Span’s The Cutty Wren on Time and Hunting the Wren by John Kirkpatrick et al. on the CD Wassail! A Traditional Celebration of an English Midwinter.


Les Barker’s Hunting the Cutty Wren

“Where are you going?” said Milder to Maulder,
“Where are you going? Oh, where do you go?”
“I’m off to the forest,” said Maulder to Milder,
“I’m off to the forest, all in the deep snow.”

“Why are you going,” says Milder to Maulder,
“Why are you going with all of these men?”
“You nosy old bleeder,” said Maulder to Milder,
“You nosy old bleeder, we’re hunting the wren.”

“Two dozen hunters,” says Milder to Maulder,
“Yet you never catch one; won’t you tell me how?”
“It’s a bloody small target,” said Maulder to Milder,
“It’s a bloody small target, you stupid old cow.”

“Then why do you do it?” says Milder to Maulder,
“Why do you do it?” says the whining old voice.
“I know it sounds silly,” said Maulder to Milder,
“It’s an old pagan custom and we got no choice.”

“Would you walk in the forest?” says Milder to Maulder,
“Would you walk in the forest like an old pagan man?”
“We’ll go in my motor,” said Maulder to Milder,
“I’ve got a Toyota, it’s a four wheel drive van.”

“Where have you been,” says Milder to Maulder,
“Where have you been? Won’t you tell to me?”
“Hunting the wren,” said Maulder to Milder,
“Hunting the wren; has your memory gone?”

“Pray have you got one?” says Milder to Maulder,
“Pray have you got one; please tell; I’m all ears.”
“Yes we’re enraptured,” said Maulder to Milder,
“It’s the first one we’ve captured for two thousand years.”

“Where did you catch it?” says Milder to Maulder,
“Where did you catch it? Oh, pray tell to me.”
“We got it at Safeway,” said Maulder to Milder,
“We got it at Safeway for 55p.”

“It’s not very big, though,” says Milder to Maulder,
“Won’t need much stuffing,” I don’t see the sense.
“Of course it’s not big, though,” said Maulder to Milder,
“It’s one of the salient features of wrens.”

“You should have got chicken,” says Milder to Maulder,
“A chicken or a turkey or maybe a joint.”
“We should have got chicken?” said Maulder to Milder,
“You silly old woman, you’re missing the point.”

“So why hunt the wren, then?” says Milder to Maulder,
“Why hunt the wren then if it’s such a small thing?”
“It’s an old pagan custom,” said Maulder to Milder,
“And hunting the sausage don’t have the same ring.”

“Where are you going?” says Milder to Maulder,
“Where are you going?” says Milder again.
“Off to the Arndale,” said Maulder to Milder,
“To open a shop called ‘Kentucky Fried Wren’.”


Poem copied from Pup Yours with adaptions to the singing on Oranges and Lemmings by Reinhard Zierke.