> The Watersons > Songs > Bellman


[ Roud - ; DT TOBELLMN ; Mudcat 1775 ; trad.]

Bellman is a hunting song with a tune similar to the tune of the John Peel song The Horn of the Hunter. And Bellman was also one of John Peel’s famous hunting hounds.

The Watersons sang Bellman with Mike Waterson in lead in 1975 on their album For Pence and Spicy Ale. This track was also included in 2003 on The Definitive Collection. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original album’s sleeve notes:

An impassioned elegy for a fox-hound, to put alongside that other doggy dirge, the American Old Blue. The Watersons got it from Paul Graney of Manchester.

Jon Boden sang Bellman, “probably the best known hunting song in revival circles thanks to the Watersons’ stirring version”, as the 19 April 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Rosie Hood includes Bellman as a bonus track for the Kickstarter supporters of her 2017 RootBeat CD, The Beautiful & the Actual. This video shows her at Moira Furnace Folk Festival 2016:


The Watersons sing Bellman

Will you raise up your glasses to Bellman
And bid that old hound dog adieu,
For it’s many’s the time in the height of his prime
He has thrilled us by running to view.

Chorus (after each verse):
So let’s bid farewell to our Bellman,
His voice you all used to know,
And it’s hounds of his kind they are very hard to find
And he’s gone where the good doggies go.

On the very worst morning in winter
Through the hail and the rain you would try
And the other dogs would have just followed after
For his nose never told him no lie.

Now a gallant old hound were our Bellman,
Why, he’d chase any fox and could climb,
And the only wrong deed that he’d done us
Was when he laid his old pelt down and died.

Now his offspring did follow their father,
Why, there’s Bowler and there’s Bashful so grand
And they’re just like their noble old father
Why, they’ll chase any fox from the land.

Now some people use guns to kill foxes
And they says that it’s far more humane.
But the fox that got nipped by our Bellman
Why, he’d lay down and he’d not rise again.


Thanks to Wolfgang Hell for the transcription.