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Dido, Bendigo / The Noble Foxhunting

[ Roud 584 ; TYG 76 ; Ballad Index Br3218 ; VWML SBG/3/1/405 ; Bodleian Roud 584 ; trad.]

Garners Gay Songs of the West The Life of a Man The Rigs of the Fair

Will Starks of Clarkesdale, Missouri, sang The Fox Hunter's Song to Alan Lomax, John W. Work and Lewis Jones in a 9 August 1942 field recording. It was included in 1999 on the Rounder Records Deep River of Song anthology Mississippi Saints & Sinners: From Before the Blues and Gospel, and in 2018 on the Musical Traditions anthology of Anglo-American songs and tunes from Texas to Maine, A Distant Land to Roam. Mike Yates noted:

This is quite a remarkable find, being a song first known to have been printed on a blackletter broadside by W. Oury of London c.1650. The Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould collected the words and melody from a man named James [Olver] and printed it in his Songs of the West (1905) under the title The Duke's Hunt. He says: “This is a mere cento from a long ballad, entitled The Fox Chase, narrating a hunt by Villiers, second duke of Buckingham, in the reign of Charles II. It is in the Roxburghe Collection.” Since then versions have turned up across England, but Will Starks’ set is, so far as I know, the only version to have been collected in America. Will learnt the song c.1900 from his father.

George Townshend sang 'Twas Early One Morning (Dido, Spendago) in recordings made by Brian Matthews and Ken Stubbs in 1960. They were published in 2000 and 2012 on his Musical Tradition anthology Come, Hand to Me the Glass. Brian Matthews noted:

There is one American version of this song, but all the 14 others listed by Roud are English—and, unusually, are spread though the length and breadth of the land, from Cumberland to Cornwall. George's is the only one from Sussex. It's possible that he may have added it to his repertoire from a nonlocal source—a book perhaps—since he clearly had an attachment to hunting songs.

The Watersons sang Dido, Bendigo in 1966 on their eponymous second album, The Watersons. Like all but one tracks from this LP, it was re-released in 1994 on the CD Early Days. It was also reissued in 2002 on the Topic 4 CD sampler The Acoustic Folk Box and in 2003 on the Watersons' The Definitive Collection. A live recording from 1990 at the Folk Festival Sidmouth was released in 2004.

A.L. Lloyd noted on the original album:

A stirring old hunting song known all over England from Cumberland to Cornwall. George Townshend of Sussex sings a particularly fine version but the tune is more or less constant wherever it is found and, though the name of the sporting duke may vary, the list of hounds stays much the same. Country people must have loved to roll the grandiloquent syllables of names like Dido and Bendigo around their mouths.

Sabine Baring-Gould took the words and melody from a man named James [Olver] and printed it in his Songs of the West under the title The Duke's Hunt [VWML SBG/3/1/405] . He says: “This is a mere cento from a long ballad, entitled The Fox Chase, narrating a hunt by Villiers, second duke of Buckingham, in the reign of Charles II. It is in the Roxburghe Collection and was printed by W. Oury, circa 1650.” The song has had a long life and still flourishes.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang The Noble Foxhunting in 1977 on the Broadside album English Sporting Ballads.

Keith Kendrick sang Dido, Bendigo on the BBC Radio Ballad The Horn of the Hunter. It was first broadcast on 13 March 2006.

Andy Turner learned Dido Bendigo from Mike Waterson on The Watersons. He sang it as the 29 April 2016 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Compare to this the Kipper Family's version called Dido, Fido on their first album, Since Time Immoral.

Lyrics

The Watersons sing Dido, Bendigo Andy Turner sings Dido, Bendigo

As I was a-walking one morning last Autumn,
I've overheard some noble foxhunting
Between some noblemen and the Duke of Wellington
So early before the day was dawning.

Now as I was a-walking one morning last Autumn,
I overheard some noble foxhunting,
'Twas between two gentlemen and the Duke of Wellington
So early just as the day was dawning.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
There was Dido, Bendigo, Gentry he was there-o;
Traveller he never looked behind him.
There was Countess, Rover, Bonnie Lass and Jover:
These were the hounds that could find him.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
There was Dido, Bendigo, Gentry he was there-o;
Traveller he never looked behind him.
There was Countess, Rover, Bonnie Lass and Jover:
These were the hounds that could find him.

Well the first fox being young and his trials just beginning,
He's made straight away for his cover.
He's run up yon highest hill and gone down yon lowest gill,
Thinking that he'd find his freedom there forever.

Now the first fox being young and his trials just beginning,
His cause was to make for the river.
Well this fox he has jumped in but an hound has followed him:
It was Traveller destroyed his life forever.

Well the next fox being old and his trials fast a-dawning,
He's made straight away for the river.
Well the fox he has jumped in but an hound jumped after him;
It was Traveller who strided him for ever.

Now the next fox being old and his trials fast a-dawning,
He's made straight away for his cover.
He's run up yon highest hill and run down yon lowest gill,
Thinking that he'd find his freedom there forever.

Well they've run across the plain but they've soon returned again,
The fox nor the hounds never failing.
It's been just twelve months today since I heard the squire say,
“Hark forward then my brave hounds forever!”

Well they've run across the plain but they've soon returned again,
With the fox nor the hound never failing.
It's been just twelve months today since I heard the squire say,
“Hark forward then my brave hounds forever!”

Will Starks sings The Fox Hunter's Song

Two young men come riding by
And they was dressed very fine
Said, Johnny don’t you want to go to hunting?
I have hounds of my own
Just as good as ever known
There is none in England can beat ‘em.
God knows.

There is Roxahanna and Kim, Counselow and Jim
There is none in England can beat ‘em
There is little old Mary Jane
She’s the leader of the strain
There is none in England can beat ‘em.
God knows.

As I walked out one morning, take the morning’s air
I spied the green grass it was chilling
Oh I spied the old sly fox
He come slipping from the rocks
It was three days and better we caught him.
God knows.

I put my horn up to my mouth
nd I sounded north and south
My lead dog she didn’t fear to hear me
Oh I blowed my horn so loud
It rung like thunder in the cloud
And the old dog she never looked behind her.
God knows.

Saddle up my old grey horse
And I’ll throw my legs across
Oh now I’m going foxhunting
Run and tell Miss Mary Ann
She must do the best she can
I am now going foxhunting.
God knows.

It was up the highest hill and down the lowest drill
The old fox was making for the water
We will all go home and leave the fox alone
And we’ll roust him so early in the morning.
God knows.

Acknowledgements

Transcribed by Garry Gillard from the singing of the Watersons, using a generic version at the Digital Tradition.

See also the Mudcat Café thread recording search help - Dido, Bendigo.