Come, all you gallant poaching lads, and gang along with me,
And let’s away to Sledmere Woods some game there for to see:
It’s far and near, and what they say, it’s more to feel than see,
So come, all you gallant poaching lads, and gang along with me.
’Twas on the fifth of November last, it being a starlit night,
The time it was appointed, boys, that we were for to meet,
At twelve o’ clock at midnight, lads, we all did fire a gun,
And soon, my boys, it’s we did hear old hares begin to run.
We have a dog, we call him Sharp, in Sledmere Wood did stray;
The keeper he fell in with him and fain would him betray.
He fired two barrels at the dog intending him to kill,
But by his strength and speed of foot he tripped across the hill.
All down one side and both his thighs he wounded him full sore,
Before we reached our home that night with blood was covered o’er,
Recovering his strength again, revenge for this we swore.
There’s never a hare shall him escape that runs on Sledmere’s shore.
[We have a lad, we call him Jem, he’s lame of one leg,
Soon as the gun is shoulder’d, and the dog his tail begins to wag,
When the gun presented fire, the bird came tumbling down,
This lad he kill’d it with his club, before it reach’d the ground.]
[So as we march’d up Burlington Road, we loaded ev’ry gun,
Saying, if we meet a keeper bold, we will make him for to run,
For we are bright Sledmere lads, our names we will not tell,
But if we meet a keeper bold, we’ll make his heart to swell.]
[When we landed in Cherrywoods, we went straight up the walk,
We pecked the pheasants in the trees, softly we did talk.
We marked all out that we did see, till we returned again,
We are going to Cotley Woodbro’ to fetch away the game.]
[Come, all you gallant poaching lads, I must have my will,
Before we shoot this night, let’s try some hares to kill,
For shooting you well know it makes a terrible sound,
So if we shoot before we hunt it will disturb the ground.]
We landed into Suddaby Fields, to set we did begin,
Our dog he was so restless there, we scarce could keep him in,
But when at last we let him loose, you never saw his match,
And before we left the field that night we fifteen hares did catch.
It’s eight cock pheasants and five hens, all these we marked right well;
We never fired a gun that night but down a pheasant fell;
You gentlemen desiring game you must apply to me,
Both hares and pheasants you shall have and that right speedily.
So come, my poaching lads, who love to hunt the game,
And let us fix a time when we shall meet again,
For at Cotley Woodbro’ there’s plenty of game, but we’ll gang there no more,
The next port shall be Kirbyhill where hares run by the score.
So now, my lads, it’s we’ll gang home, we’ll take the nearest way,
And if we meet a keeper bold, his body we will bray,
For we are all bright Sledmere lads, our names we will not tell,
But if we should meet a keeper bold, we’ll make his head to swell.
This is a traditional song about Yorkshire, collected in Yorkshire.
Frank Kidson in his Traditional Tunes, 1891, p133, states ‘To…..the Lincolnshire Poacher is sung a favourite Yorkshire poaching song The Sledmere Poachers. He then quotes the first stanza. As a broadside ballad it was printed as far afield as London (Such), Carlisle (Stewart) and Newcastle (Walker), and Harkness of Preston, Lancashire, printed it. Unsurprisingly all three of the Forths printed it, William, the father, in Bridlington and sons John in Pocklington and William in Hull. The father died in 1844 giving it a likely date of origin in the early nineteenth century. Versions vary very little from the standard set given here. I was once told by locals that it used to be sung in the village inn at Sledmere, but I never got round to following this up.
Mark has cut down the twelve stanzas to seven. We give here the omitted stanzas 5 to 8 and 11 for the sake of completeness.