As I was a-walking one morning last autumn
I’ve overheard some noble foxhunting,
Between two noblemen and the Duke of Buckingham,
Right early before the day was dawning.
There was Dido, Bendigo, Gentry he was there-o,
Traveller, he never looked behind him;
There was Countess, Rover, Bonny Lass and Jover, (Jehovah)
These were the hounds that could find him.
Now the first fox being young and his trial’s just beginning,
He’s made straight away for the cover;
He’s gone up yon highest hill and gone down yon lowest gill,
Thinking that he’d find his freedom there for ever.
Now the next fox being ould and his trial’s fast a-dawning,
He’s made straight away for the river;
Why the fox he has jumped in, but the hound jumped after him,
It was Traveller a-striding in for ever.
Now the fox went ower the plain but he soon returned again,
The fox nor the hounds never failing;
It’s been just twelve month today since I heard the squire say,
"Hark forrard then, me brave hounds, for ever."
Accompanied on the chorus by Ray Black, Sam Dodds, John Greaves, Mike Parsey and Ray Padgett.
This is a traditional song about Yorkshire, collected in Yorkshire.
Here is yet another ballad set in Yorkshire which can be traced back to the seventeenth century. Several versions of the eighteen-stanza original ballad have been preserved. See Douce Collection, Bodleian Library, 1, 84a, printed by T Norris, London, c1711-32 Harding Collection, Bodleian Library, B1, (13) printed at Bow Churchyard, London, c1736-63
Halliwell-Phillips Collection, Chetham’s Library, Manchester, no. 217, printed by John White of Newcastle, c1711-61
The following version, the earliest printing still preserved, is taken from the Roxburghe Ballads, Chambers, 1888, Vol. 1, p360. It was printed by W Onley and sold by the booksellers of Pye-corner and London-bridge, c 1685.
The Fox-Chace: Or, The Huntsman’s Harmony, By the Noble Duke of Buckingham’s Hounds, To an excellent new tune much in request. Licens’d and enter’d according to order.
All in a morning fair, As I rode to take the air,
I heard some to holloo most clearly;
I drew myself near, To listen who they were
That were going a hunting so early.
I saw they were some Gentlemen Who belong’d to the Duke of Buckingham,
That were going to make there a tryal
To run the Hounds of the North,-- Being of such fame and worth,
England has not the like, without all denial.
Then in Wreckledale Scrogs We threw off our dogs,
In a place where his lying was likely;
But the like ne’er was seen Since a huntsman I have been,--
Never hounds found a fox more quickly.
There was Dido and Spanker, And Younker was there,
And Ruler, that ne’er looked behind him;
There was Rose, and Bonny Lass, Who were always in the chace;
These were part of the hounds that did find him.
Mr. Tybbals cries “Away! Heark away! Heark away!”
With that our foot huntsmen did hear him;
Tom Mossman cries “Codsounds! Uncouple all your hounds,
Or else we shall never come near him!”
Then Caper, and Countess, And Comely, were thrown off,
With Famous, thumper, and Cryer,
And several hounds beside, Whose stoutness there was try’d,
And not one in the pack that did tire.
Our hounds came in apace, And we fell into a chace,
And thus we pursu’d this poor creature;
With English and French Horn We encourag’d our hounds that morn,
And our cry it was greater and greater.
It could not be exprest Which hound ran the best,
For they ran on a breast all together;
They ran at such a rate As you have not heard of late,
When they chac’d him i’th’ vallies together.
Then to the Moor he twin’d, Being clean against the wind,
Thinking he might ha’ cross’d it over;
But our hounds ran so hard, They made this Fox afraid,
And forc’d him to turn to his Cover.
Up the hills he runs along, And his Cover was full strong,
But I think he had no great ease on’t,
For they ran with such a cry, That their echoes made him fly;
I’ll assure you our sport it was pleasant.
Then homeward he hies, And in Wreckledale he lies,
Thinking the Wind it might save him;
But our hounds ran him so near, That they posted him with fear,
And our horsemen they did deceive him.
For Squire Whitcliffe rode amain, And he whipt it o’er the Plain;
Mr. Watson his horse did not favour;
They rode up the highest Hills, And down the steepest Dales,
Expecting his life for their labour.
Mr. Tybbals rode his part; Although this chace was smart,
Default they were seldom or never;
But ever by and by To the hounds he would cry,
"Halloo, halloo, halloo! Heark away all together!"
Tom Mossman he rode short, Yet he help’d us in our Sport,
For he came in both cursing and swearing;
But when ’t was in his power, he cry’d out, "That’s our Lilly, whore!
Heark to Caperman! Now Slaughterman’s near him!"
Then to Skipland Wood he goes, Being pursued by his foes,
The Company after him did follow;
An untarpage there we had, Which made our Huntsmen full glad,
For we gave him many a Holloo.
The sport being almost done, And the chase being almost run,
He thought to ha’ cross’d the River;
But our hounds being in, They after him did swim,
And so they destroy’d him for ever.
Then Leppin took a Horn, As good as e’er was blown;
Tom Mossman bid him wind his death then;
The Country people all Came flocking to his fall;
This was honour enough for a French man.
" So Whoop-up!" we then proclaim, God bless the Duke of Buckingham,
For our hounds then had gain’d much Glory;
This being the sixth fox That we kill’d above the Rocks,
And there is an end of the story.
The following information communicated by Robert Davies of York is from Roxburghe Ballads Vol 1, p359. ‘The Duke of Buckingham, who died at Kirkbymoorside in 1688, spent the last few years of his life chiefly at Helmsley Castle, his seat at Ryedale, in Yorkshire, when foxhunting was one of his favourite pastimes. About Helmsley are moors and bogs, through which flows the river Rye, not so wide and rapid but that a fox might easily cross it. John Wycliffe, of Thorpe (Parish of Wycliffe, N Riding) was gentleman of the Horse to the Duke, and he had a son, John, who was in the prime of life in 1685. About that period, also, there were, among the gentry, families of the name Watson living not far distant from Helmsley.’
‘Wreckledale’ is Riccal Dale immediately to the east of Bilsdale where the pack was based, and ‘Skipland Wood’ is now Skiplam Wood in Kirk Dale the next dale in line, close to Kirkbymoorside where George Villiers, the Duke, died following a day’s hunting much like the one described in the ballad. A detailed account of his death can be seen in the Local History section of the Kirkbymoorside website. In the sixteenth stanza ‘the river’ must mean Hodge Beck which runs through Kirk Dale past Skiplam Wood. The term ‘untarpage’, stanza 16, presented Ebsworth with some difficulty. It was not in any of the contemporary hunting glossaries. I deduce that here it means the fox broke cover, ‘tarpage’ still being in use today in North America to refer to sheets of tarpaulin tied to trees for shelter when camping, usually as part of an extended camp using tents, i.e., cover.
The above ballad version was printed by John White of Newcastle c1711-61. A localized version became popular at Ovingham near Prudhoe on the Northumberland/Durham border and it was collected there c.1817 by John Bell the Newcastle antiquary. (See Harker, John Bell’s Song Collection, The Surtees society, 1985, p145) Presumably from there the ballad was then taken up by the Ullswater Hounds in Westmoreland and localized to that hunt, and eleven stanzas have survived as Swarthfell Rocks. (See Journal of the Folk Song Society No 9, Vol 2, pt 4, 1906, p267)
An oral version much reduced in length, of four or five stanzas with a stanza as chorus, was printed on broadsides c.1800 in several parts of the country. Only versions printed by Pitts, by Pigott and by Hodges, all of London, contain imprints. Titles vary but all contain the hound name ‘Dido’ and a few also ‘Spandigo’ or ‘Spendigo’, the ‘Dido and Spanker’ of the original version. It is this shorter version that became popular in oral tradition in the nineteenth century and is still popular at ‘hunt suppers’ today. It even found its way to America. This version derives directly from the original version as opposed to the Northumberland/Westmoreland version.
The original ballad’s format is that of the archetypal hunting song with its description of a single day’s hunting including a catalogue of places and local personalities. What is remarkable is that but for the mention of the Duke, the ballad could easily be describing a hunt that happened this century. Most packs were established in the eighteenth century, but this description of a well established hunt in Bilsdale, with all the usual terminology, makes this the earliest pack in the country.
Our version is based upon the one sung by our president’s brother, Mike Waterson, it being the most common version sung in folk clubs all over the country. The Watersons also recorded a version of Swarthfell Rocks.
The Latino name ‘Spandigo’, an obvious corruption here of ‘Spanker’, has quite naturally been corrupted into ‘Bendigo’ after the famous pugilist William Abednego Thompson of Nottingham, 1811-1880 who reached the height of his fame in the 1830s, a town in Australia being named after him.