Near ’Owden town, near ’Owden town as I ’ave ’eard ’em tell,
There once was a white ’are that use`d there to dwell;
She’s been ’unted by grey’ounds an’ beagles so fair,
But there ne’er was one amongst ’em could come near to this white ’are,
To me Fol-de-dol-de, rol-de-dol-de, lol-de-dol-de-day.
When they came to the place where the white ’are used to lie,
They uncoupele`d the beagles an’ began for to try,
They uncoupele`d the beagles an’ beat the bush around,
But there never was a white ’are in that place to be found.
It was Jemmy the ’untsman an’ Tom the whipper –in,
Go look in yonder fernside an’ see if she be in;
Oh, the ’are she gave a jump, boys, an’ quickaly she ran;
It’s a yonder she is goin’ don’t you see ’er gentlemen?
The footmen they did run an’ the ’untsmen they did ride,
Such ’ollerin’ an’ shoutin’ there was on every side,
Such a hollerin’ an’ shoutin’ I ne’er did ’ear before,
Just as though she ’ad bin runnin’ all the day through.
The footmen and the ’untsmen they all drew nigh,
Thinkin’ that the white ’are was gooin’ for to die,
But the ’are she gave a jump, boys, an’ thought to get away,
But it’s cruel were those beagles that caused this ’are to stay.
’Twas twenty good beagles that caused this ’are to die;
There wasn’t one amongst ’em above a foot ’igh;
The number of dogs there’s never to be found,
Nor never better ’untin’ upon the English ground.
Joined on the chorus by John Greaves, Mark Ellison and Ray Black
This is a traditional song about Yorkshire.
This song appeared on broadsides in three slightly different forms. Those printed by Forth of Hull, Walker of Newcastle, and one without imprint, set the song near Maxwelltown, now part of Dumfries. Pearson and Swindells, both of Manchester, Ford of Sheffield and Ford of Chesterfield, all name the place as Maxfield town which does not exist in Britain, although one of Robin Hood’s outlaws, Will Scarlet, in some stories is the son of the Earl of Maxfield. The common northern surname Maxfield is thought to derive from Macclesfield. On a broadside by Pratt of Birmingham this appears to have been rationalized to Mansfield.
The local squire is named in the second stanza of all of the broadside versions. Pearson calls him Squire Stratford and Pratt, Squire Stamford, but in all other versions he is Squire Stanfield. The name Stanfield is common in Dumfriesshire: There is a Stanfield Farm and William Stanfield who painted pictures to illustrate Scott’s ‘Redgauntlet’ lived in the county. Dumfriesshire is much more noted for its hare hunting than the hunts around Mansfield so I am inclined to favour Maxwelltown as the original setting of the song.
‘O then squire Stanfield hearing of the news,
Says he we can kill this white hare any day we choose,
With ten couple of beagles and a few gentlemen,
It’s we will go a hunting O then and O then.’
Either way the song was certainly popular in parts of Yorkshire in the nineteenth century. Kidson’s version in Traditional Tunes, 1891, p139, was given to him by Howden man, Charles Lolley, who stated that it used to be sung after hare-coursing matches around Howden. Another oral version recorded by Percy Grainger in 1908 from Joseph Taylor of Saxby-All-Saints, Lincolnshire, has Owdham (Oldham) instead of Howden, but as Taylor lived just across the Humber from Howden it is very likely that Howden has been corrupted quite naturally into Owdham.
The song was also popular in the Holme Valley in the nineteenth century. In Hunters’ Songs published by Holme Valley Beagles Hunt, 1948, it has been adapted and localized to produce three different songs, numbers 15, 25 and 30. The first of these concerns Airedale Beagles, the second written by John Bates of Netherthong mentions Meltham hounds and Holmfirth hounds, and the third The Fulstone Grey Hunting Song of about 1840 concerns the Holmfirth hounds. Typical of most hunting songs, all three are catalogues of a day’s hunting, full of local placenames and personalities.
The version sung here is based on Lolley’s Howden version. Martin Carthy has recorded the Joseph Taylor version on various albums and The Watersons adapted the Lolley version and recorded it on the album The Watersons reissued on the Early Days album TSCD472. The most recent re-issue of the Joseph Taylor cylinder recording is track 4 on The Voice of the People series, album 18.