D'ye Ken John Peel?
DESCRIPTION: "Do ye ken John Peel with his coat so gray? Do ye ken John Peel at the break of day?" The singer talks of Peel's frequent hunting expeditions, detailing even his hounds. The singer will "follow John Peel through fair and through foul"
AUTHOR: Words: John Woodcock Graves / Music: Traditional
EARLIEST DATE: 1900 (Stokoe/Reay)
KEYWORDS: hunting dog
FOUND IN: Britain(England(North,South)) US(MW)
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Stokoe/Reay, pp. 108-109, "D'ye Ken John Peel?" (1 text, 1 tune)
Williams-Thames, p. 56, "John Peel" (1 text) (also Wiltshire-WSRO Gl 118)
Stout 11, p. 21, "John Peel" (1 fragment)
Fireside, p. 92, "John Peel" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 208, "John Peel" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #143, "John Peel" (1 text)
cf. "The Horn of the Hunter" (subject)
NOTES [421 words]: Written by John Woodcock Graves to celebrate his friend John Peel. The tune is said to be "Bonnie Annie" or "The Border Rant," and to have been set by William Metcalfe in 1868 (Rollinson, p. 51).
John Peel is not to be confused with the prime minister Sir Robert Peel (who created the "Peelers"). Born in 1776, John Peel lived until 1854, and "for over 40 years ran the famous pack of hounds that bore his name." Nettel, p. 149, "John Peel was a real character, riding in his grey coat after a mongrel pack to the neglect, apparently, of his farming; he was not therefore representative of the pink-coated, well-mounted huntsmen which have distinguished the hunting-field since the eighteenth century, but he was a man with the primitive urge to hunt strongly within him."
Indeed, he was so obsessive a hunter that, on the day his son Peter died, he spent the day out hunting to collect a foxtail to bury with his son (Rollinson, p. 120).
According to Stokoe, Graves (1795-1886) wrote the song while in the company of Peel. This would date the song before 1833, in which year Graves emigrated to Tasmania.
Incidentally, his move to Tasmania give him a link, of sorts, to another Great Folklore Saga, that of Sir John Franklin and the Northwest Passage. Before leading his famous lost expedition, Sir John was governor of Van Diemen's Land/Tasmania for more than half a decade. While there, his wife Jane briefly took over the education of an aboriginal child whom she called "Mathinna." Lady Jane -- who was anything but a people person -- seems to have been disappointed by the results and dumped Mathinna in the aboriginal refugee camp. What little we know of Mathinna after that (she died young) came from an article published by "Old Boomer" in 1869. It is believed that "Old Boomer" was Graves (Alexander, pp. 130-137).
Rollinson, p. 50, says that Graves predicted that this piece would become famous, telling Peel, "you'll be sung when we're both run to earth." Rollinson, pp. 50-51, also claims that this was originally written in dialect:
Did ye ken John Peel wid his cwote sae grey?
Did ye ken John Peel at the breck o' day?
Did ye ken John Peel gayin' far, far away --
Wie his hoons and his horn in a mwornin'? - RBW
Williams-Thames claims his is "perhaps the original of 'D'ye ken John Peel." The texts are similar and the tune is probably the same. The first line is "D'ye mind John Peel in the days gone by" and the last line of the chorus and each verse is a variation on "the blast of his horn in the morning." - BS
Last updated in version 4.3
- Alexander: Alison Alexander, The Ambitions of Jane Franklin, Victorian Lady Adventurer, Allen & Unwin, 2013
- Nettel: Reginald Nettel, Seven Centuries of Popular Song, Phoenix House, 1956
- Rollinson: William Rollinson, The Cumbrian Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore, Smith Settle, 1997
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