Do ye ken John Peel?

Do ye ken John Peel with his coat so grey?
Do ye ken John Peel at the break of day?
Do ye ken John Peel when he's far, far away
With his hounds and his horn in the morning.

Chorus:


Twas the sound of his horn brought me from my bed
And the cry of his hounds has me oftimes led
For Peel's view holloa would wake the dead
Or a fox from his lair in the morning

2. Do ye ken that hound whose voice is death?
Do ye ken her sons of peerless faith
Do ye ken that a fox with his last breath
Cursed them all as he died in the morning?

Chorus: 

3. Yes, I ken John Peel and auld Ruby, too
Ranter and Royal and Bellman so true
From the drag to the chase, from the chase to the view
From the view to the death in the morning

Chorus: 

4. And I've followed John Peel both often and far
O'er the rasper fence and the gate and the bar
From Low Denton Holme to the Scratchmere Scar
When we vied for the brush in the morning.

Chorus: 

5. Then here's to John Peel with my heart and soul
Come fill, fill to him a brimming bowl
For we'll follow John Peel thro fair or thro foul
While we're waked by his horn in the morning.

 

The subject of the song, John Peel, was a well-known huntsman and hard drinker. He hunted mostly on foot. Parkend, about a mile from Caldbeck, is reputed to be his birthplace. The stone building was built c1650 and was originally the stables and hayloft to a neighbouring farm. It is now a restaurant and hotel. Peel was born in 1776, one of thirteen children. He formed his own hunting pack and became famous for the success of his pack.

The song, written by a friend after a day of hunting, was inspired by a lullaby, Bonnie Annie, to which the friend wrote hunting words. It was first sung at the Rising Sun Inn and was an instant hit locally. The choirmaster of Carlisle Cathedral wrote new music for the song in 1869 that propelled it to national prominence. The song eventually became the adopted anthem of the Border Regiment. Peel's coat of grey, referred to in the song, comes from hodden-grey, a fabric woven from the undyed wool of the Herwick sheep of the fells.