W3C John Peel GARN YAM

We have never featured John Peel on this site before and it is time we did ! Recently I came across the following which is interesting as it give some insight into Peel, Woodcock Graves and that song...

"D'ye Ken John Peel ?"

taken from the book
A Ramblers Notebook at the English Lakes by H. D Rawnsley Published 1902

LIVING by the banks of the river Derwent, here in Cumberland, I had heard on famous John Peel—"him o' Caudbeck" wound, in the days that he followed the hounds both oft and far."

"Over many a 'yet' an' 'topplin' bar
Fra Low Denton Holme up to Scratchmere Scar."

For John Peel had left behind him sons to carry on his name, and one of them evidently thought that he could best honour his sire by waking echoes from the horn he loved so well, as he drove across the vale from Keswick on Saturday Market-night. It was accordingly not without interest that one learned how, in 1886, after fifty-four years of voluntary exile from his native land, John Woodcock Graves, the author of the famous hunting song " John Peel," had been laid to rest at the ripe age of ninety-one, beside the margin of another Derwent, the river that runs beneath Mount Wellington, at Hobart Town in Tasmania.

"The place where he rests," wrote his daughter, Mrs. Hubbard, "is a lovely spot on earth there can be no scenery more charming. Just the place where one would wish to rest for ever living or dead. The burial-ground is about an hour's easy walk from Hobart Town. In days gone by, father used to take us for a stroll in the early mornings beyond it to the beautiful gardens and orchard."

There, then, at last found rest the fiery tempered, restless spirit whom Death alone could tame : who was so mercurial, so full of "inventions rare," so wayward, so strong-willed and obstinate, so careless of natural comfort, so regardless of home-ties, so capricious of mood, that even his daughter, who loved him dearly to the end, must needs confess: "I have had many sleepless nights of late years on his account; but no one could do better for him than we have done. I know the spot where he rests after the turbulent storm of life through which he has passed, and as I reflect over it, what a wasted life it has been !—a total shipwreck made of what might have been all goodness and greatness in man. Poor father!"

One was, of course, naturally led to inquire into this strange life, and Mrs. Hubbard's letters to an old friend of her father's, which appeared in the local press in 1887, allowed one to in some way realise the man who had, by the throwing off of one little hunting song to an old " lilt,” ready made for its singing, won an immortality in both hemispheres.

John Woodcock Graves lived, in the twenties of last century, at Caldbeck or Caudbeck on the north-east side of the Skiddaw Fells, a village famed in the dawn of history as one of the mission stations of the great apostle of Strathclyde, St. Kentigern, who probably journeyed thither in 553, but famous last century as being the birthplace of Deborah Greenup, the mother of the great chemist, Dr. John Dalton. Famed perhaps in a wider world still than of those interested in ecclesiastical history or the atomic theory,--the wide world of sport, by reason of the fact that from "Greenrigg" Farm, at Caudbeck, sprang John Peel, the hero of the song.

That district is still redolent of the memories of this redoubtable fellside huntsman. His daughters are grey-eyed, handsome women, past middle age, and are said to have a strong look of their father. Be that as it may, whether you turn in at the " Bell " at Ireby, or, making away across the common from the highway over Uldale Moor to Greenrigg, note the little farmhouse with its tiny windows that tell of days when window-taxes were prohibitive of light, and enter the home where John Peel lived and died; or call at the roadside house nearer the village, they will all willingly crack for iver " of their father's doings.

There are very few of the older men in the district who were lovers of the chase but " can mind o' John Peel, who moastly what always weared a lang lappeted cwoat of hodden-grey homespun " the " cwote sae grey " "and leather knee-brutches and ankle jacks, and a tall boxer hat, and hed a laal bugle horn in his hand, and was terble lang in th' leg and lish (nimble), wi' a fine girt neb (nose), and grey eyes that could see for iver ; and hed a laal pony that wad foller him like a dog, and gang afore him and behint him at his call, up bank and down bank." These old men will tell you that " As for his hunting, why it was aw as ivver he was made for; he studied nowt else, and them was the daays of the girt greyhund foxes as would run aw day and aw through neet, and best part of next day an' aw, wi' dogs heard on High Fells, a’going aw neet long."—A useful commentary this upon those words of the song,

"From a view to a death in the morning."

But it was not only the crying of the hounds on the High Fells that is remembered, for the old folks of Ireby tell how, while young John Peel, the son, had a " terble musical voice, t' auld feller " that is the father " hed a girt rough voice and a rough holloa, and wad put his tongue in't cheek on him," and that, when he came through Ireby of a night a bit fresh," he " wad start hollerin' wid his ' Go hark ! ' and Forred hark!' till niver man-body, woman-body, or child-kind but was wakened fra sleep" " Cawt fra their beds," as the old song has it.

And as for his drinking, by goy, he wad drink, wad John Peel till he couldn't stand, and then they would just clap him on't pony and away he wad gang as reet as' a fiddle. Odds barn! they wur hunters i' them days.

Graves, the writer of the song "D'ye ken John Peel ?" has left us a biographical note of his hero:

As to John Peel's character I can say little; he was of a very limited education beyond hunting, but no wile of a fox or hare could elude his scrutiny; business of any shape was utterly neglected, often to cost beyond the first loss. Indeed, this neglect extended to the paternal duties in his family. I believe he would not have left the drag of a fox on the impending death of a child or any other earthly event. An excellent rider ; I saw him once on a moor put up a fresh hare and ride till he caught her with his whip ; you may know that he was six feet and more, and of a form and gait quite surprising, but his face and head somewhat insignificant. A clever sculptor told me he once followed admiring him a whole market day before he discovered who he was.

"I remember he had a son, Peter, about twelve years old, who seemed dwarfish and imperfect when Peter was put upstairs to bed, he always set out with the call to the hounds. From the quest upwards he hunted them by name till the view holloa, when Peel would look delighted at me and exclaim, ' D it, Peter he’s her off, noo he'll gae to sleep.' On such occasions the father listened as to reality, and abstractedly would observe, ' Noo, Peter, that's a double try-back. Hark ye, that's Mopsy running foil '—then a laugh—' Run, Peter. Dancer lees flog him my word he'll git it no but don't kill him quite,' etc., and then laugh again.

"Peel was generous, as every true sportsman must ever be. He was free with the glass 'at the heel of the hunt,' but a better heart never throbbed in man; his honour was never once questioned in his lifetime. In the latter part of his life his estate was embarrassed, but the right sort in old Cumberland called a meet some years since, and before parting they sang ' John Peel ' in full chorus, closing by presenting him with a handsome gratuity, which empowered him to shake off his encumbrances and to die with a 'hark, tally ho!' "Such are the words of his enthusiastic friend, the song-maker.

But the time came for John Peel, the Nimrod of our northern fells, himself to be borne up-stairs to bed for the last time. Death the hunts-man drove at last the hunter to earth. John Peel died at the ripe age of seventy-eight, in the year 1854, and he sleeps by the side of the "Cald-beck," which had often quenched his thirst when he was hunting on the High Fells. There in the churchyard, within shadow of the yews, he who has crossed the coldest river rests at last, and a great carved headstone, whereon are pictured the hounds and the horn, preserve to us today at once memorial of his passion for the chase and the record of his family.

The stone may crumble, and the children who go to the baptismal well of old St. Kentigern hard by, to draw pure water for home use, may forget the spot where the village hunter rests; but as long as Cumbrian’s are loyal to old traditions, and men are charmed by the rhythm of a hunting chorus, John Peel will never be for-gotten, and this thanks to a village friend and follower of the chase the woollen-weaver, John Woodcock Graves.

My mother used to tell very precisely that I was born at eight o'clock on the morning of February 5th, 1795,' once wrote the song-maker; ' and,' he added, ' I think I am correct in the year, but how far this is so may be seen at Wigton Church.'

" Anyone who cares to turn to the baptismal register in that old ' Town of the Viking' or ' Town of the Warrior,' as some say, may see the following entry :—' 1795, March, John Woodcock, son of Joseph Graves, Glazier, Wigton, and Ann his wife (late Matthews) born February 9th, Wilfrid Clarke Vicar.'"

All the schooling young Graves ever got he got in a " clay-daubing " in a backyard at Cockermouth ; but the glazier's son grew to be fond of Euclid, of mathematics, of drawing, and of mechanics, took to weaving and a woollen factor's life, married at the age of twenty-one, and was a widower within the year. He passed the next four years at Wigton, and then wedded a woman of remarkable fortitude and patience, one Abigail Porthouse, and apparently settled down for life at quiet Caldbeck, away at the back of Skiddaw.

Things would have gone on smoothly enough with the woollen-factory, but for an unlucky visit of Mr. Brougham, afterwards Lord Brougham, and a Dumfries-shire friend, who knowing Woodcock Graves' cleverness at mechanics and love of enterprise, induced the woollen-weaver to go in for a coal-mine speculation, away across the border. From that day the woollen-mill ceased to have first place in Graves' heart. His savings and his profits were sunk in coal. An altercation with his manager at Caldbeck Mill ended in what was no uncommon thing for Graves for he was a violent-tempered man a towering passion, which resulted in blows and a law court. This was in the year 1833. Disgusted with the whole business, the weaver went to London, and in a few days had made up his mind to sail for the convict settlement of Van Dieman's Land, and try his fortune under other stars. To the peremptory message to his wife to pay, pack and follow, came remonstrance’s that were unavailing. Graves had always had his own way, was head-strong and was selfish, and, in answer to the entreaties of his wife, he only sent a message that she might choose between accompanying him, or being bereft of the children whom he claimed as companions of his voyage.

Away they went, the mother with a babe in her arms, with her sons, John and Joseph, and her daughter, who afterwards grew up to be the kind angel of the sick at Melbourne, and who, as Mrs. Hubbard, the foundress of the Benevolent Asylum there, will be long and honourably remembered. The good ship Sirathieldsay landed them in Hobart Town in August of 1833, and with J i o in his pocket and the pictures and books he had brought from Fellside at Caldbeck, John Woodcock Graves began life anew in the convict city.

The very first night the emigrants slept in their new home, their house was broken into by convicts, and Graves began to realise that he had left honest-land " for "thief-land." He cast about for employment, and found little or none ; took to making varnishes of some of the native gums ; tried his hand as newspaper correspondent, and fiercely inveighed in the press against the cruelties practised on the convicts. The Government, so Graves thought, had broken its word with him in not allotting the requisite number of acres of free ground to his family. Then in a fit of temper he quarrelled with the authorities, and for the use of threats which seemed the threats of a madman, he was carried off to a lunatic asylum. It was, thanks to his love of the chase and swiftness of foot which he had learned when he followed John Peel “with his hounds and his horn in the morning," that he escaped from this asylum. For he got into conversation with one of the visiting justices, and found him as keen a hunter as he was himself, and begged to be allowed to have some paint and brushes that he might decorate the asylum yard with pictures of a kangaroo hunt with the justice mounted and well up, and the hounds in full cry.

The picture progressed till the time came for putting in the sky, when a ladder was required and was gladly put at the painter's disposal. It was a grand Australian sky, blue as a sapphire, that had been daubed in, when in a twinkle, the painter hopped the wall and had left asylum, prison-hood and hunting picture behind for ever.

John Woodcock Graves might well enough have stayed in that asylum for all the help he was to his wife and family. He went off to New Zealand and Sydney without warning, and remained away for three years without sending word of his whereabouts ; when he returned he rated the gentle, long-suffering, and unselfish wife for having broken up his home.

Meanwhile, with the courage of her Cumbrian stock, Mrs. Graves, who was a well-educated woman, had turned her hand to teaching, to sewing, to washing, to anything that would earn an honest penny ; and though the tears fell oft-time down her cheeks, no word of blame for her unhelpful, unstable and unthinking husband ever escaped her.

The Bishop of Tasmania took one of the fatherless children into his family ; another of the girls obtained a situation in a doctor's family as governess ; the invalid son John stuck to his work and obtained his articles as attorney, and became afterwards known as " the honest lawyer," while the youngest brother, Joseph, grew up to take a ship-wright's place in South-port on the river Derwent, and became the prosperous owner of timber-sawing mills.

The gentle mother died, the children were scattered with their children growing up about their knees, but the old father was, as he always had been, a lonely man who came and went and lived, people hardly knew how or where. Fond of his dogs, fond of his walk up Mount Wellington, fond of his own way, and quite content to be regardless of anything or any-body, if only he might have a comfortable fire, and books, and minerals, and acids, and mathematical. instruments, and model mechanism beside him. Always inventing, always planning, but settling to nothing, and apparently able to forget in his restless wayward life all the nearest duties he ever had owed to his wife and family.

Yet Woodcock Graves had a conscience.

Of late years," he once wrote his friend about ten years before his death, " I have regretted much at misspent time and means." And John Woodcock Graves had the old love of his old country ever in his heart. In a very shaky hand is preserved one pathetic note as follows:

"Hobart, Friday.

"MY DEAR FRIEND,- . . . Can you or me plan for my getting among my kith and kin.

"Very truly yours, etc.,

In Coward's "Cumberland Ballads" is printed a poem he wrote, which tells the same story:

 " O give me back my native hills
If bleak and bleary, grim and grey,
For still to those my bosom swells
In golden lands and far away."

I have often thought that Woodcock Graves inherited his versatility, perhaps his cleverness of hand and inventiveness of brain from his great uncle, John Relph, of Castle Sowerby. A letter is extant in Graves' handwriting which is headed A Strange Coincidence," and gives an account of his taking over two of his aunts to see the headstone of this famous character, their grandfather, who doctored, drew teeth, bled, set bones, measured land, made bills and drew up deeds of agreement, managed parish affairs, and was looked on as the fountain of intelligence for all the countryside, but who, because he could make sun-dials and foretell eclipses, and "niver went to kurk" was believed to have dealings with the devil. The said John Relph had, to crown all his uncannyness, carved his own head-stone, and when he died, people who passed the grave with the inscription would speak in whispers and say : "that's the atheist's grave, Lord seayve us and pray to God!" By a coincidence, the very day before the song-writer and his old aunts went to visit the " Atheist's grave," the village school-boys had determined that they would mark their holiday by demolishing the said inscription, and much to the sorrow and indignation of the visitors to the tomb of their ancestor, and the horror of the parson-schoolmaster, they found it in fragments and laid as a kind of offering upon the communion-table in Sowerby Church. One piece of the inscription alone remained intact, which read as follows : " But believed in one incomprehensible Being." Enough this to disprove the current tradition of the village thinker's atheism, and also enough to show that he had been as clever with his hands as he was with his brain, for the inscription had been most beautifully cut into a slab of mountain slate.

Some few years before his death, it was thought in Cumberland that the writer of " D'ye ken John Peel " was in pecuniary difficulties, and at the instance of a kind friend, Mr. Iredale of Dalston, £100 was sent over-seas to help him. The family were deeply touched by this expression of sympathy from the old country, but the truth was, the children had grown up with the determination that for their sweet mother's sake they would never see their father come to need.

Mrs. Hubbard, his daughter, has given us a record at once of how she cared for the last years of the song-writer ; and of how difficult a task it was to manage the capricious and unmanageable old man.

"Father, will you go to Southport and live with Joe and your grandchildren ?

'No!' he said hesitatingly, for he did not like to offend me. ' Thou knows Melbourne is ower hot for me, an' thou knows I would just be an encumbrance.'

"Well, father, what would you like? Shall we get you a cottage, and buy it for you for your life, and get you a housekeeper? "

'Ay, that will do.'

"So it was settled that he should have a cottage of his own, and he told me of a place which I approved of. Such was the place which I have described in a previous letter to you.

"When I proposed the purchase to Joseph, he put on the hard, determined face of the family, and, like my father, said 'No!'

"Well, but Joe!"

"'No!' was all I could get. ' I know father,' he said ; ' If he had a house at the top of Mount of Wellington he would want it at the bottom ; if he had it at the bottom he would want it at the top if at the east he would want it at the west. I will do nothing towards the cottage, not even a single paling, but I will provide for my father liberally in every sense of the word, and he may do as he will with it.'

"So the matter was settled as far as Joe was concerned. But father urged me, and I was willing to do my best, and I bought the cottage for £250. Then I built two rooms for a house-keeper, and fenced the whole place in with a new fence. I had the orchard attended to, and above forty loads of manure, and the same number of loads of black mould put on the ground, and two men were working for a month, digging and pruning the trees. It cost me every penny I had, and left me in debt ; but I thought the fruit trees would be productive; and I returned home after spending near £400, to wait with patience the result of my speculation, both with regard to my father's comfort and success of the garden, which was well stocked with all kinds of valuable fruit trees.

"When the blossoming time came, the manure that I had put in the ground, being rather fresh, caused a quick growth of grass, whereupon father told some people close by who had a dairy to send their cattle into the garden to eat the grass down. The cows were put in, and every blossom was eaten off the trees, together with all the new young wood, and the whole ground was trampled down. The neighbours wrote to tell me, but what could I do ?

"Then came the news that father had left the cottage altogether, and had taken a room lower down in the town, as he found the hill too much for him to climb. And mail after mail came with worse news every time. I had also taken over '5O worth of furniture from Melbourne to furnish the cottage, and that had been in great part taken away by the roughs who knew my father's habits, and had broken into the house. I wrote to the police. No good could be done, so I took another voyage across the straits.

"I found my father as usual, located in a back slum with some decent people enough, and most anxious that I should sell the cottage and give him the money for some wild scheme he had in view. I owed the bank £100, and I let them do as they pleased. My father was quite indifferent, and so one of the loveliest places on earth was sacrificed, and all my slender means lost. However, what was done was done for the best the best I could devise at a great amount of self-denial and pecuniary loss. It was all of no use, and so I troubled no more. From respect to the family, every in-habitant in the city was attentive and hospitable to my father ; Joseph and my old friends, on my account, taking good care that no one was the loser by any kindness shown to our father.

"When father was taken ill I went over to be with him, but he was so sure he would get better till even near the last, that he would not allow me to stay ; he thought I would interfere with his freedom, as I generally kept him in 'good trim ' when I was mistress of the house. We used to have some tough pulls sometimes, but long before I was tired of my visit he would ask me repeatedly in a day, when I was going home. ' Thou'st been long enough from home,' he would say. To the last that I remember of him, he was sternly independent, proud as Lucifer, and just as violent as ever he was when a young man. He must have been very hand-some in his youth. I remember he had beautiful teeth, not one decayed ; they all fell out whole and sound from old age. His eyes were beautifully blue, just the colour of the blue sky. As I have told you before, his skin was fair as a lily, and his figure simply perfect. I think the hunting field did a great deal towards making him what he was physically. His lungs were as sound as a bell, and to the last he was master.

"His departure from this world has left me with no regrets. I have had many sleepless nights of late years on his account. No one could do better for him than we have done, and my heart is now at rest on his account."

The story of the writing of the famous song, "D'ye Ken John Peel," can, thanks to his old friend Mr. Iredale, be told in the song-writer's own words. These words were written shortly after the death of one of his grandsons away at the Antipodes. They are as follows :

"It must be near sixty years since I penned for my darling daughters and the errand boy this missive, heedless it ever would be heard beyond my own threshold, and yet it has greeted my ear since in all lands on that side or this of the world, through all grades and conditions of men.

"They spoke only the village dialect of Caldbeck, so I then applied it as follows, but when Coward of Carlisle sent to me for it for his ballads I anglicised it (see his edition). Ah ! little did I think then, when the trio were trilling it over in the kitchen, that, at so late an hour, I should be now rendering to one of their sons a death dirge. Alas! my heart chokes." Then follows the song as given beneath, in the hand-writing of an old man, but an old man who has not forgotten, for all the years of his voluntary exile, the turns and intonations of the grand old Cumbrian dialect of his early days.


Did ye ken John Peel wie his cwote seay gray,
Did ye ken John Peel at the breck o' the day ;
Did ye ken John Peel gang far far away,
Wid his hounds an' his horn in a mwornin'.


For the sound of the horn cawt me frae my bed,
An' the cry o' the hounds has oft me led.
John Peel's view-hollo wad waken the dead,
Or a fox frae his lair in a mwornin'.

Did ye ken that bitch whaes tongue was death,
Did ye ken her sons of peerless faith ;
Did ye ken that a fox wid his last breath,
Curst them, O, as he died in a mwornin.


Yes, I kenn'd John Peel, an' aul Ruby, too,
Ranter and Royal and Bellman as true;
Fra the drag to the chase, an' the chase to the view,
An' the view to the deeth in a mwornin'.


An' I kenn'd John Peel beath oft an' far,
Ower many a "yett an' toplin' bar,
Fra low Dentonhowm up to Scratchmere scar,
When we struggled for the brush in a mwornin'.


Here's to John Peel fra the heart an' the soul ;
Come fill, O fill to him another bowl,
An' swear that we'll follow thro' fair an' fowl,
Wheyle weare waked by his horn in a mwornin'.


There is nothing gained by the anglicising of the song for northern ears ; but the southerner, as he speeds to Scotland and the North, who looks out on the right-hand side window of his railway carriage a few minutes after leaving Penrith Station, and sees eastward the Scratch-mere Scar above Lazonby, towards which John Peel and Woodcock Graves struggled from Low Denton Holm, away out Caldbeck-way westward, may be forgiven if he asks the meaning of "a yett an' toplin' bar," and is told, " Why, ' gate and fence pole,' that falls as soon as it is touched by the hunter's hand, to be sure," and should further bear in mind that the men who went with Peel to the chase were not gentlemen in pink, but running huntsmen in "cwotes o' gray."

Nevertheless, since the song is sung, not only in Cumbria's native wild," but in both hemispheres, perhaps Woodcock Graves did right when he altered the fifth verse for Coward's "Collection of Cumberland Ballads" thus :

An' I've followed John Peel both often and far,
O'er the rasper-fence, the gate, and the bar,
From Low Denton-holme up to Scratchmere Scar,
When we vied for the brush in the morning.

And there is a certain gain in smoothness and directness in the use of the present tense for the interrogation instead of the past. " D'ye ken John Peel ?" is preferable to " Did ye ken John Peel ?" as it was originally written.

Years after, in 1882, the old song-writer corrected an edition of his song which was printed away at Hobart Town at the request of some hunters ; he then returned to his original reading in the fifth verse, but added a sixth, which may have been needed to make the song under-stood in a land where the running huntsman did not exist, but which certainly is not wanted by Cumberland Fellside hunters, and adds nothing to the worth of the production. The verse ran as follows:

" Our best of nags went stride for stride,
With ears shot forth and nostrils wide;
Nor fagged before 'Ware, dead !' we cried,
As we grappled for the brush in the mwornin'."

In the same year, 1882, under date April 24th, he made a copy of his song, to which he appended the note " first written at Caldbeck fifty years ago," so we know that it was penned in the last autumn or winter of his stay in Cumberland.

Verses sent by the writer of the song have been added to it at various times. The air and chorus is so taking that it rather encourages such additional staves to suit the occasion. Nearly thirty years ago there was added a kind of "In Memoriam" verse to the English version, which was as follows :

"Yes, I kenn'd John Peel, with his coat so gray;
He lived at Caldbeck once on a day.
But now he's gone, and he's far, far away ;
We shall ne'er hear his horn in the morning."

It is interesting to note that the dogs whose names are immortalised in the song, Ruby, Ranter and Royal, " Bellman so true," were the favourite hounds of their master, John Peel, "the best, he used to say, he ever had or saw." " I never knew," says Graves, " dogs so sensible as Peel's, or so fearful of offending him. A mutual feeling seemed to exist between them. If he threatened or ever spoke sharply, I have known them to wander and hide for two or three days together, unless he previously expressed sorrow for the cause at issue.

"Whenever they came to a deadlock he was sure to be found talking to some favourite hound as if it been a human being, and I cannot help thinking that these dogs knew all he said relative to hunting as well as the best sportsman in the field."

Twenty years before the writing of the narrative quoted above of how the song was written, John Woodcock Graves had given another, and slightly fuller and varied, version of the memorable incident. With this we will conclude. It will be found in the preface to such of his work as is preserved in Coward's "Cumberland Ballads."

"Nearly forty years have now wasted away since John Peel and I sat in a snug Parlour at Caldbeck among the Cumbrian mountains. We were then both of us in the heyday of manhood, and hunters of the older fashion, meeting the night before to arrange earth-stopping, and in the morning to take the best part of the hunt the drag over the mountains in the mist while fashionable hunters still lay in the blankets.

"Large flakes of snow fell that evening. We sat by the fireside, hunting over again many a good run, and recalling the feats of each particular hound, or narrow neck-breck 'scapes, when a flaxen-haired daughter of mine came in saying, ' Father, what do they say to what Granny sings ? '

"Granny was singing to sleep my eldest son —now a leading barrister in Hobart Town with an old rant called ' Bonnie Annie.' The pen and ink for hunting appointments lay on the table. The idea of writing a song to this old air forced itself upon me, and thus was produced impromptu, ' D'ye ken John Peel, with his coat so gray.'

"Immediately after, I sung it to poor Peel, who smiled through a stream of tears which fell down his manly cheeks, and I well remember saying to him, in a joking style, ' By Jove, Peel, you'll be sung when we're both run to earth.'

Graves was as fortunate in his selection of tune as in the choice of his words. There can be no question that it was the air of "Granny's" lullaby that has helped to give such wide-world use to the song, and we owe our thanks to the voluntary choirmaster of Carlisle Cathedral for his setting of the old rant.

Honour to whom honour is due, and in response to my inquiry as to the history of the making of the tune, Mr. William Metcalfe writes me from Carlisle as follows :

"I published my version of ' D'ye ken John Peel' before I heard from John Woodcock Graves. The germ of the tune may undoubtedly be traced in the rant you mention. See `Bonnie Annie' on the back of the title of the song I forward for your kind acceptance. I have written out there the version of the tune that was in common use when I set the song to music. I t forms the chorus or refrain of my version, but I have altered the last three lines."

What effect upon John Woodcock Graves, the song-writer, this setting of Mr. Metcalfe had, may be gathered from the accompanying letter. He is an old man now 1869 nearer 8o than 70, but the fierce flame of sport is hot within him still; his memory of the glorious days " back o' Skidda" are still strong upon him.

The chorus, " D'ye ken John Peel ? " brings back that 'girt view holloa' in the hunting-field of his old friend John Peel. He falls to rhapsody, and encloses a reminiscence of the hunter and an echo of the sound of "a voice that is still " to the composer, by way of thanks for the song. It runs as follows :

'Full oft he hunted Denton wood,
His breath was taint with foxes' blood ;
And youth that once inhal'd that breath
Were hunters, ever, till their death.

"If any be still living who have hunted in olden time, when the present field etiquette was not when any hunter was allowed to give his belly vent to cheer the challenge of a good hound, or let out a sound view hollo to drive the breath out of a milkmaid such may tell of the irrepressible mania every real Cumbrian hunter was possessed of fifty years ago.

"The peril of fame, fortune, family, or health past hope, never stayed the poorest cottager when the hounds were screaming on a reeking game ; and, to be first, snatching as if to take each other's head off. Then, alas poor Peel ! the gallantest and best sportsman in all this world, was sure to be hard on the tail hounds standing in stirrups, with day under him, and coat-tails high behind, hat aloft, bared pate, while his locks twirrelled on the breeze. Then his best of nags struck, regularly as a pendulum, fire at every stroke, save the flying leap, neat as a sea-bird tops a billow ; or, whip swung over head crack, and hark together, while tally-ho ! echoed through woods and mountains and dales. But save us ! when Peel jambed his finger down his throat to give that fearful scream of a view-hollo with glaring eyes. That was alarming, indeed, but who could abide at home ? Was it a wonder that men left their work or were useless if kept at it ? Nay, it was Weigh, laad, thou may as well gae, but meynd dunn't brust filly. They'll kill him ere he gits to Skiddaw ; mark out for Silver-gill ' ; and bare-back that youth would clatter away.

"I have very often pitied the wives and little ones of a poor, keen hunter, for in such I have ever found the purest hearts ; so in business I ever had them in my eye to do them a benefit. I remember one still, and with tender feeling, who had an earnest wife and a beautiful large. and young family, who, before I could retrace the gone day, the while staring in the fire, would haunt my quiet. If Bill had been hunting, again I knew Bella was fretting ; so, setting his earnings if at home at five shillings, I sent that to Bella, which strengthened her nicely always, and I daresay Bill slept as quietly and as readily as myself. Poor Bill was honest, quiet, and a tough, cunning foot hunter. Many a time when we thought we had a kill to ourselves in a far country, the brush was scarcely snigged off till a man popped from among the bushes, and Peel would exclaim : ' By —, if here is not Bill A--e ! ' "

But it is the letter that best speaks the man and his wild love for the scenes of his "early prime." His quenchless energy, his contempt for colonial sport as he found it, his thanks for the composer's help in giving what he doubtless felt was permanence to his song :

"Last evening I was agreeably startled by opening a parcel from you containing the ghost of my old vagabond song, so casually begotten. I assure you it stirred up the embers of a consumed old heart to thank you and to cordially greet you on the success of your talent. I sincerely hope you may be repaid better than I, or ever I expected to be. The moment before I had been sent for by a friend who also, by same mail, had a private letter from Carlisle, saying, ' You have in your city a man named John Woodcock Graves, a solicitor (which is an error), who left Caldbeck, eleven miles from this city, with a family many years ago. Before he went he wrote a song, ' D'ye ken Jwon Peel wid his cwoat seay gray' (I was forced to smile at this), and it has since been sung wherever they talk English, but I have it in real old Cumbrian, as he wrote it, and it rings far better. A gentleman went from here all the way to London on purpose to sing it, and he made a great company of real Cumbrian lads go quite frantic.'

But see here,' said my friend, ' here is the Home News, and I think that in advertising he might have as well given your name with his own.' However, I told him that would soon be of even less consequence.

I then had a lady to run over the air, and was glad to find but one note in trifling error if I may say error, as I do not think injury ; or perhaps you have better suited it to melody, which I love only, but never understood as science.

"I then went to other friends, principal book sellers, etc., who took your address for copies, and shall do the like in Melbourne. For your vignette you should ask Mr. M'Mechan, Wigton, to allow you to have copied my picture of Peel, etc., which I sent to my daughter through his hands. We having no mail to or from the Cape but via England, I hear nothing of it. My daughters agreed (all being apart, and her it is for, at the Cape) that they would have it cromo-lithographed at my request, and give my Dear Sister Studholme or her Daughters 1000 copies.

I wrote fully in the box it went in. I fancied to sell the impress made at first, as best we could, to defray, or repay, expense, and then if my sister got a price every cottager could afford (and few would be without one) even here many would gladly have such. I would have the last best satisfaction of doing an essential benefit, and relieve my little time of that care and solicitude which has cost me many a sigh heavenward. I sometimes fear my letter to the Cape was lost by the way. Then I hope Sarah is doing all from the Cape in the while. However, it lowers the present sportsmen of Cumberland in my estimation that no one has sprung forth to enquire after or push this matter.

"I see it was yourself who sang in London and I congratulated you, cheerfully wishing you long to sing. A few sing it here, but few indeed know what hunting is, and wonder what makes ' dogs keep a-runnin' and hawlin' at nothink for,' and while they sing they have not the witness of the spirit.' Yet I tell you that, on rare occasions, my old blood has risen to singing, and I assure you that on every one the effect has been such as to assure me that human nature is in all classes and cases alike, if the right cord be touched ; and I yet can make John Peel touch it. Unto this day I have never regretted the time spent in the field, for that was doubly regained by vigour of body and force of mind. I am gay at approaching the octagon, and healthy and hale as 'Ane an twenty Tam.' While gazing into the fire, alone, I run over many an old burster, and check myself laughing like an idiot and daub out the scene with a sigh that would choke a saint.

"Again in fancy's flight, I visit the scenery of my early prime, in glee, but find it a sepulchre in a waste, and I with not a tear left to shed over a tomb, that holds fast by remembrances this heart shall ever cherish, till life's warm streams forget to flow.'

"'Who knows how an arrow may glint?' the woman said, of old, in Rome, and as I am still full of invention as ever, you may soon hear more of me ; for I may soon set off to the Cape and, if so, come on, unseen to see, and perchance to sigh, and silent leave, as a dernier farewell.

"I have yet pluck for all that, for 1,000 miles by land and five that, by water is, is to me as a pleasant evening's walk to Thorsby occasionally taking a step of 20 miles on a fine day and `pulling' half a dozen kangaroos, but this tastes not of true sport, nor is any to join you with gusto. One day I was far in the forest alone (cheering my dogs old style) when some poor fellows came, breathless, saying, Why, we thote as you was a-crying ov murder.'

"Now I close with unfeigned thanks for the gleam of joy your talent gave, and wishing all you care for to your own best hopes.


Woodcock Graves was a true prophet as well as a true song-writer. Both men have been run to earth. Their bones are sundered by wide seas, but their memories are enshrined in the Hunter's Song, and years after the last fox is seen in Skiddaw Forest or on Caldbeck Fell, the old chorus of " D'ye ken John Peel " will be their monument.

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