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Rufford Park Poachers

[ Roud 1759 ; Ballad Index OSLi13 ; trad.]

Joseph Taylor sang Rufford Park Poachers on Unto Brigg Fair, from a cylinder recorded in 1908. The LP sleeve notes said:

This version is unique and must be possibly the finest tune that Joseph Taylor sang. Mr Patrick O'Shaughnessy had the good fortune to find a full account of this affray in the form of a poster and his notes to More Folk Songs from Lincolnshire should be consulted.

Martin Carthy sang Rufford Park Poachers on his 1982 album Out of the Cut. A BBC live recording from July 1987 was published on Martin Carthy's Kershaw Sessions and reissued in 2001 on The Carthy Chronicles. He also sang it live in studio in July 2006 for the DVD Guitar Maestros. Martin Carthy commented in his original recording's sleeve notes:

Rufford Park is not far from Mansfield, and in 1850 there was a showdown between local people and gamekeepers in the shape of a vicious and bitter fight, after which ringleaders were selected, tried and transported for up to 14 years. Patrick O'Shaughnessy of the Lincolnshire Society did a reconstruction job on the words, three versions of which were recorded by Percy Grainger from Joseph Taylor, himself a retired gamekeeper, who was a teenager at the time of the events in the song.

Coope Boyes & Simpson sang Rufford Park Poachers on their 1996 album Falling Slowly and John Roberts and Tony Barrand sang it in 1998 on their CD Heartoutbursts: English Folksongs collected by Percy Grainger.

Lyrics

Joseph Taylor sings Rufford Park Poachers

They say that forty gallant poachers
They was in a mess;
They'd often been attack-ed
When the number it was less.

Chorus (after each verse):
So poacher bold, as I unfold,
Keep up your gallant heart,
And think about those poachers bold
That night in Rufford Park.

A buck or doe, believe it so,
A pheasant or an (h)are
Was sent on earth for everyone
Quite equal for to share

The keepers they begun the fight,
With stones and with the flails,
But when the poachers started, why,
They quickly turned their tails

Martin Carthy sings Rufford Park Poachers Coope Boyes & Simpson sing Rufford Park Poachers

They say that forty gallant poachers
They was in a mess
They had often been attacked
When the number it was less

A buck or doe believe it so
A pheasant or a hare
Were set on earth for everyone
Quite equally to share

Chorus (after each verse):
So poacher bold as I unfold
Keep up your gallant heart
And think about the poachers bold
That night in Rufford Park

So poacher bold, as I unfold
Keep up your gallant heart
And think about those poachers bold
That night in Rufford Park

A buck or doe believe it so
A pheasant or a hare
Was put on earth for everyone
Quite equal for to share

They say that forty gallant poachers
They were in distress
They'd often been attacked when
Their number it was less

All among the gorse to settle scores
These forty gathered stones
To make a fight for poor men's rights
And break those keeper's bones

Among the gorse, to settle scores
Those forty gathered stones
To make a fight for poor men's rights
And break the keepers' bones

The keepers come with flails
Against poachers and their cause
But no man there would dare
To break the rich man's laws

The keepers went with flails against
The poachers and their cause
So no man there again would dare
Defy the rich man's laws

The keepers they began the fight
With stones and with their flails
When the poachers started why
They quickly turned their tails

All on the ground with a mortal wound
Head keeper Roberts lay
He never will rise up again
Till the final judgement day

Upon the ground with mortal wound
Head keeper Roberts lay
He never will rise up until
The final judgement day

Of all the band that made their stand
That set a little snare
Just four were brought before the court
And tried for murder there

Of all that band who made a stand
To set a net or snare
The four men brought before the court
Were tried for murder there

The judge said “For Roberts' death
Transported you must be
To serve a term of fourteen years
In convict slavery”

The Judge he said “For Robert's death
Transported you must be
To serve a term of forty years
In convict slavery”

A buck or doe believe it so
A pheasant or a hare
Was put on earth for everyone
Quite equal for to share

So poacher bold, your tale is told
Keep up your gallant heart
And think about those poachers bold
That night in Rufford Park

Acknowledgements

Joseph Taylor's version was transcribed by Garry Gillard. Transcription of Martin Carthy's version was begun by Wolfgang Hell, and continued by Garry Gillard.