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The Brown Hare of Whitebrook
[ Roud 1870 , 24902 ; Ammon Wrigley]
This is a dialect poem written by Ammon Wrigley of Denshaw, Saddleworth (1861-1946).
Stuart Kay of the Holme Valley Beagles sang The Brown Hare of Whitebrook at the Village Hall, Upperthong, Yorkshire, on 24 March 1973. This recording made by Davie Bland was included in 1975 on the Holme Valley Beagles’ Leader album A Fine Hunting Day.
Will Noble sang The Brown Hare of Whitebrook in 2017 on his Veteran CD It’s Gritstone for Me. Brian Peters and John Howson commented in the album’s liner notes:
This was written as a poem by the ‘Moorland Poet’ Ammon Wrigley of Denshaw, Saddleworth (1861-1946), and was a long-standing favourite of Holme Valley hunt sings. Will has been singing it for many years, and particularly likes it because the sentiments expressed towards the hare, which receives a well-deserved amnesty in the end. He’s not sure who wrote the tune.
Laura Smyth sang The Brown Hare of Whitebrook on her and Ted Kemp’s 2017 CD The Poacher’s Fate. They noted:
The dialect poet Ammon Wrigley wrote this song drawing on the local landscape of his native Saddleworth—the Yorkshire parish with Lancashire people. A number of his songs entered the oral tradition and are still being sung today. We first heard this being sung by [Will Noble’s son] Cuthbert Noble and subsequently learned the song from the Leader recording of the Holme Valley Beagles.
Laura Smyth sings The Brown Hare of Whitebrook
Going down the dale by Alphin they heard John Andrews’ horn
And every lad worth rearing was hunting bred and born.
The squire and the poor man, hand in hand went they,
And the life was worth the living in old John Andrews’ day.
In Whitebrook fields by Alderman a brown hare was bred
That oft’ o’er top of Board Hill the Friezland hounds had led.
But on a hunting morning he wound his horn and swore
That the brown hare of Whitebrook shall double back no more.
Chorus (after each verse):
To mi fol de rol de day, to mi fol de rol de day
There never came from heaven a fairer questing morn,
The white mist lay on Wharmton like the blossoms on the thorn.
But the fairest sight of all, the glory of the scene
Were those merry lads from Greenfield in their hunting red and green.
She sat that morn at Tunstead beneath a white thorn tree,
Of all the hares in Saddleworth the bonniest was she.
The spirit of the moor wind was in her bounding leap
And the love of every hunter went with her up the steep.
They brought the famous Bounty, the pride of Bockin Hall,
The fleetest hound in all the land to bring about her fall.
They gave her “view halloa” when they saw her break away,
Like a sunbeam through a gap-hole, the Whipper-in did say.
They took the fields to Brockley and o’er the heather height,
She caught the rising moorcock and matched him in his flight.
Fleet Bounty swept the bracken like a rustle of the wind
But the brown hare of Whitebrook kept leaving them behind.
They bowled along to Rimmon side and Towler led the pack
And never hare dare loiter with Towler on her track.
They danced the royal music yon Birchen Clough across
With the scent knee-deep behind them along the Ashway Moss.
They headed o’er for Slate Pit and Bounty was the cry,
That gallant hound in answer rose amongst the moor grass high.
“She’s shot her bolt,” said Andrews when he saw her break and fail,
And he sounded “gone-away lads” down bonny Longdendale.
They went that night to Boarshurst a hunting cup to fill,
Said Andrews, “Merry gentlemen, this day we’ve failed to kill
But so long as I be huntsman, I swear it now,” said he,
“That the brown hare of Whitebrook shall live in peace for me.”