> Louis Killen > Songs > Thorneymoor Woods
> Anne Briggs > Songs > Thorneymoor Woods
> Tony Rose > Songs > Thornaby Woods

Thorneymoor Woods / Thornaby Woods

[ Roud 222 ; Ballad Index E053 ; Bodleian Roud 222 ; Wiltshire Roud 222 ; trad.]

Chris Willett sang Thorny Park at Paddock Wood, Kent, on September 4, 1963 to Peter Kennedy. This recording was included in 2012 on the Topic anthology of songs by Southern English gypsy traditional singers, I'm a Romany Rai (The Voice of the People Volume 22). Another recording made by Ken Stubbs in ca. 1960 was included in 2013 on the two Willett Family anthologies, A-Swinging Down the Lane and Adieu to Old England.

Louis Killen sang the ballad Thorneymoor Woods in 1965 on his Topic LP Ballads and Broadsides. Angela Carter commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Poachers held a place of high esteem in the imagination of country people. The late George Maynard of Sussex had a large number of songs detailing the heroic exploits of poachers in his repertoire—not, perhaps, surprisingly, since he had been something of an expert in the art himself, in his youth. Like true heroes, most poachers bravely face up to misfortune in these songs—whether it is the murderous spite of gamekeepers, or a trip to the country gaol. This epic story of a night's poaching was learnt, not from Maynard, but from an even finer singer, Harry Cox of Catfield, Norfolk, and has a certain quality of tough independence which is part of Cox's immensely virile singing. In spite of its Nottinghamshire locale, the song has been reported from several parts of the country. The cheerful defiance of the unrepentant hero probably accounts for its popularity.

Danny Brazil sang Limpy Jack to Peter Shepheard at Over Bridge, Gloucester, on May 12, 1966. This recording was included in the Brazil Family's Musical Traditions anthology Down By the Old Riverside. Rod Stradling commented in the accompanying booklet:

The song is more commonly known as Thornymoor Woods in various collections. Thorney Wood Chase, once a part of Sherwood Forest, was enclosed sometime around 1790. Twenty years later John Pitts issued our present song on a broadside titled The Lads of Thorney Moor Wood, which was reprinted by several later printers. There are 69 instances in Roud, including 15 sound recordings—and as might be expected for a poaching song, all are from England.

Anne Briggs recorded Thorneymoor Woods in 1971 for her first solo album Anne Briggs; this was reissued on her Fellside and Topic compilation CDs, Classic Anne Briggs and A Collection. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

From the neighbourhood of Newark in Anne's native Nottinghamshire, this one. The Thornehagh Moor-Fields, a wild 800 acres of woodland, was enclosed and largely cleared at the end of the eighteenth century. Outraged locals, hindered from their age-old practise of taking a rabbit for the pot or a deer for the market, waged guerrilla warfare with the keepers for decades. The ballad is from those desperate days. Anne had the song from Cloff Godbold.

Roy Bailey sang this as Thornaby Woods in the same year – 1971 – on his eponymous first album, Roy Bailey.

George Dunn sang The Nottingham Poacher in December 1971 to Bill Leader, which was released in 1973 on his eponymous Leader album, George Dunn. Another recording made by Roy Palmer on July 14, 1971 was included in 2002 on Dunn's Musical Tradition anthology Chainmaker. Roy Palmer and Rod Stradling commented:

This is not the only example of the gentry, and even the judiciary, being shown as sympathetic to poachers in songs from the oral tradition. Thorney Wood Chase, near Nottingham, part of the ancient Sherwood Forest, was enclosed in 1792—after which deer disappeared. On the other hand, Thornehagh (pronounced ‘Thorney’) Moor Woods, near Newark, was stocked with deer and guarded by keepers after its enclosure in 1797, so this seems a more likely candidate as the historical background for the song. Both Catnach and Pitts of London printed this song as a broadside, and there were several other editions, mainly in the Midlands.

With the exception of a solitary example from Ohio, traditional versions seem to have been confined to central and southern England, with some 60 examples in Roud, including nine sound recordings—though only those by Jasper Smith and Walter Pardon can be heard on CD.

Martin Carthy recorded Thorneymoor Woods on August 6, 1973 for a BBC Radio 1 John Peel Session that was broadcast on August 14. I don't know of any published version of Martin Carthy of this song, though.

Tony Rose recorded Thornaby Woods in 1976 for the charity album The Second Folk Review Record. The sleeve notes comment:

A poaching song set in Nottinghamshire but collected in Worcestershire by H.E.D. Hammond. This version is taken from that printed in Marrow Bones.

Jasper Smith sang Thorneymoor Park on April 26, 1975 at Epsom, Surrey, to Mike Yates. This recording was included in 1975 on the Topic anthology of gypsies, travellers and country singers, Songs of the Open Road, in 1998 on the Topic anthology To Catch a Fine Buck Was My Delight' (The Voice of the People Volume 18), and in 2003 on the Musical Traditions anthology of Mike Yates recordings of gypsy song and music from South-East England, Here's Luck to a Man ….

Sophie Legg sang Thorneymoor Woods in 1978 to Pete Coe. This recording was included in 2003 on Veteran's Orchard Family anthology, Catch Me If You Can. Mike Yates commented in the album's booklet:

According to the folklorist A.L. Lloyd, “The mother of folklore is poverty”, and according to James Hawker, a noted 19th century poacher, “Poverty made me poach”. Writing in his book The Making of the English Working Class (1963), E.P. Thompson had this to say about Britain’s notorious game laws which, indirectly, gave rise to a number of poaching songs: “‘Game Laws, with their paraphernalia of gamekeepers, spring-guns, mantraps and (after 1816) sentences of transportation: all served, directly or indirectly, to tighten the screw upon the labourer.” Government in late 18th century England was only too aware that events in France could spill over into England and so restrictions, including the enclosure of once common land, were placed onto the labouring class in an attempt to prevent the spread of Revolution. In the words of the poet Oliver Goldsmith:

Each wanton judge new penal statutes draw,
Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law.

In the 1790’s Thornehaugh-Moor Woods, also known as Thorney Moor Fields or Thorney Wood Chase, in the Hundred of Newark, Nottinghamshire and once part of Sherwood Forest, was enclosed. Twenty-odd years later the London broadside printer John Pitts issued our present song on a broadside, titled The Lads of Thorney Moor Woods, which still remains popular with Gypsy singers today. Like many other poaching songs, Thorneymoor Woods has seldom travelled outside England, although there is a set in Mary O. Eddy’s Ballads and Songs from Ohio (1939).

Walter Pardon sang Thornaby Woods in a recording by Mike Yates on his 1983 LP Bright Golden Store: Song and Music from Knapton in Norfolk. and on his Musical Traditions anthology Put a Bit of Powder on It, Father. Rod Stradling and Mike Yates commented in the accompanying booklet:

Walter's tune for this poaching song is rather unusual, in that it is just the second half of a double-length tune which is usually used for this song—and one is always expecting it to drop down to the root chord for the start of each verse … and it doesn't!

Although the song appears in 57 entries in Roud, it has only been recorded five times in the tradition—unsurprisingly, two of these are from Travellers. It's also unusual that the song is never found in Ireland, Scotland or Wales—and the same is true of The Oakham Poachers, Hares on the Old Plantation, etc. Somewhat surprised by this, I tried a data search on all those songs with the word ‘Poacher’ in the title and found 130 instances in Roud's database—only three of which could be identified as not being English! Are we the only thieves in these islands—or just the only ones who enjoy singing about it? It could, of course, be because Ireland and Scotland weren't hammered by Parliamentary enclosure of common lands to anything like the extent that England was, and may also be do with the way in which the English, alone in Europe if not the world, have accorded to landowners rights of ownership over the wild animals which happen to be on their domains at any particular time.

Steeleye Span recorded Thorneymoor Woods in 2009 for their album Cogs, Wheels and Lovers.

James Yorkston sang Thorneymoor Woods in 2009 on his CD and DVD Folk Songs.

Lyrics

Walter Pardon sings Thornaby Woods Anne Briggs sings Thorneymoor Woods

In Thornaby Woods in Nottinghamshire,
Whack-folural-I, whack-fol-laddle-dee
In Thornaby Woods in Nottinghamshire,
Whack-folural-I-day
Three keepers' houses stood three-square.
About a mile from each other they were,
Their orders were to look after the deer,
Right-fol-the-rol-riddle-al-day

In Thorneymoor Woods in Nottinghamshire,
Thorneymoor Woods in Nottinghamshire,
Three game-keepers' houses stood three-square,
About a mile from each other they were
Orders they were to look out for the deer.
Fol de rol, tora lie day

Me and my dogs went out one night,
The moon and stars were shining bright,
Over hedges and over stiles
With my three dogs all at my heels
To catch a fat buck in the Thornaby fields …

Now me and me dogs went out one night
The moon and the stars were shining bright
O'er hedges and ditches, fields and stiles
With my three dogs trotting close by me heels,
To catch a fat buck down in Thorneymoor fields.
Fol de rol, tora lie day

The very first night I had bad luck,
One of my very best dogs got shot.
He came to me all bloody and lame
And sorry I was to see the same,
For he wouldn't be able to follow his game …

That very first night we had bad luck,
One of me very best dogs got shot
He come to me all bloody and lame
Right sorry I was for to see the same
And not being able to follow the game.
Fol de rol, tora lie day

I looked at his wounds, and I found them slight,
'Twas done by a keeper all out of spite.
I'll take my pike-staff in my hand
And I'll search the woods 'til I find that man.
I'll tan his old hide right well if I can …

I searched his wounds and found them slight
'Twas done by a game-keeper out of spite
Well I'll take a stick right tight in me hand
I'll search the woods till I find that man
I'll thrash his old hide right well if I can
Fol de rol, tora lie day

Now I come home and I went to bed
Limping Jack went out in me stead
O'er hedges and ditches, fields and stiles
He found a buck lying on the ground
My little dog has gave him the death-wound.
Fol de rol, tora lie day

And Limping Jack he cut the buck's throat
Tied his legs with good stout rope
And I had a laugh to see Limping Jack
Up in a lane with that buck on his back
Carried it just like a pedlar's pack
Fol de rol, tora lie day

We hired a butcher to kill the game,
Likewise another to skin the same.
The very first joint we offered for sale
Was to an old woman who sold bad ale.
She had us all up into Nottingham gaol …

Now we got us a butcher to skin the game
Likewise another to sell the same
And the very first joint as we offered for sale
Was to an old girl she sold bad ale
She had us young lads up in Nottingham gaol
Fol de rol, tora lie day

Now Nottingham 'sizes are drawing nigh,
An' us three chaps have got to be tried.
The Gentlemen laughed her all to scorn
That such an old woman should be forsworn
Into little pieces she ought to be torn …

In Nottingham assizes are you and I
Us three young lads we go to be tried
But the magistrate laughed her all to scorn
He says the old bugger should be forsworn
Into little pieces torn
Fol de rol, tora lie day

Now Nottingham assizes are over and past
An' us three chaps are clear at last.
Neither bucks nor does will ever go free
For a poachers' life is the life for me,
A poacher I will always be …

In Nottingham assizes are gone and past
Us three young lads go free at last
The bucks and the does will never roam free
A poacher's life is the life for me
A poacher I will always be
Fol de rol, tora lie day

A poacher I am and a poacher I'll be,
A poachers' life is the life for me,
A poacher I will always be …

Sophie Legg sings Thorneymoor Woods

In Thorneymoor Woods near Buckinghamshire,
There was three keepers, they lived near;
They don’t live a mile from each others door,
Right fol de dol diddle dol day.

Me and my dogs went out one night,
Right fol ladity, right fol lay,
Me and my dogs went out one night
Right fol de dol diddle dol day.

O’er hedges, ditches, gates and stiles,
With my three dogs close after my heels;
We’ll catch a fat buck in Thorneymoor Fields,
Right fol de dol diddle dol day.

The very first night we had bad luck,
My very best dog his heart got struck,
My very best dog, he got struck,
Right fol de dol diddle dol day.

He came to me both bloody and lame,
I said, “You’re not fit to follow the game.”
I said, “You’re not fit to follow the game.”
Right fol de dol diddle dol day.

I searched his wounds, I found they were slight,
That some damn keeper that’s done it for spite;
That some damn keeper has done it for spite,
Right fol de dol diddle dol day.

I’ll take my pike staff in my hand,
And I’ll range those woods till I find that man;
And I’ll hammer his head well if I can,
Right fol de dol diddle dol day.

I searched those woods all that night,
I searched those woods until the daylight;
I searched those woods until the daylight,
Right fol de dol diddle dol day.

The very first thing that ever I found,
It was a large fat buck lay dead on the ground;
And I said, “My dog gave you your death wound,”
Right fol de dol diddle dol day.

You would have laughed to see poor limping Jack,
To see how he stood with that buck on his back;
He was like a Yorkshire man with a pack,
Right fol de dol diddle dol day.

Now the very first joint I offered for sale,
It was to an old cook that brewed bad ale;
And it was the old bugger gave me six months in jail,
Right fol de dol diddle dol day.

And now my trial is drawing near,
And to the Justices’ meeting I have to appear;
And when my trial has gone and passed,
That damned old judge can kiss my arse.