> Tim Hart & Maddy Prior > Songs > Horn of the Hunter

The Horn of the Hunter / John Peel's Echo

[ Roud 1859 ; Mudcat 4518 ; Jackson Gillbanks]

Dave Winter, farm manager of Kay Green Farm, Egton Bridge, Yorkshire, sang The Horn of the Hunter to Colin Wharton in 1962. This recording was published in 2019 on the Musical Tradition's anthology Songs of the North Riding, which contains the field recordings of Wharton's 1962 Leeds University degree thesis “Folk Songs from the North Riding”.

Joe Thompson sang Horn of the Hunter in 1953 at either the Crown and Thistle, Rockcliffe, or the Plough Inn, Wreay. This recording was included in 1982 on the Reynard Records album Pass the Jug Round.

Tim Hart and Maddy Prior recorded The Horn of the Hunter in 1969 for their second duo album, Folk Songs of Old England Vol. 2. The record's sleeve notes comment:

Also known as Old John Peel this is one of the most popular songs amongst the Cumberland huntsmen and was probably written before the better known songs about John Peel. This is a collation of two versions collected by Geoff Woods from Jim Hewittson of Egrement and Miley Wilson of Lamplaugh.

Albert Shaw sang Horn of the Hunter on 1 April 1970 at the King's Head Folk Club. This recording made by Tony Foxworthy was included in 2012 on the Musical Traditions anthology of traditional performers at this London folk club in 1968-1970, King's Head Folk Club.

Fred Jordan sang The Horn of the Hunter on his 1974 Topic album When the Frost Is on the Pumpkin. This track was also included on his Veteran anthology A Shropshire Lad. The latter album's booklet noted:

The Horn of the Hunter, which is also called John Peel's Echo in Cumbria, is a tribute to that most well-known of hunters, John Peel (1776-1854) of Caldbeck. We are told that the song was written by one Jackson Gillbanks of Whitefield and it is one of the songs that Robert Forrester and Norman Alford collected in the early 1950's in the northern Lake District. Their recordings, safely preserved in the Cumbria County Archive, have recently been issued on the CD Pass the Jug Round (Veteran VT142CD). Fred Jordan almost certainly picked the song up in the folk clubs and a copy of the song, in an EFDSS publication, was found in his papers following his death.

The Taverners Folk Group sang The Horn of the Hunter in 1974 on their Folk Heritage album Times of Old England. They noted:

John Peel is probably the most celebrated hunting man in history, thanks to John Woodcock Graves and his writing of the song, John Peel. However, when Peel died, an old friend wrote an ode to the death of Peel, and called it The Horn of the Hunter Is Silent. Much later still, the ode became a song to a man who was an even greater huntsman than Peel, his name was Joe Bowman. Joe lived in Ullswater and was the huntsman for that famous pack for many years. Joe killed more foxes than ever Peel did, and one of Joe’s most favourite hunting valleys was Mardale. In the year of 1919 Lord Lonsdale sold the valley to Manchester Corporation who received permission to flood it, and so the great reservoir called Haweswater came into being. The Dunn Bull Hotel, the church, and several farms disappeared under the waters. The ghost of old Joe and the lost valley of Mardale ar all here in this song.

Brian Dewhurst with Tom Tiddler's Ground sang The Horn of the Hunter in 1975 on their Folk Heritage album The Hunter and the Hunted. He noted:

I got the words and tune from John Eatock of Leigh in May 1970. This is my favourite song of John Peel. Over six feet tall, Peel kept his own pack of hounds so that he could go hunting when he wanted. He lived at Caldbeck, eight miles north-east of Bassenthwaite. He died in 1854 at the age of 78 and is buried in Caldbeck church yard.

Paul and Linda Adams sang The Horn of the Hunter in 1978 on their Fellside album Among the Old Familiar Mountains. They noted:

Next to John Peel this is the most famous of Cumbrian Hunting Songs. It was written by Jackson Gillbanks, a contemporary of John Peel, and has given rise to many other songs (we recorded one, John Peel's Lament, on our previous album Country Hirings). We have added a couple of verses from other versions to give an all round picture of the characters. John Woodcock Graves, mentioned in the song, was the man who wrote D' Ye Ken John Peel and who emigrated to Tasmania where he swapped foxhunting for kangaroo hunting. In Cumbria you'll find none of the pink coated hunting gentry—it is a common folks activity, following the hounds on foot over the wild fell country and giving rise to common folk songs.

Dave Tomlinson and Richard Bell noted (in emails to me):

The song seems to be set around Keswick and Bassenthwaite lake because of the places mentioned: Skiddaw Fell, Keswick, Bewaldeth and the river Caldew can all be seen on my road atlas. But the old county of Cumberland—now named Cumbria—has many place names that do not appear on maps because of the wild and mountainous landscape. John Peel and his hunt travelled all over Cumberland and these place names are well known to the people of the area. John Peel was the greatest huntsman ever in England, he was Master of Foxhounds for over 40 years and was well loved by the people. There are more songs about him, mainly Do Ye Ken John Peel.

Some locations are not so obvious:

  1. Brightenflat, locally known as just Brighten, is an area of wild moorland with no population.
  2. Denton Fell, locally know as just Denton, is another area of wild and hilly country.

Note: The tune of this song is quite similar to the tune of Bellman. Bellman was one of John Peel's famous hunting hounds.

Lyrics

Tim Hart & Maddy Prior sing Horn of the Hunter

For forty long years have we known him,
A Cumberland yeoman of old,
And thrice forty years shall have perished,
Ere the fame of his deeds shall grow cold.
No broadcloth nor scarlet adorned him
Nor buckskin that rivals the snow.
But of plain Skiddaw grey was his garment,
And he wore it for work, not for show.

Chorus (after each verse):
For the horn of the hunter 's now silent
On the banks of the Ellen no more,
Nor in Denton you'll hear its wild echo,
Clear sound o'er the dark Caldew's roar.

When darkness at night draws her mantle,
And the coal round the fire bids us still,
Our children will say, “Father tell us
Some tales of the famous John Peel.”
We'll tell them of Ranter and Royal,
Of Britain and Melody too,
How they put up our fox at Keswick
And chased him from scent to full view.

From Denton to Brighten to Skiddaw,
Through Isel, Bewaldeth, Whitefield,
We galloped like madmen together,
To follow the hounds of John Peel.
So long may we hunt with each other,
Till the hand of old age you can feel,
And men feel like sportsmen and brothers,
So remember the hounds of John Peel.

Albert Shaw sings The Horn of the Hunter

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Now the horn of the hunter is silent,
On the banks of the Ellen no more,
No more shall we hear its wild echo,
Clear sound o'er the dark Caldew's roar.

For forty long years have we known him,
That Cumberland yeoman of old,
And twice forty years shall have perished,
Ere the fame of his deeds shall grow cold.
No broadcloth of scarlet adorned him,
No buckskin as white as the snow;
Of plain Skiddaw grey was his garment,
And he wore it for work, not for show.

When darkness of night draws her mantle,
And cold by the fire bids us steal,
Our children will say, “Father tell us
Some tales of the famous John Peel.”
And we'll tell them of Ranter and Royal,
Of Britain and Melody too,
How they rattled a fox round the Carrock,
And chased him from scent to full view.

And on through Brighten to Skiddaw,
Through Isel, Bewaldeth, Whitefield,
How we galloped like madmen together,
To follow the hounds of John Peel.
And so we may hunt with another,
'Til the hand of old age bids us yield,
We'll remember that sportsman and brother,
And think of the days of John Peel.

Fred Jordan sings The Horn of the Hunter

For forty long years that we known him,
Cumberland yeoman of old,
And twice forty years shall have perished,
Ere the fame of his deeds shall grow cold.
No broadcloth of scarlet adorned him
No buckskin that ribbled the snow.
But of plain Skiddaw grey was his garment,
And he wore it for work, not for show.

Chorus (after each verse):
Oh the horn of the hunter now is silent,
On the banks of the Ellen no more,
No more shall we hear its wild echo,
Clear sound o'er the dark Caldews roar.

When darkness of the night draws her mantle,
And the cold by the fire bids us steal,
Our children will say, "Father tell us
Some deeds of the famous John Peel."
Then we'll tell them of Ranter and Royal,
Of Britain and Melody too,
How they chivvied a fox round the Carrock
And chased him from scent into view.

How often from Brathwait to Skiddaw,
Through Isel, Bewaldeth, Whitefield,
We’d gallop like madmen together,
And follow the hounds of John Peel.
And though we may hunt with another,
Till the hand of old age bids us yield,
We will think on that sportsman and brother,
And drink to the health of John Peel.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Dave Tomlinson and Richard Bell for their comments (which I edited together to a single paragraph)