> The Watersons > Songs > We'll All Go A-Hunting Today

We'll All Go A-Hunting Today / A Fine Hunting Day

[ Roud 1172 ; Ballad Index K263 ; Wiltshire 516 ; W. Wilson]

George Townshend of Lewes, Sussex, sang We'll All Go A-Hunting Today to Ken Stubbs in 1960. Stubbs included this song in 1970 in his E.F.D.S. book of English folk songs from the Home Counties, The Life of a Man. This and another version recorded by Brian Matthews in 1960-64 were included in 2000 on George Townshend's Musical Tradition anthology Come, Hand to Me the Glass. The anthology's booklet commented:

Not a very well-known song: it was heard from William Rickard of Egloshayle, Cornwall in 1936, Peter Kennedy recorded it for the BBC from Miles Wilson of Cockermouth, Cumberland, in 1959, Beth Bond of Blackpool sang it for Nick and Molly Dow, and George Fradley of Sudbury, Derbyshire, recorded it (released on Veteran Tapes VT 114) and sang it around the folk clubs in the 1980s. The Holm Valley hunters still do.

Paul and Linda Adams sang A Fine Hunting Day in 1978 on their Fellside album Among the Old Familiar Mountains.

The Watersons sang We'll All Go A-Hunting Today with Mike Waterson in lead on their 1981 album Green Fields. A.L. Lloyd commented in the sleeve notes:

Those pink-coated upper class savages look dashing enough as they go bellowing over the meadows on their thundering beasts, though it seems rough on the fox, racing in terror for mile on mile, and wiping a bloody fox's tail across a little girl's face is one of the uglier rites of initiation. Still, the hunt provided a bit of excitement for villagers, and many pretty good songs have come from it, sometimes made by the squire and his friends rather than by the traditional folk song makers. This is another song that David Hillery got from Jack Beeforth, the North Yorks singer.

Greer Gilman and Bob Hudson note:

Concerning this song, Roy Palmer notes in his Everyman's Book of English Country Songs (213), “This splendid celebration of the pleasures of fox-hunting will not please those who oppose the sport. It was a firm favourite, from Cornwall to Cumberland, in the early years of the 20th century, having been written just about in between for the North Warwickshire Hunt. The composer was one W. Wilson, but I have been unable to find any more details of him.” Text: Woods, Oxford Book of English Traditional Verse, no. 237.

See also the related song The Fox Jumps Over the Parson's Gate (Roud 217).

Lyrics

George Townshend sings We'll All Go A-Hunting Today

It's a fine hunting day, it's as balmy as May,
The hounds to the village will come;
Every friend will be there, but all trouble and care
Will be left far behind them at home;
It's a-roaming along on the way,
Each one to the other did say,
We'll join the glad throng that goes laughing along,
And we'll all go a-hunting today!

Chorus (after each verse):
We'll all go a-hunting today,
All nature looks smiling and gay.
Let us join the glad throng that goes laughing along,
And we'll all go a-hunting today.

Farmer Hodge to his dame cries, “I'm sixty and lame,
Though hard times and rent I must pay;
I don't care a jot if I raise it or not,
For I must go a-hunting today;
There's a fox in the spinney a-lying.
We'll find him and get him away,
I'll make the first rush to ride hard for his brush,
For I will go a-hunting today.”

The village bells chime, there 's a wedding at nine,
The parson unites the fond pair;
He hears the sweet sound of the horn and the hounds,
And he knows it is time to be there;
He says, “For your welfare I'll pray,
Regret I no longer can stay;
You're safely made one and I must quickly be gone,
For I must go a-hunting today.”

The Watersons sing We'll All Go A-Hunting Today

What a fine hunting day, it's as balmy as May,
When the hounds to our village did come.
Every friend will be there, and all troubles and care
Will be left far behind them at home.
See servants and steeds on their way
And sportsmen in scarlet display.
Let us join the glad throng that goes laughing along
And we'll all go a-hunting today

Chorus (after each verse):
So we'll all go a-hunting today
All nature looks smiling and gay
Let us join the glad throng
That goes laughing along
And we'll all go a-hunting today

Farmer Hodge to his dame says, I'm sixty and lame
Times are hard and my rent I must pay;
But I don't give a jot if I raise it or not
For I must go a-hunting today
There's a fox in the spinney they say
We'll find him and have him away;
I'll be first in the rush, I shall ride for his brush,
For I must go a-hunting today.

As the judge sits in court, he gets wind of the sport
And he calls the whole court to adjourn
As no witness had come and there's none left at home--
They have gone with the hounds and the horn.
He says, Heavy fines you must pay
If you will not your summons obey.
It is very fine sport, so we'll wind up the court
And we'll all go a-hunting today.

And the village bells chime, there's a wedding at nine
When the parson unites the fond pair.
When he heard the sweet sound of the horn and the hound
And he knew it was time to be there.
He says, For your welfare I pray,
I regret I can no longer stay;
You've been safely made one, we must quickly be gone
For we must go a-hunting today.

None were left in the lurch, for all friends were at church
With the beadle and clerk and aye all,
All determined to go and to shout tally-ho,
And the ringers all joined in the rear.
With the bride and bridegroom in array
They one to the other did say,
Let us join the glad throng that goes laughing along
And we'll all go a-hunting today.

There's the doctor in boots to a breakfast that suits
Of home-brewed ale and good beef
To his patients he says, I've come once again
To consult you in hopes of relief.
To the poor, his advice he gave 'way;
To the rich, he prescribed 'em to pay.
But to each one he said, You will quickly be dead
If you don't go a-hunting today.

And there's only one cure for a malady, sure
Which reaches the heart to adjure
It's the sound of the horn on a fine hunting morn
And where is the heart wishing more?
For it turneth the grave into gay
Makes pain into pleasure give way
Makes the old become young and the weak become strong
If they'll all go a-hunting today.

Acknowledgements and Links

Thanks to Greer Gilman for the transcription and Bob Hudson for his notes.

See also the Mudcat Café thread Origins: The Hunting Day / Fine Hunting Day.