Hunting the Hare


Jon recalls, “I absolutely loved the Kate Rusby & Kathryn Roberts album. I got it in my second year at uni and drove my housemates mad with it. Strangely I never learnt anything from it (although I was already singing Suzanne Vega’s Soldier & The Queen – should I record that for this thinking about it..?), but finally got round to learning this a few months ago.” This is one possibly of Welsh or simultaneous Welsh / English creation and probably a set of lyrics written in the Victorian era to popular tune. There’s a Mudcat thread here that seems to offer plenty on the possible origins of this brisk little gallop.

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36 Responses to “Hunting the Hare”

  1. muzza says:

    One of the songs I learned at school. I’m not a fan of hunting but I love the pageantry and by golly..there are some good hunting songs that you HAVE to sing. The words, the music and the singer capture the hustle and bustle of the occasion.

  2. SRD says:

    And I’d have beaten you this morning if it wasn’t for the Grand Prix. 😉

    Is it my imagination or is Jon struggling a bit here – some of the ends of the lines sound as if there wasn’t enough air in his lungs?

    But a nice rendition although I do love the Rusby/Williams presentation.

  3. Jon Boden says:

    ..more that I was losing my voice I think! Breathing is tricky if you do it totally rhythmically, but shouldn’t be a problem at this pace.

  4. Maureen Musson says:

    Nothing wrong with your lung capacity, Jon, or you wouldn’t be able to sing the long “rigs” in London Town the way you do!

  5. Jane Ramsden says:

    Losing yer voice? Short on lung capacity? I don’t think so missen! It’s a devil of a mouthful of complicated words to sing, methinks. I’d be tripping all over missen! Maybe it would be easier in Yorsher as so much is elided, but well done on your enunciation, Jon. I can’t think how this song could be made easier to sing without slowing down and losing something in the slowing, unless there was a different tune… maybe a c(h)anter… hahaha!

  6. Nick Passmore says:

    The tune is indeed Welsh: “Hela’r Ysgyfarnog”, which means (predictably..) “Hunting the Hare”. Apparently Josef Haydn (or Ioseff Hayden, to give him his Welsh name) included it in his Welsh Airs (1804) as “Hela’r Ysgyfarnog” (“Hence Away with Idle Sorrow”). Bandoggs memorably turned it into a hop-step tune on their eponymous 1978 LP. And Geoff & Pennie Harris recorded it as “Hare Hunting” on the 1975 Trailer compilation “Maypoles to Mistletoe”.

  7. Tobias Carter says:

    It certainly sounds like he’s struggling to me. It could well be down to a lost voice, but I would argue that his breath control needs some serious work.

  8. Nick says:

    “I was already singing Suzanne Vega’s Soldier & The Queen – should I record that for this thinking about it..?”

    Yes 🙂



  9. Katie says:

    Enjoyed this one, it reminded me of the patter songs in Gilbert and Sullivan.
    Can I also add my vote to the yes camp for Suzanne Vega please? It was one of my favorite albums when it came out, and I recently re-discovered it in my collection, and I’d love to hear what Jon can do with it.

  10. Kate says:

    Also love this song, think it would take a lot of skill and new techniques for me to do it any justice. Its reminded me i should listen to the Kate Rusby and Kathryn Roberts album again, it was one of my first folk albums and it was played over and over. Another yes to Soldier and the Queen. One of the first songs i tought myself and id forgotten all about it untill now!

  11. Kate says:

    Decided to try it in the end and its not an easy song to sing. Any tips on breathing would be apreciated! Heres a link to the video if any one is interested

  12. Linda Champ says:

    I know this tune as The Delights of the Packet (Shadrach the Orangeman) from the Pyle manuscript.

  13. Jan says:

    The Mudcat thread mentions Dave Burland’s version which is on his vinyl album ‘Songs and Buttered Haycocks) and, he says, ‘appears to be peculiar to Barnsley’


    Oh the dew is fallen, all nature is charming
    Come my brave lads, then let us away
    In search of the hare, for the prospects are fair
    The King George Hunt is up and away
    Hark to the hounds’ melodious music
    There’s Fidden, there’s Orange, fair Lydia and Kaye
    Old Johnny Booker he strains at the leash
    For he’s thinking to bloody his muzzle today

    Oh the quest is on and the scent is found
    our hounds give voice and away they do fly
    Elliott our master, there is no-one faster
    He calls us on with his favourite cry
    Through Jump and Pilley he races, but still
    We follow that hare, keeping him in our sight
    Through Bank and Goodwell and Kingston and Kendry
    How that old hare must long for the night

    And at last at Pogmoor there comes a reckoning
    Our champion hounds they have him at bay
    Orange and Bill they advance with a will
    Just to let the hare know they require him to stay
    Here’s success to our hounds and our huntsman so noble
    Our whipper-in, Gough, holds his whip with great style
    To Clive, Keith Boarder and Ivor and all of
    The lads, who have run many a mile

    And with Albion’s strong beer we will make the night merry
    We’ll drink a good health to George our king
    With a song from Jack Linstead, where can we hear better
    Our songs and our revels will make the beams ring
    So now we trudge homewards all dusty and weary
    From our heads and our hearts we have banished all care
    Thirty long miles we have strode the ground over
    There is no fine pastime like hunting the hare

    Perhaps Jane will put me right if I’ve made any errors in transcribing the villages – it’s not easy direct from the vinyl – but it caught my attention as I have a cousin living in Pogmoor.

    No an easy song to sing, especially if you slow it down in line 6 as Dave does. Kate, perhaps you could learn to breathe through your ears (just kidding)!

  14. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Jan: Ref Barnsley villages (suburbs & divisions); well, there’s a Jump and a Pilley, and Pogmoor, of course. There’s also Kingston, but ‘Kendry’ is actually ‘Kendray.’ There’s Birdwell, Honeywell, Mapplewell, Oakwell and Wombwell, but I can’t find Goodwell! No Bank either. We need Ian McMillan, the Bard of Barnsley, for this!

  15. muzza(S.E.England) says:

    @Jan……..DUNWELL Jan……….you’ve tempted Jane out of hiding…..she usually only comes down from the hills with the promise of red meat!

  16. muzza(S.E.England) says:

    I can’t shut up now I’ve started…………….
    I am now at the time of life where I am “hunting the HAIR”…………
    Melvyn Bragg…am I envious…..naaaggghhh…………….(maybe)

  17. Jane Ramsden says:

    It’s hunting the cat here, Spongebob Muzza… and you’d have a better chance with chocolate… hahahahaha!

  18. Jan says:

    Thanks, Jane, I was hoping you’d put me right!

    And Muzza, here are a few thoughts of my own on the subject of HAIR – I sing it to the tune of Brian O’Lynn but you can use plenty of others if you prefer.


    Now this little song it is all about hair
    And when, to grow on us, it doesn’t know where
    And many’s the time I’ve been heard to declare
    I really don’t know what to do with my hair!

    A baby may start out as bald as a coot
    Though with hair or without it, a baby is cute
    And besides, you don’t think about hair when you’re little
    You worry about it not a jot or a tittle

    When you’re a teenager, the hormones run races
    And hair will appear in most interesting places
    But your crowning glory seems never quite right
    Though you lavish care on it by day and by night

    And you menfolk will find that, as year passes year
    The hairs on your head will grow fewer and fewer
    Though the hair’s disappearing fast from your head
    It’s growing strongly in ears and in nostrils instead

    Now ladies, beware when you wish for strong hair
    You’ll be well advised to specify where
    For although the hair on your head may be thin
    It’s now sprouting with vigour on lip and on chin

    And now to conclude and to finish my song
    I wonder how long can the struggle go on
    When I’m ancient and feeble, will I no longer care
    Or worry about what to do with my hair?

    Anyone would think I have nothing better to do!

  19. muzza(S.E.England) says:

    @Jan…………..well me deario…’ve summed it up in a nutshell. Wot a poet.
    I’m a condecending old duffer(you’ve guessed) but might I suggest verse 4 /line 3
    “The hairs on your head will grow fewer I fear”

    and further observations ref the female of the species…..
    Hirsute lips and chin won’t put some of us old duffers off
    and ladies will NEVER stop worrying about their hair.

  20. Jan says:

    Thanks, muzza, for that suggestion – I will adopt it. Must say I didn’t really run this one past my poet friend who is better with words than I am.

  21. Dave Burland says:

    Just come across this, always was behind. The King George Hunt to the tune of Hun ting the Hare, I wrote late 60’s or Early ’70s and tried to pass it off as a traditional song. I can’t remember why. The lane referred to containing Goodwell, is in fact ” Through Bank End, Birdwell, Kingstone and Kendray etc. I wrote the song as a spoof, all the names in the song were luiminaries of the King George Folk Club in Barnsley

  22. […] in front of the car to speed ahead before turning off into a field. Here’s Jon Boden singing Hunting the Hare from his folk song a day project. Often in folksong the Hare is given the power of narrative and […]

  23. Diana says:

    Enjoyed this but I should think it is not the easiest song to sing so well done Jon.

  24. Linda says:

    @Diana, have heard preview of Broadside CD. I don’t do twitter or facebook so I hope Jon doesn’t mind if I pass comment here, Bellowhead with this CD definately seem to be pushing the boundarys and moving forward while there is still the “traditional” sound on some of the tracks the others are more” big band” A couple of the tracks will need a few listening sessions but on a whole Bellowhead you get the thumbs up.
    Diana I think we’re in for a treat !!!!

  25. Diana says:

    Linda I am sure you are right – I chose not to listen to the Guardian preview as will restrain my patience till the CD arrives when I will relish it. The titles sound so different and like you say not many of the Trad folk songs here which is good. They are moving in a different direction – can’t stay still forever! Whatever they do still sounds great. Looking forward to Nov. 18th and my red rose has not wilted.

  26. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Had a chuckle this morning listening again to this bouncy old tongue twister…….Jon definitely in trouble getting the old laughing gear round some of those phrases…..
    I wonder if he’d like a go at …
    ‘I am a pheasant plucker and a pheasant plucker’s son and I’ll go on plucking pheasants ’til the pheasant plucking’s done’………..I’ll look out for it on Bellowhead’s next cd.

  27. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Diana…….I wonder if that rose has wilted yet?

    ‘My red rose has not wilted
    my eyes still sparkle bright
    With Bellowhead’s ‘Broadside’ in my hand
    November is in sight’

  28. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Correction to above comment Oct 11 2013
    @Jan…………..well me deario…’ve summed it up in a nutshell. Wot a poet.
    I’m a condecending old duffer(you’ve guessed) but might I suggest verse 4 /line 3
    “The hairs on your head will grow fewer I fear”
    and the comment above…what was all that about …has your rose wilted!!!

  29. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey UK) says:

    Just love reading all those old comments above…never did find out what that ‘Rose wilting’ comment was all about

  30. Old Muzza (NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Just cracked the ‘rose’ thingy….see Diana comment 11 Oct 2012….she wore a rose as identification to meet Linda t the Bellowhead concert…..(simples)

  31. Linda says:

    Oh Muzza 7 years to crack the code …… Diana and I had a lovely night at the gathering of the roses……..

  32. Old Muzza (NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Probably her rose still not wilting when she went to the Bellowhead concert in the sky 26th Oct 2018

  33. Mel o says:

    Thank you Dave Burland ….. I always thought Johnny Booker was the same Johnny Booker from Barnsley longswords and Ivor was Ivor the man in charge of the dance teams ….. Now it is confirmed thank you Dave (……many years ago now….. The Wheatchief …… What a place)

  34. Linda says:

    Can’t believe its 8 yrs still have my rose and happy memories of meet Diana..

  35. OldMuzza*NWSurrey UK) says:

    Lindy Lou…did you take a photo of you and Diana?

  36. Linda says:

    No we didn’t do a photo call to busy having half time drinks…..shame we should have done.

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