“If he had caught us, say what you will, he’d have sent us all to Abingdon Jail…”
Thanks to Andy Turner of Magpie Lane for providing me with the background to this tune, collected by Alfred Williams from Henry Leech, a farm labourer from Eynsham, in the early 20th century. Another very similar song, the Southrop Poaching Song, suggests that maybe this was a popular theme: poachers outrunning gamekeepers, and proving that crime does indeed pay so long as you don’t get caught. I left the ‘laddie-i-o’ part out until the end, as a nod to the fact that it’s in the Southrop original, but not the Eynsham one (although on this recording you can hear me forgetting and getting it wrong after the penultimate verse). Click here to read the original Magpie Lane sleevenotes.
Three Eynsham boys went out one day,
To Lord Abingdon’s Manor we made our way;
We took some dogs to catch some game,
And soon to Wytham Woods we came.
We had not long been beating there,
Before our spaniel put up a hare;
Up she jumped and away she ran,
At the very same moment a pheasant sprang.
[Tune: ‘The Fiery Clockface’]
We had not beat the woods all through,
Before Barrett, the keeper, came in view;
When we saw the old bugger look,
We made our way to Cassington Brook.
When we got there ’twas full to the brim,
And you’d have laughed to see us swim;
Ten feet of water, if not more,
When we got out, our dogs came o’er.
Over hedges, ditches, gates and rails,
Our dogs followed after, behind our heels;
If he had caught us, say what you will,
He’d have sent us all to Abingdon Jail.
Credits & Copyright
Traditional, adapted by James Bell. Recorded and released by James Bell in May 2018. (P) House of Lyra.