John Peel (farmer)

John Peel (1776? - 13 November 1854) was a British huntsman and is the subject of the 18th century song D'ye ken John Peel.

John Peel was baptised on 24 September 1777, but most sources suggest he was born the previous year. He was a Cumberland farmer, who kept a pack of fox hounds.

Lyrics of D'ye ken John Peel

Note that the title of the song may also be rendered as Do You Ken John Peel and Do Ye Ken John Peel.

The first verse and chorus are the best known:

D'ye ken John Peel with his coat so gay*?
D'ye ken John Peel at the break o' day?
D'ye ken John Peel when he's far, far a-way.
With his hounds and his horn in the morning?

For the sound of his horn brought me from my bed,
And the cry of his hounds which he oftime led,
Peel's "View, Halloo!" could awaken the dead,
Or the fox from his lair in the morning.

*Some believe the end of this line to be 'grey', due to the colour of his coat made from local Herdwick wool.

The words were written by Peel's friend John Woodcock Graves, 1795-1886, in Cumbrian dialect. He tinkered with the words over the years and several different versions are known. The lyrics were rewritten for clarity by one George Coward, a Carlisle bookseller, and approved by Graves for a book of Cumberland songs titled Songs and Ballads of Cumberland published in 1866.

The words were set to the tune of a traditional Scottish rant, Bonnie Annie, and the most popular arrangement of it in Victorian times was William Metcalfe's version of 1868. He was a conductor and composer and lay clerk of Carlisle Cathedral, and his more musical arrangement of the traditional melody became popular in London and was widely published. However in 1906 the song was included in The National Song Book with a tune closer to Bonnie Annie and that is the most widely-known version today.

Additional verses

Verses 2-5 in Coward's version:
D’ye ken that bitch whose tongue was death?
D’ye ken her sons of peerless faith?
D’ye ken that fox, with his last breath
Curs’d them all as he died in the morning?
For the sound of his horn, etc.

Yes I ken John Peel and Ruby too
Ranter and Royal and Bellman as true,
From the drag to the chase, from the chase to the view
From a view to the death in the morning
For the sound of his horn, etc.

And I’ve followed John Peel both often and far,
O’er the rasper fence and the gate and the bar,
From low Denton Holme up to Scratchmere Scar,
Where we view for the brush in the morning
For the sound of his horn, etc.

Then here's to John Peel with my heart and soul
Come fill – fill to him another strong bowl,
And we'll follow John Peel through fair and through foul
While we’re waked by his horn in the morning.
For the sound of his horn, etc.

Alternative versions

As is common with songs often sung from memory, this has been recorded with other verses and minor differences in lyrics, such as in the third verse: From the drag to the chase, from the chase to the view and From a view to a death in the morning:

Yes, I ken John Peel and his Ruby, too!
Ranter and Ringwood, Bellman so true!
From a find to a check, from a check to a view,
From a view to a kill in the morning.
For the sound of his horn, etc.

Coward's version of the last line was used for Matt Cartmill's book, A View to a Death in the Morning: Hunting and Nature Through History. The alternative version was used as a title to the short story From a View to A Kill, found in the Ian Fleming collection of short stories, For Your Eyes Only. This was in turn shortened to A View to a Kill, when applied to the fourteenth James Bond movie.

This verse was not in Coward's version:

D'ye ken John Pell with his coat so gay?
He liv'd at Troutbeck once on a day;
Now he has gone far, away;
We shall ne'er hear his voice in the morning.
For the sound of his horn, etc.

A number of parodies also exist.

Regimental march

"John Peel" was one of the quick marches of the King's Own Royal Border Regiment before it was merged with the Queen's Lancashire Regiment to become the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment.

"John Peel" is the authorized march of The Lorne Scots (Peel, Dufferin and Halton Regiment) and The Ontario Regiment (RCAC) of the Canadian Forces.


The line "From a view to a kill" was used as the title of a short story by Ian Fleming featuring his famous spy James Bond. It was published in the short story collection For Your Eyes Only in 1960, though the film title A View to a Kill dropped the word "from".

The line "Bellman and True" was used as the title of the 1987 British film directed by Richard Loncraine and starring Bernard Hill. A version of the John Peel song was sung over the end credits.

Workington A.F.C. adopted John Peel as their mascot in 1967, he still appears on the Club Badge as well as the Badge of the Supporter's Club.

The title of Sarban's 1952 novel The Sound of His Horn is most probably taken from the lyrics of D'ye ken John Peel.

The radio comedy show I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again featured another version of the song, but this time the subject was late BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel:

D'ye ken John Peel
With his voice so grey
He always seems so far, far away.
He sends us to sleep at the end of the day
′Til we're woken up by Tony Blackburn'' in the morning.

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