D'ye ken John Peel (song)

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"D'ye ken John Peel?"
Writtenc. 1824
English folk, pop, world, English country (unofficial anthem of the Cumberland region)
Lyricist(s)John Woodcock Graves
     (1795-02-09)9 February 1795
     Wigton, Cumberland, England
     17 August 1886(1886-08-17) (aged 91)
     Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

"D'ye ken John Peel?" – which translates to "Do you know John Peel?" – is a famous Cumberland hunting song written around 1824 by John Woodcock Graves (1795–1886) in celebration of his friend John Peel (1776–1854), an English fox hunter from the Lake District. The melody is said to be a contrafactum of a popular border rant, "Bonnie Annie." A different version, the one that endures today, was musically adapted in 1869 by William Metcalfe (1829–1909), the organist and choirmaster of Carlisle Cathedral.[1][2][3][4][5] The tune etymology has a long history that has been traced back to 1695 and attributed to adaptations – one in particular, from the 20th century, the 1939 jingle, "Pepsi-Cola Hits the Spot."[2]


John Graves, who wrote it in the Cumbrian dialect, tinkered with the words over the years and several versions are known. George Coward, a Carlisle bookseller who wrote under the pseudonym Sidney Gilpin, rewrote the lyrics with Graves' approval, translating them from their original broad Cumberland dialect to Anglican; and in 1866, he published them in the book, Songs and Ballads of Cumberland.[6][7] Another song written by Graves mentions one of John's brothers, Askew Peel (1789–1854), a horsedealer who also lived in Caldbeck.[8]

"D'ye ken John Peel?" was first sung in 1824 in Gate House in Caldbeck in John Graves’ home to the tune of the Border rant "Bonnie Annie." A different musical version was composed in 1869 by William Metcalfe, a conductor, composer, and lay clerk of Carlisle Cathedral. His arrangement – lauded as more musical than the traditional melody – became popular in London and was widely published. In 1906, the song was published in The National Song Book, but with a tune closer to Bonnie Annie – and that version is the most widely known today.[6][9] English counties have no official anthem. However, "D'ye ken John Peel?" is commonly regarded as a kind of unofficial anthem of Cumberland and the region.

Etymology and other uses[edit]

British musicologist Ann Gilchrist (1863–1954) and Canadian folklorist Edith Fowke (1913–1996) trace the use of the tune and lyrics in other songs and poems, including:

  1. "Red House," first published in 1695 by John Playford (1623–1686/7) in The Dancing Master (9th ed.)
    1. "Where will Our Good Man Lay?"
    2. "Where/Whar Wad Our Gudman/Bonny Annie Lye/Laye"
    3. "Where/Whar wad our Guidman Lie"
      "Where Will Our Goodman Laye," published in Oswald's Caledonian Pocket Companion for the Flute (Vol. 2) (c. 1750), published by James Oswald (1710–1769)
    4. From the 1729 opera, Polly, Act I, Scene VIII, Air 9, the song "Red House," being the same version published in The Dancing Master
  2. "Address to the Woodlark," by Robert Burns (1759–1796)[10]
  3. "0! What Can Make My Annie Sigh?" by John Anderson[11]
  4. The words, "Where wad bonny Anne lye?," in the song, "The Cordial," sung to the tune "Where Should Our Goodman Ly?"
    Published 1 January 1724, in Allan Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany: Or A Collection of Choice Songs, Scots and English (11th ed.) (Vol. 1 of 4)[12][13]
  5. English-turned-American composer Austen Herbert Croom-Johnson (1909–1964), born in Hereford, imported the tune, "D'ye ken John Peel," and scored it for a 1939 jingle, "Pepsi-Cola Hits the Spot" (aka "Nickel, Nickel"). His Chicago-born lyricist partner, Alan Bradley Kent (né Karl Dewitt Byington, Jr.; 1912–1991), wrote the words.
goodman = husband
guidman = form of address, typically between people of equal rank who are not on familiar terms (also gudman, gudeman, goodman, and more)
bonnie = pretty, attractive
air = aria or song
ken = to be aware of or to know


Verse 1 (best known; by Graves)[6]

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 oft time led,
Peel's "View, Halloo!" could awaken the dead,
Or the fox from his lair in the morning.

  Some versions, according to The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations,[14] show the phrase as " ... with his coat so gray," implying that his coat was likely made of local Herdwick wool, commonly gray. If so, the color of John Peel's coat would be in contrast to that of other huntsmen – traditionally brightly colored, often red or hunting pink.[15][16]

Additional verses[edit]

Verse 2 (Coward's version)[6]

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.

Verse 3

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.

Verse 4

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 vie for the brush in the morning
For the sound of his horn, etc.

Verse 5

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.

 *  These were the real names of the hounds that Peel, in his old age, said were the very best he ever had or saw. – J.W.G.[7]

Alternative versions[edit]

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":

Alternative verse 1

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 hor', 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:

Alternative verse 2

D'ye ken John Peel 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. On BBC radio's I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again, a version parodied the British Radio DJ John Peel

1st parody

D'ye ken John Peel with his voice so grey?
He sounds as if he's far far away;
He sends you to sleep at the end of the day;
'til you're woken up by Tony Blackburn in the morning.

Another was used in the 1979 film Porridge, which saw Ronnie Barker as Fletch cheekily observe a new prison warden.

2nd parody

D'ye see yon screw with his look so vain?
With his brand new key on his brand new chain;
With a face like a ferret and a pea for a brain
And his hand on his whistle in the morning.

Several lines of the song are also parodied in the course of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake.

Regimental marches[edit]


Wedgwood's creamware pitcher modelled with hunting scenes in low relief and with a handle modelled as a leaping hound, which was introduced in 1912, carried the pattern name "D'ye Ken John Peel".

Selected audio and discography[edit]

With orchestra and chorus
Recorded April 1907
"D'ye ken John Peel"
Gramophone Concert Record G.C.-3-2798
Matrix runout (Side A): Ho 2861ab
"D'ye ken John Peel?"
(audio via YouTube)
With chorus and orchestra
Recorded 1918
Side B: "D'ye ken John Peel"
Zonophone Record – The Twin™ 1841
British Zonophone Co., Ltd., England
Matrix runout (Side B label): X-3-42886
(audio via YouTube)
OCLC 317415992
"Pepsi-Cola Hits the Spot" (1939)
(audio via YouTube)
"John Peel," quick march
(audio via YouTube)
"D'ye ken John Peel," quick march of the regiment
(audio via YouTube)
"D'ye ken John Peel"
(audio via YouTube)
  • Johnny Fosdick and Orchestra, pseudonym of Harry Sosnik (nl) (né Harry Sosnek; 1906–1996)
Anita Boyer (née Anita Blanche Boyer; 1915–1985), vocalist
Both sides recorded December 1941, New York
Side A: "Swinging the Jingle"[18]
Austen Croom Johnson (music, American version)
Alan Kent (words)
Helmy Kresa (orchestra arrangement)
Side B: "Get Hep"
Bissell Palmer (né Bissell Barbour Palmer; 1889–1968) (words)
Helmy Kresa (orchestra arrangement)
Nocturne Records (fictitious label of Pepsi-Cola)
Matrix runout (Side A): 3135 A-1
Matrix runout (Side B): 3135 B-1
("Swinging the Jingle" via YouTube)
("Get Hep" via YouTube)

P.M.Adamson Download sites and youtube

Extant old publications[edit]


Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 3: Musical Compositions

  1. "D'ye ken John Peel?" descriptive piece by Shipley Douglas (1868–1920) (in Hawkes & Son Military Band Edition, No. 394)
    © 27 June 1913; E316233
    Hawkes & Son, London
    (copyright is claimed on arrangement)
    New Series, Vol. 8, Part 3, p. 792
    OCLC 498315413; British Library 004311656
  2. "John Peel," variations on an English tune
    Hubert Crook, of Great Britain; pf.
    Cover title: "D'ye ken John Peel"
    A. Hammond & Co., London
    New Series, Vol. 20, No. 1 (1926) p. 76
    OCLC 497756658; British Library 004288220

Copyrights relating to Pepsi-Cola[edit]

Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 3: Musical Compositions

1939 Pepsi-Cola jingle
  1. "D'ye ken John Peel"
    "American adaptation" – words and melody by Austen Croom Johnson
    1 copy; 12 January 1938; EU157880
    ABC Music Corporation, New York
    New Series, Vol. 33, No. 1 (1938), p. 10
    Published by Chappell & Co. ()
    OCLC 497288096; British Library 004437471
  2. "Do ye ken, John Peel?"
    Additional lyrics by Eddie DeLange; adaptation and arrangement by Austen Croom Johnson
    NM: adaptation and arrangement with additional lyrics
    1 copy; 24 February 1938; EU161663
    Irving Berlin, Inc., New York
    New Series, Vol. 33, No. 3 (1938), p. 233
    29 July 1965; R365626
    Margaret Mary LeLange (né Margaret Mary Lohden; 1918–1990) (widow)
    Third Series, Vol. 19, Part 5, No. 2, Section 1, January – June 1965 (1967), p. 2154
  3. "Do ye ken, John Peel?"
    Additional lyrics by Eddie DeLange; adaptation and arrangement by Austen Croom-Johnson
    NM: adaptation and arrangement with additional lyrics
    1 copy; 16 March 1938; EP68157
    Irving Berlin, Inc., New York
    New Series, Vol. 33, No. 5 (1938), p. 485
    29 July 1965; R365625
    Margaret Mary LeLange (widow)
    Third Series, Vol. 19, Part 5, No. 2, Section 1, January – June 1965 (1967), p. 2154
  4. "Do ye ken John Peel," fox trot
    Additional lyrics by Eddie DeLange; adaptation and arrangement by Austen Croom Johnson; dance arrangement by Joe Lippman (né Joseph P. Lipman; 1915–2007); Orchestra parts
    © 14 April 1938; EP70500
    Irving Berlin, Inc., New York
    New Series, Vol. 33, No. 9 (1938), p. 991
  5. "Pepsi-Cola Hits the Spot"
    ©1939 by Johnson-Siday
    (Austen Croom Johnson & Eric Siday)
    (copyright source not found)[19]
  6. "Pepsi-Cola Radio Jingle"
    Words and arrangement by Austen Herbert Croom-Johnson & Alan Bradley Kent
    1 copy; 2 January 1940; EP162049
    (original copyright source not found)[19]
    7 April 1967; R407224
    PepsiCo, Inc. (formerly Pepsi-Cola Co.)
    Third Series, Vol. 21, Part 5, No. 1, Section 1, January – June 1967 (1968), p. 881
  7. "Get Hep"
    Bissell Palmer (né Bissell Barbour Palmer; 1889–1968) (words); Helmy Kresa (music)
    9 October 1941; EP98040
    Pepsi-Cola Company of Long Island City, New York
    New Series, Vol. 36, No. 10 (1941), p. 1688
New theme
  1. "Pepsi-Cola Hits the Spot"
    Words and adaptation of music of the Pepsi-Cola Co.
    NM: Adaptation and revised words
    ©Pepsi-Cola Co.
    1 March 1965; EU867255

Copyrights relating to wind ensembles[edit]

Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 3: Musical Compositions

  1. "The King's Own Border Regiment," regimental quick march, "John Peel," for military band
    Arranged by C.V. Wright,[a] London
    (Popular Marches for Military Band and Brass Band)
    NM: Arrangement
    Hawkes & Son, London, Ltd.
    9 December 1960; EF0-76517
    Third Series, Vol. 15, Part 5, No. 1, January – June 1961, p. 274
EF = Music published abroad
EP = Class E (musical composition), published
UP = Class E (musical composition), unpublished
R =   Copyright renewal
NM = New matter

See also[edit]

  • D'Ye Ken John Peel? a 1935 film
  • Bellman and True, a 1987 film starring Bernard Hill, uses the lyrics to describe the various duties of bankrobbers (i.e., a Bellman, in the vernacular of the London underworld, is a person who "fixes" alarms). A version of the song plays during the closing credits, sung by Lonnie Donegan.

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ C.V. Wright, A.R.A.M. (Associate of the Royal Academy of Music), L.R.C.M., born about 1930, became bandmaster in 1957 of the Royal Border Regiment Band after serving a year at the Royal Military School of Music.


  1. ^ "Famous Huntsman," Insight Guides Great Breaks Lake District (Travel Guide eBook), by Rough Guides (2019)
  2. ^ a b Love Me Tender: The Stories Behind the World's Favourite Songs, by Max Cryer, Accessible Publishing Systems (2008; 2010); ISBN 978-1-921497-02-5
  3. ^ Motor Ways in Lakeland, Chapter 12: "A Late Autumn Run Through John Peel's Country," by George D. Abraham, Methuen & Co. (1913), pps. 235–251
  4. ^ "'D'ye ken John Peel: Wi' His cwote seay gray?' – A.W. Rhodes Gives Interesting Views on Controversy Stirred Up Over Question of Proper Wording of the Famous Song," by A. H. Rhodes, Calgary Daily Herald, 29 November 1926, p. 5 (accessible via Newspapers.com; subscription required)
  5. ^ John Peel, Famous in Sport and Song, by Hugh W. Machell, London: H. Cranton (1926); OCLC 2321341
  6. ^ a b c d "The Story of John Peel". Tullie House. Retrieved 4 October 2009.[dead link]
  7. ^ a b The Songs and Ballads of Cumberland (alternate link), Sidney Gilpin (ed.), Routledge (1866); OCLC 3080766
  8. ^ "Folk Song in Cumbria: A Distinctive Region Repertoire?" (doctoral – PhD, dissertation), Susan Margaret Allan, MA (Lancaster), BEd (London), University of Lancaster, November 2016
  9. ^ Seven Centuries of Popular Song, a Social History of Urban Ditties, by Reginald Nettel, Charing Cross: Phoenix House (publisher); Denver: Alan Swallow (publisher) (1956); OCLC 6444747, 1015097874, 1124484584, OCLC 434926630, 561922643, 314506723
  10. ^ The songs of Robert Burns – Now First Printed With the Melodies for Which They Were Written; A Study in Tone-Poetry With Bibliography, Historical Notes, and Glossary, by James C. Dick (né James Chalmers Dick; 1838–1907), Henry Frowde (1841–1927), pps. 353–354 & 394
  11. ^ "Anderson, John," British Music Publishers, Printers and Engravers: London, Provincial, Scottish, and Irish, by Frank Kidson (1855–1926), W.E. Hill & Sons (1900), pps. 177–178
  12. ^ "The Evolution of a Tune: 'Red House' and 'John Peel,'" by Ann Gilchrist (1863–1954), Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, Vol. 4, No. 2, December 1941, pps.80–84 (accessible via JSTOR at www.jstor.org/stable/4521184
  13. ^ "The Name 'Peel' – Where Did We Get It?" A History of Peel County: 1867–1967, (November 1967), p. 7
  14. ^ "John Woodcock Graves" (entry on p. 359), The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (5th ed.), by Elizabeth M. Knowles (ed.), Oxford University Press (1999); OCLC 670288898; ISBN 0-19860173-5
  15. ^ "20,000 Volkslieder, German and other Folk Songs". Ingeb.org.
  16. ^ Know Britain, Traditional British Songs
  17. ^ Capt R. Saunders, History of the 1st Cumberland Royal Garrison Artillery (Volunteers), Carlisle, G, & T. Coward, 1902, p. 15.
  18. ^ "Rum and Coke Clicks But Ops Still Say Nix – Sensational Success of Calypso Ditty Largely Due To Push By Ops, But Door Still Closed to Records With Ads," Billboard, 3 March 1945, p. 89
  19. ^ a b "Classic U.S. TV Series: Theme Music List – The 'Jingle Hall of Fame,'" Classic Themes (website), The Media Management Group (www.classicthemes.com), San Diego County, California, last updated 25 March 2019 (retrieved 28 October 2019)
    Site maintained and researched by David Jackson Shields (pseudonym of Richard David Reese; born 1948), a former broadcaster and composer-producer for TV and radio

External links[edit]