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A traditional song that is believed to originate somewhere in the mid 19th century, the earliest recorded version of this song dates to 1908, as sung by Joseph Taylor.

The song has been sung by numerous folk singers, and though it appears on none of their albums, the Longest Johns version is somewhat of a festival favourite due in part to JD's "surprise bass." The Longest Johns arrangement appears to be closely based on the Coope, Boyes, and Simpson version.

Following the release of the official video for the song on the Longest Johns YouTube channel, it was chosen as the song of the day for FolkRadio.co.uk.

Factoids

Rufford Park Poachers details the dramatic events of a brawl between gamekeepers and poachers in Mansfield in 1850, after which the leaders of the organized gang of poachers were tried and sentenced to transportation.

According to records, the organization of the poachers resulted from a particularly savage attack of a small band of poachers by a group of local gamekeepers whose beatings mortally wounded one of the poachers. In response the poachers formed a larger group for the next hunt, and in the ensuing skirmish killed head gamekeeper.

Historically, the size of the average poaching gang varied between five and fifteen members.

D.J.V. Jones explores this case, and other themes of this song, in the article "The Poacher: A Study in Victorian Crime and Protest" (1979).

Gorse is a yellow-flowered shrub common to western Europe.

Lyrics

These lyrics are based on the version performed by the Longest Johns in their Livestreams, the original lyrics can be found here.

{Andy}
A buck or doe, believe it so, a pheasant or a hare

{Robbie}
Were set on earth for every one quite equally to share.

{Andy and Robbie, Chorus}
So poacher bold, as I unfold, keep up your gallant heart,
And think about those poachers bold, that night in Rufford Park.

{Andy and Robbie}
They say that forty gallant poachers, they were in distress,
They'd often been attack-ed when their number it was less.

{Andy and Robbie, Chorus}

{Andy, Dave, and Robbie,}
Among the gorse, to settle scores, these forty gathered stones,
To make a fight for poor men's rights, and break the keepers' bones.

{Andy, Dave, and Robbie, Chorus}

{Andy, Robbie, and Dave}
The keepers went with flails against the poachers and their cause,
So no men there again would dare defy the rich man's laws.

{Andy, Robbie, and Dave, Chorus}
{JD rolls the bass at "Park" in this chorus, and holds the note through the next verse}

{Andy}
Upon the ground, with mortal wound, head-keeper Roberts lay,
He never will rise up until the final Judgment Day.

{Andy, Dave, and Robbie}
Of all that band who made a stand to set a net or snare
The four men brought before the court were tried for murder there.

{Chorus all, after which JD resumes "the Longest note"}

{All}
The judge he said, "For Roberts' death, transported you must be,
To serve a term of fourteen years in convict slavery."

{Chorus, All}

{Andy} A buck or doe, believe it so, a pheasant or a hare
{All}
Were set on earth for everyone quite equally to share

{Chorus Til Finish}

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