Before TV, video games, and texting, foxhunters used to entertain themselves with stories, poems, and songs. Foxhunting families would often break into song at the table after dinner, and windows rattled at many a hunt breakfast with songs of foxhunting.
My good friend Caroline Treviranus Leake remembers impromptu songfests at the dinner table led by her step-father, the late Alexander Mackay-Smith. The entire family—mother Marilyn and sisters Denya and Leslie—would join in. Caroline remembers those times with the greatest of pleasure—times of togetherness, good cheer, and shared enjoyment.
"Singing is a cheerful time," says Caroline recalling those moments.
We don’t do that any more. What happened?
"I don’t know all the words," I once said, demurring to lead the chorus.
"I’m not sure I know the tune," I said on another occasion.
FHL has an idea, after which those two excuses will no longer play. We plan to add a resource of foxhunting songs to this website—music, lyrics, and audio. We’ll begin with "John Peel." You can download the sheet music and lyrics, free, courtesy of Mrs. (Marilyn) Mackay-Smith. They have been excerpted from Alexander Mackay-Smith’s 1974 book The Songs of Foxhunting.
At the time of the book's publication, a 45-rpm record containing all the songs was included. Although the records are nowhere to be found today (nor could anyone play them even if they had them), Mrs. Mackay-Smith miraculously unearthed the original studio tape from which those records were cut. Through her kindness, Foxhunting Life has arranged for the songs to be converted to MP3 files which may be downloaded to computer or Ipod, or other MP3 player.
As a special bonus to FHL subscribers, you are invited to also download the MP3 sound recording of John Peel! See the article below for the story behind the composition of this classic foxhunting song. More hunting songs will be made available over the coming months.
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