D'Ye Ken John Peel

Album: National Anthems (1828)

Songfacts®:

  • If "On Ilkla Mooar Baht 'At" is the National Anthem of Yorkshire, then "D'Ye Ken John Peel" is the National Anthem of Cumbria. This is a song that is based on a real person, and quite a lot is known about him.

    According to the 1968 book The John Peel Story by W.R. Mitchell, the melody is based on the traditional Scottish air "Bonnie Annie." It was written by John Woodcock Graves who knew Peel personally, and admired him greatly. Mitchell's book contains a painting of Peel by Graves, and a photograph of Peel's grave.

    John Peel was born at Caldbeck, probably in a small cottage in the yard at Park End, which no longer existed at the time this book was written. Although his date of birth is uncertain, he was baptised at Caldbeck on September 24, 1777, after which his parents William and Lettice Peel moved to Greenrigg.

    Peel kept hounds and hunted foxes; he also farmed and dealt in horses. He is said to have married above his station; Mary White was the daughter of a fairly prosperous farmer. They married at Gretna Green which is a renowned venue for runaway weddings, and had been used for the same since the Marriage Act of 1753. Later, they married again, in Caldbeck Church, at the insistance of her parents. They had 7 daughters and 6 sons.

    John Peel died November 13, 1854, and his funeral was attended by around 3,000 people.

    The younger John Woodcock Graves emigrated to Tasmania where he died in 1886. He explained how he came to write the song, in his adopted country, It came to him at Caldbeck in 1828-9; his grandmother was singing his eldest son to sleep with "Bonnie Annie" when he worked out the opening line: "D'ye ken John Peel, with his coat so gray." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England

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