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Oakham Poachers, The

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Performer: Smith, Wiggy
Place Collected: Cheltenham
Date collected: 4th December 1994
Collector: Davies, Gwilym
Roud Number: 1686

Is this based on a true incident? Certainly Wiggy Smith thought so when he sang it and related how it happened to his relatives. In Wiggy’s account, a keeper was killed and the poachers went to the body and dug out the eyes, in the belief that they would hold a reflection of the killer. However, it is based on an incident of 1833 in Oakham, Leicestershire, when the 3 Perkins brothers were sentenced after firing on gamekeeper and wounding one. John was sentenced to death and hanged in Rutland in 1833, whilst the other 2 brothers were imprisoned in a hulk on the River Thames. George was later transported to Tasmania. The ballad was often printed on broadsides but collected copies are rare. Wiggy’s fine rendition is the only version to be captured on audio.

Notes by Gwilym Davies 1 July 2015