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Wiggy Smith claimed that the song related to an incident in his family. 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 where he stayed until his death. 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, with thanks to Mudcat subscribers ‘Alan from Australia’, Steve Gardham and Mick Pearce.