Samlesbury Lion Hunt
From the “Preston Herald," May 6th 1865.
Stories of Samlesbury
Robert Eaton (1937 Edition)
The historian has placed on record the fact of a wild boar hunt having taken place at Ramsgreave Chase in the year 864, but from that time to the present, there has not been a repletion of the same sport. Last week, however, a party of well-known local gentlemen who left Blackburn on a piscatorial and general sporting expedition to Samlesbury, came across one of those fierce denizens of the forest which are calculated to spread terror in the neighbourhood in which they abound. These gentlemen, who had taken their rods and lines, had scarcely commenced the pleasing task of luring the silvery trout from the river Ribble, before a body of excited natives came rushing down upon them with the alarming intelligence that they had seen a lion crouching in Huntly Wood. The sporting party, excited by the extraordinary intelligence, sallied forth into the wood to see and if possible, destroy the ferocious animal. On getting near the spot where the lion had been seen, the courage of some of the party began to ooze out of their finger ends, and when at last they actually saw the monarch of the forest, their fears found vent in such exclamations as, “Caution, remember we have wives and families depending upon us," and “Be careful, or it may worry us all." One of them, however, who was armed with a gun, was more courageous than the rest, and exclaiming “Here goes the last of the Cardigans," went into the attack. He advanced stealthily towards the tree beside which the lion was resting, and having helped himself to a little whisky, which like a good sportsman, he carried in his flask, and having wiped the perspiration, caused of course by excitement of the adventure, from his brow, he carefully raised his gun to his shoulder and, having taken sure aim, deliberately fired. Afraid that the shot might not have been effectual, the whole party were flabbergasted and looked into one another's countenances with blank dismay. When the smoke cleared away, however, they discovered that the animal did not stir and courage was immediately revived. “Dead as a door nail," said one; “Aye, as quiet as leather," said another, while another exclaimed, “Oh that we had this along with my Androcles and his lion, what a splendid collection it would make. In the distance I can see the Prince and Princess of Wales coming up to the fox and Grapes to see the wonderful but dead menagerie." *
When the Whole party had thoroughly recovered their scattered senses, they advanced close to the dead lion and they found that all their alarm had been unnecessary, the animal having evidently been dead before the shot was fired. It has since oozed out that the lion was one that was exhibited in Blackburn during the late fair, and died from disease whilst on the way to some other town. The show man to whom it belonged, having no better means of disposing of the carcase deposited it in the place which it was found by the courageous sportsmen. The party, after having cut of the lion's tail as a trophy of their valour, buried the carcase, and returned from the hunt, singing by the way, “For we are jolly good fellows, which nobody can deny."
Huntly Wood where the “Lion Hunt" took place just after Blackburn the Blackburn Easter Fair of 1865 is now almost denuded of trees. The site is the long narrow roadway strip of land extending from near Samlesbury Old Hall to Huntley Valley in the direction of Preston, Where the road crosses a small stream. The Dwellings on the opposite side of the road from the Half Way House all lie within the old Huntley Woods.
*From the above reference to the “Fox and Grapes" Hotel at Limefield, it seems likely that the licensee was a member of this merry sporting party.
The “Fox and Grapes Museum" first founded by Mr. David Crook, (land lord from 1858 to 1874) probably about 1860, was for a long while an interesting side attraction there.
An Auction sale dispersed the collection on the 26th August, 1897. The sale catalogue gives details of over 100 cases of stuffed birds and animals, as well as many old coins, geographical specimens, old pottery, ancient arms and armour and other curiosities.
The Blackburn Times of July 28th 1894, the poet Jack O' Ann's (John Thomas Baron) in his Rhymes in the Dialect wrote this poem:
Th' Samlesbury Lion Hunt
I' books o' forrun travel, yo' no deawt hev often read
O'er wonderful adventures which brave chaps abroad hev hed
ther narratives o' th' dangers as they've gone throo mek us feel,
If we'd ha bin I' ther shops we'd ne'er cum of hawf as wel.
We read o'er noble wild game they 'mong th' jungle grasses shoots
O'er elephants an' tigers, aye, an' lions fierce to boot.
They've med eawr blood fair tingle wi' o th' thrilling tales they've towd,
An' th' perils they've experienced hes fair med eawr marro's cowd.
Still, aw'll be bun to say I' books yo' never yet dud see,
A full acceawnt o' Lion Hunt ther' wor at Samlesbury!
To hear thad tale towd gradely yo' should camp owd Keeper Dick,
He's full o' fun an' devilment, an' up to mony a trick,
An' o'er his pints I; aleheawse nook, some merry yarns he's towd,
But neaw he's gotten th' woss for wear, an' ses he's middlin owd.
For o thad he keeps lithe an' cant, an' alus wears a grin
Whenever he geds axed thad buzz o'er Lion Hunt to spin.
Yo' see, Dick wur th' heyd keeper a while sin i' Salesbury yon,
An' looked weel after th' guns—at thad job he were quite a don.
beside hissel', another mate he hed coed Strappin' Sam—,
A terror to th' poachers—an' a capper after gam.
Well three smart Blegburn spooartmen, who believed theirsels A 1,
At hunti' onny sooart o' game—especially with a gun,
Hed treated an' persuaded Dick i' their way, to say “Aye!"
For they waned just a hawf days good huntin' ther' on't sly
But th' only anser wur a “Nowe!" blank eawt fro' honest Dick
Yet moyther him they wod,—an' o they chatter he wur sick,
An' mony a time he to hissel thowt wi' a chuklin' grin,
“If ever aw' ged hawf a chance aw'll suck yon smart uns in!"
One day, when i'th wood wawkin' bi th' up side wi' his mate Sam
They fun a lion carcase,—an' he murmured, “Neaw for gam!"
Some travellin' wild beast showman mun ha' chucked id theer o'er t' woo
Thinkin' id wod save 'em trouble an' ther'd nobry ged to know!
“Just give a hand wi' carcase, Sam, let's prop id geon yon tree,
We'll hev a bonny marlock wi this lion Sam, tha'll see!"
The dragged id up; hey, heaw id stunk! Then Sam teed twine to th' tail
An' fastened th' end to th' boughs aboon: hey, heaw id swung to th' gale'
Which storred o th' whispering leaves. Dick chucklin' sed “Neaw thad'll do.
An owd bassoon thee roooar wi', we'll put put sombry in a stew!"
Dick sent word deawn to t' spoartmen to slip up thad afternoon
They landed keen for spoart, an' geet to see them keepers Soon.
They treated both chaps han'some, an' slipped shillin's i' ther hand,
Then Dick at Sam winked sly, an' sed, “Just show 'em to t' best land!"
Hey! worn'd thad lot set up at thad, an' followed Sam a while,
Who stopped an' sed, “Yo'd best start here for spart," then wi' a smile
Sed, “Aw mon leove yo' neaw a bit aw'st see yo' later on!"
Then turnin' off cried eawt “Tek care!" an' in crack wur gone.
They dudn'nd know he'd gone to get beside a hollo' tree,
and blow an' an owd brass trumpet just up flay then “dauntless Three!"
As soon as t' keeper went, they looaded an' one sed, “Tek good aim
At owt yo' see, lets miss nowt, an' we'st bag some gradely game!
This privllege we've getten' they wern'd grant to nobry else"
“O, Joe, shut up!" they anserd, “Well tek care mind eawrsels"
They stroad on quate an' causiusly, an' looked on every side,
wi' guns held reight an' ready but no wick thing they espied,
except a lonely robin. Owd Bill's gun went up at thad,
bit t' others wodn'd let him shoot thad med him some and mad.
“Aw've come to shoot, so let me be" he varra snappish sed:
Then wi' a sulky look at th' mates stepped on a bit ahead
O' th' sudden throo some bushes he see th' lion's swingin' tail,
An' heard a dismal seawnd. He flopt deawn, whackerin' an' pale.
“Let's horry up!" sed t' other two; “Bill's just sin summat yon!"
Then took one glint, then sharp as wink i' th' bushes soon wur gone.
'Mong th' grass, wi' palpatatin' hearts an' faces white as wax
They laid, while cowd sweot trickled o' their broo's an' deawn ther backs
Then Bluster graspin' axed “Wheer's Bill?" “Hush!" whispered Joe i' fear,
When suddenly, voice a beside 'em huskily sed “Here!
We're in a bonny pickle neaw—an' Joe it's o throo thee!"
“Do hush!" Joe whispered Warnin'ly, “or wi us it's U.P.!"
Peep throo this hoyl; yo'll' nootis as id tails a bit on t' swing!"
“Aye!" Bill sed wi' a shiver, “that's a sign its beawn to spring!"
“Do shoot id Bill!" moaned Bluster, Bill murmured “Nay nod me!"
“Thee shoot Joe!" but joe answered “Aw've a wife and family!"
Shoot Bluster!" soft he mumbled, “Hey, a durssend for my life.
For if owt wrong shod happen, aw shud catch id fro' thi wife!"
So theer they tawked i' whispers, feelin' gradley bad for sure.
When suddenly they heard another long an' dismal roar!
“Neaw, chaps, lets shoot together, —an' kill yon wild brute wi' speed,
Or else we'st o be torn i' bits" to thad they o agreed.
An' o them three brave spooartsmen aimed where th' stinkin' lion stood,
Then bang—bang—bang! Three repooarts rung clearly into' wood.
“Look if it's deod!" said Bluster. “Aye, its laid yon on id side!"
Wur Bill's reply. “Twur me as shot id deod," he sed, wi pride.
Well, Bill if id be thine, then thee fotch it id here" Bill said “Go look!"
and looked as if he'd happier be if he could tek his hook.
They heard another roar, an' trembled, then Joe raised his heod.
“Ave watched id chaps id never stors—id tail's still—an' its deod."
Then cautiously They went to't, but soon left it—for id stunk
An' never sed another word, but seet of and geet drunk.
At th' alehoawse where they went to wur a lot o' ther own soart,
An' Dick an' Sam wur tellin o'er their lion-huntin spooart.
O't three chaps seemed uneasy—but took t' chaffin' I' good part
An 'later on wur o ta'en home, well fuddled, in a car,
But th' tale hed reyched ther hoams awhile afore the landed theer
An' th' nayburs fairly laughed or 't, till they brasted varra near.
Hey! duddn'd o th' fooak titter an' ax Bill for mony a day
“Who shot th' deod lion wi' t' wick tail, on t' sly, up Samlesbury way?"
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