“The General Fox Chase”


"I am a bold undaunted fox" who has always paid his rent and taxes. The land agent evicts him. "I stole away his ducks and geese, and murdered all his drakes." The "fox" becomes the target of a manhunt across Ireland and escapes to "the land of liberty"


Zimmermann: "This ballad shows how a probably hateful character could become a gallant hero in the eyes of the oppressed peasants. Michael Hayes had been for many years the ruthless bailiff of a land agent, for whom he was said to have evicted more than one thousand people in one parish alone.... When he grew too old for this job he was allowed to stay on the land as a farmer, but a notice to quit was finally served on him too. He shot the agent in a hotel in Tipperary, (30th July, 1862)." In spite of a manhunt he was never caught.

Neither Zimmermann nor the Bodleian "The General Fox Chase" broadsides mention Michael Hayes by name; the slightly longer Bodleian "Gallant Michael Hayes" broadside mentions his name in only one line (I have reformatted the lines to emphasize what weak rhyme scheme there may be):

They searched the cellars underground,

The lime kilns, and each dwelling house,

And packet steamers there was found

To cross the raging sea,

But not meeting any chance,

They took another trip to France,

But still were baulked in their tramp,

They never met Gallant Michael Hayes.

Once these lines disappeared the remaining lines could be taken to apply to any fugitive. Zimmermann: "In 1865, a ballad singer was arrested in South Great George Street Dublin, for singing 'The General Fox Chase', which was then supposed to refer to the vain pursuit of Fenian fugitives. (_The Nation_, 4th November, 1865.)" - BS

Cross references


  • Bodleian, 2806 b.10(136), "Gallant Michael Hayes" ("I am a bold undaunted fox, that never was before on tramp"), H. Such (London), 1863-1885; also 2806 c.8(103), 2806 b.10(100), "The General Fox Chase"


  • Tom Lenihan, "Farmer Michael Hayes" (on IRTLenihan01)


  1. Zimmermann 68A, "The General Fox Chase" (1 text)
  2. Munnelly/Deasy-Lenihan 19, "Farmer Michael Hayes" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Roud #5226
  5. BI, Zimm068A


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1862 (Zimmermann)
Found in: Ireland