The Bards of Newcastle

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                                               George Ridley


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John Cunningham Thomas Thompson John Shield James Stawpert
William Stephenson Robert Gilchrist William Mitford Thomas Wilson
Robert Emery Joseph Philip Robson Edward Corvan George Ridley
Joe Wilson William Henderson Dawson James Horsley George Charleton Barron
John Taylor Howland Harrison Richard Oliver Heslop Alexander Hay
John Craggs Edward Chicken Thomas Whittle John Selkirk
George  Cameron Henry Robson John Leonard William Watson
Wiliam Armstrong C.W. Barnes William Olliver Thomas Marshall
David Ross Lietch Robert Emery William Stephenson Jun. Robert Nunn
John Brody Gilroy John Peacock James Rewcastle Edward Elliott
Michael Benson Ralph Blackett John Kelday Smith Matthew Dryden
John Atlantic Stephenson Tommy Armstrong Charles Purvis (C.P)
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Edward Chicken
Author of Collier's Wedding. Born Newcastle in 1698.Parish clerk at St. John's, teacher. Residence- White Cross, Newgate Street.
Died 2 January 1746 buried St. John's Churchyard

Thomas Whittle
Residence= Cambo. Eccentric. Born Long Edingham? Shibottle?, Ovingham?.  Worked for a miller after arriving on an old goat.
a "dsiciple of Bacchus"  Painter. Died East Shaftoe, buried Hartburn April 19,1736. Known for a song writing wager with William Carstairs.

John Cunningham
John Cunningham "whose name and fame will for ever be identified with Newcastle", was born in Dublin in 1729. His parents , who were of Scottish extraction, seem to have had their share of "fortune's buffets and rewards".-his father rising through winning a prize in a lottery, and falling again as a bankrupt.  The son was recalled from the Grammar School at Drogheda-drifted to the theaters, at seventeen wrote a play, "Love in a Mist." which was performed at Dublin, and afterwards at Newcastle--took to the stage, and finally settled at Newcastle as a member of the dramatic company which then travelled the North.

At Newcastle he seems to have won the friendship of Mr. and Mrs. Slack, and for the Newcastle Chronoicle, of which Mr. Slack was owner, he wrote short notices and trifles in verse , which added to his income.  In 1766 he published his poems by subscription.  He was advised by his bestfriends, to dedicate the volume to the celebrated Mrs Montague, of Denton Hall (just outside of Newcastle), but preferred to dedicate it to David Garrick, and walked the distancefrom Newcastle to London with a copy, elegantly bound, only to find himself treated with indifference and neglect.

On June 20,1773 he took his last benefit at Darlington and returned to Newcastle unwell, where, at his lodgings in Union Street, on September 18th, 1773, he died, in his 44th year, and wasa buried in St. John's Churchayard, a monument being placed over his grave by Mr. Slack, of the Newcastle Chronicle.

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Thomas Thompson
Some of the best songs in  praise of Newcastle  are by writers to whom the old town, however kind, stands but as a foster-mother.  Foremost amongst these must be classed Thomas Thompson, who, in addition to being one of the earliest and best of Tyneside writers, may be further honoured as one of the founders of Tyneside song.  Thompson, thus not a native of Newcastle, was born in 1773 in the neighbourhood of Bishop Auckland, where also his boyhood was passed, his father, who was an officer, dying of a fever when his son was young.   To Durham as a youth he was sent to finish his education and enter business.  From Durham to bustling, stirring Newcastle was but a step; that step while quite a young man he took, and thus from early manhood until his untimely death, Newcastle, whose praises with such pride he sung, claimed him as her own.

Once settled in Newcastle (about 1790), his energy and ability soon brought him to the front.  The times were stirring.
"Should haughty Gaul invasion threat"
struck the keynote of the period, nad Burns but reflected the feeling which had been aroused by the French threats when he joined the Dumfries Volunteers. All over the country volunteer regiments were forming.  IN one of these,
"the Newcastle Light Horsse, " Thompson ,young as he was (about twenty three), showed the position he had won in the town by being appointed Acting-Quartermaster, and a little later on Captain.

Curiously it is in connection with Burns that we come upon the first trace of Thompson as a writer.  He mus have written much before, but as yet it is untraced.  Burns died July 21st, 1796.  In the Newcastle Chronicle, about six weeks later, an elegy on his death appeared; it was signed J.H.  In the library of the Antiquarian Society, in Bell's "Notes and Cuttings," from which thsi is condensed, it is said the elegy was a vile heap of plagiarisms.  Thompson, young nad impulsive, in an anonymous sheet, pointed out these plagiarisms.  For that he got no thanks form J.H. (John Howard), a teacher of mathematics who had succeeded to the school of the famous Hutt.n...

Sixteen years after his confrontation with Howard Thompson turns up again. In 1796 he was connected with Mr. David Bell, wollen draper, at the lower part of Middle Street Groat Market side. Five years later the directory of 1801 lists him on the Quayside as a general merchant trading as Armstrong, Thompson & Co.  Thompson became known for his volunteer work. His son Captain Robert Thompson was less than four years old when his father died.  Thompson is mentioned in 1812 in Bell's Rhymes of Northern Bards. He credited as authoring the New Keel Row, Canny Newcastle and Jemmy Joneson's Whurry also in 1812 he is noted as the author of Election New Song.  He prosperedas a merchant with his offices in the Broad Chare and near the Skinner's Burn, at the foot of Forth banks. He had a large timber or raff yard and built Cotfield House on the Windmill Hills, Gateshead. Thompson died January 9 1816 at age 43 during the flood while trying to protect his property on the river. He is burried at Old St. John's.

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John Shield
Born Broomhaugh near Hexham 1768. He turns up on Newcastle in 1800 running a  large wholesale and family grocery business.
In 1803 his name is on a petittion protesting taxes. Shield is noted for his works about William Scott (Cull Billy). He wrote
the famous successful appeal for his aid.  His Lord Size and Fair Delia appear in Northern Songster in 1806 and his song Oxygen Gas
was noted as being sung at the Theatre Royal.He died August 6 1848 in his eightieth year.

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John Selkirk

"The Otway of the local muse".  Born just over the blue stane o' the brig. Gateshead. Father George Selkirk= hairdresser in the Close.
John was clerk with Messrs. Strake and Boyd Quayside. Known for the Bob Cranky songs written when he was in his 20s. His songs
turn up on the Northern Minstrel or Gateshead Songster 1806-7. Selkirk also wrote Swalwell Hoppin'. Returned from London to Newcastle
around 1830.
Inquest of his death= Newcastle Chronicle Nov. 18, 1843-
"....on the body of John Selkirk aged 60 who fell into the river near Sandgate on Saturday evening, and
was drowned.  The deceased was a person of singular habits anddisposition, and had formerly
been a respectable merchant in London; but latterly was so reduced in circumstancesas to subsist
upon the charity of the benevolent.  For some time in the past he had slept nights on the shavings
of a joiner's shop in Sandgate, and refused to accept parochial relief. On Saturday evening he was
observed to carry a tin bottle to the river to obtain water, when he unfortunately fell in...."

Burried November14, 1843 plot Number 655  Ballast Hills burial-ground

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James Stawpert

Stawpert is responsible for Newcastle Fair which is to be found in Bell's Rhymes.   He took up the cudgels in defence
of The Bards of the Tyne against Charles Purvis. He also wrote John Diggons and Trafalgar's Battle also in Rhymes and
Angus' Garlands.Stawpert,  according to Bell's Notes was a clerk with Burdon & Rayne brewerrs, Quayside. His songs were
written about 1805. Not much else is known of him.

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George Cameron

Author of The Pitman's Revenge against Bonaparte written 1804 (falsely attributed by some to Shield) . Hairdresser in the Cloth Market. Sargent in one
of the Volunteer regiments.  Sang the song to his fellow volunteers at the Three Indian Kings, Quayside. Died= June 20
1823, age 55. He is credited with authoring only this one song. He is burried in St. Nicholas' Churchyard.

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Henry Robson

Born at Benwell near Newcastle. Resided in Newcastle in 1812 as recorded by Bell. Author of The Colier's Pay Week and other poems. He also
wrote The Tyne, Hydrophobia, Jean Jamieson's Ghost, Colliere's Wedding Pitman's Pay and others. . A printer who worked with Angus who printed Bell's work.
Not known as a dialect writer. Worked as printer with Mackenzie and Dent and at home. Died= Grenville Terrace Dec. 21, 1850 at age 785.
Obituary- "he had workded 60 years as a printer, was the oldest member of the profession in the town, and was much respected by a numerous circle of friends."

William Stephenson
Born June 28th 1763 Gateshead. One of the earliest Tyneside writers. Apprenticed to James
Atkinson of Church Street- clock and watchmaking. Disabled by severe accident, left watchmaking
to become a scholar and schoolmaster. His school was opened on the Church Stairs, Gateshead.
1812 Quayside Shaver is include in Bell's volume along with Skipper's Wedding (titled then= The Invitation)
1832- published a collection of songs dedicated to Rev. John Colinson, Rector of Gateshead. This
includes: The retrospect and describes Gateshead. He also wrote The Age of Eighty. He was known for
singing this song. Died- Gateshead, August 12, 1836 at age 73.

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John Leonard
Author of one song in dialect: Winlanton Hopping. Poet. Born Gateshead? Father George Leonard
was a Gardener. John was trained as a joiner. Burial and date of death unknown.

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William Mitford
Born Preston Near North Shields, April 10, 1788
An important songwriter. Parents died when a child brought to Newcastle by an uncle at
age 3-4 years. Apprenticed to shoemaker in Dean street possibly to the father of Willie
Armstrong. The Budget or Newcastle Songster was published in 1816 by Marshall, in the Cloth
Market. This work contained 11 songs. Mitford is known for: Cappy, The Pitman's  Courtship and X.Y. 
Mitford played the part of the bisiop in the coronation held on the festival of St. Crispon
by the Cordwainers July 29, 1823 at the Freeman's Hospital, Westgate. At this tim he quit
shoemaking and opened a public house on the edge of the Leazes, near to the Spital tongues, 
called: North Pole.  While there he wrote the song: The North Pole. Laterhe left the North Pole to
go to the more central Tailor's Arms at the head of the Side.  William Watson mentions him as being 
there in 1834.  Eventually Mitford retired to live in his own house in Oyster Shell Lane at the head
of Bath lane. He died tehre on March 3 1851 at the age of 63 and is buried at Westgate Cemetary,
Arthur's Hill. 

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Robert Roxby
Famous in colaboration with Doubleday for fishing songs. Roxby was the elder. Born Needless Hall and became a clerk with Sir
W. Loraine and with Sir M.W. Ridley at banks in Newcastle. Died= July 301846 age 79 and is buried at St. Paul's  burial ground
at top of Westgate Hill.  In The Fisher's Garland (signed by R.R. ) Roxby is responsible for the manuscript and Doubleday the lyric.

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Thomas Doubleday
Poet, politican and merchant. A poet both lyrical and dramatic. Doubleday was prominent in the Reform Bill and Chartist agitation.
He was not successful in business. He wrote: The Auld Fisher's Lament in 1841 which may be autobiographical.
Doubleday is responsible for the lyric of The Fisher's Garland which he produced with Robert Roxby. He lived at Gosforth
outisde Newcastle. He died December 18 1870 at age 81.

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Robert Gilchrist
Born Gateshead,St. Mary's Parish, Sept 8, 1797
Known as one of the Brightest of the Tyneside writers.
Father was a Newcastle sailmaiker. Robert was apprenticed to William Spence,sailmaker
At age 21 in 1818 he received a silver medal from his companions in appreciation for
his poetry. In that year he took us his freelage with a musket for the defence of the town.
In 1817 he was drawn by ballot for the militia for this duty he found a substitute Matthew 
Winship a High Bridge shoemaker. Gilchrist's first book Gothalbert and Hisanna
was published in 1822. In 1824 his Collection of Original Songs, Local and Sentimental
was published by Mitchell.  The second part appeared in 1826 (his last publication)  published by 
W. Boag. Gilchist produced sacred works which show him to favor the philsophy of
the Glassites.  He married Miss Morrison. Gilchrist took over his fathers business near the
Custom House on the Quayside in 1829.  He was not successful in the business prefering
the country and long walking tours. Gilchrisrt resided in the old house facing Shieldfield Green.
In 1838 he wrote of the destruction which threatened his house.  The house was spared.
Gilchrist as a freeman took part in the "barges" event and was foremost in the Freemen's steamboat.
He" had a slight cast in his eye and when telling a humeorous story this eye did half the business"
Died= July 11, 1844 atage 47, buried = East Ballast Hills burial ground. 
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James Morrison

Wrote Newcastle Noodles and Burdon's Address. Born: Moorson's Court, Groat Market, Newcastle.
Apprenticed as painter. Went to edinburgh around 1830.  Burdon's Address was published in Marshall's
Chapbooks, 1823. Newcastle Noodles was published in Marshall's volume 1827. He was a nephew
of the scholar Dr. Morrison.

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William Watson
Wrote Dance to thy Daddy and Thumping Luck to yon Town and other songs.
A painter and politician.Residence= St. Martin's Court, Newgate St. He wrote election songs for his favorites. These he wrote between
1820 and 1840. His song Newcassel Races was publshed in Marshall's Collection in 1827. Fordyce
published his later works(1842). Thumping Luck an important song is said to have been written in London.
Died= St. Martin's Court, Newgate St. Feb.4, 1840, age 44. Buried St. John's Churchyard.

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William Armstrong

Wrote Lizzie Mudie's Ghost and other songs.  Born= Painter Heugh, Newcastle, 1804.
Fater=shoemaker in Dean St. Bound to Mr. Wardie a painter at the White Cross Newgate St. worked as
journeyman.  Known as Willie Armstrong.  Songs were about alughable extravagances involving Keelmen
and Pitmen. A singer who was known for singing his own songs. Armstrong was a member of the Stars
of Friendship social club.  Went to London around 1833-4. A "rough and amusing writer" The earliest of
his songs known is the Jenny Howlet published in one of Marshall's Chap-Books in 1823. The rest of his
songs were published in Marshal (1827) and Fordyce (1842).

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C.W. Barnes

Responsible for publishing the Shields Song Book in 1826. He may have had something to do
with the writing of some of the songs..

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William Oliver

Wrote Newcassel Props one of the best of the old Tyneside songs. Born in the Side, Newcastle, Jeb 5 1800. Father=cheesemonger.
William became a draper and hatter who worked with Mr. Bowes, the Bridge End, Gatesehad. Later after trying business on his own
he joined his brother Timothy as a grocer at the corner of High Bridge in the Cloth Market. A collection of his songs was published in
1829 dedicated to Robert Bell, Esq. Mayor of Newcastle. He sympathisedwith the agitagion proceeding the passage of the Reform Bill
of 1832. Of his political songs is England Awake. Oliver took part in social gatherings at public houses with tradesmen after business hours.
He was very popular as both singer and writer. Such groups were- Sons of Apollo, Stars of Friendship, and the Corinthan Society.
His songs were highly popular. Died= Oct. 29 1848, burried= Westgate Cemetery,  Arthur's Hill.

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Thomas Marshall
Apprenticed as brush-maker with Mr Laidler, Carpenter's Tower and later worked as journeyman there.
First published a collection of his songs in 1829. The best known- Blind Willie, Euphy's Coronation. Both
mention local eccentrics. Marshall is described as slight, dark and a little under the middle height.
Died around 1866 at around age 60 at his residence Shield Street, Shieldfield of a paralytic attack. Buried
All Saints Cemetary January 2 1867 right-hand side of the main walk one-third of the way up and about ten
yards from the edge of the walk. At breaks at work he would sing with a favorite being- Thumping Luck to
Yon Town. He was a member of the guild of bellringers of All Saints Church. Most of his songs were written
before or at around age 21.  He was born on Silver Street.

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Thomas Wilson
Trapper Boy, Schoolmaster, Merchant and Poet
Born Gateshead Low Fell, November 14,1773.
Went to the pits at age 8 as a trapper boy.  The last piece he wrote when over 80 years of age
was The Market Day. Wilson educated himself and became a schoolmaster. He eventually became
a Clerk on the Quay and then bacame a partner with Mr. Losh.  1807 the parntership became
Losh, Wilson and Bell.  He moved to a residence on the place where he was born: Fell House
where he spent the rest of his life.  Routledge produced an edition of his works.  The first part of his
Pitman's Pay came out in Newcastle Magazine in 1826 with two other parts coming out in the
next two years.  His earliest pieces date  to 1824. 
Died= 9 May 1858 age 85. Buried- St. John's Gateshead Fell.
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David Ross Lietch

Known for The Cliffs of Old Tynemouth. Born= North Shields. Practiced as a medical man.. 1838= Published Poetic Fragments.
Retired to the Lake District. Died there= Aughst 16, 1881. Buried= Crossthwaithe churchyard.

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Robert Emery
Born Edinburgh, Sept. 26,1794.
Wrote Sandgate Pant and Hydrophobie and others. Moved to Newcastle when
young.  Apprenticed as printer with Mr. Angus in the Side. Write children's nursery rhymes
for penny and halfpenny books.  Wrote about the great frost 1813 in a song with partner 
thomas Binney in 1814..  Emery wrote first two verses. Worked as a journeyman for many years
in the town. His songs which became very popular wre written at this time. Around 1850 he
started business on his own as a printer in Silver Street. He pursued this for about 20 years. 
A year before he died he moved to larger premises at the foot of Pilgrim Street.  Died- March 20
1871 at age 77. Buried- All Saints' cemetary after a large funeral. Emery wrote a song each year
for his  fellow work mates at Lamberts in Grey Street for their anual trip. He worked at Lamberts
before going out on his own. Hydrophobie was first published in "Original Local Songs" published by 
Edgar in 1825.  Marshal in his 1827 edition of songs lists Emery as one of a trio of local bards who break into 
song concerning the removal of the fishwives from the Sandhill. His Jean Jamieson's Ghost appeared in 
Fordyce 1842 . 
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T. Moor
T. Moor was a shoemakere who carried on business at Denton Chare. A bass singer of note and member of the choir
of St. Andrew's.  Mrs. Leybourne yet remembered as a popular favorite, singing both at the Theatre
Royal and public concerts was his daughter. He wrote only one song- The Skipper's Dream.  Robert Emery, the
famous Tyneside writer when having too much to drink used to regularly sing this song. Emery may have had
something to do with the writing of the song.

William Stephenson, Jun.
Son of a song writer. Born Gateshead Sept. 2 1797 worked as a printer first at the Bridge End, Gateshead.
Published The Tyneside Minstrel a collection of local osongs in 1824 with contributions from his father and
others. Stephenson supplied hawkers with songs and other works. His Beggars' Wedding is found in The
Tyneside Minstrel. He wrote under the letter S and X proudicing sentimental songs. These include:
The lass that shed a tear for me and Ellen. He published his fathers volume of poems and songss in 1832. Also
around 1832 he worked on the sixpenny monthly newspaper magazine The Gateshead Intelligencer. This work
Started in 1830 and ended in 1833. Stephenson's works got him int trouble with the Gas Company and was
forced to make an appology. Died= May 20, 1838 age 40. He is noted as being much respected.

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Robert Nunn

Known as Bobby Nunn. Profession- slater. Due to falling off of a roof he lost his eyesight. He worked as a muscian- a fiddler.
In addition to playing the fiddle he sang and composed songs. Robert Emery wrote about him in The Sandgagte Lassie's Lament.
He performed his own songs.  Died- Queen St.,Castle Garth, Newcastle, May 2, 1853 age- 45. "A Newcastle man, and had the Burr in all its delightful purity"-
W.h. Dawson. Nunn is not considered to be an intelectual. His main skill was as performer. He was famed for playing for women's
events, boxes or benefit clubs. A heavy looking man, a great favorite at resorts. During the day Bobby turned wood for turners and cabinet-makers.
He also made bird cages. Died= 1853. He wrote: Sandgate Lass on the Robery Banks and Blind Wilie's Death.  The earliest publisher
of his songs is Fordyce 1842. He was known for singing: The Poor Aud Horse and The quarter of Currans but these songs have been lost.

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John Brodie Gilroy
Famous for his son The Noodle. This seems to be his only song. He was Foreman atLambert's Printing Office, Grey Street. He was well read
with ready wit and great natural ability. He was famous for extradordinary sayings uttered when he was angry.  He is known for being warm hearted and generous beyond his means but he had a hot and firey temper. He led a pure andsinless life. Died- Early 1853 at age 35. Buried- with his trousers and boots on, Westgate
Hill Cemetary.

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John Peacock

Native of South Shields. Seaman- from age of 12. Taken prisoner during French war,  confined in North of France.
Shoemaker, chartist, co-operative store keeper, second-hand bookseller. His business was in South Shields Market Place.
He was known as being sober, intelligent, sharp witted, and  a public institution. A poet with most of his work appearing
int the Shields Garland of 1859. died 1867.

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Joseph Philip Robson
"Bard of the Tyne and Minstel of the Wear"
Born Bailiffgate, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Sept. 24,1808.
Authored some of the most important local songs. (see his autobiography).
Lost parents at early age. Mother died when he was 6 father when he was 8. Father prepared
for priesthood at Stoneyhurst College but due to health did not complete this course of study
and became a Catholic School teacher.  Robson was sent to apprentice as a plane maker. Lifting
a heavy log of wood he severely sprained himself and was forced to become a schoolmaster.
He was a poet fom an early age. In 1831 he published Blossoms of Poesy his first work with
Poetic Gatherings coming out in 1839, The Monomaniac in 1847, Poetic Pencillings in 1852
Hermione the Beloved in 1857 and Evangeline or the Spirit of Progress in 1869.
He became a celebrated poet and a friend of prominent poets of the day. He received a gift
of  twenty pounds from the queen. Two musical friends convinced him to start writing in the dialect.
In 1849 he wrote the life of Billy Purvis. In 18490-50 he edited The Bards of the Tyne which was
a collection of local songs. This work included some of his own songs. Prince Lucien Bonaparte 
commissioned him to create a version of the Song of Soloman in Lowand Scotch. 
Robson contributed to Chanter's Comic Almanack and he wrote a weekly letter which was always
signed- A retiort Keelman and written in local dialect for the North of England Advertiser. 
In the middle of 1869 while having Evangeline printed Robson suffered a paralytic stroke. He
improved somewhat but it lead eventually to his death on August 26, 1870 at age 62.  He is buried 
in Jesmond Old Cemetery. Enter the gates turn to the left about ffity yards on the left is his grave.
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Edward Corvan
Born Liverpool, brought up in Stockbridge.
About him Joe Wilson wrote- "Comic iv iv'rything, clivor at owt."
Moved to Newcastle at age four. At age seven his father died. Corvan was brought up by his mother.
Known as Ned.  His works Ne place now te play and the Death of Billy Purvis are thought to be autobiographical.
He was known for extravagance and nonsence.  He worked as a sail maker. As a youth Corvan was fascinated by
Billys or the Victoria Theater and after sailmaking did not work out he joined Billy Purvis's dramatic company.
With the company he played violin in the orchestra and sung comic and local song. Corvan also painted scenes
and worked at bill sticking.  He was not successful as an actor and did only small parts.  Corvan was most successful
with his songs. An early song was He wad be a Noodle which was successful.  He then became an important
part of the compayn at about age 20. Around 1850 the Railway Company purchased the public grounds from the
City Corporation.  (The Forth). Part of this near the Infirmary was let to Madame Tournaire for use as a circus.
The circus was changed into a concert hall called the Olympic (Managed by a Mr. Howard)  when the circus was 
not in session. Corvan left Billy and joined the Olympic company as a singer. He was very successful.  At this
time his songs Oh, what a price for sma' coals and Ne place now te play wre popular.  Soon after he wrote Asstrilly or
the Pitman's Farewell and Asstrilly's Goold Fields which were also very successful. Corvan is known as being the first
to compine both writing songs and singing them in character as a profession.  With sucess in this line he quit his 
dramatic pursuits. With this popularity Corvan traveled the North singing his Tyneside songs. He was also successful
on the road.  Eventually he settled in South Shields operating Corvan's Music Hall, Wapping Street for several years
befor giving it up to return to local singing.  Corvan brought speaking or pattere into his songs.  He would draw with chalk
on the blackboard accompanying his drawing with patter.  Corvan produced the song The Fire on the Kee which was 
also very popular.  During this song he dressed as a female street hawker looking for her son Jimmy. One man almost
laughed himself to death or close to it. Died at his residence, Newgate Street just below St. Andrew's Church age 35 buried- 
St. Andrew's Cemetary. In addition to writing and performing Corvan was a good painter and painted sea pieces and landscapes.
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George Ridley
Born Gateshead, 10 February 1835
Sent to Oakwellgate Colliery as trapper-boy. Soon went on to the Goose Pit (The Gyuess). Ridley worked there
for 10 years befor moving to Messrs Hawkes, Crawshay and Co as waggon-rider where he stayed for three years
leaving after a severe injury following an accident involving a wagon which went out of control and crushed 
him.  He was thereafter unfit for regular work.  Ridley then turned to his abilities as a singer of Irish comic and
old Tyneside songs. He worked professionally first att the Grainger Music Hall where he brought his first
local song- Joey Jones. This was very popular. Later at the Wheat-sheaf Music Hall (later the Oxford)  he was also successful.
Following this he performed at the Tyne Concert Hall newly opened by Mr. Stanley where he came up with the
reole of Johnny Luik-Up the Bellman. At this he was very successful as his likeness to the real person was very close.
He performed all over the North.  His songs sold well in cheap editions. He was known for The Bobby Cure and Johnny Luik-Up. Children
sang these songs in the streets.  After a short 5 year career his health started to fail. Died- at his residence in Grahamsley St.
Gateshead, Friday, Sept. 9, 1864 at the age of 30-. Buried- St. Edmund's Cemeterey. Ridley was not known as a writer
of songs with literary merit instead, he is celebrated as a performer and writer of songs which were extremely popular
and were sung. He had a fine voice and great powers of mimicry. Ridley's premature death is much regretted. While 
Allan does not draw particular attention to it his song the Blaydon Races has become the anthem of Geordie Land a 
tribute to his special ability to write songs that would be sung and remembered. For his characters click here
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James Rewcastle

A temperance worker who brought the movement to Newcastle. A newcastle native
he worked as a printer and sold books from his shop in Dean Street. Rewcastle printed
the Temperanace Advocate an early temperance work. He wrote- As I woke one morning and
It was in Dark December among others. including Jackey and Jenny and others. His songs
were sung by fellow temperance worker Fenwick Pickup. Rewcastle retired from bookselling
and took a position of responsibility with the Newcastle Corporation. Died- Oct. 4 1867 at
age 66. Buried- St. John's Cemetary. Rewcastle's songs were never published as a collection.

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Edward Elliott
Known as E.E.  Writer of witty and humourous songs of great popularity. Alcoholic at an early age.
Defeated alcoholism and became a temperance worker and advocate. Lectured on the topic.
He told autobiographical stories of his illness. Died April 29, 1867 age 67 buried Earsdon Churchyard.
His songs include The Sheep-Killin Dog,and  Whitley Camp.

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Michael Benson
Member of the Stars of Friendship fraternal organization.  Known as probably the oldest master printer
in the town. Known for his address- The Birth of Friendship's Star which was delivered at the
anniverseay dinner Christmas Day, 1828.

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Joe Wilson

Born Nov. 29, 1841 at end of Stowl Street, Newcastle.
Father- Joiner and cabinet myeker and mother a straw bonnit myeker.
Both Newcastle natives. Became a printer at age 14. Wilson had long ejoyed
songwriting. His first book came out at age 17. Wilson celebrated the dialect.
He opened his own printing business at age 21 and was successful
with his: Wor Geordy's Account o' the Greet Boat Race atwixt Chambers an' Green
and soon thereafter he published a number of Tyneside Sangs. He is known for:
Aw wish yor muther wad cum, The Row upon the Stairs, the Gallowgate Lad and Dinnet clash the
Door which were all successful. His first professional job was at Pelton on December 1, 1864
followed by work at the Oxford Music Hall and then at Tyne Concert Hall, Newcassil.
After that Wilson toured the north with great success.  In 1869 he married and due to the
strain of travel he settled down in 1871 to serve as the landlord of the Adelaide Hotel, Newcastle.
This did not work out and after a year he was back touring. He became ill and died at his home
Railway St. at age 33.
Wilson was probably the most successful of the Tyneside song writers. He specialized in homely
songs. Wilson was popular far and wide.  He was successful in moving beyond the eccentrics
to focus upon the everyday life of the working clases.  A collection of his works appeared in 1890.

"Mr Joe Wilson, who has attained a great repute as the author of many popular local songs, was born in Newcastle on November 29, 1841; "but," writes Mr Wilson, "twentyminnits efter aw had myed me forst ippeerince, te the stonishmint o' neybors, wor Tom showed his fyece te dispute wi' me whe shud be the pet o' the family—an' he sweers he is te this day, becas he's yungist." Their father was a joiner and cabinet-maker, and their mother a strawbonnet-maker. The former died when thirty years of age, leaving the latter with four fatherless children to provide for and bring up. "At fourteen," the poet tells us, "aw went te be a printer. Sang writin had lang been me hobby, an' at sivinteen me forst beuk wes published. Since that time it's been me aim te hev a place i' the hearts o' Tyneside people, wi' writin' bits o' hyemly sangs aw think they'll sing." The great Scottish poet was possessed of a similar ambition in his early days, for he speaks, in one of his best pieces, of having—

"A wish—I mind its power—

That I for puir auld Scotland's sake
Some usefu' plan or beuk could make,
Or sing a sang at least."

But Mr Wilson set up as a master-printer as well as a song writer, and, however it might be with him in the former capacity, he soon entered upon a successful career in the latter line. "Aw wish Yor Muther wad cum," "Dinnet clash the Door," "The Row upon the Stairs," "Geordy, haud the Bairn," and numerous other songs, which now flowed from his pen in rapid succession, at once gained for themselves a warm place in the estimation and affection of many Tynesiders, from which they are not likely soon, if ever, to be removed. Mr Wilson is likewise a good singer— indeed, he should be heard rendering his own pieces—and he began to accept engagements at music-halls and concerts, where he became a great favourite. He was married in 1869, and, two years later, he became landlord of the Adelaide Hotel, New Bridge Street, Newcastle, where, ever and anon, he delights his numerous old admirers, while winning for himself additional friends, by writing, singing, and publishing some new song further illustrative of the manners and customs of Tyneside, and fitted to give the author a yet warmer "place i' the hearts o' Tyneside people." A complete edition of his songs has been published by Mr Thomas Allan, of Dean Street".

-William D. Lawson, Lawson's Tyneside Celebrities: Sketches of the Lives and Labours of Famous Men of the North , 1873

Alans Tyneside Songs


FROM an autobiographic sketch of Joe Wilson, which he published at the request, as he tells, of a few old friends, we extract the following, as furnishing. in the most interesting manner, the leading events in the life of this most popular Tyneside bard :--

"Me fether wes a joiner an' cabinet myeker, an' me muther a straw bonnit myeker. an' byeth natives o' the canny aud toon o' Newcassil. Aw wes born on the 29th o' Novembor 1841, at the end o' Stowl Street; but &11' twenty minnits efter aw had myed me forst ippearince, te the astonishment o’ neybors, Wor Tom showed his fyece,  te dispute wi' me whe shud be the ‘pet o' the family,'- an' he sweers he is te this day, becas he’s the yungist!

“At fowerteen aw went te be a printer. Sangwritin' had Iang been me hobby. an' at sivinteen me forst beuk was published. Since that time it's been me aim te hev a place i' the hearts o’ the Tyneside people wi' writin' bits o' hyemly sangs aw think they'll sing. At twenty-one aw started business for me-sel as a printer; and at twenty-two aw myed me forst success i' publishing, wi' ‘Wor Geordy’s Accoont o' the Greet Boat Race atwixt Chambers an' Green;' an' next aw browt oot me forst number o' Tyneside Songs. Later on i' the syem eer aw wrote ‘Aw wish yor' muther wad cum,' throo seein' me bmther-in-law nursin' the baim the time me sister wes oot, nivor dreamin' at that time it wad turn oot the ‘hit’ it did.

“ ‘The Row upon the Stairs,’ ‘The Gallowgate Lad,' an' 'Dinnet clash the Door’ wes me next successes: the last one (me mutber bein' the subject) nearly lickin' ‘Geordyhaud the Bairn.'

“Me forst perfessional ingagement wes at Pelton, i' December 1864; me second at the Oxford Music Hall; an' me thord at the Tyne Concert Hall, Newcassil. Since then aw’ve been i’ nearly ivry toon i' the North. an', aw’s happy te say, wi' the syem success aw’ve had i’me native place."

Joe Wilson's Autobiography only comes down to 1867. Two years later he married; and although he still continued singing his songs as successfully as ever at the various concert halls in the North, yet the travelling from place to place, and the absence from home it necessarily caused, made it less agreeable now than before. This feeling strengthened with time, till, in the year 1871, he settled in his native town as landlord of the Adelaide Hotel.

Joe's career as a landlord. was short. After little more than a year he gave it up, and started his concert life again. Never robust. his health began to fail, and after a lingering illness he died at his residence, Railway Street, in his thirty-third year.

Beyond all comparison Joe Wilson has been the most successful of Tyneside song-writers. His wish to have a place in the hearts of the Tyneside people by writing homely songs they would sing has been amply gratified. His name throughout the North is a household word; and far beyond the North, in distant lands, wherever North countrymen are settled, there his songs are prized; their truthfulness to Tyneside life vividly recalling the old home far away. The songs of the older local writers generally relate to particular occurrences, eccentric characters, and the like; Joe Wilson, while not neglecting these, has gone further, and has presented to us pictures of the everyday life of the great mass of the working classes of Tyneside. "The Row' upon the Stairs," “Geordy, haud the Bairn," " Dinnet clash the Door," “We'll nivor invite them te tea ony mair,'" etc., are truly photographs in verse of Tyneside working-class life, and so faithful is the delineation. that they only, the subjects of his pictures, can fully appreciate their truth and accuracy. Although now the author of hundreds of songs, his later efforts show no falling off: "The Time me Fethur wes bad," " Be kind te me Dowtor," etc., only strengthen and increase a reputation that must ever remain one of the brightest in the annals of Tyneside song.

The above, to which a little has been added, appeared in the 1873 edition of this coIlection. For a fuller life of Wilson the reader is referred to the new collected edition of his works (1890), Of that edition, it may be added. it has been noticed most favourably by the highest literary papers of the day-The Athenaeum, Literary World, The Spectator, The Saturday Review, and others.


under construction

1890- Joe Wilson, (author) Songs and Drolleries.



ME fethur wes a joiner an' cabinet-myeker, an' me muther a straw bonnit myeker, an' byeth natives 0' the" canny aud toon 0' Newcassil." Aw wes born on the zcth 0' Novembor 1841, at the end 0' Stowl Street, close agyen Darn Crook, an' not a hundrid miles frae Gallowgate, but twenty minnils efter aw had myed me forst ippeerince, te the stonishmint 0' the neybors, Wor Tom showed his fyece, te dispute wi' me whe shud be the "pet 0' the famly," an' he sweers he is te this day, becashe's the yungist! Aw cannet egsactly rickollect what teuk place at that remarkabil time, but aws warn'd the wimmin foaks wad heh thor drops an' cracks the syem as ivor, not forgettin te drink the hilth 0' the new-born twins, an' wishin me muther seun better agyen, ivor se monny times ower. Shortly efter wor borth, wor foaks teuk't i' thor heeds te shift, te Gallowgate, an' it wes here where me fethur dee'd, at the arly age 0' thorty-one, leavin me muther .wiv a famly 0' fower, besides her-sel, te bring up the best way she cud; Tom an' me at that time not bein three eers aud. Weel can aw mind the struggils me muther had, but she work'd wiv a gud heart, an' nivor flinched frae the task afore her, her consint study bein for the gud 0' her bairns. Tom an' me wes varry young when we forst went te St. Andrew's Scheul, i' Peercy Street, where a few eers efter, for the benefit 0' me-sel an' wor foaks, aw wes myed a free skollor. But Tom diddent fancy't.-It wes the forst time aw had wore different claes te him; an' it had been me muther's aim te keep us drest alike, for the likeness betwixt him an' me wes sumthin wunderful, an' the blunders it creates is varry laffabil. At fowerteen aw went te be a printer; an' shortly efter that we left Gallowgate, the street se famous for greasy

bpawls, legs 0' mutton, sowljors, an milishamen, te leeve " farther doon the toon," Sang-writin had lang been me hobby, an' at sivinteen me forst beuk wes publish'd. Since that time it's been me aim te hey a place i' the hearts 0' the Tyneside people, wi' writin bits 0' hyemly sangs aw think they'll sing. At twentyone aw started business for me-sel as a printer, an' at twenty-two aw myed me forst success i' pubJishin, wi' ""Vor Geordy's Accoont 0' the Greet Boat Race atwixt Chambers an' Green." It wes this eer me nyem first figor'd i' the titlepage 0' Chater's Comick AlmanackJ' an' next aw browt oot me forst number of Tyneside Sangs. Later on i' the syem eer aw wrote" Aw wish yor Muther wad cum," throo seein me brother-in-law nursin the bairn the time me sister wes oot, nivor dreaming at that time it wad turn oot the" hit" it did. "The Row upon the Stairs," "The Gallowgate Lad," an' "Dinnet Clash the Door" wes me next successes; the last one (me muther bein the SUbject) nearly Iickin "Geordy, haud the Bairn." Me forst perfessional ingagemint wes at Pelton i' Decembor 1864; me second at the Oxford Music Hall, an' me thord at the Tyne Concert Hall, NewcassiI. Since then aw've been i' nearly ivry toon i' the North, an' aw's happy te say wi' the syem success aw've had i' me native place,-aw cuddint wish for owt better, an' it'll always be me study te desarve the syem ower agyen. "May nivor warse be amang us."

. Nov. 29th, 1867.

Such is Joe's brief characteristic autobiography of his early years. To it a little may be added before proceeding with the later period of his life. To begin, Joe omits to say that his father, besides being a native, was also a freeman of Newcastle. This freelage he inherited; consequently as a freeman, Joe had the rights of the old inhabitants of the town. Although thus linked with the standards of Newcastle, his father's family originally belonged Alnwick, John Burnett of "Nine Hours" and "Labour Bureau" renown, an old "Duke's scholar," being a relation. His mother, Miss Knox of Ouseburn, was true Tyneside, her family being old residents in Newcastle. Frank Robson, of Market Lane, Pilgrim Street, to whom Joe was bound, was a printer in a very small

way; he seems never to have got fairly established, and finally closed after Joe had been about four years with him. Possibly it would be in this office that the laughable incident of "The Man wi' the Broon Top-Coat" took place (see page 444). Several printing offices saw Joe through this closing, amongst others the Newcastle Guardian office, where he worked a short time. It would be at Robson's office, when seventeen, that his "first beuk" would be printed; it was a small venture of eight pages, and doubtless would be set up in his spare moments to distribute amongst his friends. About this" first beuk" it may be further mentioned (a fact which does not appear in the autobiography) that it was a book of sentimental songs and poems. Strange as this may appear to those who only know Joe as a writer of Tyneside songs, yet it is the fact that it was as a writer and singer of sentimental songs that he first made his mark. Later on, when in Tyneside song he found his true vocation, he gathered and destroyed all the copies he could find of this early sentimental venture, his twin-brother not being able to save one, only preserving the following lines, which formed part:·THE TWIN-BROTHERS' BIRTHDAY. BY JOSEPH WILSON.


 Dear brother Tom,

Our birthday's come, And now we're seventeen; 'Mid smiles and tears, Seventeen long years Have glided like a dream Since first we saw a mother's smile Beam on us like a ray Of pleasing hope throughout life's path, To cheer us on our way. And now we gaze Upon those days, Which memory paints so fair, When we have played, And often strayed Far from a parent's care; We think upon our childhood's days, Affection then expands Throughout our breasts, with brother's love We grasp each other's hands.

Together we Will ever be As we have everbeen; Let yearsroll on, We think upon Each fondand cherishedscene, Sincefirst we cameinto this world, Together, yet one in heart, Let us then hope, and trust in God, We ne'er willhave to part. Gifted with a sweet tenor voice, singing was Joe's delight, and to be a choir boy his great desire. At St. Peter's, where he applied, owing to some reason or other he failed; but at All Saints' he succeeded in his application, and there for years he sang in the choir, only leaving after he had grown to manhood. To this period of his life doubtless many of the moral touches which point his songs owe their origin, as "Life's winter may bring happy days te sum, But still rememberthis, tho.'croonedwiearthly bliss, Thor's anuther an' a better world te cum." Concerts known as "free and easies," held in publichouses at this time, were common; there was also a series of Saturday evening concerts in the Lecture Room known as the People's Concerts. Joe's love of singing drew him to these. One of his popular pieces at these concerts was "Paddy's Adventures in his Sleep," a comic medley. This might be called his first hit. It might also be called an extra, as "Nelly Gray," " I'm leaving thee in sorrow, Annie," and the ordinary sentimental songs of the day were what Joe generally sung. When the Working Men's Club was established, Joe was amongst its first members, and wrote a rhyming appeal for its support. To counteract the attractions of the public-house " free and easies " the club started popular concerts. Joe was a leading spirit in this; he regularly sung, and here the character of his singing changed. Sentimental songs, which up to this time were all he sung, now gave place to local. Bob Chambers, then in his glory, was Joe's idol, and on him he wrote his first local song. It was but the beginning; its success carried him on; the sentimental was discarded, local now was his only fancy. "Peg's Trip," "Sally Wheatley," "Aw wish yor Muther wad cum," these were quickly written, and sung by him at the club. This was his

turning-point; shortly after he gave up amateuring and took entirely to the stage. When Joe, giving up his amateur singing, cast
himself for support on the public as a Tyneside writer and singer, he showed the faith he had in himself.

JOE WILSON SINGING. [From a Photograph. P, M. Laws, Newcastle.]

The field was by no means unoccupied. George Ridley, famous for his "Bobby Cure" and" Johnny, luik up,"had died two months before, but there was Ned Corvan, a popular idol, still to the fore, ready to contest with him the possession

of the stage; while as a song-writer, J. P. Robson, justly famous, was wielding his pen as brightly as ever. Joe succeeded in spite of all opposition; he struck out a new vein. Corvan copied the old Tyneside writers, with their broad humour and burlesque tone in treating of local subjects. Robson, more finished, was of the same school. Joe dropped the burlesque altogether; he enlarged the scope of Tyneside song, and showed that the dialect could be used for more than subjects of an extravagant or burlesque character. "Jimmy joneson's Whurry" and" Bob Crankey's Adieu," admirable specimens of the old, were to have companions of a later type in" Dinnet Clash the Door" and" Aw wish yor Muther wad cum." His first professional engagement, he writes, was at Pelton, but that was only for one night; his real professional career may be said to date from his appearance at the Oxford Music Hall. The" Wheat Sheaf," long carried on by Mr. Balmbra, was about to pass into the hands of Messrs. Bagnall and Blakey. Joe for years had been a member of the Highland Society, a benefit society held at the house of Mr. Baird. Sir John Fife regularly took the chair at their annual meetings, and Joe, in Highland fashion, was the Bard of the society, and sat at the chairman's right hand. After Sir John Fife's death Mr. Bagnall was made chairman, and there heard Joe sing. He wished to engage him for the opening of the "Wheat Sheaf," which they had re-named " The Oxford." Mr. Blakey, his partner, feared Joe was not strong enough to be heard in the hall; but Mr. Bagnall, who had got a high opinion of Joe, engaged him, and the result justified him, as Joe was a great success. Mr. Bagnall, pleased with his success, went behind the stage and congratulated him upon the hit he had made. After leaving him, Mr. Bagnall was surprised when he got back to the front to see Joe already there. "Hallo," he cried, "how have you got here, Joe?" "Aw'm not Joe," said the party addressed. " Not Joe," said Mr. Bagnall, puzzled; "if you are not Joe, then who in the world are you?" " Aw'm Tom," was the reply. It was Joe's twin brother, as pleased as anyone at the hit of the night. The wonderful ikeness between the two, unknown at the time to Mr. Bagnall, had led to his confounding them. Nightly for three months Joe sang at the Oxford, and on the occasion of his benefit a lady friend gave him a large dressed doll with which he came on to the stage and sung his" Aw wish yor

Muther wad cum." Up to that time he had always sung the song with two handkerchiefs made up into the figure of a doll. Joe often sang at the Oxford after this, and always spoke kindly of Mr. Bagnall as one of his best friends. The representatives of the old and the new did not always agree. J. P. Robson weekly wrote a letter in the dialect for the North oj England Advertzser. In it he made areference to Joe, who at the time was engaged at the Oxford Music Hall. The reference annoyed Joe; he considered it unfair; vexed he went to the Advertiser office, and finished his visit with something like the following; "Keep me oat 0' yor paper, dinnet menshun me nyem at all; awjust want te be let alyen." Despite this brush, Joe, above jealousy and incapable of unfairness, in his acrostic on Robson (after his death) paid a generous tribute to his genius; and, when a monument was raised to Robson's memory by his many admirers, Joe, ill at the time and unable to walk, but anxious to see it, went in a cab to the cemetery to see the memorial of his great rival, and weak at the time, according to one that was with him, was much affected. "Ambition, that last infirmity of noble minds," has its companion in the poet's love of praise. Joe had his share of this failing. Never a boaster, never offensive, the high opinion he had of the merits of his own works came out in conversation so naturally, and apparently so unconsciously, that while at first the ear caught it, yet after a while it ceased to be noticed. The rapidity with which Joe composed his songs was surprising. Once at his printing-office, while his twinbrother inked the roller for him while he pulled the handpress, he -kept between the pulls jotting down on a sheet of paper. The song thus jotted down as he worked was "The Lanlord's Dowter," There was a certain fitness between this song and the place in which it was written, as joe's printing-office was in a room forming part of the" Travellers' Rest," a public-house in Marlborough Crescent kept by his sister's husband. Early in r865, visiting Mr. and Mrs. Hair -old friends-while at tea something in the conversation appeared to set him on ; he kept every now and then jotting down in his pocket-book. What he thus jotted down, after tea he read to them. "It's Time te Get Up" was the song he had thus written; and so around the tea-table they first heard the laughable troubles of young Mary Brown and her sleepy Ned. His twin-brother, lately married, and his wife,

were of the party. Doubtless this set the conversation into the channel which brought out the song. Their hostess on this occasion came to her death in a tragic manner some years later. The famous sculler, James Taylor, and family were leaving for America. Mrs. Hair and other friends were at the "Central" seeing them away, when, in shaking hands at the carriage-window the engine moved, Mrs. Hair was thrown down, and falling between the platform and the rails, was killed on the spot. About nearly all of Joe's songs there could be told little incidents like these. He accidentally put his foot upon a young woman's dress, and "Maw Bonny Gyetside Lass" was the result. The same young woman took ill of a fever, and was not expected to recover. Joe went to see her, and " Meggie Bell" was written. Again a friend mentioned a conversation he had had with his sweetheart's father. The same night" Be kind te me Dowter " was written. About these humble love affairs it may be added they went the way of many more exalted ones" The courseoftrue loveneverdid run smooth." It was only for "One neet ;rack Thompson sat beside his canny sweetheart's fethur,' and H 1Ve'Il hev a crack, the aud man said, since here we've met together," led to nothing; it was the end instead of the beginning. Nearly all Joe's songs like these have a foundation in fact, and relate either to incidents or persons that came under his notice. About the songs this also may be added: the order in which they were written is pretty much the order in which they are printed except the boat-racing songs, which are gathered together at the end. Off-hand, so to speak, as these songs were written, they were no rough drafts, but the finished songs as we have them. After a song once took shape with Joe, he seldom or never altered it; as the tree fell it lay. Once he brought a song, which he thought he might touch up. He took it away; when he brought it back, what had been a mere incident in the song-a woman lamenting amongst her troubles that her son had listed-had been worked into the central idea. The song thus revised was" Jack's Listed

i' the Ninety-ire." But this was a rare case; Joe seldom could see where even a trivial alteration could be made. In 1862, when the present publishers, encouraged by the success of printing a song by W. H. Dawson on the opening of the Stephenson Monument, brought out a new edition of local songs, Mr. Beall, who printed it, when busy occasionally engaged Joe as an extra hand. Joe about that time had started for himself at Marlborough Crescent, and appears to have had a little time to spare. It would be at this office in Marlborough Crescent that he would print the first numbers of his own songs. On the cover he had" The Canny Newcassil Foaks' Fireside Budget: Joe Wilson's Tyneside Sangs and Ballads." Each number consisted of eight pages. Besides being his own printer, he also at this time did a little of his own bookselling, calling upon the shopkeepers and supplying them with his songs. After he gave up printing he passed his songs to Howe Brothers, Gateshead, where he had worked, and they printed (with Mr. Fordyce, who did a few of the later nnmbers), what up to the present has been the only edition of his songs to be had, Joe himself setting the greater part of the type. While he worked at Howe's, for an almanack which they printed about 1860,he wrote two companion pieces, which appeared side by side, "Aud Nelly's Advice tiv her Dowter," and" Bob Hobson's. Advice tiv his Son." Although these in his volume he prints as recitations, "Bob Hobson" first appeared in the almanack as a song to the tune of "The Spider and the Fly." He seems to have been at home at this Gateshead office; there they recollect how at tea-time he used to set, not the table, but the fireside "in a roar." Sitting around the fire at their teas, if the humour seized him, a trifle was enough to set him on. Anything lying about, perhaps a bill they were printing, he would take it up, and proceed in such a cornie way to read it, that often their teas were never finished for laughter. His eyes, which were large, brimmed over with fun and drollery, and as he abandoned himself to the humour of the moment, voice; gesture, and wit all combined to make his mock performance irresistible. One result of these outbursts of humour was that something like the following was often heard at tea-time. "Joe, aw'rn not gawn te sit beside ye; aw want me tea the neet; aw'm gawn upstairs." Although thus full of life and merriment, he was constitutionally weak; and while other printers stood at their work, Joe had a seat, and laughingly

excused himself by saying he could do more sitting than they could standing. In 1869, "basking in the sunshine of an early fame," as his friend W. H. Dawson wrote, he married, Miss English, of jarrow, being his choice. This marriage by-and-by brought changes. His life as a professional, singing allover the country, took him much from home. While single, that did not matter, but now with a wife and child it was different. Always a keen lover of his home, his feelings at this period may perhaps be best shown by a verse from a song he afterwards wrote" Lass, aw'm sorryaw's not wi' yeFairly forcedte be away; Frae me little wifean' fam'Iy, How aw spend the varry day Myeksus wundor, ay, an' wundor, An' keep narvisas can be, For aw'd like ye, an' aw's sartin Ye'll kiss little Joe for me." He took the worse with this separation, as he had just had a long spell of settled life. For nine months he had been manager of a new concert hall at Spennymoor, and now that ended, there was only the old travelling before him. Being at this time at the height of his popularity, he determined to give up his wandering concert life, and settle in his native town as the landlord of a public-house. A suitable place-the Adelaide Hotel in New Bridge Streetwas offered him, but the ways and means in Joe's, as in many other cases, was the difficulty; but, anxious to be settled, he sought the help of his friends. Oddly enough, for his present purpose two of these were teetotallers. They hesitated not so much at helping as at the form it took-to be joint guarantee for the landlord was getting rather too closely connected. But Joe pressed. If he could only get set away he was sure to do, he had so many friends. He would start a Free-and-Easy, and finally, "Ye say ye wad like te see us de weel, an' now here's a chance that'll be the myekin on us, an' ye'Il not help." No suggestion of any other business would do; he was set upon the Adelaide. A compromise was come to; instead of a guarantee for so much, the amount was advanced as a loan (afterwards honourably repaid), and in 1871 the Adelaide got its new landlord. His liking for the familiar Joe was shown by the

ingenious way he arranged the letters of his name above the door; they appeared thus, JOSEPH WILSON. At a rough glance the large letters read JOE \VILSON, while a nearer reading showed the legal requirements of the full name above the door had been met. For a time all went well, then the temptations of a publican's life told upon him; friends would treat him. The difficulty of saying no, and saying it in time, increased; while the trials of a landlord from his half-drunken customers were at times more than he could bear. As unfit for rough, personal struggles as he well could be, once overhearing a rude remark applied to his wife who assisted him in the business, he "let flee" with the cry, "Tyek that;" and speaking further about it, said, "Man, had he been twice the size, it wad hae been the syern ; aw was that narved." About a twelvemonth of this life was more than enough. Worsened in every way, disappointed and sickened with the whole business, he gave up the Adelaide-his ideal of the life of a landlord shattered. It was about this time that a friend, meeting him, asked how he was getting on in his publichouse. "Badly," was the reply; "if aw drink wiv iv'rybody that asks us, aw's a drunken beast; if aw dinner, aw's a surly beast,-aw'll heh te be oot on't," Up to this period upon the drink question he had been amongst the moderates; his songs are full of kindly allusions to drink; the spirit of them all being moderation; as " A drink 0' beer the heart 'ill cheer, An' myek the momintsglad," " Aw like the man that tyeks his gill, An decencyhauds dear." These may be taken as samples, but at the Adelaide he had seen how difficult, and more, how dangerous, this moderation was. He was not above learning; his songs henceforth were to have a different tone. He changed completely, turned a teetotaller, and joining one of the Good Ternplar bodies, never afterwards flinched from his order. or " 'What's thenext case,'saidthe magistrate,buthe seemedte knaw, aw think, It wad be like a the uthers, throe the drink-the wearydrink." This was now the spirit of his writings. Temperance Songs, Readings, and Recitations, the result of this change,

were produced about this time. These, like the rest of his writings, were no fancy sketches, but real pictures of everyday Tyneside life. The names of many, as "Cum hyem wi' me," " Drink ne mair," "What a fyeul ave been," "De withoat it for once," tell their every-day tale; while in " Clivor Men," he thus champions the abstainer against the drinker :

" Ye may talk aboot c1ivormen bein greet drinkers, An' reckon yor-selas a one 0' that sort, An' run doon tetotal te chepsthat's not thinkers, But, hinny, what sayye te Cowenan' Burt?

So dinnet brag se whenye talk aboot drinkers, Or dinnet ye run the tetotalers doon ; Thor's men that's abstainers can proveas greet clinkers, An' myek thor-selsknawn te the world i' renoon. Sobriety myeksa man's heed always clearer, He's welcum,respected, knaws hoo te behave; Te byeth frinds an' familyhe'll ivor be dearer,It dissent need whiskeyte myek a man brave."

While in this earnest fashion fighting for his new love, he had yet another fight to face, and one that caused him much anxiety. When he gave up the Adelaide, he had given up his livelihood, such as it was; and now the question rose, how was he to live? Some of his friends advised him to try the press. His popularity as a writer was undoubted; he might study shorthand, and once on the press he was secure. He got Pitman's "Phonographic Teacher." Mr. Hayward, of the Express, was seen; he was favourable, and would do what he could; but in a couple of weeks Joe returned the shorthand guide. "It wes ne use; he wes sure he cud nivvor lam." Positive as he was in lines he had tried and where he knew his powers, he yet was naturally diffident. This decision was the more to be regretted as his "Man wi the Broon Top-coat" showed he could shine in story as well as song. The press idea had to go. For a time he followed his old trade ofprinter with Mr. Fordyce, who just then had an order to print an edition of Tyneside Songs. Joe worked for a while at this congenial job, and then a longing for the old life seemed to come over him-a longing to have an audience again under his spell, and once more to hear their applause ringing in his ears as he sung them his homely songs. That he might not be too dependent on his concert hall engage

ments he arranged an entertainment of his own, to give in schoolrooms, etc. He got a magic lantern. Stuart-Bell, of the Wear Music Hall-a friend of whom Joe always spoke most kindly-let him make slides from his paintings of " The life of a ship from the cradle to the grave." To these he added temperance and local slides (portraits and views), and combining with them a selection of his own songs, made a very interesting entertainment. He gave a few performances, the first being at the British Workman, Nursery Cottage, Scotswood Road, on February 6th, 1874. It was a success, and he had high hopes of it; but failing health and a pressure of concert hall engagements, kept it unfortunately in the background. He had been so long absent from the concert halls that he was much sought after, and went through the north singing his songs, on one if not two occasions going as far as Glasgow. It was at Glasgow, while singing on the stage (I think at the Britannia), that he first felt acutely the presence of the disease that was fated to bring him, like his father, to an early grave. He was singing, when suddenly there shot into his side a pain so keen, he felt, as he put it, "as if a knife had pierced him." After a rest he strengthened a little, and sung at several places, but gradually he grew weaker, until all engagements had to be given up. The Royal Star Theatre, Stockton-onTees, was where he last sung. There he had his benefit on Friday, September 4th, 1874. This benefit, to the credit of the manager it may be added, was not part of Joe's engagement; but seeing he was ill, it was kindly offered so that Joe might be helped through his illness. While he was thus finishing what was to be his last engagement, in the Literary World (London), of August 28th, 1874, the following notice of him and his songs appeared :"Newcastle·upon.Tyne has always been famous for its local poets, who, in homely words and strange vernacular, reflect the passinghumoursof its busypopulation. It is a smoke.enveloped town, but the centre of immense activity; and its thousands of grimy workmen are full of fun, enterprise, and honest thought. Joe Wilson,a localpoet, is one of their favourites; and no wonder, for he is a genial spirit. He knowshis fellow-workmen,and is not ashamed oftheir lowlylot. We wouldnot for a momentcompare him with Elliott, Capper, Waugh, Barnes,or Robert Burns, all of whom found inspiration in local themes; but he is a poet for all that, and, to those who can interpret the local dialect, his works affordno smallpleasure."

Joe was much pleased with this notice, which showed his fame was extending; it cheered him a little under the depression his illness cast upon him, and it was the more gratifying in coming, as far as he and his friends were concerned, unsought. He had now returned to his home at Newcastle, but finding after a time that he was getting worse rather than better, he resolved to accept the kind offer of Mr. Rowland Harrison, Tyneside writer and vocalist, who at that time kept the Commercial Hotel at Winlaton, and go and stay with him for a time as a change. While there his friends in Newcastle interested themselves in getting up a benefit concert. This came off on October roth, 1874. As all who took part gave their services, his friends, Mr. W. H. Dawson, Mr. J. M. Marr, and his publishers, were enabled to take up to Winlaton a sum which greatly cheered poor Joe, who fretted about the future of his wife and children. While at Winlaton, in the last letter his publishers received from him (unfortunately not dated, but written about October zSth, 1874), he writes that the doctor gives him "good heart of ultimate recovery." He refers to the concert, mentions he has written to Mr. Elliott, Chief-Constable of Gateshead, (always friendly to him, and who had been at Winlaton to see him), and then adds, "I am glad to know that I am not forgotten, and that some inquire after me,for I really think that I deserve somethinf{ to pull me through the winter." The conclusion of this letter is here given and a fac-simile on the opposite page ;" I would like to see my children reared. It might be done, and I hope it may; but it cannot if I have to make my living on the stage. But.r might take engagements for one nz;~ht at a time if I recover. And I hOfe Imay,jor so many have tried to make me lose heart. 1should like to pull through to please my friends, such as George-Dawson, and yourself, and your old friend-Joe, ready to write for you whenever well." The change to Winlaton, unfortunately, failed to do him good. His and his twin-brother's birthday was drawing near; wherever they had been so far, they had always contrived to keep this birthday together; he resolved to come back. Accordingly, on November 27, he returned to his home at Railway Street, Newcastle, where the two brothers, on the 29th, kept what was to be their last birthday meeting. As may be readily imagined, the meeting would be a sad one; little by little his hopes of recovery were weakening. He had been anticipating r875 with high hopes. He was clear of

the Adelaide and its associations, and was busy with literary work. He had his eye on Hartley's Clock Almanack, a yearly publication in tbe Lancashire dialect, and was preparing material for a Tyneside one on similar lines. He had its title-page drawn up; it ran thus-" Joe Wilson's Comic Tyneside Almanack, full 0' the Funniest kind 0' Fun, Laffable Sangs, Comical Stories, Queer Drolleries, an' Sittera, Be Joe Wilson, the Real Tynesider." His illness interrupted this: the hopes and anticipations with which he


was preparing to greet 1875 are here printed for the first time. It is an interesting fragment of his unfinished project

"Gud luck te sivinty-five! Mayweall contented thrive, An' wi' lucky cuts contrive Te keep health an' strength alive; Myek worhyemsa bissyhive, As honestlywe strive, An' mayne bad luck deprive, Us ov owt we'd hev arrive, But victoriouslysurvive, An' throo care an' trouble drive, I' the year 0' sivinty-fiveI"

Of all the good wishes he is here so lavish of, none were fated to be his. As the winter set in, Joe got worse; he grew weaker and weaker, despite the care and attention with which he was nursed; and finally, on Sunday, February rath, 1875,he died, quietly, as if going to sleep, at the age of thirty-three years. His early death excited general regret. His funeral at Jesmond Old Cemetery was largely attended, and over his remains and those of his infant son, who died two months after him, and was laid in the same grave, a plain monument is erected. This, which is in the form of a broken column, after recording the dates of his birth and death, has the following from his autobiography carved upon it


After the funeral, to make some provision for his widow and three children, an appeal was made to the public. The editor of the Dally Chromde was treasurer. All classes contributed, the amounts varying from twopence. In about two months, one hundred pounds was raised, which helped the widow very much in her single-handed fight for herself and family. The Newcastle press was most appreciative. Their notices, which are very interesting and form an important part of this sketch, may fittingly be introduced here ;

From" The Northern Daily Express," Feb. 18, 1875.

" The interment of the remains of the late popular local poet and vocalist, Joe Wilson, who died from consumption after a lingering illness, took place yesterday afternoon in the Old Cemetery, Jesmond. The funeral procession, consisting of the hearse, two mourning

From: a Photograph


coaches, about a dozen cabs, and a large number of persons on foot, assembled in front of the house of the deceased. The cortege then moved forward to Jesmond Old Cemetery, where all that remained of the once popular poet was consigned to its parent earth. Amongst the large concourse of people present we noticed Mr. Rowland Harrison, Mr. W. Derbyshire, Mr. W. Elliott; proprietors of the New Tyne Concert Hall, Messrs. Bagnall and Blakey; a number of the representatives of the theatrical and musical pro· fession of the town and neighbourhood, besides numerous other friends of the deceased, many of whom had come from a distance to pay their last tribute of respect to his memory. Mr. Elder, Mr. J. M. Marr, Mr. Kirby, and Mr. Thomas Allan, officiated as pallbearers. On reaching the grave, the Burial Service of the Church of England was read over the corpse in a solemn and impressive manner by the Rev. W. W. F. Keeling, curate of St. Stephen's. The deceased was much and deservedly respected by a large circle of friends, who were to be found especially amongst the working classes on Tyneside, to whom he had endeared himself by the touching pathos of his simple songs." From" The Daily Chronicle," February 15, I875. "One of his earliest appearances before the public was at an amateur concert given in the Lecture Room many years ago for the benefit of Ned Corvan, who was at that time ill. Joe sang his own songs, which struck the audience as novelties, and the manner in which he rendered them won for him many admirers. His voice was sweet though somewhat thin, but he had a very happy way of imparting varying shades of pathos and humour to suit the words of his melodies, which was very pleasing and telling with the audience."

From: "Newcastle Weekly Chronical," Feb. 20, 1875 THE GOSSIP'S BOWL.

"Poor Joe Wilson will be regretted by thousands of my readers, and as they sing over his 'bits 0' hyemly sangs' they will reflect that no common man has gone from amongst them. I don't think there are many men with such a tuneful faculty as Joe. His songs have become household words on Tyneside, and for many a mile round about. He was a good, genial, and always welcome spirit. He made you laugh until you nearly cried. He was none the worse because his talent was rough and uncultivated. He spoke to the hearts of his readers all the more readily on that account. I t is a wonderful faculty that of song-writing. Only very few men have possessed it, and certainly few local poets ever had it in greater perfection than Joe; his productions are songs merely, and not poems. They don't pretend to be anything; but they are just the sort of thing for the people for whom they were written."

From" The Newcastle Daily Journal." Saturday, Feb. 20, 1875.

"Proud as the inhabitants of Newcastle are of their great men, it has too often happened that, like the prophets of old, they were not during their lifetime' without honour, save in their own country.' But this is not so with men whose productions refer to the daily life and habits of the people. Their songs and poems go right to the hearts, to the hearths and homes, of their readers; and though the obscure provincialisms of the Newcastle dialect place a limit to their fame, their celebrity during their lifetime, and after their death, though confined within a narrow area, is amongst admirers whose esteem has something: of a family tinge. Of all the racy songwriters of Novocastrian celebrity, I think none have taken such a peculiarly popular position as Joe Wilson, who breathed his last on Sunday afternoon, at the early age of thirty-three, a few years younger than either Burns or Byron, neither of whom, talented though they were, could have possibly written his songs. Far below great poets of wide fame, Joe Wilson honestly and effectively did the work he was qualified to do, and instead of becoming, as he might easily have been, a miserable far-off echo of a Byron, or a Scott, he just yielded to the fresh burst of native song that welJed up within his heart, and by faithfully reflecting his vivid impressions of the humble life and scenes of his boyhood, has immortalised himself, at least in Newcastle, by a series of of a thoroughly unique description. 'The Gallowgate Lad,' 'The Row upon the Stairs,' and other songs, will never be forgotten in Newcastle; they have become standard songs, and will be sung long after more pretentious compositions have passed into oblivion. The thoroughly human character of Wilson's compositions must strike every reader. What, for instance, can excel the humorous description of the embarrassed good-man left to nurse' the bairn'

'He haddint its muther's ways; He sat both stiff an' numBefore five minutes wss past, He wished its muther wad cum! ' 'The Row upon the Stairs' is of a different character, and is full of local humour. Not the least merit of the deceased poet was the purity of his muse, Often rough and racy-necessarily vulgar in language-there is no approach to impropriety. His face was bright and genial, and the writer, though not personally acquainted with him. will not soon forget one occasion when he met Joe in a shop at Newcastle, where he was purchasing a pair of boots. Joe was in a funny mood, and compelling a companion to sit down, proceeded to take his measure in the most comical style of extravaganza. The gestures and the dialogue are now forgotten, but the vis comica,the wild drollery, were absolutely irresistible, and stopped all business for a few minutes •... He will be sorely missed, long remembered, and mourned as a =ifted singer and a kind, genial man."

From the North of England Advertiser," Feb. 20, 1875.

"In announcing the demise of Joe Wilson, the well-known and ever-popular song-writer and vocalist, we know that a chord of sympathy will be struck in many thousands of the hearts around Tyneside who have listened with enraptured ears to his cheerful homely strains. There are few places in Northumberland and Durham where he has not made his name a household word. With the slightest possible tinge of dialectism, his effusions were such as to appeal to the narrowest minds and the most enlarged sympathies. 'Native here and to the manner born,' he looked around him on his fellow-man, saw his foibles and failings, wove them into verse, and let the world hear his voice, This is the true province of the poet, whatever may be said about any 'mute inglorious Milton.' But Joe disclaimed being a poet. As he said to us some years ago: •I don't call myself a poet, I call myself a song-writer.' But however he may have narrowed his sphere in his own estimation, there is little doubt he had some slight sprinkling of the divine infiatus in him. "At at early age Joe went, with his twin-brother Thomas-who survives him, younger 'by something like twenty minutes' -to St. Andrew's School in Percy Street. Remaining there a few years as an ordinary scholar, he was elected to be a free scholar. In all charity schools, as they are called, in connection with the Church the children retain the costume of the period when they were founded. Joe, therefore, would be decked out in corduroys, green jacket, braided with red, and a green cap, something similar to a Scotch bonnet. There is no disgrace in wearing these habiliments, however uncouth they may be held at the present day; for be it remembered Newcastle's great architect and restorer, Richard Grainger, born under similar circumstances, had to be what is termed' a green scholar.' Benevolent individuals subscribe to the funds of the school, and according to the amount of their snbscriptions they can nominate scholars to be free, generally taking care to elect the most deserving by their necessities. It is perhaps to be regretted that the recipients of such charity are made so objectively conspicuous. "At the age of fourteen Wilson was put to the business of a printer. We have just a hazy recollection of a mild and gentle youth coming between us and his first master, Frank Robson, some nineteen years ago, little dreaming that that youth in after years would come to look upon us as a friend, and would eventually, as it were, 'become father to the man.' But so it was. Whatever truth there may be in the assertion that the poet is born, not made,

it is undeniable that a connection with printing has fostered the blossoms of genius in many a one. This must have been the case with Joe, for he tells us that at the age of seventeen his first book was printed. "From that time to some nine months ago, when he was seized with the illness that has cut offhis usefulness, he continued to throw off his effusions. Of course we do not look upon him, and as he expressed it, as one who ever thought of striving for the laureate wreath, or of even attaining a niche among the galaxy of great names who have made their native land redolent with the glory of their fame. The poetic faculty may be granted to many; to be enrolled among the supreme of any land is granted to but few. Joe's sympathies lay within a narrower radius; his object was to depict the scenes of which we are the midst; to have,' as he expressed it, 'a place in the hearts of the Tyneside people,' by having the privilege of writing homely songs which he thought they would sing. That he has attained the object ofhis simple ambition is undeniable; wherever the ling'o loci is understood Joe's songs are welcomed and appreciated. Respecting the character of his songs much may be said. While coarseness was a main feature in the elder bards of 'Canny Newcassel,' Joe never brings the blush to the cheek of maiden modesty. Without presuming to condone the vices of our elder bards, we would say he thereby lost much of that grasp and manly vigour which possessed his elder brethren of the local lyre. But one reason why we admire Joe's songs so much-irrespective of the modest, unassuming, and amiable personal qualities of their author-is the depth of moral tone that pervades them. Indeed his hardiesse in that respect has been to us a matter of surprise. Some, with his facilities of expression, would have tried to uphold the drinking propensities of the music·halls. Within their walls, Joe said, Be careful-if ye want te rise, Be canny wi' the beer.'

"Old Fletcher, of Saltoun, exclaimed-' Let me make the songs of the people, and I care not who make their laws.' Compared with the frothy, unmeaning, and ephemeral trash termed comic songs, Joe's stand out in shining contrast. He seeks to convey no double meaning; whether the advice be given to male or female, there is no ambiguity in his language or expression. " Joe may be said to have struck out a new line of local song. Our elder bards were wont to take for example the characters they saw before them, when 'Canny Newcassel' could boast its worthies, and which the pencil of a Parker could so well depict. In those days the schoolmaster was abroad, and the lips gave utterance to the well-spring of the heart. Things are much altered in that respect, and we cannot help lamenting, with Dr. Bruce, that' our manly Doric will soon be a thing of the past.' c*

 'I have lately,' says a writer in Household Words, 'been dawdling through an old book-an old weazen, yellow-leaved book, commemorating the pleasantries of the remarkably business-like and money-making waggish town of "canny Newcassel," Incompatible as the two first qualities would seem with the last, "canny" Newcassel possesses them all. Those who have the pleasure of numbering among their friends some of those worthy fellows, with the stalwart forms, the gruff voices, the cool heads, the warm hearts, the at first almost incomprehensible, but afterwards sonorous and colloquial, dialect, hight Newcastle, or Newcassel men, will remember what prodigious wags these North-countrymen were and are. They will call to mind the droll songs delivered in apatois, which to the Southerner would be Sanscrit; the jokes of the pitmen, the facetious stories of Jemmy this, and daft Andrew that. Who has not read that yearling of barbarous humour, The Bairnsla Fouks' Annual? I have a great respect for Tim Bobbin, for the illustrious Pattie Nat, of Manchester, and for the Lancashire humorists generally; but for pre-eminence in sober facetise, and sly waggishness, I will decidedly back the children of that coaly merry town ofthe High Level Bridge.' "While speaking of the dialectism of our native town and our departed friend's writings, we cannot refrain frommentioning a circumstance which, in one sense, seemed to touch him deeply. Pointing out to us, in a volume of recitations published by a London firm, one of his own-if we mistake not, 'Bob Hobson's Advice tiv his Son,' from which we have already quoted, his remark was-and Joe generally spoke in the vernacular of Tyneside-' Aw waddint hae cared if they'd gien it as it wis written, but they've put it inte Yorkshire.' They were welcome, so far as we nnderstood him, to take any amount they liked from his writings, but his love for his native tongue could not bear to see them transmogrified into another that could not give <tnyclearer exposition of his ideas. "It is often treading on dangerous ground when it becomes the province of the journalist to speak of a friend lately deceased, Here, however, we can make no mistake. With tender heart and enlarged sympathies, Joe was more inclined to make a friend than an enemy. ' , In manners gentle, of affections mild, In wit a man, simplicity a child,' he sought the good feeling of everyone, and thousands on Tyneside will now count on having lost one of the 'cannyist' and gentlest offriends. " After having endured something like nine months of a.wasting sickness, which to his friends, if not to himself, it was palpable could only have one termination, he quietly sunk to rest on Sunday night, February 14th, about a quarter past five o'clock. His friends had been looking for it during the day. His end was

calm, or, as they expressed it, 'He only seemed to be going to sleep.' Thus passed away one of the most gentle spirits that ever breathed. "Although Joe Wilson has passed away from amongst us, his name is destined to hold a place in our local literature. His songs, originally published in the form of penny chap-books, so common forty years ago, have lately been collated into a volume, which will be an enduring monument of his genial nature and his untiring industry."

Local Letter, "North of England Advertiser," Feb. 20, 1875.

"Keeley" on the death ofJoe Willson.

"DEER SOR,-Aw've just cum frae seein won 0' the cannyist creetors layd doon tiv his last rest thit ivor breethed the breeth iv life-aw meen Joe Wilson. "Poor Joe wis cut off i' the bloom iv his manhood, when he'd nobbit seen thorty-three summors, when, as ye mite say, he wis in the varry summer iv his xistence. But a clood earn, sma' at forst; but it get hord as it went on, an' when the sun owt still te hey been warmin the wurld, the darkniss gethord roond, an' lang afar the harvist wis spent, the awd NME, thit tyeks hand iv a' wiv his hyuck, had cut doon the stem whin it wes fast ripenin tiv a heed. , Man cumith up as a floor, an' is cut doon.' An' varry offins the fairist floors suffor myest whin the canker entors the rut, Sic is the destiny iv man; he is born, blossims, an' fades, an' is seen ne mair. " But Joe Wilson hes left a nyem ahint him thit winnit suin dee oat. Aw mite tell ye the nyems iv a vast iv his sangs, but thor a' clapped doon i' the buik, se, aw winnit. But onny man thit hes been left at hyem te norse the bairn naws the trooth iv Aw wish yor Muther wad cum;' eigh, an' monny pleyces oat iv Sanghit hes seen a 'Row ippon the Stairs.' But the voyce thit lent a charm te thim is kwiet noo, an' 'ill be hard ne mair, An' mensefilly wis he layd doon in Jesmind Simmortoree amang the floors an' trees; an' the bordies sung as the dust wis shuvild on his coffin. Had they onny I D thor wis anuther singin-bord had cum te tyek up his kwawtors there?

"THE RETOIRT KEELMAN." This, arid the preceding sketch from the North of England Advertiser, were both written by William Henderson Dawson, a bookbinder, at one time occupying the old workshop of Thomas Bewick, in St. Nicholas' Churchyard. When J. P. Robson died, Dawson succeeded him as "The Retoirt Keelman," and wrote the local letter in the North of England Advertiser until his death in 1879. For the Advertiser he also wrote "Walks about Old Newcastle." In addition he was the author of many good Tyneside songs. These press opinions, so flattering to the memory of the bard, may fittingly be brought to a conclusion by adding the opinion of Dr. Robert Spence Watson. Dr. Watson's is a name known throughout the North. Some time after Wilson's death he delivered a lecture, entitled "A Gossip about Songs," and towards the end of that gossip he spoke some kindly appreciative words of Joe. That part of his lecture, by the kindness of Dr. Watson, we are now enabled to give. After speaking a little about the old local songs, "Canny Newcassel," "Jimmy joneson's Whurry," etc., he proceeds:"And nowjust a word in conclusionabout those of the present day. It says much for our popular taste that Joe Wilson should stand firstamongstour bards, forhis influenceis a sound one. He wassimpleand genuine, and won his popularity withoutany condescension to the supposed foibles of his audience. What a capital song, for example,is 'Aw wishyormuther wad cum,'a bit ofpure, absoluterealismof a good kind. Geordyhas to 'haud the bairn' whilst his wife goesto get the coals and flour. It was 'sair agyen his will,' for 'He haddint its muther's ways, He sat both stiffan' num,Beforefiveminuteswespast, He wished its muther wad Cum l' The song tells his many trials, his perplexity, struggle, and final triumph through kindness. 'It's ne use gettin vext' is his wise conclusion,and then ,At last,-its gyente sleep, Me wife'ill not say aw's num, She'll think aw's a real gud nurse'But-yes, in spite of victory'Aw wish yor muther wad cum!' " Previous editions of Joe Wilson's songs were really editions for the million. Issued (the first fifteen by himself) in penny numbers, or five of them stitched together as a part for sixpence, they sold amongst the working-men of Tyneside by

thousands; while the volume, also made up from the penny numbers-an unsatisfactory makeshift at best-had a large sale. It is intended now to issue an edition worthier of the merit of the songs. At one time it was thought that a selection would be best; that idea was given up, and all are reproduced. To the original volume of songs are now added the Temperance Songs, and the Stories which appeared in his "Budgit," thus making as near as possible a complete edition. In so much, doubtless, there is plenty of chaff amongst the wheat; time may be trusted to winnow the whole and make the work of selection easier, if at some future time one should be needed. So far time has but little weakened the popularity of Joe's songs. Fifteen years after his death, the School Board Inspector, Mr. Thomas Burns, in a volume of poetry just published, describing one of his visits to the poor, incidentally mentions how, in climbing the stairs, "Aw wish yor Muther wad cum" saluted his ears from one of the rooms of the tenement. Many of the poets sprung from the people go far afield for the subjects of their songs. Joe, in direct opposition to this, finds the subjects of his songs around him. He sings only of the scenes and of the people amongst whom he lives; and of these it may be said that his songs in their truthfulness are photographs in verse of their everyday life. It is in the town that he gets his inspiration: he sings of the streets and their many aspects of life; in them he muses on "What that man might heh been," as a "wasted life" passes before him, or as a different scene meets his eye he laughs at " Dolly's Lowse Peddikit." From the crowded tenement he hears the "war of tongues," and on his ear there jars the "clashing of the door" in the one-roomed house of the poor. It is of scenes like these that he delights to sing. He may not have the fancy or the imagination of some, but undoubtedly he has the gift, still rarer if not so precious, the gift of weaving into verse songs which the people delight to sing. The clannishness of the North is strong in Joe; the spirit in which Thompson fifty years before sung of "Canny Newcassel" is the spirit of his young successor. To the fair structure of Tyneside song he has added a new wing. The foundations of the old, laid nearly a hundred years ago by Thompson, Shield, and Selkirk, adorned at a later day by Gilchrist, Midford, and

Emery, has in our own day been strengthened and still further adorned by the addition of Joe's "homely and domestic." Like the old writers, he was proud of the town of his birth, and his songs, like theirs, reflect that feeling. His volume goes even beyond that; it reflects that wider feeling which is shown when his northern pride, shining through his line, he breaks out"For when aw sing, Tyneside it hes te be."

To the Editor of the" Weekly Cl,ronicie."

 " SIR,-Last week saw the erection in Jesmond Old Cemeteryof the memorial-stone to Joe Wilson, the local song·writer. The position of the stone is a little to the right (about fortypaces from the chapel door); there, modestlyhid amongst the trees on the left (about fifteenpaces from the edge of the walk), the stone is seen. Jesmond Cemeteryis rich in locallyhistoric remains, an interesting account of whichwas given in the T-Vcek1yChronicle about two or three yearsago. In addition to Joe Wilson's, its walls shelter the remains of another local poet; I refer to the late J. P. Robson, a more educated, though not a more prolificsong·writer. The general public mayby this time have forgotten J. P. Robson, but his 'Polly's Nick-Stick.' and the 'Pawnshop Bleezin'-two rollickingsongs-will foreverremainin the memoriesof Tynesiders. I am glad to say that the courteous superintendent, Mr. Everatt, intends to take the graves ofthe two poets under his specialcare. "J. H." "NEWCASTLE, July assr, 1890." "J. H.," James Horsley, author of the "Lays of jesmond," writer of the above letter, is himself a local song-writer, and has written many bright, genial songs in the dialect. A.

Joe Wilson's 'Tynes ide Songs and Drolleries'.

INTRODUCTION It is with pleasure that I write an introductory foreword to this facsimile edition of Joe Wilson's 'Tynes\ide Songs and Drolleries'.
At a period when there is a revival in folk music it is fitting that the songs of Joe Wilson should once more be brought to the attention of both the connoisseur and the layman. Of the Newcastle song-writers. Joe Wilson holds place above his contemporaries Ridley, Robson and Corvan in being able to demonstrate the use of dialect song to report simple everyday situations without recourse to burlesque and extravagance. In many ways he was more than a writer of 'homely songs'; he had the gift of the poet and can rank with the best of the country's dialect poets. Nor should it be forgotten that Wilson was capable of writing prose work and the collection of readings and short stories at the end of the volume clearly show his competence in this art form. Like most of his contemporaries he died at a tragically early age and it is to be wondered what he might have achieved given normal longevity. At the age of fourteen. Wilson became apprenticed to a printer, his first book of songs being published when he was seventeen. At twenty-one he set up his own printing business and published his first number of Tyneside Songs.

Early editions of his songs were published in the form of ld. chapbooks and the first fifteen he printed and published himself. As an alternative to the penny numbers, five issues could be bought together roughly bound for the price of 6d. They sold amongst the working men of the Tyneside area in their thousands. Joe Wilson still remains a legend on Tyneside and in the North-East. He was not only a competent song-writer but also an artiste, and toured many Clubs and Concert Halls. For a period of nine months he managed a Concert Hall in Spennymoor, Co. Durham, and he sang as far afield as Glasgow. His last professional appearance was at the Royal Star Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees, on 4th September 1874. Of his songs known today, one immediately springs to the mind of any Tynesider and North-Easterner, the famous 'Keep yor feet still Geordey hinny', which ranks in popularity with 'The Blaydon Races' and 'Cushie Butterfield'. When Balmbra's was re-opened a few years ago, as an 'Old Tyme Music Hail', this song featured regularly on the Bill, and it is indeed a Tyneside Classic. Of the other songs the most outstanding are 'Aw wish yor muther wad cum', 'The row upon the stairs', 'The Gallowgate lad' and 'Dinner clash the door'. There is a fund of local history material in Wilson's writings. Poems and songs can be found about his artiste contemporaries Ridley, Robson and Corvan, and such famous strolling players as Billy Purvis, buried in Hartlepool with a tombstone presented by Lord George Sanger. References can be found to local personages, occasions, and disasters such as the proposed visit of Garibaldi to

Newcastle; The New Hartley Pit disaster of 1862; lines to George Stephenson. Allusions are made to well-known Newcastle place-names: Grainger Street. Gallowgate, Leazes Park and Jesmond Dene. Finally. it can be said that Joe Wilson achieved his desire "T'hev a place I' th" hearts 0' th' Tyneside people. wi' writin bits o'hyemly sangs aw think they'll sing'. The traditions of Joe Wilson are continuing to-day with men like Alex Glasgow who collaborated with Alan Plater and Sid Chaplin in the recent successful West End musical play 'Close the Coal House Door'. The Tyneside and North-East will never be without its own brand of folk music.

-GORDON R. FLETCHER, A.L.A.. Borough Librarian. County Borough of Hartlepool Public Libraries. November 1969.


Joe Wilson (29 November 1841 – 14 February 1875) was a Tyneside concert hall song-writer and performer in the mid-19th century. His most famous song is "Keep yor feet still Geordie hinny". He was a contemporary of George "Geordie" Ridley. He wrote and sang in the Geordie dialect of Newcastle upon Tyne, his native speech.


Joseph "Joe" Wilson was born just before his twin brother, Tom, in Stowell Street, Newcastle upon Tyne. His father was a cabinet-maker, his mother a bonnet-maker.[1] He enjoyed singing from an early age and had a fine treble voice, which led to his becoming a choir boy at All Saints’ Church.[citation needed]

At age 14, he went to work as an apprentice printer with Howe Brothers of Gateshead. He started writing songs as a hobby, and by age 17 published his first book, managing to publish and distribute it independently. He later arranged for the printing to be done at Howe Brothers.

Wilson started performing professionally in 1864 and became a regular at the Wheat Sheaf [a] in the Cloth Market. He later moved to the newer, larger Tyne Concert Hall.[1] He then toured the North of England, selling his home-produced song-books like most artists of the day (for a halfpenny each).

He married in 1869, and two years later tried settling down to a less itinerant lifestyle. In 1871 he became publican of the Adelaide Inn[b] on New Bridge Street, Newcastle.[3] He was a publican for about a year, then he went back on the road, singing and writing. His act now included many "teetotal" songs, as he had taken the pledge.[4]
Commercial Hotel, Winlaton

His health failed when he contracted tuberculosis, as his father had.[5] A friend and colleague Rowly Harrison, publican of The Commercial in Winlaton, allowed Wilson to stay with him,[citation needed] as his pub was at a higher elevation, and therefore thought to have cleaner, more bracing air.

Joe Wilson died of tuberculosis in Railway Street, Newcastle, survived by his wife and three young children.[5] He was buried in the Jesmond Old Cemetery where a monument marking his grave was erected sometime afterward. The inscription on the monument is in his own words: "It's been me aim t'hev a place i'th' hearts o' the Tyneside people, wi' writin' bits o'hyemly sangs aw think they'll sing."


Joe Wilson was probably the most prolific of all the Geordie songwriters of the time.[6] He performed his own works in the various halls of entertainment around the region until he became too ill. Many of his songs were published in his book Songs and Drolleries, and also in Allan's Tyneside Songs and Readings.


Wilson's songs were published during his lifetime, as well as after his death. This is a partial list from Songs and Drolleries.
  • "Keep yor feet still Geordie hinny" to the tune of "Nelly Gray"/"Maggie May"
  • "Come Geordie ha'd the bairn"
  • "Aa hope ye'll be kind ti me dowter"
  • "The Row upon the Stairs"
  • "Dinnet clash the door"
  • "The time that me fethur was bad"
  • "The Gallowgate Lad"
  • "The Lass That Lives Next Door"
  • "Narvis Johnny"
  • "Sally Wheatley"
  • "Through Drinking Bitter Beer"

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Ralph Blackett
Held a high position upon the Quay but lost this. A hymn writer in his youth he also wrote peotry. He was a
regular contributer to Charter's Almanack and Annual. His first song was in dialect- Jimmy's Deeth which
won a prize from the Weekly Chronicle and was sung at the Tyne Thgeatre pantomime.
Blackett was reserved to strangers but generally kind and genial. He was a man of refined ideas
who was a prolific writer. Died- Middlesborough, Dec. 29, 1877 age 47.

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William Henderson Dawson
Died January 25, 1879, age 52.
Bookbinder at St. Nicholas' Churchyard at the workshop of Thomas Bewick wood engraver. Wrote a song on 
the inauguration of Stephenson's Monument in 1862. This song was successful. Also in 1862 he
assisted in the first addition of Allen's great work. Dawson was well known for his knowledge of local
lore and songs. He wrote a letter for the Newcastle Guardian and succeeded Robson in writing his letter
-The Retoirt Keelman for the Advertiser. He wrote Walks round Old Newcastle which are filled
with local references.  He also wrote for The Local Poets of Newcastle for which he provided a series of
articles both biographical and critical some of which were stories nad songs and poems. Died- Jan. 25 1879 age
52. Buried St. John's Cemetery, Elswick.
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John Kelday Smith
Died June 12, 1889 at his home Temperance Row, Shieldfield, age, 54.
Native of Orkney but brought to Newcastle while in his infancy. Writer of local songs. Wrote for Charter's comic pulication, Ward's Almanack and
the Weekly Chronicle.  Won a prize for a song about the Gateshead Working Men's Club and for an essay on working men's clubs.  He is known
for his song- Whereivvor hae They Gyen.

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Matthew Dryden
Wrote Perseveer or, the Nine Hours Movement. Died at his home Herbert St. age 46. Born Belford. Father
had an interest in a local Colliery.  Father dide when Matthew was in his teens. Dryden eventually came to
Newcastle to work at Sir. W. Armstrong's where he worked till his death. He joined the nine hours strike in
1871. He was a good singere of local, Irish and sentimental songs.  He was popular especially
with Joe Wilson's songs. Dryden gave concerts to benefit the strike fund.  His songs on Elliott the
Pegswood sculler were popoular.  When the strike end he went back to Armstrongs and had worked there
for 30 years when he died.

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James Horsley
Born Alnwick, orphaned in Newcastle as child.
Songs and poems have been collected and published.
His biography has been written by Mr. hastings.  Native of Alnwick but left orphan in Newcastle at
young age. Worked as stable boy, cabin boy and other work. He was known for telling stories of
his early life as stable boy.Horsley worked for a while with Robert Ward on the Advertiser and Directory.
After working with ward he worked withMr. Andrew Reid where he worked until his death on the 
well known Reid's Railway Guide His first song was written when he was just over twenty. This 
was Geordy's Dream or, the Sun and the Muen. His next song came out when he was almost 50. 
He was known for his songs about Jesmond and wrote songs until his death. He died in 1891 and
is buried in St. Andrew's Cemetery.
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George Charleton Barron
Born Gateshead, died June 16, 1891, North Shields age 45.
Clerk with his relative Ralph Blackett on the Quay. Known as  a mimic and elocutionist.
After short carier as actor he retuurned to Newcastle where he played dramatic roles
and was popular.  He was a commercial traveller with manhy firends.  He could provide
both Scottish and Tyneside entertainment. He had endless stories.  He died after
an operation for an absess in the head, North Shields, June 16, 1891, age 45. Buried Preston 
Cemetary. Known for cheerfulness. He is known for only one piece- Bill Smith at Waterloo.
This was derived from an American story.
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John Taylor
Born- Dunston
Died Dunston Sept 24, 1872 age 51
Buried- Dunston churchyard.
Contributed to Allan's work.
Started as clerk at Central Station. Father North-Eastern man printed the first railway ticket.
Left railway company to become a traveller for a large brewery.   Wrote many songs for Charter's and Ward's Almanacks
winning prizes from each. A clever painter and created the engravings featured in Allan's work of:
Starkey, Billy Purvis, J.P. Robson, and Geordy Black.  Dunston is just outside of Gateshead.
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Howland Harrison
Born King William Street, Gateshead, June 23,1841.

Author and comic singer starting at 23 years of age. Worked at teh Victoria Music Hall, Newcastle. 
He was successful at this and then went to the Oxford Music Hall, Newcastle, the Wear Music Hall,
Sunderland, Stockton, Darlington, Glasgow and other places. 
He was known for The Coal Cartman, I'm going down the Hill, The Drum Major,  The Lass I met at Shields and
The Death of Renforth. He was known for his broad humour, facial expression attitudes and alterations of
his voice.  He wrote both lyric and music. Known as Rowley.  He worked as landlord of the Geordy Black in
Gateshead and the Commercial Hotel at Winlaton and manager of his own concert halls. He had a large
marquee for singing and entertainments at the Temperance Festival on the Moor in Newcastle. He worked at The
People's Palace and The Empire. He is well known for the song and character role of Geordy Black.

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Richard Oliver Heslop
Born March 14 1842, Newcastle.
Famous for his dictionary of Northumberland words, past
and present.
Writer of Tyneside Songs and readings which he wrote to relax from working on
his great dictionary. 
The Dictionary was serialized in the Chronicle and is a monumental work.
Heslop worked as an Iron Merchant. He was a native of Newcastle and an 
old Grammar School boy. Born- March 14, 1842. He wrote:
Howdon for Jarrow,Newcastle Toon Nee Mair, A tow for Nowt, The Singin' Hinney,
The Tyneside Chorus,
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John Atlantic Stephenson


Born Mid Atlantic on Waterloo day 1829. Father was in the Chemical trade on the Tyne and on his way to India to work for the East India Company when his child was born. His mother was a daughter of Dr. Brummell.
Blind willy sung of him- "Dr. Brummel upon the Sandhill, He gov Sir Maffa a pill."
In Newcastle Props a song by Oliver Blind Willy is referenced :
"O weel aw like te hear him sing
'Bout young Sir Matt andDr. Brummell.
The family returned from India after 12 years. John started at Sowerbvy's Glass Works, Gateshead. Later he
became representative of John Rogerson and Co. He was a member of the Bewick Club holding office of Hon. treasurer. He contributed as an amateur to the annual exhibition.  He is known for water colors of rural scenes.He is also known as a public speaker performing for his club. Stephenson specialized in dialect.

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Alexander Hay
Born Newcastle, Dec. 11, 1826.
Apprenticed to caminet maker. Went to sea as ship carpenter. Hay contributed a song to
Clark Russell who mentioned it in his work Sailor's Language.Hay was famous for recitations including his work
-Board of Trade ahoy. Another well known work was Thge Shoddy Ship appeared in the Nautical Magazine.
Hay contributed to the Northern Poetic Keepsake as early as 1856. He worked in liverpool as a school tutor and worked in
the building of the Great Exhibiton in londong in 1862. Hay also worked as a journalist. He returned to Newcastle
and was active in local historical research into the location of graves of writers.  He contributed to research for
Allan's work.  He also produced work in dialect such as - The Dandylion Clock, and  The Illektric Leet.
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John Craggs
Born- North Sunderland 1849.

Worked as a clerk on the Tyne. A bohemian who associated Wit Joe Wilson, Rowland Harrison, John Taylore and Ralph Blacket.
Used gthe pen name- Mrkg. Fudjiv- a cryptogram of his name. He was awarded Carter's gold metal
for his song- The Old Cot on the Tyne. He also Wrote The M.P. for Jarra and The Ltter from Hannah. In 1877 he migrated to the metropolis
where he served as a member of the detective police.

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Tommy Armstrong
"The Bard of the Durham Coalfield", The Pitman's  Poet. Bow-legged, lively, huge family great thurst.
Worked as pitman, wrote songs, had them printed as broadsides which he sold on weekends in the
pubs at a penny a copy to make his beer money.  Son William said of him- "Me dad's Muse was a 
mug of ale".
Worked as trapper boy  in the pit by the age of  9 having to be carried to work because of painful crooked legs.
At age of 12 worked as bony boy singing his songs to the ponys. Armstrong became a master at barbed verses.
Lived at Tanfield Lea for most of his life.  Famous and called upon to write songs for special events while young he 
wrote about strikes- occasional songs, as well as songs on domestic or comic themes. He is responsible for:
The Skuil Board Man, Hedgehog Pie, The Ghost that Haunted Bunty,Wor Nanny/s a Maizor,  The Durham Lockout,
Durham  Gaol, The Row Between the Cages, Marla Hill Ducks and others.

Charles Purvis- (Pen Name=C.P

the following notice of Charles Purvis has
been found in Bell's "Notes and Cuttings": — "Charles Purvis came
to Newcastle from near Otterburn, and after being schoolmaster, and
afterwards clerk to a merchant upon the Quayside, set up business
as a general merchant, in which business he in a short space of time
failed, leaving a few empty barrels to pay his creditors with."- Allan

C.P. is known for his song: "Bards of the Tyne"

Allan's Illustrated Edition of Tyneside Songs and Readings....,
Thomas and George Allan, NewcastleUpon Tyne, 1891.

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