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Issue 5 - May 1972
Tyneside Songs

In MG2 we printed a page of traditional north east miners' songs. The songs picked were just a few of the hundreds of miners' songs which, themselves, were just a part of the thousands of songs written and sung by the folk of the north-east. These songs all originate after the Industrial Revolution which swamped the area with new, harsh lifestyles and resulted in, among other things, a new folk tradition which captured life-in-the-north-east like no historian could ever hope to. The area's songs cover all the facets of life, from love to hate, life to death, humour to tragedy, sarcasm to sincerity.

A Newcastle Sang

The first song - a Newcastle Sang - is a bit of geordie patriotism (to the NE). It is a comedy song by a geordie to a geordie reminding him of the geordie dialect. This is not easily dones as the dialect differs in small but persistent ways from community to community. A comparison of this song with Dorham Jail which comes later will highlight this.

Anyway, in 'A Newcastle Sang' a reference is made to 'Armstrongs cannons' - Armstrong's having been one of the major armaments' factories. It also pays tribute to the geordies and their geordie regiments - the Durham Light Infantry - and the Northumberland Fusiliers - who had brilliant histories by military standards. The 'burr' mentioned in the fourth verse, is the Northumbrian sound described most easily in the English language as 'R'. In fact, the 'R' does not exist in Northumbrian and the 'burr' is not a bastardisation of it but a completely different, unconnected sound, which is made from the back of the throat and not the front of the mouth as the 'R' is.

Oh! cum! Ma canny lads, let's sing anuther Tyneside sang,
The langwidge ov each Tyneside heart, wor aad Newcassel Twang,
Ne doot its strange te stuck-up folk, and soonds byeth rough and queer,
But nivvor mind, it's music sweet untiv a Tyneside ear.

Wey, bliss yor heart, thor's ivvorything a Tyneside chep can boast;
Wor Tyneside tongue is spoke and sung on ivvory foreign coast
On sea or lan' where'er ye gan, when Armstrong's cannon roar,
It is the voice o' Tyne that's hard resoondin' frev her shore!

The ancient langwidge o' the Tyne hes sayins awfu' queer!
They say add Nick torns pale as death when real Tynesiders sweer!
An' Adam spoke in Tyneside tee, when he cried te Mistress Eve,
" A bonny mess ye've myed on't noo, begox, we'll hev te leave!"

An when a muther scolds hor bairn, she'll sheyk her first and froon,
" Noo haad yor jaw," "aa'll skelp yor lug," or sum plyece lower doon,
But if she's in the humour fine, it's "Cum, noo, hinny, cum!
An' if ye want te hear the burr, wey mine's a haaf o' rum!

An' when a chep's sweethartin like, it's "Cum, lass, gie's a cuddle!"
Or when a man is drinken sair, it's "Tommy's on the fuddle!"
The bairn that cries is "raimin on," things paaned they say's "in pop"
An' then a feythor says wi' pride "The bairn's peart as a lop!"

An ear's "a lug" a mooth's "a gob" and then a hand's "a paa",
Te hev a smoke it's "here a low, sit doon and hev a blaa"
It's "howay here" or "had on thor" "what cheer, my lad?" they'll say,
" It's kittle wark," "what fettle noo?" "it's dowly like the day!"

Noo aa might crood a thoosand things inte this Tyneside Sang,
But sum will say "Hi! Had yor han', yor myekin't ower lang"
Aa've said enough, aa'll leet ma pipe, ma rhymin' pen lay doon,
An' pray wor speech may ne'er depart fra aad CANNY TOON!

J Harbottle, 1891

Dorham Jail

'Dorham Jail' is a protest song written by Tommy Armstrong, who spent some time there last century for stealing a pair of socks from Stanley Co-op. Apparently he was drunk at the time and thought the socks were bow-legged. As he himself was bow-legged and they were the first pair he'd ever seen he couldn't resist taking them. Tommy armstrong came from Stanley, then a mining village, and is one of the most famous song writing miners. You will notice how the song could almost have been written today.

Yil awl hev ard o' Dorham Jail,
But it wod ye much sorprise
To see th' prisoners in th' yard,
Wen thay'r on exorsise.
This yard is bilt eroond we walls,
Se noabil en see strang,
We ivor gans thae heh te bide
Thor time, be it short or long

Thare's nee gud luck in Dorham Jail
Thare's nee gud luck it awl;
Wat is breed en skilly for
But just te muaik ye smaul?

Whenye gan to Dorham Jail
Thae'll find ye wiv emploi,
Thae'll dress ye up se dandy
In a suite e cordy-roy;
Thae'll fetch e cap wivout e peek,
En nivor axe you size,
En, like yor suite, it's cordy-roy
En cums doon ower yor ies.

Th' forst munth is th' warst iv awl
Your feelins thae will trie;
Thare's nowt but two greet lumps e wood,
On which ye heh to lie.
Then eftor that ye get e bed,
But it is ard is stuains;
It neet ye dorsint muaik e torn
For feer ye brick sum buains.

Awl kines e wark thare's ganen on
Upon these noable flats,
Teesin oakim, muaiken balls,
En weeven coco mats.
Wen ye gan in ye mae be thin,
But thae cin muaik ye thinnor;
If your oakim is not teased,
Thae'r shoor to stop yor dinner.

Th' shoos ye get is oftin tens
Th' smaulist size is nine;
Tho'r big eneuf te muaik a skiff
For Boyd ipon th' Tyne.
En if ye shud be caud at neets,
Just muaik yorsels at yem;
Lap yor clais eroond yor shoos,
En get inside e them.

Yil get yor meat en clais for nowt,
Yor hoose en firin' free;
Awl yor meets browt te th' dor -
Hoo happy ye shud be!
Thor's soap en too'l, en wooden speun,
En e little bairne's pot;
Thae fetch yor papers ivory week
For ye te clean your b't.

Spoken: That's the place te gan if yor matched to fite, thaw'll fetch ye doon te yor wite if yor ower heavy. Thae feed ye on floor broth ivory meel en thane put it doon at th' frunt for e' th' hoose yer livin in. Wen th' tornkie opins th' dor, ut yoor hand oot en yil get a ad iv a shot box we bee lid, en vary littil inside it; it's grand stuff fer th' wumin foaks te paipor the walls with. It sticks te yor ribs, but it's not muaid for a man this hes te yew coals. Bide away if thae'll let ye.

Rap 'er te Bank

'Rap 'er te bank' is an industrial song about working conditions faced by men and the accidents they suffered. Notice how the words 'when that aawful day arrived' suggests that such a day was expected as a matter of course in such jobs and lives.

Rap 'er te bank, ne canny lad!
Wind 'er away, keep torning!
The backshift men are gannin hyem
We'll be back heor in the mornin!

Me feyther used te call the torn
When the lang shift wes ower.
An' gannin' ootbye, ye'd hear him cry;
" D'ye knaa it's efter fower?"

And when that awful day arrived,
The last shift for me feyther
A faal of stones and brokken bones,
But still ower the clatter, he cried:
" Rap 'er te bank, me canny lad!
Wind her reet slow, that's clivor!
This poor aad lad hes tekken bad
Aa'll be back heor nivvor."

The Tattie Howkers

Aa saw the tattie howkers,
Aa saw them gan awa,
Aa saw the tattie howkers
Marching down wor back raw
Some of them had bonny lasses,
Some of them had none at aal;
Some of them had big bare asses,
Some of them had none at aal.

Mike, Andy, Maurice