Dialect song, expressing regret at not attending school regularly.
This song was printed 4 years after the education act of 1870. The act declared that in districts where schooling was insufficient, a School Board should be elected by the ratepayers to build municipal schools, paid for by the introduction of an education rate. It was not until 1876 that attendance at school was made compulsory for all children between the ages of five and ten. Previous to this children had been sent to work at an early age, many beginning jobs in local pits as early as nine years old. Education was therefore highly valued and many parents worked hard to ensure adequate schooling for their children.
This song was written by William Dunbar and printed in 1874. Dunbar began his life in the service of Gateshead painter and glazier, Mr. Romanis. After working for a short time in the service of a Felling cartwright, he spent the remainder of his life in the coal pits. He varied the monotony of the pit life by appearing at amateur concerts at which, although not much of a singer, he was always well received. Along with his talent for composing, Dunbar had a decided taste for drawing and spent much of his spare time producing water-colours and pencil sketches. During the last few years of his life he spent most of his time writing pieces for the local annuals, published by J.W. Chater of Newcastle. He won a number of medals and competitions and on his death in 1874 was fondly remembered with a number of tributes in Chater's publications.
'Playing the troon' forms part of a small song book published by Stevenson and Dryden of Newcastle. It contains over 40 pages of local songs composed by Dunbar, along with extracts from 'Chater's Diary and Local Remembrancer'. Most of the songs are given the tune to which they were intended to be sung and are classified into 'local', 'motto', or 'comic' song types. The book was published in 1874, probably on the death of William Dunbar.