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Title : Liberty for the sailors, a Shields song for the days of the Press-gang.

Format : song

Composer : Stobbs, John

Production details : publisher : T.F. Brockie & Co.
South Shields ; Tyne and Wear

Date : 1850-1860

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Collection name : Shields garland. No.1


The practice of impressing seamen to man the Royal Navy can be dated back to the fourteenth century. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the practice became particularly popular, with many thousands of men being driven into service. During the Napoleonic Wars press-gangs were especially prominent on Tyneside, causing many riots in North Shields and the surrounding areas. Within a few months of the declaration of the Napoleonic Wars the troops at Tynemouth barracks cordoned off North Shields while the press-gangs from warships in the harbour rounded up sailors and labourers from every occupation. This song, printed some 30 years after the end of the Napoleonic wars remembers the jubilation when sailors from the town were finally able to return home.

This song forms part of a short run series of 'Shields' songs that were published some time in the 1850s by the Shields Gazette editor, William Brockie. The songs reflect the characters, landscape and industry in the small coastal towns of North Shields, South Shields, Tynemouth and Cullercoats. Famous for their fishwives, press gangs and tars (sailors), these towns, lying at the mouth of the River Tyne, were the gateway for trade in and out of the region. This small pamphlet forms no.1 of a series thought to consist of only 3 publications. Bound together in one volume held by South Shields Library, no.s 1-2 are complete with no.3 lacking all before p.17., and all after p.32. Songs are attributed to various authors in manuscript notes throughout the series, revealing that publisher William Brockie also contributed to the content of the publication.


Collection description : No. 1 in a series of song books about North Shields and the surrounding area.

First line : The bellman's called it round the town

Subject heading : war/armed forces & river and sea

Keywords : sailors & war & press gangs

Period : 1841-1860

Held by : South Shields Library

Copyright : Item reproduced by kind permission of South Shields Library


t :: 0191 433 8430

f :: 0191 433 8424

e :: libraries@gateshead.gov.uk

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