Comic song about the increasing popularity of cycles. This song, which appears to be a forerunner of the road safety campaign, refers to an ancestor of the Penny Farthing. This particular model still operated on the front wheel, and in order to gain speed, the front wheel (as in the Penny farthing) was made incredibly large. Needless to say these cycles were very difficult to mount and required much skill from the rider so as to prevent any falls from his elevated position. In this song, the rider appears to lack this necessary skill. The song was awarded first prize in the 'North of England almanac' song competition.
The author of this song, Matthew C. James, began life as an apprentice draughtsman at Mitchell's shipyard in Low Walker. In 1892, after serving with firms such as R. Stephenson and Co., James was appointed naval architect and surveyor of the Prince Line, and was responsible for the design of a large number of steamers for the line. James remained with Prince Line until 1897 when he rose to the position of manager of the Mercantile Dry Dock at Jarrow.
This song forms part of a collection of songs reprinted from local publications by Andrew Reid and Co. in 1898. Many of the songs deal with the topics of the day such as 'The Carliol Tower', 'The Quay on Sunday morning' and 'The Stivvison centennery', whilst others such as 'Oot iv a job', touch on working and domestic life. All of the songs in this collection are written in local dialect.