A rare song chronicling the changes in the mining industry to a system known as 'Billy Fairplay'. This song describes the new way of working in the colliery following changes to removal of coals. Previous to this date there had been many disputes over the weighing of the coal tubs. Many men felt unfairly rewarded for their work and were even fined if officials felt their tubs contained too much stone and not enough coal. The new system, introduced to Dudley Colliery on 21st March, 1877, was set in place to ensure fair payment for any work done. This was monitored by the pitmen's representative to ensure fair play.
This song forms part of a selection of songs by local pitman Marshall Creswell. The book was published in Newcastle in 1883 by J.W. Chater. Many of the songs deal with the topics of the day such as 'The Grainger Monnymint', 'The North Durham election', whilst others such as 'A modest appeal', touch on working and domestic life. Interestingly the collection also contains a number of songs relating to sea voyages, undoubtedly inspired by the pitman's journey to Borneo. All of the songs in this collection are written in local dialect.
The author, Marshall Cresswell, was born on the 18th January, 1833, in the village of Fawdon Square. After a brief education Marshall was sent to work in the pits at the age of nine years old. Following appointments at numerous pits in Northumberland and County Durham the author learned of a local coal owner, William Coulson, who required three men to go to Borneo as sinkers. Jumping at the opportunity Cresswell set sail and proceeded to encounter ship wrecks, storms and dangerous natives, an account of which is given in this collection. Marshall Cresswell returned from his voyages and commenced work in the pits, writing various songs and recitations for print, chiefly in Chater's publications.