Printed in Marshall's 'Northern Minstrel' of 1807, Bob Cranky seems to have been a fictitious cartoon-like character, rather like the modern 'Andy Cap', who became the voice of the naive Geordy. The song refers to Bob Cranky's movement with the Volunteer Association from Gateshead to Newcastle and was put to music by Thomas Train of Gateshead.
The author of this song, John Shield, was born in Broomhaugh, near Hexham, in 1768, and in conjunction with his brother Hugh ran a family grocery business in Newcastle. His first literary offering appeared in 1802 in the Chronicle and Shield went on to write well known Tyneside songs 'Lord 'Size', 'Oxygen Mask', and 'Fair Delia'. John Shield died in his native Broomhaugh on 6th August, 1848.
'The Newcastle Songster', from which this song was taken, was printed by J. Marshall, one of the most prominent chapbook printers in Newcastle during the early nineteenth century. It is rather difficult to date the book, but as we know that Marshall didn't move to his Flesh Market premises until 1811, it is possible to say that it certainly wasn't published before this date. The appearance of much of the books contents in John Bell's 'Rhymes of the Northern Bards', published in 1812, could also indicate that the book was printed around the same time. However which was printed first, can not be established for certain.
The book contains some of the region's best known traditional songs. From 'Weel may the keel row' to 'Canny Newcastle', the book has offerings from well known Tyneside composers such as John Selkirk and Thomas Thompson, and would have been extremely popular among the local population.