Written by John Selkirk this song was first published in Marshall's 'Northern Minstrel', 1807. Originally, the Hoppings was a day appointed annually for local people to meet and trade for necessities such as clothing etc. At the end of the day those gathered would feast and drink, and then would dance or 'hop' around bonfires to the music of local pipers or fiddlers, these gatherings or fairs consequently became known as the 'Hoppings.'
Swalwell is near the junction of the Tyne and Derwent rivers, about six miles west of Newcastle. This Hoppings song contains interesting local references. 'Crowley's crew', mentioned in the song refers to the local men who would have been employed at the large ironworks of Ambrose Crowley. Local events such as Hoppings would have drawn a large crowd from the surrounding area and rivalries between different occupational groups would have been strong. The 'fray ... with skipper Robin' and the 'keel bullies' would not have been uncommon. In this song it is the cry of 'Ma-a' to the keelman that has caused the trouble. This dates back to an incident in 1710, when sheep farmers on the banks of the Tyne suffered considerable losses from the mysterious disappearance of a large number of lambs that were accidentally traced to the keelmen.
'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.