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Title : Skipper's wedding

Format : chapbook ; song

Composer : Stephenson, William, Snr. (b.1763 d.1836)

Production details : publisher : J. Marshall
Old Flesh Market, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear

Date : 1812 (circa)

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Collection name : Newcastle songster; being a choice collection of songs, descriptive of the language and manners of the common people of Newcastle upon Tyne and the neighbourhood. Part II.


Written by William Stephenson, this song describes the festivities held on the wedding of a local keelboat skipper. The song gives a vivid description of the food and entertainments at the wedding, as well as the local characters in attendance. However, other than Blind Willy, nothing is known of any of the eccentric characters named in this song. 'Blind Willy' was infact William Purvis, or as he was more commonly known, Billy Purvis. Purvis, an inhabitant of the poor-house at All Saints, was a multi-skilled musician and showman as well as a revered dance teacher and is remembered in a number of Tyneside songs.

The tune to which the ballad is sung is Irish and usually known as 'The night before Larry was stretched'. A number of well known songs, including the 'Pitman's Courtship' were sung to this tune.

Newcastle was the second largest producer of chapbooks in the country at the time of this book's publication. 'The Newcastle Songster' 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 'The Skipper's Wedding' to 'Newcastle Fair', the book has offerings from well known Tyneside composers such as John Selkirk and would have been extremely popular among the local population.


Collection description : Popular Tyneside songs published in chapbook form.

Melody used : The night before Larry was stretched

Subject heading : love, marriage and courtship & festivities

Keywords : keelmen & love & marriage & weddings

Period : 1801-1840

Subject : Purvis, Billy


Height : 14 cm

Width : 8 cm

Held by : Newcastle University

Copyright : Item reproduced by kind permission of Newcastle University


t :: 0191 433 8430

f :: 0191 433 8424

e :: libraries@gateshead.gov.uk

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FARNE Folk Archive Resource North East