Song descriptive of an annual fair at Winlaton
Originally, the Hoppings was a day appointed annually for local people to meet and trade for neccessities 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.'
The Winlaton Hoppings is thought to date back to Saxon times. It is now held on the weekend after the 14th May and during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries would have been an important weekend in the village. Special care was taken to ensure houses were cleaned and villagers wore their best clothes or even purchased new outfits for the occasion. Visitors came from a wide area of the Tyne Valley and on Hopping Sunday there was a special meal consisting of beef and ham pie with cabbage and new potatoes.
The entertainment at local hoppings would have been varied, with music being provided by local pipers or fiddlers. John Peacock, a famous Northumbrian piper, is listed in this song as part of the entertainment. Sword dancing displays would also have been popular at events like hoppings. The sword-dance team mentioned in this song was probably the Winlaton team as only two teams were recorded before 1850, the other being in Northumberland.
This song was written by John Leonard, a local Gateshead joiner, and can be dated to the early nineteenth century. Leonard wrote political and general material and at one point was imprisoned, possibly because of his views on Ireland. Songs like this would have been played at the 'Hoppings', as well as being sold in broadside form. The song 'Swalwell Hopping' was also written to the tune of 'Paddy's Wedding'. It was common for melodies to be adapted in this way for new songs about recent events.
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. This book forms part III of the 'Songster' series and is perhaps easier to date than parts I and II. Although it is not clear whether preceding parts of the 'Songster' were published before or after John Bell's 'Rhymes of the Northern Bards, 1812, the appearance of songs such as 'XYZ' in part III indicate the publication date to be no earlier than 1814.