Light-hearted song about local characters.
There are a number of interesting local references in this song. In particular to local regiments such as the 'Wonderful Noodles' - In 1819 the Northumberland and Newcastle Volunteer Corps of Yeomanry was formed. Political reform and dissent was rife on Tyneside during this time and the reform party regarded this new corps as a menace against them. They showed their dislike by referring to the corps as 'Noodles'. The 'Captain of watchmen' referred to in the song was in fact one Thomas Carr. He was described as a 'gross, vulgar fellow, with a patch on his cheek,' and was immortalized in the song 'Cappy'. Disliked for his treatment of Cappy and for his over-zealous imposition of the law, Carr was eventually prosecuted for wrongful arrest, much to the pleasure of the local population.
Similar to the cheap press of today these poorly printed books and broadsides catered for popular tastes, being sold by chapmen in the country and booksellers in the town. Usually sold for no more than a penny, the production of these little books and broadsides were extremely profitable for most printers. Sold in bulk the material required little proof-reading, was widely plagiarised, and badly printed.
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 V of the 'Songster' series and is perhaps easier to date than the preceding parts. Although it is not clear whether parts I and II of the 'Songster' were published before or after John Bell's 'Rhymes of the Northern Bards, 1812, references to 'Hackney cabs' in part V, which were not introduced into Newcastle until 1824, give some indication of the publication date.
The book contains some of the region's best known traditional songs. From the 'Keelmen's Stick' to 'Hell's Kitchen', the book has offerings from well known Tyneside composers such as William Oliver and would have been extremely popular among the local population.