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Title : Keelmen and the grindstone.

Format : chapbook ; song

Composer : Armstrong, William (b.1804?)

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

Date : 1826 (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 VI.


Song about a group of keelmen who think they see a floating grindstone and vow to land and sell it. A tilt at the assumed ignorance of the keelmen to imagine a sandstone grindstone would actually float.

The author of this song, William Armstrong was born in the Painter Heugh, Newcastle, about the year 1804. His father was a shoemaker, owning a business in Dean Street. After serving his apprenticeship as a painter Armstrong worked as a journeyman for a number of years. In addition to his popularity as a writer, Armstrong was also much admired as a singer. A member of the Stars of Friendship, Armstrong left his native town for London around 1834. Of his life after this time little is known.

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 VI 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 the removal of the Vegetable Market from Sandhill in part VI, give some indication of the publication date.


Collection description : Popular Tyneside songs published in chapbook form.

First line:Not long since some keelmen were gaun doon to Sheels

Subject heading : local characters and strange events

Keywords : keelmen & comedy

Period : 1801-1840

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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