'The pitman's courtship' is generally considered to be one of the region's finest 'traditional' songs. One of only a handful of Tyneside songs to be appreciated outside the region in its day, the 'Pitman's courtship' forms the proposal of marriage and a couple's plans for a life together. The song was first printed by J. Marshall in 1816. This copy of the song, printed some thirty years later in 1846, is evidence of its enduring popularity.
The author of this song, William Mitford, was born at Preston, near North Shields on April 10th, 1788. The earliest record of Mitford was in 1816, when Marshall published his 'Budget; or Newcastle Songster'. Mitford went on to write some of the region's best known songs such as 'The Pitman's Courtship', 'Cappy', and 'XYZ', and is considered to have been one of the most influential author's of Tyneside song.
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. 'Songs of the Tyne' were a short series of chapbooks printed by, J. Ross of the Royal Arcade. This book forms no.1 of the 'Songs of the Tyne' series and references to the building of the High Level Bridge dates the book's publication to no earlier than 1846. A number of the songs however, can be dated to the early nineteenth century, some such as 'The pitman's courtship' appearing as early as 1816.
The book contains some of the region's best known traditional songs. From 'Cappy; or, the pitman's dog' to 'Canny Newcassel', the book has offerings from well known Tyneside composers such as William Mitford and would have been extremely popular among the local population.