Song about a famous local ferryman
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, before steamboats were introduced, Jemmy Joneson, whose wherry is immortalized in this song, was a famous local character, well known to all passengers on the River Tyne. At this time a healthy competition existed between the Shields coaches and gigs on land, and the wherries and 'comfortables' (a type of covered wherry) on the river. Despite the notable protestations of Joneson after the onset of steam, the use of wherries and comfortables rapidly died out, replaced by the steamboat.
The author of this song was Thomas Thompson, a timber merchant in Newcastle. A self-made man, Thompson was well known as the author of a number of popular local songs including 'Canny Newcassel' and the 'New Keel Row'. Thompson died on 9th January, 1816 aged forty-three.
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 originally printed by, J. Ross of the Royal Arcade. This book forms no.2 of the 'Songs of the Tyne' series and was reprinted by William Walker sometime between 1857 and 1866. Most of the songs in the book were first printed in the 1830s and 1840s although some, such as 'Jemmy Joneson's whurry', did infact appear as early as 1823.
The book contains some of the region's best known traditional songs. From 'The new keel row' to 'Harry Clasper', the book has offerings from well known Tyneside composers such as Thomas Thompson and would have been extremely popular among the local population.