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Title : Newcassel props

Format : chapbook ; song

Composer : Oliver, William (b.1800 d.1848)

Production details : publisher : J. Walker
Royal Arcade, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear

Date : 1857-1866

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Collection name : Songs of the Tyne; being a collection of popular local songs. No.3


Song in which the author bemoans the passing of local characters, with a verse or two dedicated to those still living.

The most well known characters referred to in this song are perhaps Blind Willy and Captain Starkey. 'Blind Willy' was infact William Purvis, or as he was more commonly known Billy Purvis. Purvis, an inhabitant of the poor-house at All Saints, was a multi-skilled musician and showman as well as a revered dance teacher. Benjamin Starkey was an inhabitant of the Freeman's Hospital in Newcastle. Friend to the likes of Sir Matthew Ridley and Charles Brandling, the reason he was referred to as 'Captain' remains unclear.

The author of this song, William Oliver was born in the Side, near Newcastle's Quayside on 5th February, 1800. A draper and hatter in his earlier years, Oliver eventually joined his brother Timothy as a grocer in the Cloth Market. A strong sympathiser of the Reform movement, Oliver's songs were extremely popular in their day, although are now less well known. William Oliver died on 29th October, 1848 and was buried at Westgate Hill Cemetery.

This book contains some of the region's best known traditional songs. From 'Hydrophobie' to 'The pitman's skellyskope', the book has offerings from well known Tyneside composers such as Robert Emery and would have been extremely popular among 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. 'Songs of the Tyne' were a short series of chapbooks originally printed by, J. Ross of the Royal Arcade. This book forms no.3 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 'The pitman's courtship', did infact appear as early as 1816.


Collection description : Popular Tyneside songs published in chapbook form.

First line:Oh, waes me wor canny toon

Subject heading : local characters and strange events

Keywords : death & drinking

Period : 1801-1840

Subject : Purvis, Billy ; Subject : Starkey, Benjamin (d.1822)


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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FARNE Folk Archive Resource North East