Song about a famous local ghost
One of a number of songs poking fun at keelmen, this song was written by William Armstrong. The song refers to an incident at Hebburn Quay, near Jarrow, where near the shore stood a public house at one time kept by Lizzie Mudie. One local source reveals how the ghost of Lizzie Mudie was the terror of all who sailed upon the Tyne. 'She would treat her friends to a dead calm or a heavy squall of wind, just as she was in the humour. She has been known to bring lightning and thunder, and rain and hail, to her window, just for the sake of exhibiting her power over the elements to her visitors etc.' In this song, a local skipper, enraged by Lizzie Mudie, attempts to kill the ghost using a piece of coal. The ghost infact turns out to be nothing more than a Jenny Hoolet (an owl), much to the embarrassment of the skipper.
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.
This book contains some of the region's best known traditional songs. From 'The bonnie keel laddie' to 'The Jenny Howlet', the book has offerings from well known Tyneside composers such as J.P. Sutherland 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 printed by, J. Ross of the Royal Arcade. This book forms no.4 of the 'Songs of the Tyne' series and was printed some time between 1847 and 1852. 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 'Songs of the Tyne' series were reprinted by J. Walker of the Royal Arcade, sometime between 1857-66.