Song in praise of the itinerant beggar, with reference to a number of local characters.
'Blind Willy' was infact one 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 and is remembered in a number of Tyneside songs. Blind Willy died on 20th July, 1832.
The author of this song, Robert Gilchrist, was born at Gateshead on 8th September, 1797. A sail maker by trade, Gilchrist demonstrated a love of poetry from an early age and published a mixture of dialect poems and songs. Robert Gilchrist died on the 11th July, 1844 at his house in Shieldfield, aged 47 years.
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.7 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.
The book contains some of the region's best known traditional songs. From 'The beggar's wedding' to 'Callerforney', the book has offerings from well known Tyneside composers such as J. Bagnall and would have been extremely popular among the local population.