Generally light-hearted song mourning the death of the Newcastle eccentric.
This song refers to three of the most eccentric and well loved of Tyneside characters during the nineteenth century.- '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. Allan's Tyneside Songs reveals that Bold Archy was infact one Archibald Henderson. A famous and well-liked character of Newcastle, 'Archy' was known for his strong attachments to his mother. Archy died on 14th May, 1828, and was remembered in a number of Tyneside songs. The subject of this lament, 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.
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.9 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 W.R. Walker of the Royal Arcade, sometime between 1857-66.
The book contains some of the region's best known traditional songs. From 'The Quayside shaver' to 'Burdon's address', the book has offerings from well known Tyneside composers such as Henry Robson and would have been extremely popular among the local population.