Apparently the last song written by George Ridley, this famous local piece ridicules a whitening-stone seller. The stone, made of baked clay was used to decorate stone steps and other parts of terrace house doorways. The song caused such a degree of displeasure from the real-life subjects at the time, that it did in fact require the composer to leave town for a while!
This song is taken from a collection of local songs compiled by Thomas Allan in the late nineteenth century. First published in 1862 as a small book entitled 'Tyneside songs', over the next thirty years, this songbook would eventually become the mammoth volume we now know as 'Allan's Tyneside songs'. This early edition concentrated mainly on the work of two men, Ned Corvan and George Ridley. Such was the popularity of these local performers that in 1863 a second edition was merited. By 1864, when a third printing was issued, the volume had expanded under the title 'A choice collection of Tyneside songs by E. Corvan, G. Ridley, J.P. Robson, R. Emery ... [etc.]'. David Harker, in his introduction to the 1972 edition of the book, believes that this third edition heralded the start of a shift in Allan's selection of 'local songs', from genuinely popular songs of the day, to older 'traditional' songs. These later editions, aimed at politer circles of society, concentrated on the 'character of the Tyneside community', its eccentric characters and unique language, leading many to conclude that Allan's portrayal of the development of local song-writing, is somewhat potted.
Nevertheless 'Allan's Tyneside songs' does provide a wealth of information. Published again in 1872, 1873 and 1891 the book grew into what has become an invaluable source of reference for Tyneside songs and song writers. This song forms part of a selection of songs by George Ridley from the 1873 edition of the book, held by Tyne and Wear Archives. The main source of biographical information for Ridley, this edition was much larger than those published in the early 1860s and includes later Ridley songs such as Cushy Butterfield.
George Ridley, was born in Gateshead on 10th February, 1835. Perhaps the most well known of Tyneside composers, Ridley began his working life in a local pit, before moving to Messrs. Hawks, Crawshay and Co. After a near fatal accident prevented Ridley from carrying out any further manual work, he turned to performing as a means of support. Beginning his singing career at the Grainger Music Hall, Ridley went on to great success writing and performing his own songs such as 'Joey Jones' and 'Johnny Luik-Up the bellman'. Having never fully recovered from the injuries sustained at Hawks, Ridley's career was brief and after a short illness died aged thirty years on 9th September, 1864.