The crucial thing about the songs is that they are realistic. They speak of a social reality with a humour and a celebratory energy than is only really matched by Dickens. They are all written in dialect and because they were written specifically for large working class audiences collected because of the burgeoning industrial revolution, many of the singer-songwriters were professionals. Because Tyneside is comparatively small compared to London these songwriters were obliged to constantly provide new material which came to serve as a chronicle of a way of life.
Many of the writers of these songs were working-class people. George Ridley, my personal favourite, was a miner from the age of 12 but an accident forced him to find other employment. So he began performing in various musical halls, where he composed amongst many others "The Blaydon Races" and "Keep Yer Feet Still Geordie Hinny", one of the most beautiful of all the Tyneside songs. He died aged 30.
"Keep Yer Feet Still Geordie Hinny" features two working men who are forced to share a bed in a lodging house. One berates the other for waking him up just when he was dreaming of gaining the ever elusive object of his affections, Mary Clarke. His fanciful flights are abruptly interrupted at the end of each verse by his fidgeting companion and the comedy of his frustration is tempered by the pathos that he is actually sharing his bed with an obviously undesirable partner. "Keep yer feet still Geordie hinny/ let's be happy through the night/ for we may not be so happy through the day/ just give me that bit comfort/ keep your feet still Geordie, lad/ and divvint drive me bonny dreams away."
Picture and partial text, courtesy of the Telegraph
With apologies for the F words in this clip from the story Lee Hall wrote, Billy Elliot, made into this clever film, with Billy played by the fabulously talented actor and dancer from Billingham in Cleveland, Jamie Bell.