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Geordie Black

[ Roud 3507 ; DT GEORDBLK ; Mudcat 149874 , 170190 ; Rowland ‘Rowie’ Harrison]

Karl Dallas: One Hundred Songs of Toil

The Ian Campbell Folk Group sang Geordie Black in 1965 on their Transatlantic album Coaldust Ballads. This was also included in 2005 on their anthology The Times They Are A-Changin’. Ian Campbell noted on the original album:

Words by the Gateshead comedian, Rowland Harrison, in 1872 from Allan’s Tyneside Songs. Like many of the songs in [A.L. Lloyd’s] Come All Ye Bold Miners. this had no tune supplied. However, in this case we were unable to find the associated tune from any other source, and found it necessary to supply our own. Dave Swarbrick came to our aid with a fragment of a half-remembered strathspey, of which he was unable to recall the name, and I played around with it until it fitted the words. On this track, Dave is playing the twelve-stringed guitar. He is a useful lad to have around.

The High Level Ranters sang Geordie Black, to a tune written by Johnny Handle, in 1970 on their Trailer album Keep Your Feet Still Geordie Hinnie, and in 1987 on their album Gateshead Revisited. Johnny Handle noted:

The dry memories of a local pitman who used to work at the Gus and Betty pits, and remembered the lads of Haaks’ Iron works.

Bob Fox and Benny Graham sang Geordie Black in 1995 on their Fellside album How Are You Off for Coals?. They noted:

Rowland Harrison, a Gateshead music hall entertainer, tells the pitman’s story in only three verses. The tune was later added by Johnny Handle and makes a superb combination. “The Gyuss” and “The Betty” mentioned in the chorus are two Gateshead collieries. “The Friar’s Goose” pit and the “Elizabeth” “Hawks?” was as local iron works.

Duncan Brown sang Geordie Black on his and Danny Spooner’s 2016 CD of songs of the working life, Labour and Toil. They noted:

Rowland ‘Rowie’ Harrison (1841-1897), a Tyneside poet and singer/songwriter, wrote Geordie Black in a style derived from music hall. The song tells the tale of an old miner reminiscing on his experiences, from his terrors as a young lad, through his able working years, to his old age “pickin’ oot the stones”. Harrison would routinely dress as Geordie Black when performing this song on stage. Duncan learnt this song from the singing of Ian Campbell.


Duncan Brown sings Geordie Black

Ma name is Geordie Black, aa’m ’m getting very awd,
Aa’ve hewed tons of coal in my time,
An’ when aa wes young, aa could either put or hew,
Oot o’ other lads aa always took the shine.
Aa’m going doon the hill, I canna use the pick,
The master hes ne pity on auld bones.
Aa’m noo on the bank, an’ aa pass me time away
Amang the bits of lads wi’ pickin’ oot the stones.

Up upon the heath a-picking stones

When aa was a bairn, carried on ma feither’s back,
He would take me away te the pit,
Aye, an’ gettin’ to the cage, aye, an’ gangin’ doon belaw
Were enough to mak a youngster tak a fit.
Te sit an’ keep a door midst darkness an’ gloom,
Aye, mony a lonely ’oor by messel,
And te hear the aaful shots that rummelled through the pit,
An’ lumps o’ roondy coal fell down pellmell.

Ma name is Geordie Black, in maw time aa’ve been a crack,
And aa’ve worked byeth the Gyuss and the Betty.
An’ the coals on the Tyne oot o’ uthers tyek the shine,
An’ we lick them a’ for iron doon at Hawks’s.
Aye but here’s success te trade baith on the Wear an’ Tyne!
Aa dinna like te see the place se slack.
For when work pit gang idle, ne wages come teneet,
An’ it grieves the heart o’ poor old Geordie Black.