> Folk Music > Songs > The Sandgate Lass on the Ropery Banks

The Sandgate Lass on the Ropery Banks

[ Roud 3178 ; Ballad Index StoR184 ; Mudcat 1403 ; Robert Nunn]

Karl Dallas: One Hundred Songs of Toil John Stokoe: Songs and Ballads of Northern England

Bob Fox and Stu Luckley sang The Sandgate Lass on the Ropery Banks in 1978 on their album Nowt So Good’ll Pass.

The Wilson Family sang The Sandgate Lass on the Ropery Banks on the 1981 Greenwich Village anthology of songs about the women of Tyneside over the past two centuries, Aall Tegithor Like the Foaks o’ Shields.

Anni Fentiman sang the Sandgate Lass on the Ropery Banks in 1998 on Dave Webber’s and her CD Constant Lovers. They noted:

Written in the first half of last century, one of many songs in praise of the keel man whose job it was to transfer coal from up the river down to coal brigs in the Tyne estuary.

Craig Morgan Robson sang The Sandgate Lass on the Ropery Banks on their 2009 CD Hummingbird’s Feather. They noted:

Carolyn [Robson] comes from a farming background in Northumberland, but recently she discovered that one of her great-grandfathers had worked on the ropery in Wallsend. So she chose this delightful song by Robert Nunn, the blind fiddler and singer who died in 1853 at the age of 45 years. Legend has it that he lost his sight falling off a roof. Though the Sandgate Lass’s aspirations are not what we might consider attractive today, the song has immense charm nevertheless!

Kathryn Tickell and Ian Stephenson played the tune of Sandgate Lass on the Ropery Banks in 2016 on Tickell’s Water of Tyne. She noted:

The last of Kathryn’s and Ian’s improvisatory interludes; this is based on the song by Bobby Nunn (1808-1853) although the melody is much older and is known in Scotland as The Blythsome Bridal. The name Ropery Banks indicates the site of the former St Anne’s Ropery of Joseph Crawhill, which is shown on Corbridge’s 1772 map of Newcastle.


Bob Fox and Stu Luckley sing The Sandgate Lass on the Ropery Banks

On the Ropery Banks, Jenny was sittin’ she had on a bed-gown just new,
And blithely the lassie was knittin’, wi’ yarn of a bonny sky-blue.
The strings on her cap they were hangin’ se lang on her shoulders se fine,
And hearty aw heard this lass singin’; Maw bonny keel lad shall be mine.

Chorus (after each verse):
O wad the keel come down the river, that aw me dear laddie might see,
He whistles and dances se cliver, maw bonny keel laddie for me.

Last neet in amang the green dockins he fed us with gingerbread spice—
I promised to knit him some stockins, he kissed and he cuddles us nice;
He ca’d me his pet and his hinny; he ca’d me his pet and his bride;
And he said that I should be his Jenny, to clean up his own fireside.

That morning forget I will nivor, when first I saw him on the quay,
The “Keel Row” he whistled se clivvor, and he stole me affections from me;
His drawers were se black and se canna, his keel hat was cock’d on his heed,
And if I’d not gettin’ me Jimmy, I’m sure I would rather be dead.

The first time I spoke to me Jimmy, now mind you this isn’t a lee—
Me mother she’d gi’en us a penny, to get her a penn’orth o’ tea;
When a lad in the street cries oot “Betsie”", says I, “Hinny that’s not me name.”
He says, “Nivvor mind me young lassie, tonight I will see you safely hyem.”

Since then I’ve been his true lover, and I’ve loved him as dear as me life,
And in spite of both father and mother, I’ll suen be me keel laddie’s wife;
So happy we’ ll be then together, when he brings his wages to me,
With a bonny-bit bairn crying “Father” and another one laid on me knee.