'Hail, Tyneside lads in collier fleets': song culture, sailing and sailors in North-East England

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter

Abstract

This chapter explores the songs and poetry of Tyneside sailmaker Robert Gilchrist (1797-1844). Gilchrist was part of a local bardic community drawn from the working people of the North-East and one of the more prolific songwriters and poets operating in early nineteenth-century Tyneside. The River Tyne, North Sea, and the comings and goings of maritime travellers and seaborne mercantile traffic have long featured in the repertoires of the region's singers and poets. Songs, in both their print and oral forms, exposed the everyday life of a port town. Gilchrist and his contemporaries endowed the region with numerous compositions in this regard. This chapter shows that their songs are valuable historical documents to understanding the interactions between urban and maritime cultures and in particular to learning how representations of and social attitudes towards sailors and river workers coalesced. Among Gilchrist's known outputs are verses the articulate cultural and economic impacts of sailing on the local community and these are utilised here. Through a selective textual analysis of Gilchrist's key compositions, the chapter illustrates that North-East seamen and keelmen enjoyed a dual position from local versifiers, being both object of attachment and patriotism and subject to comic description and satire.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPort towns and urban cultures: international histories of the waterfront, c.1700 to 2000
EditorsB. Beaven, B. Bell, R. James
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherPalgrave
Pages29-48
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781137483164
ISBN (Print)9781137483157
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2016

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