Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Byker-Hill for Tenth Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge

This post is written as a submission for Bill West's Tenth Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge at West in New England.  This Bill's challenge.
Find a poem by a  poet, famous or obscure, about the region
one of your ancestors lived in.  It can be about an historical event, a
legend, a person, or even about some place (like a river) or a local
animal....  0r, if you prefer, post the lyrics of a song or a link to a
video of someone performing the song.
 Bill will publish all contributions on his blog on Thanksgiving Day, November 22. 

While researching the town of Byker-Hill (or Byker Hill or just Byker), in Northumberland, England, where my coal mining ancestors lived, I came upon a Wikipedia entry which led me to a song by that title.  It should have been no surprise that it was about coal miners.  The nearest I could come to learning its origin was that it was a folk song, written in the early 1800s.  It's probable that my Doyle and Laws ancestors heard and perhaps even sang "Byker Hill."  I share this in honor of the men in those two families who were all "collier lads."  (Sing along if you like:  the lyrics are below the video.)

            Byker Hill

            If I had another penny
            I would have another gill
            I would make the piper play
            The Bonny Lass of Byker Hill

            Byker Hill and Walker Shore
            Collier lads for ever more
            Byker Hill and Walker Shore
            Collier lads for ever more

            When first I come down to the dirt
            I had no trousers and no pit shirt
            Now I've gottin' two or three
            Oh Walker Pit's done well by me.


            The pitman and the keelman trim
            They drink bumble made from gin
            Then to dance they do begin
            To the tune of Elsie Marley


            Geordie Charlton had a pig
            He hit it with a shovel and it danced a jig
            All the way to Walker Shore
            To the tune of Elsie Marley


            Oh, gentle Jenny's behind the barn
            With a pint of ale underneath her arm
            A pint of ale underneath her arm
            And she feeds it to the baby


As is true of many folk songs I found three or four variations of lyrics and more than a few extra or alternate verses.  This seems to be a drinking song and perhaps, as the collier lads became more inebriated, the lyrics deteriorated.  You can see several variations here at Mainly Norfolk:  English Folk and Other Good Music


Copyright ©2018, Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. What fun to find a video of a song possibly sung by your ancestors.

    1. For sure, Linda. I can almost imagine this as a drinking song, sung in the pubs of the time, and there are so many variations. Definitely a folk song.


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