Louis Killen: Discography
The Topic EPs

The Collier's Rant
Mining Songs of the Northumberland-Durham Coalfield.
  • The Collier's Rant
    • 1962 - Topic TOP 74 EP

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  • Side One
    1. Blackleg Miners — Louis Killen: vocal and banjo & Colin Ross: Northumbrian pipes
    2. Collier’s Rant — Johnny Handle: vocal and guitar
    3. Aw Wish Pay Friday Would Come — Louis Killen: vocal & Colin Ross: fiddle
  • Side Two
    1. The Putter — Johnny Handle: vocal and guitar
    2. The Trimdon Grange Explosion — Louis Killen: vocal and concertina
    3. The Waggoner — Johnny Handle: vocal and guitar

  • Musicians
    • Louis Killen: Vocals, Banjo & Concertina
    • Johnny Handle: Vocals & Guitar
    • Colin Ross: Northumbrian Pipes & Fiddle
  • Credits
    • Recorded by Bill Leader

Sleeve Notes

In Northumberland and Durham, the miners have always used music to express their feelings about their work, lives, and hopes. The song, The Colliers' Rant, is probably as old as mining itself in the North-east; it is known to have been sung well before the industrial revolution got into full swing. In A. L. Lloyd's compilation of mining songs, Come All Ye Bold Miners (published 1952), the vast majority of the material came from the Northumberland and Durham coalfield.

The miners of the North-east have always been able to produce bards to write songs about their dangerous work, their struggles with the mine-owners; about strikes, disasters, and their lives outside the long hours spent underground. Thomas Armstrong, of Tanfield Lea, Co. Durham, perhaps the greatest of the North-east's mining bards, was said to have made up thousands of songs. Many of the songs known to have been written have long since been forgotten and can only be found in manuscript form, very often without a melody. Others, such as Armstrong's Durham Jail, have made a greater impact upon the communities of the North-east and have passed into the local folk-music tradition. There are also many songs which are still kept alive mainly in the minds of individual miners, or of their families, which come out now and then in the quiet of the home, or to help pass away the hours of work.

This record has two aims. First, to jolt the memory of North-east miners; to bring back to their minds songs which have as much feeling, be it tender or humorous or down-right aggressive, as anything the "pop" market can produce, and which are far more akin to the reality of their lives. The second aim is to let people outside the North-east hear what miners think of themselves and their work. The accent might puzzle and be hard to break down, but with a little patience and a lot of listening, a wealth of humour and an understanding of the miners' personality will be there for the taking.


LOUIS KILLEN, born in Gateshead-on-Tyne, Co. Durham, comes from a singing family. Local songs made up a large part of the family repertoire. He has become well known, throughput the country, as a folksinger, and is one of the few singers in the folk revival to use a traditional instrument, the concertina, with which to accompany himself. A cabinet-maker by trade, he has worked at various jobs and now makes singing and the study of folk-music his full time profession.

JOHNNY HANDLE is the pseudonym for a young man who is making a prominent name for himself as a writer of "Geordie" mining songs. He has worked in the pits for eleven years and is a surveyor. His interest in folk-music stems from jazz: he has led several bands. In 1958 he helped Louis Killen form Newcastle-upon-Tyne's first folk club, "Folksong and Ballad". Born in Newcastle, he finds mining songs of the past an inspiration for the songs he himself writes. He, like Killen, often uses a traditional instrument, the melodeon, to accompany his singing.

COLIN ROSS, who accompanies, on Northumbrian pipes and fiddle, two of the songs on this record, is a sculptor and teacher from North Shields. He is well known on Tyneside as a folk musician and plays for morris, sword, and country dance teams. He joined Newcastle's "Folksong and Ballad" club in 1961 as resident musician.


It's in the evenin' after dark,
When the black-leg miner creeps to work,
Wi' his moleskin pants and dorty shart,
There goes the black-leg miners.

They take their picks and down they go
To hew the coal that lies below;
But there's not a woman in this town row
Will look at a black-leg miner.

O, Deleval is a terrible place;
They rub wet clay in the black-legs face,
And around the heap they run a foot race
To catch the black-leg miner.

And divvent gan near the Seghill mine,
Across the Way they stretch a line
To catch the throat and break the spine
Of the dirty black-leg miners.

They'll take your tools and duds as well,
And hoy them doon the pit of hell;
Doon ye go and fare y' well,
Ye dorty black-leg miners.

So join the Union while ye may,
Don't wait til your dyin' day—
'Cause that may not be far away
Ye dorty black-les miners.

This Northumberland pit song was collected from Mr. W. Sampey, of Bishop Auckland, Co. Durham, in 1949.
The reprisals against black-legs were common occurrences during the strikes of the last century in the Northumbrian Coalfields when the owners brought Welsh, Irish and Cornish labour into the Field in attempts to break the Unions.


As me and me marra was gannin to wark,
We met wi' the devil, it was in the dark;
I upwi' me pick, it bein in the neet,
And knocked off his horns, likewise his club feet.

Follow the horses, Johnny me laddie,
Follow them through, me canny lad, oh!
Follow the horses, Johnny me laddie,
Hey, lad, lie away, me canny lad, oh!

As me and me marra was puttin the tram,
The lowe it went oot and me marra went wrang;
Ye would have laughed had ye seen the gam,
And Nick got me marra, but I got the tram.

Oh, marra, oh, marra, what dost thou think?
I've broken me bottle and spilt a' me drink;
I've lost a' me shin-splints amang the greet stanes;
Draw me to the shaft, lad, it's time to gan hame.

Oh, marra, oh, marra, where hest thou been?
Drivin the drift frae the low seam,
Drivin the drift frae the low seam;
Haud up the lowe, lad, de'il stop oot they een!

Oh, marra, oh, marra, this is wor pay week.
We'll get penny loaves and drink to wor beek;
And we'll fill up wor bumper and roond it shall go.
Follow the horses, me Johnny lad, oh!

There is me horse, and there is me tram,
Twe horns full of grease will myek her to gan;
There is me hoggers, likewise me half shoon,
And smash me heart, marra, me puttin's a' done!

THE COLLIERS' RANT is perhaps one of the oldest of mining songs in this country. It was currently popular (and for how long we don't know} when Ritson published it in his NORTHUMBFRLAND GARLAND, 1793. And it is still a popular piece among colliery choirs in the North-east.


Twas last pay Friday afternoon, aw went and drew me pay,
And like a feul unte the skcul aw surely bent me way.
Aw soon lost all of me money, and aw stood 'til aw was numb,
Then away aw went hyem and aw wished to mesel that next pay Friday wad come.

When aw went hyem and telt me wife, she nearly broke her heart,
She says, Me lad, such work as this is sure te mek us part.
Aw wouldn't o' cared if thou'd come home drunk wi' strang beer, whiskey, or rum.
Aw wad tyen the rest and done me best til another pay Friday wad come.

Then she sobbed and sighed and the bairnies all cried, and aw was very bad,
A house confused and a woman's abuse is enuef to drive a man mad.
Aw knew very weel what caused it all, so aw sat as though aw was dumb,
Te speak aw was flaid, so nowt was said, but aw wished pay Friday wad come.

The grocer and butcher, and shoemekker tee, they all come smilin' in,
But what wes my poor wife te de but tell them she had nee tin?
Their smiles was all torned inte frowns, it nearly struck them dumb,
And when they went oot, aw couldn't say nowt, but aw wished pay Friday was come.

On Saturday morn te be oot of the way aw teuk mesel of to the toon,
But hevin' ne brass te set me in, had to wander up and doon.
Aw met mony a kenned fyece in the street, but they all appeared to be dumb,
And all the way hyem aw sang to mesel: aw wished pay Friday wad come.

On Sunday morn when aw got up the sun se bright did shine,
There was nowt provided in the hoose for to break wor fast or dine.
The bairns was crying oot for broth, and a greet marrow bone made some;
They made the hoose ring wi' tryin' te sing: aw wish pay Friday wad come.

On Monday morn the miller come in. Me wife began te cry.
He said if he couldn't get his tin he wad surely stop the supply.
Aw's proud to remark that aw was at work, and oot of the way of the hum,
And all the whole day was singing away, aw wish pay Friday wad come.

We'd nowt te eat, niether taties nor meat, and the bairns was crying for bread,
Me wife was frettin' away hor life, and aw wished that aw was deed.
Me brand new suit had te gan up the spoot, it's a regular practice wi' some,
But it's not a good plan for a hard working man, so aw wish pay Friday wad come.

But next pay Friday, aw'll lay me life, aw'll not be such a feul,
Aw'll take me pay strite hyem te me wife, instead of gannin te skeul.
Aw'll treat mesel te a good glass o' yell, and me wife te a good glass of rum,
And aw'll give the rest te manage hor best, so aw wish pay Friday wad come.

This song was written in 1870 by an Elswick (Newcastle} miner called Anderson. The "skeull" (school) to which the man goes and loses his money is a "Tossin' Skeul" i.e. a gambling school where pitch-and-toss was played.


Aw'm just a smally laddie, hardly aud enough to hew,
But aw've held me awn at puttin' wi' the best aw ivvor knew.
Give us plenty bait an' bottle, plenty beef and baccy chows,
And aw'll bet me buch o' tokens that frae gannin doon te lowse—

Aw'm runnin' for the odd un,
Aw'm runnin' for the odd un,
Aw'm runnin' for the odd un,
Frae gannin doon te lowse.

There's half-a-dozen gannins at the flat that aw'm at noo,
An' if aw had me awn i' choosin, aw'd hew number one or two.
But dash me, somehoo or other, hoo it comes aw divvent knaw,
But as sure's aw rub me kyevel, it's the warst un on the saw.

There's a hitch and then a swally filled wi' watter like a ford,
And a lot of way aal twisted in the clarty gannin board;
There's law planks and raggy canches, where aw've sometimes got a smack,
An' it myeks ye twist yor gizzard if ye chance te catch yor back.

There's a short plate and a lang un, near the double turn inbye,
They've been fettled wiv a closer, and that closer winnet lie.
Oh, that short plate and that closer, cud they speak what wad they say?
For aw've telled them lots of secrets when aw've tummelled off the way.

There's a lang law heavy pillor inbyeside the canvas door,
Where aw hoss the scrubbin full uns up for eighteen pence a score;
Hoo aw bliss that lang law pillor! Hoo that awful hitch aw dreed!
For it's awful wark this stickin an' this shovin' wi' yor heed.

There's a mate o' mine, a hewer, wears a shirt o' flannel blue,
Which aw filled away at Christmas 'cause he wadn't pay his dues.
Wey! Ye shud hev heard him sweerin, hoo he'd bruise at ivvory bat,
While he chased me wiv the shot-stick-but aw licked him te the flat!

A putter is a miner who takes the tubs from the fillers to the shaft bottom. The tubs are drawn up to the shaft bottom in groups of forty-one and each of the putters working th the same section always strives to be the one who gets the odd tub, being paid by the tubs he puts.
This song tells the troubles of a putter because he is working in a bad section where the "way" (tunnel) is full of obstructions.


Oh, let's not think of tomorrow lest we disappointed be.
Our joys may turn to sorrows as we all may daily see.
Today we're strong and healthy, but tomorrow comes a change,
As we may see from the explosion that's occurred at Trimdon Grange.

Men and boys set out that morning for to earn their daily bread,
Not thinking that by evening they'd be numbered with the dead.
Let's think of Mrs. Burnett, once had sons but now has none—
By the Trimdon Grange explosion, Joseph, George, and James have gone.

February left behind it what will never be forgot;
Weeping widows, helpless children may be found in many a cot.
They ask if father's left them, and the mother hangs her head,
With a weeping widows feelings tells the child its father's dead.

God protect the lonely widow and raise up each drooping head;
Be a father to the orphans, do not let them cry for bread.
Death will pay us all a visit, they have only gone before,
And we'll meet the Trimdon victims where explosions are no more.

This song was written by the great mining bard of the North-east, Thomas Armstrong, of Tanfield Lea, Co. Durham. he explosion occurred on February 16th, 1882 at the Trimdon Grange Colliery, Co. Durham. Seventy-four men and boys lost their lives.


Saw ye oot o' my lad gannin doon the waggon-way,
Wi' his pocket full o' money and his poke full o' hay?
Aye, but he's a bonny lad, as ever ye did see,
Tho' he's sair frowsy-freckled and he's blind of an e'e.

There's ne'er a lad like my lad drives te a staith on Tyne:,
Though coal black on work-days, on holidays he's fine.
Oh, my lad's a bonny lad, the bonniest I see,
And ne'er a ane there is could say that black is iv his e'e.

Wiv his siller in his hand, and wi' love in his e'e,
Yonder I see me canny lad a-comin' to me.
Aye, but he's a bonny lad as ever ye did see,
Though he's sair pock-brocken and he's blind of an e'e.

This is another very old North-east song—perhaps as old as the COLLIERS' RANT. It was first published in Dell's RHYMES OF THE NORTHERN BARDS, 1812.
The "hero" is a waggoner who takes the coal from the pit heads to the coaling staithes on the Tyne.

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Northumbrian Garland
Songs from the North-East and the Border
  • Northumbrian Garland
    • 1962 - Topic TOP75 EP

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  • Side One
    1. The Anti-Gallican Privateer — Louis Killen: vocal and concertina & Colin Ross: tin whistle
    2. Sair Fyeld Hinny — Louis Killen: vocal
    3. Keep Your Feet Still — Louis Killen: vocal; Colin Ross: fiddle; Johnny Handle: melodeon
  • Side Two
    1. Up the Raw — Louis Killen: vocal; Colin Ross: tin whistle.
    2. Dol-li A — Louis Killen: vocal
    3. Derwentwater's Farewell — Louis Killen: vocal; Colin Ross: Northumbrian pipes

  • Musicians
    • Louis Killen: Vocal and Concertina
    • Colin Ross: Tin Whistle, Northumbrian Pipes & Fiddle
    • Johnny Handle: Melodeon
  • Credits
    • Recorded by Bill Leader

Sleeve Notes

The songs on this record, with the exception of one, are all popular songs in Northumberland and Durham, and especially in the industrial area which stretches between the two counties, Tyneside; and even the Anti-Gallican Privateer was popular there in its day.

While some of these songs can be heard sung in pubs at week-ends, and others played where pipers gather, in the main they will be heard sung by choirs or concert singers. But the formal restrictions placed on the music, by choral arrangements or by methods of voice-production designed to "show off" the more than the song, stifles the character of these songs of the North-east people, whose own character, anything but formal, is filled with a zest for living. These songs, be they laments, lullabyes, or rowdy music-hall songs, are an expression of the Northumbrian's life and as such they should be sung, as life itself is lived, naturally. This is how they are presented on this record, sung in the natural style of the folksinger.

The tradition of folk music in this country is for the songs to be sung unaccompanied, though it is thought that in Northumbria the small pipes were used for the accompaniment of ballads. This idea was put forward by John Stokoe, one of the compilers of The Northumbrian Minstrelsy (1882). If this tradition did exist, it had died out when Stokoe started collecting in the middle of the last century. However, it would seem more natural to accompany folk songs with traditional instruments than with the concert performers' piano or the modern "folkniks" importation from America, the guitar. So this record is something of an experiment; a drawing together of the traditional style of singing and the traditional instruments of the area (small pipes, squeeze-box, fiddle and tin whistle) to accompany it. Whether the experiment is successful remains to be seen, for the only way of judging its success is to see whether or not it becomes part of the tradition.


LOUIS KILLEN was born in Gateshead-on-Tyne in 1934. Though now resident in London, he has spent nearly all his life on Tyneside, living in Gateshead and Newcastle. He comes from a singing family; with his parents and three brothers, he regularly had family entertainment. It was in this setting that he first heard local folk songs, sung by his father (a local man—his mother is Irish). But at this time the songs were never thought of as folk songs; they were "Geordie" songs and that was a far as it went. It was only in his late teens that he began to look and listen for "folk songs".

In 1957, Louis spent some time in Oxford and became involved with a group in the university who were keenly interested in folk music. From them he learnt many songs from other parts of the country, and in so doing developed a keen interest in folk music as a social factor in the lives of communities. In 1958 he formed a club in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, "Folksong and Ballad", which has continued to run every winter since, with great success.

He became nationally known throughout folk song clubs and through radio and television programmes such as Song of a Road, The Big Hewer and Sunderland Oak. He is considered in the "folk world" to be one of the best young revival folksingers in the country.

COLIN ROSS was born in North Shields, near the mouth of the Tyne, in 1934, of Scots and Northumbrian parents (his mother is a Charlton). When he was sixteen years old, he learnt to play the violin and tin whistle. He went to King's College, Newcastle, to study sculpture, and while there joined the college Morrismen and played fiddle, whistle, and melodeon for morris, sword and country dancing. During this period he toured with the Morrismen in Germany, Norway and France. While doing his National Service he formed a folk dance band at Catterick Camp. When demobbed, he joined the Monkseaton Morrismen and has played for them ever since.

In 1961 he visited Newcastle's "Folksong and Ballad" and was press-ganged into becoming the club's resident musician. There he started playing, publicly, the Northumbrian Small Pipes, an instrument which he has only been playing a short time; and to accompany singers.

His piping is very advanced, considering the short time he has played the instrument, but as yet no distinct style has developed. His fiddle playing has a strong, vigorous style, which makes listeners' feet immediately tap: this is to be expected, for he bases his style on that of the best of the Border fiddlers.


The Anti-gallican's safe arrived,
On Board of her with speed we'll hie;
She'll soon be fit to sail away,
To the Anti-gallican haste away,
Haste away, haste away,
To the Anti-gallican haste away.

For gold we'll sail the ocean o'er,
From Briton's isle to the French shore;
No ships from us shall run away—
To the Anti-gallican haste away.

These Spaniards, too—those cunning knaves,
We'll take their ships and make them slaves;
Till war's declared we'll never stay—
To the Anti-gallican haste away.

Our country calls us all to arms,
To keep us safe from French alarms;
Then let us all her voice obey—
To the Anti-gallican haste away.

When we are rich, then home we'll steer,
And enter Shields with many a cheer,
To meet our friends so blythe and gay—
To the Anti-gallican haste away.

To Charlotte's Head, then let's repair,
We'll be received with welcome there;
We'll enter, then, without delay—
To the Anti-gallican haste away.

The Anti-gallican privateer sailed from Shields, March, 6th, 1779, but returned without a prize of any kind, much to the disappointment of the inhabitants of Tyneside {the ship being the first of its kind to be fitted out and manned locally).
This song and its air were popular at the time of sailing.


Sair fyeld, hinny, sair fyeld noo,
Sair fyeld, hinny, sinna kenned thou.

Aw was young and lusty, aw was fair and clear,
Aw was young and lusty, mony a lang year.

Sair fyeld, etc.

When aw was five and twenty, aw was brave and bold;
But noo aw'm five and sixty, aw'm byeth stiff and cuald.

Sair fyeld, etc.

Thus spoke the awd man to the oak tree:
Sair fyeld is aw. sin' aw kenned thee.

Sair fyeld, etc.

This song was first published in Bruce and Stokoe's NORTHUMBRIAN MINSTRELSY (1882). No notes were given, however, it is one of the most popular of Northumbrian folk songs—even today. The refrain means: sorely failed (in health and strength) since I knew you (as a young tree).


Up the Raw, doon, the Raw,
Up the Raw, lass, ivvory day,
For shape or colour, ma bonny hinny,
Thou bangs thy mother, me canny bairn.

Black as a craw, ma bonny hinny,
Thou bangs them a', lass, ivvory day,
Thou's a' clag-candied, ma bonny hinny,
Thou's doubled japanded, ma canny bairn.

Up the Raw, etc.

For hide or hue, ma bonny hinny,
Thou bangs the craw, ma canny bairn;
Up the Raw, ma bonny hinny,
Thou bangs them a', ma canny bairn.

Up the Raw, etc.

This dandling song is of mining origins, the "Raw" is a pit row—a row of pit houses.


Wor Geordie and Bob Johnson both lay in the same bed
In a little lodgin' hoose that's doon the shore;
But afore they'd been an hour asleep a kick from Geordie's foot
Made Bob waken up to roar instead of snore.

Keep your feet still, Geordie hinny, let's be happy for the neet,
'Cause aw may not be so happy through the day;
Oh, gi's that bit o' comfort—keep your feet still, Geordie lad,
And divvent drive me bonny dreams away.

Noo, aw dreamt there was a dancin' held, and Mary Clark was there,
And aw thowt we tripped it leetly roond the floor,
As aw held her heavin' breast t' mine while walsin' roond the room.
And that's mair than aw dor ivver de afore.

Noo, ye knaa the lad she gans with, they caall him Jimmy Green,
And he thowt he'd try to spoil wor bit of fun,
But aw dreamt aw nailed him heavy, and aw blacked the big feuls eyes,
If aw'd slept, it's hard to tell what aw wad deun.

Aw thowt aw set her hyem that neet; content we went alang,
And aw kissed hor lips a hundred times or mair,
And aw wished the road wad nivvor end, so happy like was aw,
Aw could of waaked a thoosand miles wi' Mary then.

Aw dreamt Jim Green had left the toon and left his love to me,
And aw thowt the hoose was fornished with the best;
And aw dreamt that aw'd just left the church wi' Mary by me side
When your clumsy feet completely spoilt the rest.

This song was written by Joe Wilson, one of Tyneside's most famous music hall composers and artistes. With Ridley's BLAYDON RACES and CUSHIE BUTTERFIELD, the song ranks as one of the most famous and world-widely known of Tyneside's music hall-cum-folk pieces.


Fresh aw cum frae Sandgate Street,
Dol-li, dol-li,

My best friends here to meet,
Dol-li a,
Dol-li the dillen dol,
Dol-li, dol-li,
Dol-li the dillen dol,
Dol-li a.

The Black Cuffs is gawn away,
Dol-li, dol-li,

And that will be a crying day.
Dol-li a, etc …

Dolly Coxon's pawned hor shart,
For to ride the baggage cart.

The Green Cuffs is coming in,
That'll make the lasses sing.

A Newcastle street song. It was first published in the NORTHUMBRIAN MINSTRELSY (1882). The Black and Green Cuffs were two regiments of foot, stationed at Fenham Barracks, Newcastle.


Farewell to pleasant Dilston Hall,
My father's ancient seat,
A stranger now must call thee his,
Which gars my heart to greet.
Farewell each friendly, well-known face,
My heart has held so dear,
My tenants now must leave their lands
Or hold their lives in fear.

And fare thee well, my bonny grey steed,
That carried me aye so free;
I wish 1 had been asleep in my bed
Last time I mounted thee.
Fare well, fare well, my lady dear,
Ill, ill, thou counselled me;
I never more may see the babe
That smiles upon your knee.

The warning bell now bids me cease,
My trouble's nearly o'er,
Yon sun that rises from the sea
Shall rise on me no more.
Albeit that here in London town
It is my fate to die,
Oh! carry me to Northumberland,
In my father's grave to lie.

This song first appeared in Hogs's JACOBITE RELICS OF SCOTLAND and is thought to be the work of Mr. Surtees of Mainsforth who communicated it to the editor. The melody first appeared in John Gamble's COMMONPLACE BOOK (1659). The song is popular in Northumberland especially among players of the small pipes.

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Stottin' Doon The Waall: Songs of mining and miners …
Johnny Handle
  • Stottin' Doon The Waall
    • 1962 - Topic TOP78 EP

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  • Side One
    1. Stottin' doon the waall
    2. The stoneman's song. Durham
    3. The day we went to the coast
  • Side Two
    1. Farewell to the Monty
    2. Big Meetin' Day

  • Musicians
    • Johnny Handle: vocals, guitar and melodeon
  • Credits
    • Producer: Louis Killen
    • Recording by Bill Leader
    • Photograph by Brian Shuel

Sleeve Notes

JOHNNY HANDLE is the pseudonym of a young man from Newcastle upon Tyne (actually he was born in Wallsend), who has made a name for himself as one of the best writers of modern songs in traditional style in the country. But his songs are of a very particular tradition; that of the bards of industrial Tyneside and the surrounding coalfield of Northumberland and Durham. His songs are about, and very much in the idiom, of the people amongst whom he was born and with whom he has lived and worked all his life. Mostly they concern 'pit people'. Handle has worked in coal mining for eleven years.

He was born in 1935. His father is a schoolmaster. The only connections with mining in the family are on his mother's side; his grandfather and uncle both worked in the pits. He was educated at Heaton Grammar School, Newcastle, but at the age of seventeen, after rejecting an academic career, went into the pits, starting as a surface timber hand before being trained and sent underground. At school he had been nicknamed 'Panhandle', because of his interest in prospecting and geology, an interest which led him into coal-mining. After leaving school this was shortened to 'Handle' as, so Johnny says, recognition of his changed status. His true name has remained with him in the National Coal Board in which he eventually became a mining surveyor. But to people outside the pits he is still known as Johnny Handle.

His musical 'career' started in the jazz clubs of Newcastle. There he played a variety of instruments, mainly piano and guitar (strung to banjo tuning). When not playing in bands he sang blues and American folksongs. Early in 1958 he met and started singing with other folksingers and in the latter part of that year helped to found the Newcastle Folksong and Ballad Club. Gradually his interest changed from American material to British, with an especial interest in local songs. One book had a profound effect on Handle; it was A. L. Lloyd's "Come all ye bold miners". Johnny often refers to it as 'the Bible'. This book is a compilation of mining songs, the majority of which come from the North-east. It was reading and singing the songs in this book that started Johnny writing his own songs about the pits.

Johnny Handle is an unusual person. He is a 'townie' who, without having any immediate background of mining and miners, has gone into an industry in which the workers live a life of their own, both in and out of the mines. He has soaked himself, not only in the work and the history of the pits, but also in the life of 'pit folk'. He is an 'outsider' who has become an 'insider'. His songs, a reflection of pit work and life, vie with the best songs of Thomas Armstrong, Durham's great pit bard.

This record contains six of the best of Handle's songs. They are all highly localised songs, written and sung in the dialect and accent of Tyneside. But these are songs very much of the people, and it is only by listening to people talking and singing in the speech with which they are most familiar that one learns anything of their true feelings. Handle does not write his songs for people, certainly not for those outside Northumberland and Durham. His songs are about people, and a way of life that he loves; and those people and that way of life are of the North-east of England. By listening to his songs you, the listener, will learn something about the way 'Geordies' truly live and think.

Johnny Handle is a young man. He has many years of songwriting ahead of him. If the standard of his songs remain as high as those on this record, he will surely be ranked with other great North-east writers, Armstrong, Wilson, and Ridley.


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Along The Coaly Tyne: Old and New Northumbrian Songs
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  • Along The Coaly Tyne
    • 1968 - Topic 12T189 LP
    • 1998 - Topic TSCD498 CD
      • With five additional tracks from the High Level Ranter's LP "Ranting Lads"

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  • Side One
    1. The Anti-Gallican Privateer [2]
    2. The Colliers' Rant [1]
    3. Up the Raw [2]
    4. Farewell to the Monty [3]
    5. Blackleg Miners [1]
    6. The Collier Lad (The Filler) [3]
    7. Dollia [2]
    8. The Waggoner [1]
    9. Derwentwater's Farewell [2]
  • Side Two
    1. Stottin' Doon the Waall [3]
    2. Keep Your Feet Still, Geordie Hinny [2]
    3. The Stonemason's Song [3]
    4. Aw Wish Pay Friday Wad Come [1]
    5. Durham Big Meetin' [3]
    6. The Trimdon Grange Explosion [1]
    7. The Putter [1]
    8. Sair Fyeld Hinny [2]
  • CD Bonus Tracks
    1. Dance to Yer Daddy
    2. The Lass Doon on the Quay
    3. The Kielder Hunt
    4. Elsie Marley
    5. Stanley Market

  • Musicians
    • Louis Killen: Vocals (Tracks: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17), Concertina (Tracks: 1, 15), Banjo (Track: 5)
    • Johnny Handle: Vocals (Tracks: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20-21), Guitar (Tracks: 2, 6, 8, 12, 16), Melodeon (Tracks: 4, 10-11), Piano (Tracks: 19, 22)
    • Colin Ross: Tin Whistle (Tracks: 1, 3), Northumbrian Pipes (Tracks: 5, 9), Fiddle (Tracks: 11, 13, 18-19, 21)
    • CD Bonus Tracks Only:
      • Tom Gilfellon: Vocals (Tracks: 19, 22)
      • Alistair Anderson: English Concertina (Tracks: 18, 21-22)
  • Credits
    • Originally issued by Topic in 1962 with a different sleeve
    • Recorded by Bill Leader
    • Notes by Frank Rutherford
  • Notes:
    • The copy of this album (in my collection — with 2nd the cover) is dated 1962.
      • Which was when the original EPs released.
    • Based on the chronological catalog numbers in Reinhard Zierke's very thorough Topic discography, this LP was released in 1968.

Sleeve Notes

The Singers

LOUIS KILLEN, born at Gateshead-on-Tyne in 1934, comes from a singing family. He worked at various jobs before becoming a full-time singer and a student of folk-music, particularly of the north-east. He has sung all over this country at clubs, and on radio and television. Now living in the United States, he has spent most of his life on Tyneside, where in 1958 he founded the still flourishing Newcastle club, 'Folksong and Ballad'. His repertoire, which once contained much American material, is now mainly British, and although a skilled player on several instruments he now prefers the native concertina.

JOHNNY HANDLE is the pseudonym of a former mine-worker, born at Wallsend in 1935, who lives in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. His main musical interest was formerly in jazz, and as a folk-singer he began with a repertoire of blues and American songs, gradually going over to British, especially north-eastern, material, including his own songs. These were inspired by a study of A. L. Lloyd's Come All Ye Bold Miners and other collections of mining songs. Two or three years ago he left the pits, where he had become a mining surveyor, and is now a teacher. He is still very active as a singer, in the clubs — he helped to found the Newcastle club, of which he is a resident singer — and has sung on radio and television.

The Accompanist

COLIN ROSS, born at North Shields, where he still lives, in 1934, is a sculptor and teacher, who has long played for morris, sword and country dance teams, in this country and on tours abroad. He joined 'Folk Song and Ballad', of which he is still resident musician, in 1961. His fiddle playing has a strong, vigorous style, based on that of the best Border fiddlers, and he is an almost equally skilled performer on the Northumbrian pipes, tin whistle and melodeon. His music is used not only for accompanying singers and dancers, but also for solo and consort playing.

The Songs

Mining songs first. These are among the oldest (and the newest) of those sung today in Northumberland and Durham. Consider the dates of first publication, so far as these can be traced. (The words of most songs appeared in print long before the melodies). The riotous Collier's Rant was printed in 1793, but seems, in its description of a fight with the Devil in the dark of the mine, to echo a much more distant past. The Waggoner (Doon the Waggon-Way) may be almost as old ; first printed, apparently, in 1812, it is a woman's love-song, half-way in style between a country and an industrial song. It is roughly dated by the archaic means of transporting coal which it describes. Up the Raw, also found in John Bell's book of 1812, although a dandling song, sounds the harsher note, not entirely absent from The Waggoner, which is characteristic of north-eastern song, especially at this early period. The Blackleg Miners, anonymous, like these four and unlike the songs to be mentioned, although first noted, with its tune, in 1949, was born perhaps a hundred years earlier. In these four songs many of the characteristics of the miner are apparent: the pride in his work; the boisterous enjoyment of leisure; the sense of a closed community; the stoicism; the superstition; the humour; the habit of rough banter towards a loved one, oddly mixed, sometimes, with tenderness; the savagery towards enemies.

With the local compositions, the work of Anderson, Barrass and Armstrong, pitman-poets and part-time stage-singers of the eighteen-seventies, eighties and nineties, comes a certain change: the humour is less fierce; sentimentalism enters; the pit-work is described in greater technical detail. The pride, and many of the other older characteristics remain. Aw Wish Pay Friday Wad Come jokes wryly about the hardships which beset a miner's home when a fortnight's pay is lost in gambling, while The Putter, humorous too, is one of a series in which Alexander Barrass describes the different kinds of mining work. The Trimdon Grange Explosion, on the other hand, is written in the manner of a disaster song: pathetic, formal in language, and without the dialect words which writers of local compositions usually love to provide.

Johnny Handle's pieces, belonging to the mid-twentieth century and the age of the second folk-song revival — that which centres round the clubs — maintain the music-hall tradition, with omissions and additions appropriate to their period. They avoid the sententious vein of some of the older songs and show little of the discontent which we find in such songs as The Blackleg Miners, where the miner expressed his resentment against blackleg labour, and, by implication, the mine-owners. The wealth of technical detail continues, and there is still much about the miner's diversions, on Friday evenings at the pub, and on summer outings to 'the Coast'. Less familiar are the backward look, from a calmer period, at the days of struggle when the 'unions came to be', and, in Farewell to the Monty, the mingled feelings of regret and relief at a familiar twentieth-century happening, a pit-closure. Of Johnny's songs there are no doubt more to come.

Some of the remaining songs recorded here — those not concerned with mining — also seem old. They include two of the very best Northumbrian songs. Sair Fyeld Hinny, printed in a slightly different version in 1784, but very likely older, is a grave lament for lost youth, a rarity in folk-song, while Dollia, printed in 1812, is a skit, apparently of the seventeen-nineties, but perhaps just remade at that time, against the soldier-mad girls of the town. The Anti-Gallican, referring to an event of 1779, must have arisen about that date, while Derwentwater's Lament, if written, as it probably was, by Robert Surtees, presumably dates from about 1820. These two may be regarded as local compositions, although the author of the one is unknown and of the other uncertain. Joe Wilson's well-known comic song, Keep Your Feet Still, Geordie Hinny, is a local composition of much later date, about 1870.

The tunes of the older anonymous songs recorded here are, so far as we know and with the exception of The Blackleg Miners, their own. The local compositions of the nineteenth century and earlier, like most songs of this type, are set to borrowed tunes, but the Handle texts are set to tunes written specially for the purpose by Johnny himself, alone or in collaboration. The Trimdon Grange Explosion, has had an experience not uncommon among this class of song : it has changed the tune to which it was originally sung (The Cottage by the Sea) for another, which is modal, less sentimental, and more to the taste of the present day, when sung to words like these.

Variation has been at work on all these songs, local compositions of known authorship included. Small changes — some, it may be presumed, introduced not much before the present recording — can be seen both in the texts by Surtees and the other writers, and in the anonymous verses of The Collier's Rant and The Blackleg Miners, white Johnny Handle varies his own words, as other singers may do after him. Tunes are varied too: The Trimdon Grange Explosion, for example, as sung here, differs slightly from the air noted in 1951.

We know little about how these songs were accompanied in earlier times, although it is said that the Northumbrian small-pipes were sometimes used. Singing may often have been unaccompanied, but in the Newcastle music-halls, and in the mechanics' halls of the pit-villages, no doubt three-piece bands or piano backed the singer, and the later appearance of piano editions must have encouraged home singing round the family upright. Concert singers of a higher social class than, say, Joe Wilson, and choral societies, singing in parts, would also have a piano accompaniment. No piano is heard on this record. The guitar or banjo is used for some songs, while instruments longer established, for varying periods, in British tradition — fiddle, tin whistle, concertina and melodeon — accompany others. The small-pipes, particularly associated with Northumbria, are used for yet another group, either alone or with another instrument. Combinations of instruments are used for four songs. Four are sung unaccompanied.

All these songs are peculiar to the north-east, in the sense that — with the exception of a variant of The Blackleg Miners — they seem not to occur in closely similar form in collections made elsewhere. Folksongs are rarely so narrowly distributed — local compositions are another matter — and it may be that variants, at any rate of the older songs, existed once in other countries, but escaped collection and disappeared. Collection began earlier in Northumberland and Durham than in most parts of England.

It must be remembered that the people of the north-east never confined their singing to 'Northumbrian songs', such as those recorded here. The local collections themselves contain many versions of songs well known elsewhere, such as The Seeds of Love and Green Broom, while it has been possible to collect locally, in the last few years, other songs equally famous, such as The Banks of the Sweet Dundee and Died of Love, from singers who had them from a line of earlier north-easterners.

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