The Blaydon Races Song

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Aw went to Blaydon races, ‘twas on the ninth of June,

Eiteen hundred an sixty two, on a summer’s afternoon;Aw tyek the ‘bus frae Balmbra’s,an she wis heavy laden,

Away we went alang Collingwood Street,that’s on the roads to Blaydon.


O lads, ye shud only seen us gannin’,

We pass’d the foaks upon the road just as they wor stannin’,

Thor wes lots o’ lads an’ lasses there, all wi’ smilin faces,

Gannin alang the Scotswood Road, to see the Blaydon Races

The horse brake left from the Wheatsheaf Inn, Cloth Market taking its s name from the innkeeper John Balmbra.  Then along Collingwood Street and into Neville Street. It would pass the Stephenson Monument which was still under construction, officially unveiled 2 October 1862, then pass Dobson’s Central Station ( the  portico wasn’t completed until 1863 ). Lower Grainger Street was still under construction and Dr. Gibb who is mentioned in verse 3 had just moved to a new house in Westgate Rd. After Neville Street the bus would go across the cattle market and into Marlborough Street, passing the Infirmary which was then alongside the Central Station then onto the first section of Scotswood Road.


We flew past Armstrang’s factory, and up to the “Robin Adair”,

Just gannin doon the railway bridge, the ‘bus wheel flew off there.

The lasses lost their crinolines off, an’ the veils that hide their faces,

An’ aw got two black eyes an’ a broken nose in gan te Blaydon Races.

Along Scotswood road past Armstrongs Factory which was still in it’s early stages. It was built in 1847 and called Elswick Engine Works. By 1862 a major expansion was underway, and eventually Armstrong’s stretched all along the riverside from Elswick to Scotswood. The north side of Scotswood Road was mainly greenfields,  although the construction of the streets of terrace houses had begun. The public house the Robin Adair was on the south side of the road east of the factory.The island of Kingsmeadow was still in existence, with its own pub the Countess of Coventry, although the island was later removed to make the river easier to navigate. Then on to the railway bridge, when the bus lost a wheel.  


When we gat the wheel put on, away we went agyen,

But them that had their noses broke,they cam back ower hyem;

Sum went to the dispensary, an’ uthers to Doctor Gibbs,

An’ sum sought out the Infirmary to mend their broken ribs,

The Dispensary which provided medical care for the poor was sited in Nelson St.,built in 1839 by Grainger, and remained in existence until 1928.

The Infirmary was in Forth Banks beside the Central Station. This was replaced by the RVI at the Haymarket site in 1906 as the Infirmary was too small and the site left no room to expand. Dr. Gibbs was probably the best known Doctor in Newcastle at the time, he charged all patients the same price 2s 6d ( 12 1/2 p ) and he remained in practice until his death in 1916. 


Noo when we gat to Paradise thor was bonny gam begun;

Thor wes fower-an-twenty on the ‘bus, man, hoo they danced and sung.

They called on me to sing a sang, aw sung them “Paddy Fagan”,

Aw danced a jig an’ swung me twig that day aw went to Blaydon.

Geordie Ridley now mentions Paradise, once, before the industrial expansion of the Victorian era a pleasant area alongside the river. Now only the abutment of the long demolished railway bridge serves as a reminder of the past.


We flew across the Chain Bridge reet into Blaydon toon,

The bellman he was callin’ there – they call him Jackey Broon;

Aw saw him talkin’ to sum cheps, an’ them he was persuadin’,

To gan an’ see Geordie Ridley’s show in the Mechanics Hall at Blaydon.

The Chain Bridge – Scotswood Suspension Bridge – was opened in 1831. The present bridge was opened in 1967 and despite efforts to preserve it, the old bridge was demolished.

Jacky Brown, the bellman was the Blaydon Town Crier and verger at St. Cuthberts Church. He wore a top hat and a red cloth coat trimmed with silver buttons and brass badges. He wasn’t employed by the town, but paid by the people whose adverts he called out. The bell was his own and when he died in 1901 the bell had, through his family, gone to the Dorman Long Museum at Middlesbrough, and they presented it to Newcastle in 1945. The Mechanics Hall was established in 1847 for the education of the working classes. A new building was erected in 1852 in Tyne Street at a cost of £600 and contained a library, reading room and lecture hall supported and largely furnished by the secretary Joseph Cowen jnr. it was for many years the centre of Blaydon’s social, educational and political life. The building in Tyne Street was taken over by Blaydon Co-op after the Mechanics Institute closed in 1877 and was demolished in the 1970’s.The sign that was above the door is now in Blaydon Library in the aptly named Ridley Room. It reads:  “1853-1877 Blaydon and Stella Mechanics Institute” 

In verse 5  Geordie also advertises his own concert in the Mechanics Hall to be performed in the evening after the races.


The rain it poured down all the day,  And made the ground quite muddy

Coffee Johnny had a white hat on,  They were shoutin whe stole the cuddy

There were spice stalls and monkey shows,  And aad wives selling ciders

And the chap on the ha’penny roundabout, Saying ‘Any more lads for riders?

On the day it did rain very heavily and Coffee Johnny was there.

Coffee Johnny ( John Oliver)was a well known local character born in Winlaton in 1829. He was very tall, over 6’, and strong through his work as a blacksmith. He was well known as a formidable boxer and poacher and in one bare knuckle fight with Will Renwick of Winlaton, Renwick had to be brought home in a cart after 36 rounds and 1hr 10 minutes. He died in 1900 and is buried in Winlaton Churchyard.The quote “whe stole the cuddy” was a sarcastic reference to the absence of horses on the race track – racing was delayed until 4pm due to the heavy rainfall.

Despite the weather a good day was had by all nicely rounded off by Geordie’s concert in the evening. 

Susan Lynn/March 2012/ first published in the Blaydon Courier for Blaydon Races Festival/ June 2012