The Fish-Wives' Complaint

Updated: 8 hours ago

A much overlooked source for local history are songs and drolleries written to commemorate local events or to simply poke fun at individuals or particular groups. These rarely provide any information of the Genealogical kind, but can certainly add colour to our ancestor’s lives.


Tyneside Fisherwomen
Tyneside Fisherwomen (image: Library of 19th Century Photography)


To mark Women's History Month I've selected an example, recorded in;

THE NEWCASTLE SONG BOOK;

OR,

TYNE-SIDE SONGSTER

BEING A COLLECTION OF COMIC AND SATIRICAL SONGS, DESCRIPTIVE OF ECCENTRIC CHARACTERS, AND THE MANNERS AND CUSTOMS OF A PORTION OF THE LABOURING POPULATION OF NEWCASTLE AND THE NEIGHBOURHOOD.


CHIEFLY IN THE NEWCASTLE DIALECT.


There had been Fish Stalls on the riverside district of Sandhill going back to Medieval times, but in 1823 a Fish Market was opened in the new covered section of the Guildhall; designed by John Dobson. The local fish-lasses were convinced the move would destroy their livelihoods and their protests were commemorated in ‘The Fish-Wives Complaint’.


THE FISH-WIVES' COMPLAINT,


On their Removal from the Sandhill to the New Fish Market, on the 2nd of January, 1826.

The merry day hez getten past, The merry day has gone by And we are aw myest broken hearted: And we are all most broken hearted Ye've surely deun for us at last— You’ve surely done for us at last Frae Sandhill, noo, ye hev us parted. From Sandhill now you have parted us

Oh! hinnies, Corporation! Oh dear friends, [Newcastle] Corporation! A! marcy, Corporation! Oh mercy, [Newcastle] Corporation! Ye hev deun a shemful deed, You have done a shameful thing To force us frae wor canny station. To force us from our dear station

It's nee use being iv a rage, It’s no use being in a rage For a' wor pride noo fairly sunk is— For all our pride is truly gone Ye've cramm'd us in a Dandy Cage, You’ve crammed us into a golden cage Like yellow-yowlies, bears, and monkies: Like lions, bears, and monkies: O hinnies, Oh dear friends

The cau'd East wind blaws i' wor teeth— the cold east wind blows in our teeth - With iron bars we are surrounded; With iron bars we are surrounded; It's better far to suffer deeth, It’s far better to be killed Than thus to hev wor feelings wounded. Than to have our feelings wounded O hinnies, &c. Oh dear friends,

Wor haddocks, turbot, cod, and ling, Our haddocks, turbot, cod and ling Are lost tiv a' wor friends' inspection; are lost to all our friends’ view Genteelish folk from us tyek wing, Gentle folk from us fly away For fear of catching some infection. For fear of catching some infection O hinnies, &c. Oh dear friends,

O, kind Sir Matt.—ye bonny Star, Oh kind Sir Matt1 – you bright star, Gan to the King, and show this ditty— Go to the King, and show this song, Tell him what canny folks we are, Tell him what good people we are, And make him free us frae this Kitty. And make him free us from this Prison. O hinnies, &c. Oh dear friends,

If ye succeed, agyen we'll sing— If you succeed, again we’ll sing - Sweet Madge, wor Queen, will ever bless ye; Sweet Madge, our Queen, will ever bless

you And poor au'd Jemmy tee, wor King, And poor old Jemmy too, our King, With a' us fishwives will caress ye. With all us fishwives will caress you. O hinnies, &c. Oh dear friends.


1 Sir Matthew White Ridley, Bart., was MP for Newcastle from 1813 until his death in 1836.


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