collier lad

The Collier Lad

The Collier Lad appeared in Skipsey's 1864 collection: The Collier Lad and other Songs and Ballads, printed by J G Forster, 81 Clayton Street, Newcastle. It was subsequently included in all the other published collections.

My lad he is a collier lad

And ere the lark awakes

He’s up and away to spend the day

Where daylight never breaks;

But when at last the day has pass’d,

All washed and cleanly clad,

He courts his Nell who loveth well

Her handsome collier lad.

There’s not his match in smoky Shields

Newcastle never had

A lad more tight or trim or bright

Than is my collier lad.

Tho’ doomed to labour underground

A merry lad is he

And when a holiday comes round

He’ll spend the day in glee;

He’ll tell his tale o’er a pint of ale

And crack a joke, and bad

Must be the heart that loveth not

To hear the collier lad.

At bowling matches on the green

He ever takes the lead

For none can swing his arm and fling

With such a pith and speed;

His bowl is seen to skim the green

And bound as if it’s glad

To hear the cry of victory

Salute the collier lad.

When in the dance he doth advance

The rest all sigh to see

How he can spring and kick his heels

When they a-wearied be;

He does 1-2-3 with either knee

And then – you’d think he‘s mad -

A heel-o’er-head to finish

Does my dancing collier lad.

Besides a will and pith and skill

My laddie owns a heart

That never once would suffer him

To act a cruel part;

To the poor he’d ope the door

To share the last he had

And many a secret blessing’s poured

Upon my collier lad.

The original poem is somewhat longer than this, having eight verses as well as the chorus. Two of the missing verses describe, in similar vein to those above, the collier lad's prowess at quoits and ball games, while in the last verse Nell, through whose eyes the poem is written, promises to tame him to please the priest. I decided to shorten it to make it less repetitive, and to omit the final verse. I have made a few other minor amendments solely with the aim of getting the sense across more easily when singing it. This is one of the first of the poems that I set to music. It is an obvious candidate to be made into a song, with its easy rhythm and catchy chorus. The tune is in the style of a lot of Tyneside music-hall songs of the nineteenth century. At the time I was writing the tune, I was unaware that it had already been made into a song by Johnny Handle, in a somewhat different style.

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