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.