> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > Walker Hill and Byker Shore
> Martin Carthy > Songs > Byker Hill
> The Young Tradition > Songs > Byker Hill

Byker Hill (and Walker Shore) / Walker Pits

[ Roud 3488 ; Ballad Index DTbykerh ; trad.]

The earliest known version of this collier's song is in John Bell, Rhymes of Northern Bards, 1812. It was to be sung to the tune of Up She Goes. A.L. Lloyd included the song in his book Come All Ye Bold Miners, London, 1952; enlarged 2nd edition, 1978. Byker Hill and Walker Shore are places near Newcastle upon Tyne.

A.L. Lloyd's recorded the song with the title Walker Hill and Byker Shore for his 1966 Transatlantic LP, The Best of A.L. Lloyd. (On the LP and its sleeve it is called Walker Shore and Byker Hill but Lloyd actually sings Walker Hill and Byker Shore.) He sang it to the tune My Dearie Sits Ower Late Up (also known as The Drunken Piper) from Northumbrian Minstrelsy, page 155, and added the corresponding verses to the song. The album sleeve notes commented:

At holidays and festive times, miners of the English north-east would gather with their families to dance on the coaly green. If a piper was there, well and good. If not, they would dance to their own singing. The tunes were nearly always pipe tunes, the words floating verses loosely strung together. Versions of this song were published as long ago as 1812, and the song has been undergoing changes ever since. The inescapably north-eastern tune is in a fetching “additive” 9/8 (2+2+2+3), an unusual rhythm in western Europe though perhaps not quite so rare as was once thought.

Another A.L. Lloyd recording of unknown date from Peter Bellamy's archive is on the CD Classic A.L. Lloyd. This album's sleeve notes commented:

As Walker Pits it was first printed in John Bell's Rhymes of Northern Bards (Newcastle upon Tyne, 1812). It is sung here to the north eastern dance tune My Dearie Sits Ower Late Up.

The Young Tradition recorded Byker Hill in 1966 too for their eponymous first album, Young Tradition. They also sang it on November 17, 1968 at their concert at Oberlin College, Ohio, that was published in 2013 on their Fledg'ling CD Oberlin 1968. Their original album's sleeve notes commented:

Collected by John Hasted, this is a boastful collier's song from Tyneside. Mentioned in the song is the tune of Elsie Marley, a well-known Northumbrian dance, and Geordie Charlton, apparently a local character. Geordie has identical mention in a sea shanty as having a pig that did a dance when he hit it with a shovel.

Martin Carthy took Lloyd's version and recorded it with Dave Swarbrick as title track of their 1967 album, Byker Hill. This was reissued on their compilation album This Is… Martin Carthy. Martin Carthy commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

The tune of Byker Hill sung here is not the one sung traditionally. It is a Northumbrian dance tune in 9/8, unusual in that instead of being divided into three threes as are most other 9/8 tunes, it is divided in three twos and one three and appropriately called The Drunken Piper. The words are an amalgam of a version I learned years ago while playing with the Thameside Four, and the version sung by A.L. Lloyd.

A video from the BBC show Once More With Felix in 1968 is on the Free Reed CD-ROM that accompanies their Martin Carthy anthology The Carthy Chronicles, and on the DVD Fingerstyle Guitar Vol. 3. This video can also been seen on YouTube:

Another version recorded live at McCabe's Guitar Shop, Santa Monica, on February 17, 1990 is on Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick's Life and Limb, on Martin Carthy's Rigs of the Time, and on the Topic anthology English Originals. Both album versions are on the massive 4CD anthology The Carthy Chronicles.

Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick also played this in 1976 as an instrumental on Dave Swarbrick's first solo album, Swarbrick and on their 1992 video 100 Not Out. A further version from Martin Carthy's 60th Birthday Concert in 2001 at the Apollo Theatre, Oxford, was included in the Dave Swarbrick anthology Swarb!.

The High Level Ranters sang Byker Hill in 1968 on their Topic album Northumberland For Ever.

This song appeared in A.L. Lloyd’s Come All Ye Bold Miners some fifteen years ago, and since then quite a few ‘cobbled’ versions have been recorded, stemming no doubt from Lloyd’s own version when he married the words to an unusual setting of Mi’ Laddie Sits Ower Late Up. About the same time, a quite different tune also became attached to the Byker Hill words,and it is this tune that we use here. It is a variant of the old camp-meeting hymn Where are the Hebrew Children? attributed to an early nineteenth century itinerant preacher, Peter Cartwright, a native of Virginia.

Bob Davenport sang Byker Hill in 1977 on his Topic album Postcards Home.

And a very lively interpretation of Byker Hill by The Barely Works with the lovely Sarah Allen on accordion is on their 1990 debut album The Big Beat and on the World Music Network anthology The Rough Guide to English Roots Music. This video is from a (quite poor) VHS tape of a studio recording:

The Wilson Family sang Byker Hill on their 1991 The Wilson Family Album.

Barry Dransfield sang Byker Hill on his 1996 CD Wings of the Sphinx.

Danny Spooner sang Byker Hill live in June 2007 in concerts with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. A recording of these concerts was released in 2017 on his download album Enchanted: Live in Concert.

Pete Coe sang Byker Hill in 2010 on his CD Backbone.

Bellowhead recorded Byker Hill in March 2012 for their CD Broadside, and sang it in November 2015 on their live CD and DVD The Farewell Tour. This YouTube video shows them at Canterbury on February 12, 2012:

The Andover Museum Loft Singers, conducted by Paul Sartin, sang Byker Hill in 2012 on their WildGoose CD The Bedmaking. They commented:

Collected by S[andy] Paton, this arrangement is especially for choir member Mike Barrie, who hails from the North East.

Lyrics

Walker Pit in Come All Ye Bold Miners A.L. Lloyd's Walker Hill and Byker Shore

If I had another penny,
I would have another gill;
I would make the piper play
The Bonny Lads o' Byker Hill.

Chorus:
𝄆 Byker Hill and Walker Shore,
Collier lads for evermore! 𝄇

When I came to Walker wark,
I had ne coat nor ne pit sark;
But now I've gotten two or three;
Walker Pit's done well for me.

Chorus

Chorus:
Oh, Walker Hill and Byker Shore, my boys
Collier lads for ever more, my boys
Walker Hill and Byker Shore, my boys
Collier lads for ever more

My lassie she sits over late up
My hinny she sits over late up
My Ginny she sits over late up
Betwixt the pint pot and the cup

And down the pits we'll go my laddies
And down the pits we'll go my marrers
Well try our will and use our skill
To cut them ridges down below

Chorus

My lassie she is never near
My hinny she is never near
And when I call out, “Where's my supper?”
She orders up another pint of beer

Hey Ginny come home to your little baby
Hey hinny come home to your little baby
Hey Ginny come home to your little baby
With a pint of beer all under your arm

Chorus

The poor coal cutter gets two shillings
The deputy get half a crown
And the overman gets five and sixpence, lads,
Just for riding up and down

Chorus

Martin Carthy's Byker Hill on Byker Hill Martin Carthy's Byker Hill on Life and Limb

If I had another penny
I would have another gill
And I would make the piper play
The bonny lass of Byker Hill

If I had another penny
I would have another gill
I would make the piper play
The bonny lass of Byker Hill

Chorus:
Byker Hill and Walker Shore, my lads
Collier lads for ever more, my boys
Byker Hill and Walker Shore, my lads
Collier lads for ever more

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
𝄆 Byker Hill and Walker Shore
Collier lads for ever more 𝄇

Me Ginny she sits over late up
Me Ginny she sits over late up
Me Ginny she sits over late up
Between the pint pot and the cup

When first I come into the dirt
I had no trousers nor pitshirt
Now I'm getting two or three
Oh Walker Pit done well by me

It's down the pits we'll go my laddies
It's down the pits we'll go my marrers
Well try our wills and use our skill
To cut them ridges down below

Chorus

Me Ginny she is never near
Me Ginny she is never near
And when I call out, “Where's my supper?”
She orders up another pint of beer

Me Ginny she's never here
Me Ginny she's never near
Oh when I call out, “Where's my supper?”
She orders up another pint of beer

When first I come into the dirt
I had no trousers nor pitshirt
And now I'm getting two or three
Walker Pit done well by me

My Ginny she sits over late up
My Ginny she sits over late up
My Ginny she sits over late up
Between the pint pot and the cup

Chorus

Hey Ginny come home to your little baby
Hey Ginny come home to your little baby
Hey Ginny come home to your little baby
With a pint of beer all under your arm

Hey Ginny come home to your little baby
Hey Ginny come home to your little baby
Hey Ginny come home to your little baby
With a pint of beer all under your arm

The poor coal cutter gets two shillings
The deputy get half a crown
And the overman gets five and sixpence
That's just for riding up and down

The poor coal cutter gets a shilling
The deputy gets half a crown
The overman gets five and sixpence
Just for riding up and down

Chorus

The pitman and the keelman trim
To the dance they do begin
They drink bumble made from gin
They dance the Elsie Marley

Geordie Johnson had a pig
And he hit it with a shovel and it danced a jig
All the way to Byker Hill
He danced the Elsie Marley

Geordie Johnson had a pig
And he hit it with a shovel and it danced a jig
All the way to Walker Shore
To the tune of Elsie Marley

Chorus

If I had another penny
I would have another gill
I would make the piper play
The bonny lass of Byker Hill

Links

See also the thread Byker Hill: background info anyone at the Mudcat Café.