O lads, ye shud only seen us gannin', We pass'd the foaks upon the road just as they wor stannin';

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

About Geordie Ridley Author of the Blaydon Races

Ridley as Johnny Luik-Up

About Geordie Ridley
Source:Allan's Illusteated Edition of Tyneside Songs and Readings...Thomas and Geroge Allan, 1891.

Was a native of Gateshead, in which town he was born on the 1oth of February 1835. At the early age of eight years our future rhymer was sent to Oakwellgate Colliery as a

trapper-boy. After but a brief stay at Oakwellgate, he went to the Goose Pit, or, according to its more familiar name, " The Gyuess." There he remained ten years. He next went to Messrs. Hawks, Crawshay, & Co., as a waggonrider, and remained there about three years; an accident, which nearly terminated fatally, bringing his connection with that firm to an abrupt termination.

While riding, as usual, his train of waggons down the incline (upon which his duties principallylay), by some breakage or mishap, the waggons became unmanageable, and, being no longer under control, rushed at a great speed down the incline. To save himself as much as possible from the danger threatening, George jumped from his stand on the runaway waggons, but, in doing so, he unfortunately got himself severely crushed and injured.

For a long time he lay, incapable of work ; and when at length he began to recover, it was only to find his strength so shattered that anything like regular work he was totally unfitted for. Being thus forced to seek a new means of earning a livelihood, he fell back upon his powers as a singer, more especially of Irish comic and old Tyneside songs (in which he excelled); and thus was forced by accident into the path which afterwards led him to such a widespread popularity in the North. His first professional engagement was at the Grainger Music Hall, where he brought out his first local song, "Joey Jones." This, with the humour with which he invested it, and the local popularity of the subject (Joey Jones having just then won the Northumberland Plate), was a great success. At the Wheat-sheaf Music Hall (now the Oxford), his next engagement, he was equally successful ; and, when engaged at the Tyne Concert Hall (at that time just opened by Mr. Stanley), he produced perhaps his greatest success, "Johnny Luik-Up the Bellman." The subject of this song being so well known, and George, imitating his peculiarities, and dressing in character, his success was unbounded. It is needless to detail his engagements at the various concert halls in the Ridley As "the Bobby Cure." North. Everywhere he was a (The cut which he had on his penny favourite. Cheap editions of Song Books.)

his songs were printed, and had a large sale ; "The Bobby Cure" (said to be a hit at a member of the police force) and "Johnny Luik-Up" being especial favourites, the children singing them as they ran about the streets.

In the midst of this success, after a short public career of about five years, his health began seriously to fail. He had never properly cast off the deadly effects of the accident at Messrs. Hawks', the severe crushing he had received on that occasion undoubtedly being the cause of his illness,
which rapidly began to assume a dangerous appearance. After a brief struggle of little more than three months, he died at his residence in Grahamsley Street, Gateshead,

on Friday, September 9th, 1864, aged 30 years. On the Sunday following, he was buried at St . Edmund's Cemetery, a large number of his friends and admirers following his remains to the grave.

As a song-writer it cannot be said that his productions have the literary merit of the older Tyneside writers; but, considering under what disadvantages he wrote, his premature death, and how little fitted his early life was to foster literary inclinations, his songs are exceedingly good. And it must not be forgotten that they were written for his own purposes as a concert hall singer, and there they did sing. At the present time— eight years after his death— at social meetings and private parties, where his songs are often sung, they never fail to please. As a public singer he was highly gifted; he possessed a fine voice, and, having great powers of mimicry, he swayed his audience at will; and there is little doubt, if he had not fallen at the opening, as it were, of his career, he would have left a still more indelible mark as a Tyneside songwriter.

Sketch from 1872 Edition.

Joe Wilson, whose acrostics on so many of his contemporaries have already appeared, did not forget Ridley. In the following he touches upon Ridley's successes, and regrets his early death.


R eady wes he wi' the " Bobby Cure,"
I n Stanley's Hall, te myek secure
D elight tiv a' the patrons there,
L iked be them a',—but noo, ne mair
E nlivenin strains frae him ye'l l hear,
Y e'll knaw ne mair poor Geordy's cheer.

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