LOCKDOWN SONG - Eileen Richardson
Oh boys oh, you look so mighty funny
With a girl upon your knee
And your pockets full of money,
But Jimmy Crikey, mind your eye,
You married men beware
Or they will get you on the sly
The girls of Sunderland Fair.
Sensation songs are all the go
As plainly may be seen
Paddy Curry sometimes sings
"My Native Land so Green”,
Joe Wilson “Dinna Clash the Door",
But Charley's simple air
Is “We’ll all be happy
When we’re at Sunderland Fair”
Old pitman Chub from Ryhope came
Upon my word it's true
With his pretty wife upon his arm
And his bouncing daughters too
They all got drunk, I do declare,
And kicked up such a spree
And shouted up and down the street
We’ll remember Sunderland Fair.
Such glorious sights you there will see,
For how they’ll make you stare,
Tom Thumb and wife in the High Street
With all the fun of the fair.
Roundabouts and swinging boats
But listen unto me
Or the pretty girls of Sunderland
Will get you on the spree.
From Pemberton there came a man,
I must not tell his name
With a pretty girl got on the sly
Down in Baines’s Lane
His wife she happened to come by
My, how the man did stare
When she grabbed him by the nose and said,
"You’ll remember Sunderland Fair".
Billy Purvis in his clown costume
This song came in the form of a broadside with a pencil note of a date - 10 October 1867. The broadside was in a box of literary documents in the archives of Sunderland Antiquarian Society. In fact at least four songs relating to Sunderland Fair were published which is hardly surprising given the longevity and popularity of Sunderland Fair. It is claimed that the first record for Sunderland Fair was contained in Bishop Morton’s Charter of 1634. The last fair was held on October 13 and 14 1868. The fair was held twice yearly, in May and October for two days.
In Dodd's Almanac of 1912 it is reported that High Street would be lined with stalls which included “gypsies, quack doctors, gingerbread and treacle pudding vendors, toy dealers, Dutch auctioneers and 'cheap jacks'". There was also a site for fairground shows, small circuses, menageries, boxing booths and rides such as roundabouts and 'thuggish shoes'
Most of the stall holders were itinerant and travelled round the country from fair to fair. In an article in the Sunderland Echo and Shipping Gazette in 1934 an ancestor of mine, Samuel Bailey Davies, born in 1859 recalled that :
"All kinds of shows and amusements came to the fair and the chief centre for them was the ground round the Barracks …. Waxy Todd’s marionette show was down Anderson’s stairs. There was also Swallow's Circus, Wombwell’s Menagerie, and Mickey Bent's boxing men.
Some enterprising locals also took advantage of the crowds visiting the fair, including the local East End character Peggy Potts with her supply of cheese (generally well past its ‘sell-by-date’ by all accounts!) and treacle pudding. Samuel Bailey Davies recalled that Peggy Potts' cheese was so hard that she could not cut it with a knife, so she broke it with a two-stone weight and that it "contained live-stock" such that she "was wont to observe to her customers, 'If you cannot carry it hinny, let it loose and it will waak hyem’”
Billy Purvis and his travelling players were a popular attraction too, and at night :
"the streets were densely crowded and with the flaring gas jets and hissing paraffin lamps of the amusement caterers the scene was not easily forgotten."
It is reported, however, that in 1865 a number of the local East End tradesmen campaigned against the fair claiming that it “seriously interfered with the morals of the people and militated against the interests of shopkeepers” and consequently October 1868 saw the last of the Sunderland Fairs.
Billy Purvis, a famous Tyneside entertainer