James Horsley.

Lays of Jesmond and Tyneside songs and poems online

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lyneside Songs and f oems.








Lays of Jesmond


Tyneside Songs and Poems.



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Lord and Lady Armstrong,






Respectfully Dedicated.



Sir William ! to your genius and your name,
The praise of men can add but little fame,
But stout Northumbrian hearts would not be true
If silence was their only gift to you.

To Lady Armstrong and to you we owe
More than mere words of gratitude can show ;
Munificence like yours, so great, so rare,
Enduring marble should alone declare.

And yet, what marble or what fluent pen
Could mark your place among our greatest men ?
Your works of genius, enterprise, and skill,
Themselves are monuments that nations fill.

Born in our midst, it is our boast and pride
To claim you for ourselves and dear Tyneside ;
And though no native honours may you crown,
Your name reflects on us its great renown.

How shall we all your deeds of kindness praise?
For each new gift fresh thoughtfulness displays ;
Man's noblest form of life you seem to live —
You live to labour and you love to give.

The church, the hospital, the school, our health,
Have each to own your fostering care and wealth ;
But over all, our hearts most touched have been
By this — your gift of lovely Jesmond Dene.

Accept, Sir William, the unbounded thanks

Of every resident on Tyneside's banks ;

May Elswick, Cragside, Jesmond, all proclaim

Your worth, your enterprise, and world-wide fame.


The publication of this volume is largely due to the
desire, repeatedly expressed by many of Mr. Horsley's
friends, that his poetical pieces should be collected and
issued in book form. With the exception of a four-
page brochure, entitled " Lays of Jesmond," which he
published in 1880, and again in 1884 on the occasion of
the Prince of Wales' visit to Newcastle, Mr. Horsley,
for various reasons, did not see his way clear to comply
with these requests. Since his death, however, it has
been thought advisable to do so, and they are now issued
in the hope that they will commend themselves to the
admirers of Tyneside Poetry and Song.

Several of his miscellaneous pieces appeared from
time to time in the North of England Advertiser, the Daily
Chronicle, Daily Journal, and Newcastle Courant, and also
in other daily and weekly newspapers of the district
when the circumstances which gave them birth were
the current topics of the day.

No particular order has been observed in their
arrangement, with the exception that those referring to
Jesmond (Mr. Horsley's favourite theme) have been
placed first, then the miscellaneous pieces, and lastly,
those in the Tyneside dialect.


It will be noticed that in several of the songs in the
local dialect, the mode of spelling the same word differs
somewhat. With few exceptions there has been no
alteration made in the style adopted by Mr. Horsley ;
and it has been thought advisable to print them as they
were originally written.

Thanks are due and are hereby tendered to Messrs.
R. Ward & Sons, Newcastle, for permission to insert the
Prize Songs which appeared in the North of England
Almanacs from 1880 to 1888 ; to the Editor of the Weekly
Chronicle for the Prize Poem, " Kindness Everywhere ;"
to the proprietors of The Cyclist for the Song entitled
"The Bicycle Bell," which appeared in the Christinas
Number of that publication for 1882; to Messrs. Thomas
and George Allan, for copies of several broadside songs
which were issued by them ; and to all others who have
assisted in their publication.


James Horsley (the writer of these Poems and Songs)
was the son of James Horsley, farmer, Snipe House,
near Alnwick, by his second wife. He was born in
1828, about which time his father removed to Newcastle,
and attempted a small business in Percy Street. The
venture did not succeed, owing to what cause is not
known. In a few years both his father and mother
died. He was thus left an orphan at an early age, with
little education, with no means, and without a friend.
Such are the facts contained in the few lines of auto-
biography that the author has left on record. How he
managed to struggle through those trying years of early
life, without home or friends, is, to a large extent,
uncertain and problematical.

At one time he was a cabin boy in a coasting vessel,
or collier, sailing between the Tyne and London. He
has related that one of the crew, with whom he slept,
was an inveterate smoker, and would go to bed with his
pipe in his mouth, and even when asleep would be
drawing away at it long after it had gone out.

At another time he was errand lad with a grocer in
Newcastle, and used to practice French on the top of
the sugar casks with a piece of chalk.

His precarious mode of living caused him frequently
to remove from one situation to another. He would


seldom hesitate to give up a job if he thought he saw a
chance of bettering himself in an entirely new occu-

He was for some time employed by Dr. Shiell, of
Regent Terrace, Newcastle, as message boy and general
servant. It was, no doubt, while thus employed in Dr.
Shiell's house and surgery that he acquired what little
knowledge of drugs and medicine he possessed, and
upon which in after years he often acted when any
trifling ailment attacked him.

When about eighteen or twenty years of age, he
found a good deal of employment about stables and
horses. It was when so employed, he once had a very
narrow escape from being killed by a powerful stallion.
Going into the stall to feed the animal, it suddenly
reared up, and would have crushed him, had he not,
with great presence of mind, seized it by the neck,
and, being a small active lad, curled himself up Out
of the way of its forelegs, while it endeavoured to
get him under its feet. He held on bravely till an
opportune moment arrived, when he let go his hold and
slipped out of its reach.

Living about the stables, he was frequently called up
during the night to attend to gentlemen's horses which
arrived late. He often started very early in the morning,
going with a gentleman as far as Morpeth, when he had
to ride the horse home again bare-backed. He would
sometimes fall asleep on the animal's back from sheer
exhaustion, the horse picking its way home as well as
it could, without his guidance.


After a few years of great vicissitudes (and how great
these vicissitudes may have been we can scarcely
conceive), he became connected with Ward's Directory.
This would be about the year 1850. The printing
office was in St. Nicholas' Churchyard, the first door
on the right after ascending the steps from Dean
Street. Mr. Ward afterwards removed to the foot
of Dean Street next to the railway arch, where he
fitted up hot and cold water baths, which Mr. Horsley
for some time took charge of. He was afterwards
employed as canvasser and collector for the North of
England Advertiser. About this time his health gave way,
and he was laid up for a considerable period.

In the beginning of 1859, ne entered the service of
Mr. Andrew Reid (who was then in business in Pilgrim
Street) as collector and canvasser for the Railway Guide.
In i860 he had another long and severe illness, which
confined him to his bed for some months, during which
time he devoted himself to the earnest study of the
Holy Scriptures. His frequent conversations with his
most intimate friends, and the readiness with which he
could quote passages from the Bible, were evidences of a
mind well stored with religious truth. Doctor Lightfoot
was his medical attendant at this time, and, during one
of his visits, Mr. Horsley asked him if it was at all likely,
in the event of his recovery, that he would be subject to a
recurrence of the attack from which he was suffering.
Doctor Lightfoot replied that it was quite likely he would
be. This knowledge did not distress him. He was always

of a lively and cheerful disposition, and for thirty years
after this he continued to discharge his duties with credit
to himself and satisfaction to his employer.

He was a great favourite with his associates at
Printing Court Buildings. In the social gatherings and
annual outings in connection with the establishment,
although not always able to be present with them, his
presence was always welcome and eagerly looked for.

His anxiety for young men coming from the country
to Newcastle, was very marked. Those who had the
pleasure of his acquaintance and the privilege of his
friendship, can bear testimony to the sound advice given
them. " Be careful of the company you keep," he would
say, " and be thoroughly honest and truthful in all your
dealings." Not a few it is hoped have profited by his
counsel and example. He was of temperate and abste-
mious habits, yet neither parsimonious nor niggardly.
His maxim was — " Live within your means, no matter
what your salary may be, and never get into debt." Upon
this plan he acted himself; and knowing as he did that he
was not a robust man, but might be laid aside from his
daily occupation at any moment (as he sometimes was),
he was careful to make what provision he could against
" a rainy day."

He was a great admirer of nature, and delighted to
wander amid the sylvan beauties of Jesmond, every foot
of which was to him as enchanted ground. His " Ash
Tree,'' "Spring's Evening Hour," "Jesmond Dene,''
"The Grove," &c, all evidence the love he had for this


charming locality. No Saturday afternoon excursions
into the country could tempt him from his favourite
spot. He preferred to revel in the profusion of vernal
grandeur nearer home.

The duties of his occupation caused him to be a
frequent visitor to the English Lakes. To these visits
he attributed the awakening of the poetical faculty
within him. The varied scenery of that delightful
locality was undoubtedly favourable to the cultivation
of the muse ; but no spot in his estimation excelled
Jesmond Dene and its surroundings for variety and

For twelve months or more before his last illness, he
was far from well, and seemed gradually to be getting
more and more unable for the discharge of his duties.
About the middle of November, 1890, he was advised to
confine himself to the house, and take complete rest.
This he did ; but from that illness he never recovered.
He soon began to be missed from his accustomed rounds
in business circles, and frequent enquiries were made
about him in the most kindly terms, and many expres-
sions of sympathy were tendered to him during that
time. For the comforts he enjoyed and the attentions
he received he was ever grateful, and spoke in the
highest terms of the kind consideration he had always
received from his employer.

A few weeks before his death, it became evident that
he would not recover. Conversation with friends who
called began to be a trouble to him, owing to his extreme


weakness, and few were admitted to see him. The
writer of this short sketch visited him up to the day
of his death, and can bear testimony to the uncom-
plaining spirit he manifested during his affliction, to
the firm faith he exhibited in Christ as his Saviour, and
to his deep gratitude to God for all his goodness to him
and care over him during his whole lifetime. He was
careful not to give unnecessary trouble to those who
waited on him, and his gratitude and thankfulness were
manifested up to the very last. The love he bore to
those who were dear to him is strikingly manifested in
the beautiful lines of his given on page 47.

On Sunday, the 8th of March, 1 891, at the age of 62
years, he quietly breathed his last, and gently passed
away, respected by all who knew him, and lamented by
a large circle of sorrowing friends.

J ust drop a tear upon the tomb of him who's gone to rest ;
A' las, no more the vital spark will move that quiet breast.
M anly and upright was his walk while travelling here belov.,
E vincing naught of selfishness nor yet of outward show.
S weetly and softly on mine ear in gentle accents fell
H is tribute offerings to the muse— the muse he loved so well.
O ft in his wanderings forth at eve did his poetic mind
R ejoice in nature's loveliness and true enjoyment find.
S erenely now methinks he stands amidst the white-robed throng,
L istening with eager ears to learn the angels' ceaseless song.
E ternity's bright morning dawns ! ye angels louder sing!
Y e everlasting doors ope wide, and let the traveller in.

W. H. Hastings.

XI 11

The following obituary notices of his death appeared
in the local papers : —

From the " Newcastle Daily Journal," March 11, 1891.

A well-known form and face amongst the tradesmen of
Newcastle and district will be seen no more owing to the
death of Mr. James Horsley, which took place at noon
on Sunday. Mr. Horsley was for upwards of thirty years
in the employment of Mr. Andrew Reid of Printing Court
Buildings, as manager and editor ofReid's Railway Guide,
and no one outside the offices of the North Eastern
Railway was more conversant with the ramifications of
the railway system of trains than he was. He made the
" Guide " his study from month to month and year to
year, and had travelled over nearly all its branches in
the four adjacent counties, both in winter and summer,
and knew every branch in connection with the main
lines. The deceased gentleman was a native of Alnwick,
but when quite young his parents removed to Newcastle,
and both died when Mr. Horsley was very young in years.
Previous to his engagement with Mr. Reid, he did valu-
able service for the late Mr. Robert Ward, when that
gentleman first published his Directory of Newcastle and
the adjacent towns; and also in connection with the
North of England Advertiser. He was also an occasional
contributor to its columns, and was fond of literary
work ; on more than one occasion he wrote the Retiort
Keelmin's Lokil Letter when there was likely to be a
disappointment in its issue. He was fond of poetry, and
his verses have often found a place in the Journal and
Courant. A few of his finest pieces, entitled " Lays of
Jesmond," he had printed some time ago. His songs in


the local dialect were very happy, racy, and to the point ;
notably those on "That Blessed Corporation;" the one
written during the time of the great snowstorm eleven
years ago; and his "Twenty-fower o'clock, Man," when
all the stir was made about the change in making the
clocks with twenty-four hours instead of twelve. He
was of a gentle and kindly disposition, and his sympa-
thetic ear was ever ready to listen to the cry of distress.
He has left behind him a host of sorrowing friends, and
his fellow-labourers at Printing Court Buildings will miss
his cheery word and kindly greeting, and no one more
so than his esteemed employer, whose confidence and
esteem he retained to the very last. He was a faithful
servant and a true friend. He was a conservative in
politics, and an exemplary churchman.

From the " Newcastle. Weekly Chronicle," March 14, 1891.

Mr. James Horsley, a gentleman well known in New-
castle, died on Sunday at his residence, 42, Chester
Street, Newcastle, at the age of 62 years. His parents
belonged to the ducal town of Alnwick, but his father
removed to Newcastle when James was quite young,
and, both father and mother dying shortly afterwards,
he was left at a very early age to make his way in the
world as best he could. He was never of a strong
or robust nature, but was able to discharge his
duties until the end of last year. Ever since the week
before Christmas he had been confined to the house,
and died on Sunday morning last, at the age of 62 years.
The deceased was best known amongst the tradesmen



in Newcastle and surrounding districts through his long
and honourable connexion with Mr. Andrew Reid,
for whom he edited the Railway Guide — the " Bradshaw
of the North." For thirty-two years he was Mr.
Reid's valued and trusted servant, and enjoyed that
gentleman's trust and confidence up till the very last.
Mr. Horsley was of a literary turn of mind, and was an
occasional contributor to the columns of the local press.
Previous to his engagement with Mr. Reid he assisted
the late Mr. Robert Ward in the compilation of the
well-known Newcastle Directory. He also wrote verses
which have appeared in the columns of the Daily and
Weekly Chronicle. He was a strong advocate for the
claims of the Dicky Bird Society, and gained one of the
first prizes given by Uncle Toby for the best song to
commemorate the enrolment of the 100,000 names in
that society. His " Lays of Jesmond " — a little brochure
which he printed some years ago — contains some of his
finest pieces on the beauties of Jesmond. He also
wrote several songs in the Newcastle dialect, two of his
best being " Newcassell and the Snaw-storm " and
" Twenty-fower o'clock, Man." The funeral took place
at St. Andrew's Cemetery, on Wednesday, March nth.

"Robin Goodfdloiv" m the " Weekly Chronicle,"
March U, 1891.
The death of Mr. James Horsley, which occurred at
his residence in Newcastle last Sunday, removes from
among us one of those patient, plodding, and unobtrusive
sons of toil and song by whose quiet labours the com-
munity in which they move is made happier, and life


itself more enjoyable. Mr. Horsley was an observant
wanderer in the by-paths of local history — a contributor
for many years to the local press of curious and out-of-
the-way bits of information relating to departed worthies,
decaying industries, and half-forgotten manners and
customs of past generations. His admiration for Tyne-
side was unbounded ; his knowledge of its people, and
their character and habits, was wide and thorough ; and
he had a happy knack of preserving in vernacular rhyme
the memory of local events which, in the ever-growing
pressure of fresh news, quickly fades away. Among
these productions of his pen I remember " The Craw's
Nest," " Newcassel and the Snawstorm," " Twenty-fower
o'Clock," " Corporation Thunder, - ' " Newcassel Dort,"
"D'ye Knaa John Storey?" and " Geordie's Jubilee
Ode." Occasionally his muse took higher flights, as
in "A Pilgrimage" and "Lays of Jesmond " — poetic
effusions which contain passages of much beauty and

Lays of Jesmond


Tyneside Songs and Poems.


Come with me, friend, together we'll explore

An Oasis at Novocastria's door,

Within whose charmed recesses we shall find

Food and enjoyment for the eye and mind ;

For on our northern coast exposed and bleak

The beautiful is sometimes far to seek.

Had Grainger realized his early dream,

Fair Elswick might to day have been my theme ;

But Vulcan saw and chose its quiet shores,

Now thousand-handed labour's tumult roars.

'Tis not to sunny Elswick then we'll climb,

Whose brow commands a scene almost sublime —

The valleys of the Derwent and the Team,

The wooded banks of Tyne's wealth-laden stream,

Upon the bosom of whose flowing tide

The argosies of giant commerce glide ;

Nor yet to Arthur's Hill, whose western height

Still more extends the view that fills the sight,

And near to where, a mark of Roman thrall,

May yet be seen the line of Hadrian's Wall ;

Whose buried fragments of a martial yore

Our " Bruce " has made to yield their hidden lore.

'Tis not Imperial Rome we now survey,

We live beneath a less exalted sway —

A sway of passions, and of sordid aims,

Of loud professions and of sounding names ;

Of levellings of denes and ancient towers,

Of bricks and mortar, versus fields and flowers.

Still nature lives and smiles in spite of art,
And finds response in every hopeful heart ;
And though encroached upon by human needs,
Spreads where she can her carpet of green meads ;
Such as our noble Moor, whose breezy breast
Invites our footsteps, giving life new zest ;
Where health awaits us, where the eye at will
Can glance from Gosforth o'er to Sheriff Hill ;
Where all alike are free on Freemen's land
To taste sweet liberty at Freedom's hand.
Time was, when homely rural Sandyford
Could those who love rusticity reward ;
Luxuriant hedgerows flanking fields of corn,
With here and there a nook of nature born.
When Lambert's Leap, the Burn, and Cradle Well
For youthful playmates had a potent spell ;
When Friday Fields and Jesmond Gardens led
Young lovers' feet their hedged-in paths to tread ;
When nature unrestrained profusely throve,
And found expression fit in dene and grove ;
Where even yet, in loveliness displayed,
Dwell all her charms in one Elysian glade.

Sweet Jesmond Dene ! 'tis thy umbrageous glen,
With all its dear surroundings, prompts my pen ;
Thy ruin'd chapel, with its holy wells,
That of a "dim past era" mutely tells ;
Thy babbling brook that sings its liquid song
In eddying cascades as it flows along ;
Thy floral banks, thy ravine and thy mill,
Which seem designed the artist's eye to fill ;
Thy paths, thy bridges, ay, thy every tree,
All claim my homage, for they're part of thee ;
And last, though not the least, thy graceful towers,
Whose battlements preside o'er all thy bowers.

I would the gift were mine in words to sing
The beauty born of thee in early spring !
Still more in summer would I long for power
To chant the birth of every opening flower ;

How blooming hawthorn with laburnum vies
In offering incense to the grateful skies ;
How rhododendrons with their " purpling " hue
Seem jealous of the heavens' translucent blue ;
How autumn's foliage in russet brown
Makes autumn's sun blush red as he goes down ;
How limpid ripples on thy purling stream
Smile shining dimples in the moon's pale beam ;
How rich profusion every sense rewards
Made still more rapturous by songs of birds !
Much more thou hast that man hath kindly given
Which makes thee seem a paradise from heaven.
Some fair demesnes where nature captive dwells,
" At home " confined, yet even there excels,
With parks and pleasure grounds — a floral wealth,
Where youth disports itself in joyful health,
Where festival is held with romp and glee,
And dance and game and tuneful minstrelsy ;
Where, transiently released, the sons of toil
Enjoy sweet union with their parent soil.
But here we part, as part must every friend,
Our pilgrimage indeed may well here end ;
For after contemplating hill and dale
'Twere meet to part in Jesmond's lovely vale.

Pons /Elii ! thou treasured Roman gem !
And relique of the Norman's diadem ;
Thy heirs have won for thee a worthy name,
And for themselves a never dying fame.
In classic art, in learning, science, skill,
They each a lengthening scroll of history fill ;
And nature, too, thy stream hath so endowed
With gifts, of which thy sons may well be proud !
And Jesmond's of them whose poetic sound
Doth sweetly harmonize with sylvan ground.
Then ye who love the beautiful and true,
Read nature as she here appeals to you ;
And as ye draw out from her wells of truth,
Renew your purity, your health, your youth ;
And with each draught in thankfulness and love,
Lift up your thoughts to nature's God above.

O, Jesmond ! Jesmond ! much I love thee,

Thy memories round my heart entwine ;
Thy landscape ever seems more lovely,

Thou fair suburban gem of Tyne.
In youth I've revelled in thy sweetness,

And fondly watched, when little known,
Thy budding forth— thy rustic meetness

For all, to which thou now art grown.
Should I desire the morning's brightness,

The lark's clear carol in the sky,
The early dew, the airy lightness,

All these thou richly dost supply.
Or, should I long in sorrow's chillness

To muse among the silent dead,
Thy Cemetery's mural stillness

Shall tempt my soft and pensive tread.
Or, should I seek communion nearer,

With hope and trust two hearts between,
With her, whose love to me grows dearer,

I'll wander in thy sylvan dene.
I've travelled far, I've travelled widely,

And some of earth's fair scenes have known,

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Online LibraryJames HorsleyLays of Jesmond and Tyneside songs and poems → online text (page 1 of 11)