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POPULAR RHYMES, SAYINGS, PROVERBS, PROPHECIES, &c., PECULIAR TO NORTHUMBERLAND.
HAS RIDDEN WITHERSHINS ROUND KEELDAR STONE.
The Cowt of Keildar or Keeldar, was a powerful chieftain in the district wherein Keildar Castle is situated adjacent to Cumberland. He was the redoubtable enemy of Lord Soulis, and perished in an encounter on the banks of the Hermitage. Being encased in armour he received no hurt in battle; but falling in retreating across the stream, his opponents, to their everlasting disgrace be it chronicled, held him beneath the water till he was drowned. That portion of the river in which he perished is to this day known as the Cowt of Keeldar's Pool. A grave too of gigantic extent on the banks of the Hermitage, at the western angle of a vale surrounding the cemetery-garth of a ruined chapel, is pointed out as that of the Chief of Keeldar.
The Keeldar Stone, which no doubt obtained its name from being the gathering place of the retainers of this powerful northern chieftain, when on the eve of a foray into Scotland, is still pointed out, and forms at this time a boundary mark on the confines of Jed forest. It is a rough isulated mass, of considerable dimensions, and it is held unlucky to ride withershins (i.e. in a direction contrary to the course of the sun) three times round it.—See Leyden's Ballad," The Cowt of Keeldar, in SCOTT's Border Min.," vol. iii. p. 283. Edin. 1821.
BERWICK ON TWEED.
1. THE MIDDLE ARCH OF BERWICK BRIDGE IS AT ONE END.
This is a genuine English Bull, which, I have been told, strangers are often guilty of; in truth the loftiest and widest arch, (which is the central one in almost all bridges) is, if my memory serves me, the second from the north;-the gross number being fifteen. This bridge was finished on the 24th of October, 1834; and was twenty-four years, four months, and four days in building. The parliament gave the sum of £14,960 1s. 6d. towards this great public work.
2. the burGHERS O' BERWICK GET WARM ROLLS AND BUTTER EVERY MORNING FOR THEIR BREAKFAST.
The above saying has most evidently been invented not only as a gibe, but also as an exercise for the organs of speech of the Northumbrians, who, on account of the burr, will, no doubt, feel an extreme difficulty in articulating the words which compose the above sentence.
3. FROM BERWICK TO DOVER
Parallel with the scriptural expression, " From Dan to Beersheba."
The siege of Berwick under Edward II. commenced on the 1st of September, 1319. On the xii. day a general assault was begun wherein the English employed a great machine called a sow, constructed for holding and defending men, who were moved in it towards the foot of the wall in order to undermine and sap its foundation. Devices were used for to burn it, but by throwing a stone of vast weight from an engine the sow was split and her occupants dislodged. This incident gave rise to the above saying, which is still occasionally heard in Berwickshire, and even in Northumberland, when any apparently deep laid scheme ends in something even less substantial than smoke.
5. —I AM A Brigg as travellers weel do ken,
A rhyme said to be inscribed upon the bridge of Berwick-upon-Tweed; but the truth is, it must only be supposed to exist: still it is worthy of preservation.
6.-M SETEL, ET C TER, SEMEL X, semel V, DABIS I TER;
Ford, b. 12, c. 37.
The taking of Berwick was recorded by some Scottish monk in the above rhymes.
7.—THE GOOD TOWN O' BERWICK.
In several MS. documents of olden time the town of Berwick-upon Tweed is so designated; but I take it to be nothing more than a mere compliment parallel with the phrase,-" The good men of Newcastle."
8. WHAT WENYS K. EDW. WITH HIS LONG SHANKS,
Gaas* pykes hym,
And when he hath it
In the year 1297, while Edward I. was besieging Berwick, the Scots made the above rhymes upon him, as saith Fabyan. However, the Scots were beaten in this instance, both with sword and song. Berwick was soon taken, and shortly after they suffered a signal discomfiture at Dunbar. "Wherefore the Englishe menne, in reproache of the Scottes made this rime following:
* Various readings give "gas."
1.--AS OLD AS PANDON YATTs, (Gates.)
This proverb originally stood, "As old as Pandon." Since Gray's time, who wrote in 1640, the saying has been altered to the form in which it stands in the text. Pandon was anciently spelt Pampedene. In the year 1795, this ancient fortified tower was demolished. In Newcastle, and the whole of the North of England, that it was ancient to a proverb is well known, nothing being more general than the above saying, when a person would describe the great antiquity of any thing. Pandon Gate is believed to have been of Roman workmanship. It had large folding iron gates, but no port-cullis; and was ascended by a flight of stone stairs, two yards wide. Camden remarks, at "Panton-gate there still remains one of the little turrets of Severus's Wall." Recent discoveries have proved the "Nourice of Antiquity" to be in error here, as the RomanWall passed in almost a rectangular direction with that of the town wall, and in a line with the gate called Sallyport. Still this does not disturb, or gainsay, the traditional dogma of the extreme antiquity of Pandon Yatts. Pandon was anciently a distinct town from Newcastle; and was united thereto by a charter of King Edward I. The Kings of Northumberland, after the departure of the Romans, are said to have had one of their palaces in Pandon.
2.-THE NINE RADES OF NEWCASTLE.
There are, or were, Nine Trading Companies in Newcastle, to wit three of Wood; three of Thread; and three of Leather. "The Meeting of the Nine Trades."
3. SANDGATE CITY.
A burlesque name for Sandgate, Newcastle. It is a place of great antiquity. Note, Sandgate is the Billingsgate or Wapping of Newcastle.
4.-LIKE CARRYING COALS TO NEWCASTLE.
To give to those who have more than a sufficiency. In the environs of Newcastle are most of the Coal Mines which supply London and numerous other places. This common proverb is quoted by D'Israeli, to shew, that scarcely any remarkable saying can be considered national, but that every one has some type or corresponding idea in other languages. In this instance the Persians have, "To carry Pepper to Hindostan ;" the Hebrews," To carry Oil to the City of Olives;" which is exactly the same metaphor in Oriental language. In Scotland they have, "To carry saut to Dysart, and puddings to Tranent." In conclusion, take the follow
ing extract from a modern writer, a certain Irish-looking "operation, and the trafick going on at Newcastle, are a practical refutation of two old sayings, which express a reversal of the right order of things; for here the honest folks literally prove that it is very good sense the cart before the horse," and to "Carry Coals to Newcastle."
5.-A SCOTCHMan, a Rat, and a Newcastle MILLSTONE, WILL TRAVEL ALL THE WORLD OVER.
A commendable spirit of enterprize and industry induces the natives of Scotland to seek their fortunes in all climates and kingdoms under the sun. The following epigrammatic couplet is from the pen of Churchill:
"Had Cain been a Scot, God would have alter'd his doom,
Nor forc'd him to wander, but confin'd him at home."
This propensity of our Northern neighbours is further celebrated in proverb lore by the following:-" The Englishman greets, the Irishman sleeps, but the Scotchman gangs till he gets it."
Mr. Southey, in his "Literary Pastimes," Vol. vii., describes the Rat as the enemy of man, "a bold borderer, a Johnny Armstrong, or Rob Roy, who acknowledges no right of property in others, and lives by spoil. Wherever man goes, Rat follows, or accompanies him. Town or country are equally agreeable to him. The adventurous merchant ships a cargo to some distant port, Rat goes with it. Great Britain plants a Colony in Botany Bay, Van Dieman's Land, or at the Swan River, Rat takes the opportunity of colonizing also. Ships are sent out upon a voyage of discovery, Rat embarks as a volunteer. He doubled the stormy Cape with Diaz, arrived at Malabar in the first European vessel with Gama, discovered the New World with Columbus, and took possession of it at the same time; and circumnavigated the globe with Magellan, and with rake, and with Cooke."
Newcastle grindstones (magnified into millstones by the popular proverb), being the best of their kind, are therefore known and carried every where. In one year upwards of eighty-four tons of Grindstones were exported from Newcastle to foreign countries. They are chiefly won at Byker Hill, Wickham Banks, and Gateshead Fell.
A cant name for Newcastle.
"Heaven prosper thee, Gotham! thou famous old town,
May thy heroes acquire immortal renown,
In the dread field of Mars, when they 're tried."
Song-" Kiver awa."
I should suppose that Newcastle acquired this unenviable name about the year 1649, when the Common Council commissioned two of the townserjeants to go into Scotland for the Witch-finder.-See Hone's Year-book
A cant name for the whole county of Northumberland, in which Newcastle may be included, arising from the peculiar croaking in the pronunciation of its inhabitants. Grose says that the Northumberlanders are born with a "burr" in their throats.
The capital of Croakumshire.
9. IF WE CANNOT WIN THE OLD CASTLE, WE MUST BUILD A NEWCASTLE. Spoken by those who from ill success in one business are forced to try another. The saying had its origin thus :—
"Rufus, the son of William the Conqueror, being sent by his fathe against the Northumbrian insurgents, then in possession of Prudhoe Castle (about ten miles west from Monkchester), is said to have deferred the siege of that fortress till the ensuing spring, and to have garrisoned his troops during the winter at Monkchester, where he employed his soldiers in building the castle; on which occasion he remarked, that, "If we cannot take the OLD, we will at least build a NEW Castle."
After the completion of the castle the ancient name of Monkchester was disused, but received the name of Newcastle, which it retains to this day.
My altitude high, my body four square,
My foot in the grave, my head in the ayre,
My eyes in my sides, five tongues in my wombe,
And I tune God's precepts thrice a day.
I am seen where I am not, I am heard where I is not-
Grey, in his "Chorographia," or a Survey of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (1649), attributes this enigina on the steeple of St. Nicholas's Church to Ben Jonson; and further says,-" It lifteth up a head of majesty, as high above the rest as the cypress tree above the low shrubs."
A proverbial phrase made use of in Northumberland, expressive of the place of a person's birth. It is likewise the Newcastleman's fireside. "Aw've leern'd to prefer my awn canny calf-yaird,
f ye catch me mair fra'et ye'll be cunnun."
Song-" Canny Newcastle.”
In the dialects of the north the word canny means fine, neat, clean, handsome, becoming, honest, &c. &c. This expression is spoken jocularly to the natives of Newcastle, as a gird on them for their partiality to their native town.
"God bless the King and nation,
Each bravely fills his station,
Our canny corporation,
Lang may they sing wi' me."
Song-" The Keel Row."
Newcastle is esteemed as the centre of the world of