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To Rescue A Sandgate Lass


We found the lyrics for this song in Bonny Songs of the Northern Lands, collected by Martin Shaw and Percy Dearmer, and published by J Curwen & Sons in 1912.  It is the only song in the book to mention "The Snooks", and from certain local words (such as "Loggy", meaning "Butterfly") it is certain to be referring to Seaton Snook.

As was common at the time, the lyrics would be sung to an existing tune.  In this case, the song appears to be a response to The Sandgate Girl's Lamentation, and presumably utilises the same melody.  As no recordings have been previously made of the song, the following recording has been made by the Archivist. 

To Rescue A Sandgate Lass - The Archivist
00:00 / 00:00

I spy’d a young maiden truly

Who come fro Sandgate town

And tho she were a bonny one

She wore a werritin frown

Her face were like an angel’s

But an angel full o’ woe

For she had marry’d a keelman

Nee wonder she were sore


    Ye’ve a lovely body, as fair as a loggy

    And far too good fer him

    So oway down to the Snooks, lass

    An I will tek you in


She thought to go to Newcastle

And hide among the crowd

But a keelman has his bully boys

Who quickly had her found

They brought her back to Sandgate Street

And layc’d her til she were blue

Then gave her back to the Keelman

Who layc’d her proper, too


    Ye’ve a lovely body...


She went to church on a Sunday

And pray’d He’d set her free

She tried to tell the father but

The father wouldn’t see

He telt her she were wicked and

She shouldn’t cheek her man

So hyem she went to Sandgate Street

Wi nowhere else to gan

    Ye’ve a lovely body...

One Friday come a Tan-Toby

Who said he’d help her out

He give her a bunch o’ monkshood

And didn’t charge her nowt

She cook’d it into the broth and when

He come in through the door

He said he wanted fish the night

And chuck’d it on the floor

    Ye’ve a lovely body...

If I was yuer husband

I’d never raise me hand

I’d buy you bonny frocks and watch you

Dance upon the sands

There’s blueys fer us breakfast and

There’s winkles fer us tea

I’d keep you safe from the keelman

As happy as can be.

    Ye’ve a lovely body...
























talk back to 





gypsy/rag-and-bone man


Aconitum or Wolfsbane, a poisonous plant

didn't charge her anything




your, pronounced "You-er"

more common in the N.E. than "beach"



Click for scans of the original lyric sheets

One interesting point is the use of the word "lace" meaning to "beat" someone.  Bill Griffith's superb Dictionary of North East Dialect (2nd Ed.,  Northumbria University Press, 2005) suggests that the word originated in Easington in the mid C20, but its inclusion here suggests an earlier origin further down the County Durham coast.

The words also refer to "Sandgate Town" being the home of the keelman, but there was in fact no such place - Sandgate was a suburb on the East side of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and there was a Sandgate Street, but Sandgate was never a real town.   

It should be noted that such dialect-heavy lyrics were more likely to have been written by self-styled "Dialect poets"* than as songs that were actually sung by ordinary folk, which may explain why no recordings or mentions of the song could be found.

The Sandgate Girl's Lamentation
The Sandgate Girl's Lamentation

The song to which this is a response, The Sandgate Girl's Lamentation, was first collected by John Bell for his anthology Rhymes of Northern Bards in 1812.  A beautiful performance of this song by Maureen Craik from 1965 follows. 

In the lament, the girl from Sandgate (a shipping village on the Tyne) bemoans her having ended up married to a keelman.  Keelmen were men who transported coals from the banks of the Tyne and the Wear to the waiting collier ships, using large, shallow-bottomed boats called keels (due to the shallowness of the rivers). The Keelmen were a tight-knit community who lived in Sandgate, a particularly poor and overcrowded part of Newcastle.  They had a reputation amongst some as being rough, uncouth, and aggressive, a reputation which this song seems to uphold. 

From New Voices - An Album of First Recordings (Topic, 12T125, 1966)

Sandgate Lassies Lament lyrics

Click to open lyric sheet

*Roud, S.: Folk Song in England (London: Faber, 2017).

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