Published on September 6th, 2016 | by Alastair Gilmour


Temptation consumed the Bard of Tyneside

A night of top-class Geordie variety has been organised in honour of one of Tyneside’s greatest entertainers. A fitting celebration and tribute to prolific song writer, poet and performer Joe Wilson – born in Stowell Street, Newcastle, 175 years ago (November 29 1841) – will be held in The Irish Centre in Gallowgate, only 20 yards from where he was born.

The evening of music and comedy is compered by Lindisfarne member and Sunday For Sammy star, Billy Mitchell, and curated by playwright Ed Waugh, who hopes it will become an annual event.

Joe Wilson was only 33 when he died of tuberculosis in 1875 but during his short lifetime he wrote 360 songs – including the classic Keep Your Feet Still Geordie Hinny – earning him the moniker Bard of Tyneside. He rose to fame via the then 2,000-seat Balmbra’s in Newcastle. He was also a massive favourite in Sunderland, where he regularly played the 4,000-seat Wear Music Hall, and lauded in Teesside, Darlington and throughout County Durham and Carlisle.

He wrote about the day-to-day life of working class people with his repertoire ranging from beautiful sentimental songs to hard-hitting condemnations of domestic violence, unemployment and the indignities of charity as well as performing benefit concerts for striking Tyneside and Wearside engineering workers.

Joe Wilson even found the time to run a pub, taking over The Adelaide on New Bridge Street, Newcastle, in 1871 (there was another Adelaide on Newgate Street) until “the temptations of a publican’s life told upon him”, as a 19th Century newspaper put it.

He told a friend that he wasn’t enjoying the experience: “If Aa drink wiv iv’rybody that asks us, Aa’s a drunken beast; if Aa dinnet, Aa’s a surly beast. Aa’ll heh to be oot.” He later joined the Good Templars, becoming a teetotaler.

The Adelaide was renamed Joe Wilson’s in 1983 and along the way has been known as The Stout Fiddler, Moot, and King’s Manor. The building, next door to The New Bridge pub, is now a cafe.

Tickets for the Joe Wilson Night on Tuesday November 29 cost £15 and are limited to 200. For information visit

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