This article was written by John Stokoe for the “North Country Garland of Song” in the January 1890 issue of the Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore and Legend, published by Walter Scott Ltd. of Newcastle upon Tyne. The song includes the earliest reference to sword dancing on Tyneside itself.
Winlaton Hopping, like all the other annual festive gatherings of the district, is now considerably shorn of its former glories, and the scenes of hilarious enjoyment formerly witnessed are now things of the past.
Mr. John Leonard, the writer of the song, was the son of Mr. George Leonard, a gardener, of Gateshead, who was also the owner of a property on the east side of High Street, still known by the name of Leonard's Street. The son was brought up to the trade of a joiner, and wrote numerous pieces of poetry, including some satirical efflusions on the events of the day, all of which are now lost or forgotten. In the latter portion of his life he fell into difficulties, and the property named passed into other hands.
The song was written above sixty years ago, and is a clever description of a village fair or hopping. John Peacock, the piper named in the song, was the Paganini of the players on the Northumbrian small pipes, and one of the last of the “Town Waits” whom the old merry burgesses of Newcastle maintained time out of mind to wait upon the Mayor on gala occasions, who played at weddings and other festivals, and serenaded the inhabitants during the winter months.
The tune's character is of Irish extraction, and possesses a rollicking character which fits it well with the lively verses of the song.
Ye sons of glee,
Fal the dal la, fal the dal la,
With box and die
Close by the stocks
Ranged in a row,
Ye men so wise
The night came on,
At last dull Care
No courtier fine,