Thursday, 9 June 2011

Blaydon Races

There are any number of historic races that are run - or were run - in the North East.  The Morpeth to Newcastle road race began in 1904 and was run for 100 years.  Traditionally set on New Year's Day, when I did it the distance was 14.1 miles.   It sounds a daft thing to do, but it was a great way to start a new year.  Sadly, modern society's demands for shopping 365 days a year, the costs of holiday pay for police and other public officials involved and the growing protectiveness of health and safety requirements caused this tradition to end.  At it's height it drew only about 700, mostly club runners, and the race was no longer financial viable.   Here are some videos for 1929, 1931, 1932 and 1934.  The same guy, a Glaswegian named Duncan McCleod Wright won it every year, the course is the same (still today mostly), it rained every year.  The Brits are great ones for tradition...

The Great North Run, a half marathon (13.1 miles), goes from Newcastle to South Shields.  It is billed as the largest half marathon in Europe, with around 50,000 runners every year.  It started in 1981, the same year as the London Marathon.  It attracts nearly as many 'fun runners' as the London Marathon, with thousands running to raise money for their favourite charity, many in very strange costumes.  I've run it several times, the last to help John raise money for Marie Curie.  He played the accordian all the way along the course, dressed in a tam o'shanter and wearing a bill board displaying his cause.  Bill, Bob and I followed behind him with buckets to collect money from the supporting crowds.  The looks on their faces when they heard and then saw John was a total riot.  It was a great day out.  [Must find those photos and add them here!]

However, the 9th of June is the date of the Blaydon Races, regardless of what day of the week it falls on. It's a short race - 5.9 miles and it also began in 1981. The course starts in Newcastle's historic Cloth Market (a street), in front of where the old Balmbras Music Hall was once situated, and travels along Scotswood Road, over Scotswood Bridge to Blaydon.  It has grown to capacity with 4000 runners and this year filled up within 4 days of releasing entries.  Dr Jim Dewar, a member of Blaydon Harriers, was the race organiser and it was his Geordie-language race entries that first taught me to read Geordie.  I still have a couple around here somewhere.  For example, runners are referred to as 'lads n' lasses' and the older age catagories are 'gadgies and dames'.  Jim was a nice man and it was a sad day when he passed away, in 2004.   

However, the name Blaydon Races isn't just about a road race of the 20th and 21st Century.  It's the name of a music hall song from the mid 1800's about going to the horse races back then (apparently the Blaydon horse track closed in 1951).  This song is practically considered a 'national' anthem for Tyneside (the area around the River Tyne, inhabited by Geordies).  It is sung at football (soccer) games and rugby matches - and of course before the start of the road race, which it inspired.

Here are the words (as with Jim's entry forms, it helps to read them out loud).  If you want to hear it sung and sing along, here is a YouTube video with the words provided.  Otherwise, Bill says this Owen Brannigan version is the most traditional.

Aw went to Blaydon Races, 'twas on the ninth of Joon,
Eiteen hundred an' sixty-two, on a summer's efternoon;
Aw tyuk the 'bus frae Balmbra's, an' she wis heavy laden,
Away we went alang Collingwood Street, that's on the road to Blaydon.

Ah me lads, ye shud only seen us gannin',
We pass'd the foaks upon the road just as they wor stannin';
Thor wes lots o' lads an' lasses there, all wi' smiling faces,
Gawn alang the Scotswood Road, to see the Blaydon Races.

We flew past Airmstrang's factory, and up to the "Robin Adair", Just gannin' doon te the railway bridge, the 'bus wheel flew off there.
The lasses lost their crinolines off, an' the veils that hide their faces,
An' aw got two black eyes an' a broken nose in gan te Blaydon Races.

When we gat the wheel put on away we went agyen,
But them that had their noses broke they cam back ower hyem;
Sum went to the Dispensary an' uthers to Doctor Gibbs,
An' sum sought out the Infirmary to mend their broken ribs.

Noo when we gat to Paradise thor wes bonny gam begun;
Thor was fower-an-twenty on the 'bus, man, hoo they danced an' sung;
They called on me to sing a sang, aw sung them "Paddy Fagan",
Aw danced a jig an' swung my twig that day aw went to Blaydon.

We flew across the Chain Bridge reet into Blaydon toon,
The bellman he was callin' there, they call him Jackie Broon;
Aw saw him talkin' to sum cheps, an' them he was pursuadin'
To gan an' see Geordy Ridley's concert in the Mechanics' Hall at Blaydon.

The rain it poor'd aw the day an' myed the groons quite muddy,
Coffy Johnny had a white hat on - they war shootin' "Whe stole the cuddy."
There wes spice stalls an' munkey shows an' aud wives selling ciders,
An' a chep wiv a hapenny roond aboot, shootin' "Noo, me lads, for riders."



Rick Stone said...

"fun runners"? Never saw running as being fun, even when the Navy made me do the mile and half as part of the semi-annual PT test. When we go out west to help with the Baker-to-Vegas Challenge Cup Relay Race I'm always amazed at these folks running in the California/Nevads desert. Especially since the winning teams prizes are beer mugs.

Jo has a neice, up in Minnesota, who is a runner. She did the half marathon in the OKC Bombing Memorial run a few years ago. Runners certainly have a different mind set than us sedentary types. Of course, they'll probably live longer than we will.

BigLittleWolf said...


Hoping the run went well!

Shelley said...

You are right that running is not always fun, but being fit and active is BRILLIANT. I don't think just living longer is the important part - though it is a significant issue. I think having a better quality and longer independence in later life is my main motivator (though I'm really struggling with my running these days). I think of it as postponing the nightmare part of old age - trying to, anyhow.