'The Blaydon Races': lads and lasses, song tradition, and the evolution of an anthem

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In this article I examine the evolution of the Tyneside song, 'The Blaydon Races', into a local anthem, with a focus on the contribution of the plurals lads and lasses to this status. I consider the obstacles to the dialect song becoming an anthem, in particular its origins in non-respectable 19th-century music hall. 

Existing scholarship on 19th-century dialect song or poetry often sees such material as enhancing solidarity at the levels of class or region (Beal, 2000; Wales, 2002, 2006). Influenced by the work of Coupland (2006) and Eckert (2005), however, I posit a more fluid conception of identity within popular entertainment spaces, which may operate alongside, contribute to, or undermine categories such as class or region. 

I use an electronic corpus of 19th-century Tyneside song to investigate the collocation of lads in particular with Tyneside, and its role in fostering local patriotism. I also consider the pragmatic function of lads as a term of address or apostrophe to sporting heroes in song. I then examine the terms of address lads and lasses within the already intimate context of shared music hall song choruses, recalling, nevertheless, the controversies surrounding the institution. This function of lads in the chorus of 'The Blaydon Races', and the cultural 'resonance' of references to 'lads an' lasses' are seen potentially to enhance solidarity from the outset. However, increasingly with locally patriotic functions, they can enhance group bonding within evolving contexts of shared singing-within the later music hall, among troops in both World Wars, and among Newcastle United football supporters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-282
Number of pages14
JournalLanguage and Literature
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • anthem
  • dialect
  • identity
  • lads
  • lasses
  • music hall
  • song
  • The Blaydon Races
  • Tyneside


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