A GOOD LINE IN PATTER: POEMS AND RECITATIONS, by Johnny Handle. Available from the author (www.johnnyhandle.co.uk). £10 (incl postage). Softback.

FOR more than 50 years Johnny Handle has played a major part in the British folk music scene with his extensive repertoire of Geordie, mining and comedy songs. The selection in this book is a collection of items which have entertained audiences since 1959. These include ‘Jimmy Doon The Shaft’, ‘Ode to the Leek’, ‘The Roman Wall Show’ and ‘The Cottage in the Country’.

This latter piece, dedicated to incomers “from the deep sooth wi’ ne accent”, which Johnny recommends to be read out in “a public skeul accent”, ends with the lines:

Of course, three hundred and fifty thou for a small place

Is just chicken feed for Gerald and me.

You see, we’re the New Northumbrians

From the Cheviots right down to the sea.


A-Z OF JARROW – Places – People – History, by Paul Perry. Amberley Publishing. (www.amberley-books.com) £14.99. Softback.

This local author and photographer has drawn from his extensive collection of photographs and postcards of old Jarrow to produce this illustrated guide. Jarrow remained a small town until the introduction of coal mining and shipbuilding. Charles Mark Palmer established a shipyard – Palmer’s Shipbuilding & Iron Company in 1852 and became the first armour-plate manufacturer in the world. The yard also built the first iron screw collier which revived the Tyne coal trade and a number of notable warships. Palmer’s employed as much as 80% of the town’s working population until its closure in 1933 which led to the event for which Jarrow is best-known, the Jarrow March to London in 1936.


De Merlay Dynasty, The Family Who Ruled Morpeth, 1085 -1265, by Bridget Gubbins. Published by Greater Morpeth Development Trust. (www.gmdt.org) £11.99. Softback.

The first Norman baron, William de Merlay, built a timber castle on a hill overlooking the River Wansbeck at Morpeth in about 1085, and his heirs continued to rule the baronry until 1265. This well-researched book by an acclaimed local author charts the stories of his descendants and their wives – Ranulph, William, three Rogers, and their equally important wives – over a tumultuous period of wars and invasions by the Scots.

It also highlights important changes during the medieval period including the granting of a royal market charter by King John in 1199, childbirths at the castle, a plot to kill a hated king, and a wicked sheriff. Part of a powerful network of French-speaking aristocratic families in Northumberland, which included de Vesci, Bertram, Balliol and Umfraville, the dynasty ended with William de Merlay the III, whose wife was unable to give him a son. He died in 1265.