Blog No.23: 5 songs covering 250 years of soldiers of the Northeast who gave for their country

For Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday


(Those getting this via email won’t be able to see the tracks. Clicking on the title of the blog will open it in a tab of your web browser. For those reading on a iPad, the tracks will open in a separate browser windows and not play on the Page. Apologies.)

Blue text are external links, which will open in a new browser window.

This is a re-blog of Blog No.14 in respect of Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. Two of the five tracks below are about World War I.

When I was doing these 66 tracks the second track I chose for Part 1 and the 18th century was the traditional song, Over The Hills And Far Away. After I’d recorded it, I thought I ought to do another version to balance out this propaganda song, so Track 3 would become this. Then, once I’d reach the late-20th century, I thought I’d bookend the first track with another, contemporary version. I then decided I’d do a couple of songs about World War I and the miners of Northumberland and Durham who volunteered to become Sappers with the Royal Engineers, digging trenches, as well as tunnels underneath the enemy, so they could plant thousands of pounds of explosives. So here are those five tracks….


  1. Over The Hills And far Away No one knows when the original dates from, but the song I have done dates to 1706. According to Wikipedia: “One version was published in Thomas D’Urfey‘s Wit and Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy; a very different one appeared in George Farquhars 1706 play The Recruiting Officer. A version also appears in John Gay‘s The Beggar’s Opera of 1728.” However, the song was made famous by the British television series, Sharpe, starring Sean Bean. The version I’ve done – the George Farquhar one – dates to over a hundred years before the Napoleonic Wars that his character was involved in. Mine stays closer to the ‘original’ tune, and not the one arranged and sung by John Tams for Sharpe, although I’ve added some Northeastern dialect to it. It’s about recruiting men for the War of Spanish Succession.

2. Over The Hills And far Away – Epilogue – An epilogue to the previous track. Where that was a propaganda song to get recruits, my version – which uses something closer to Tams’ tune – looks at the affects of war on the men who were ‘fortunate’ enough to return home to Northeast England. No support then. It was either beg, steal, or both. (I’ve given him a slight Northumberland accent.)

DIALECT WORD: Gan owwa=’go over’; owwa the hills=’over the hills’; waak=’walk’; aanly=’only’; afore=’before’; nee=’no’; aall Aa wanted=’all I wanted’; thowt=’thought’; Noow a violent=’Now a violent’; waa=’war’.


Whilst the Northeast of England had the two regiments of the Northumberland Fusiliers and the Durham Light Infantry, it was with the Tunnelling Companies of the Royal Engineers that the miners of the region would join as Sappers. Sometimes it may not have been the duty of fighting for King and Country that led them to do this, but the money, which was considerably more than that of most colliers.

The two songs I wrote are set at either end of this awful event in history. The first – He Volunteered For The Money – takes place in 1914, with a miner volunteering for the extra money, and the second – I Never Thought I’d See The Day – is set in 1918, with a Sapper returning to the mines, and how his experiences in the war have made him see mining as not being as bad as he used to think.

There are dialect words in the second track: thowt=’thought’; knaa=’know’; urth=’earth’; aall=’all’; divn’t tell uz=’don’t tell me’; me marra=’my work mate’


Regardless of what anyone might think of the politics behind The Troubles or the Falklands War, it had profound affects on the soldiers that served in them, especially the latter.

Over The Hills And far Away – Contemporary  – By the time I had got the point where I’d done five ‘albums’, I thought I may as well attempt a more contemporary version of Over The Hills And Far Away, and decided to date it to around the early-1980s, when British soldiers were dealing with Northern Ireland, the Falklands War and UN duties in Bosnia. It may have been the 20th century, but there was still was no support for the returning soldiers to help them deal with what they’d experienced, in the Falklands especially. There were more British soldiers who committed suicide after returning from the Falkland’s than died in the conflict itself. The Iron Lady in the song refers to the Prime Minister at the time, Margaret Thatcher.

Thanks as always for reading and listening, and do please leave your thoughts below, or a star rating at the top of the post,



2 thoughts on “Blog No.23: 5 songs covering 250 years of soldiers of the Northeast who gave for their country

  1. So much heart within these songs, and it’s a fitting tribute you have made on this site through all your music shared. I often wonder after the bloody WWI, how could humankind ever think to pickup another weapon? It seems we are destined to go through time accelerating our anger through warfare and woes. Having been through The Old Testament and The Mahabharata from stem to stern, the repetition is uncanny, for much is written of war. Love Anne Terri


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