Considered by many to have been Newcastle’s most successful songwriter, Joe Wilson focussed on working-class life and produced such well-known songs such as Keep Yor Feet Still GeordieHinny, and Geordy Haud the Bairn.
Born in Stowell Street, the son of a joiner, his ‘sweet tenor voice’ soon earned him a place as a choir boy at All Saints Church. Apprenticed as a printer his first sing book was published three years later and in his leisure time he established popular concerts in the working men’s clubs which had been newly formed as a counter attraction to the pubs. Turning professional later on, he starred at the Oxford Music Hall in the Cloth Market and then toured the North of England as well as selling his home-produced song books at a half-penny each.
Married in 1869, Joe found travelling and wedded bliss did not mix and two years later became landlord of the Adelaide Hotel on New Bridge Street (later called Joe Wilson’s). Disillusioned, after a short period he returned to the stage, simultaneously working as a printer to eke out a living. He turned teetotal, and began to write temperance songs that sadly never sold well.
A monument in the form of a broken column (to signify a life cut short) was erected by Thomas Allan, publisher of Tyneside Songs, with inscribed lines that Joe used to describe the purpose of his life:
‘It’s been me aim t’hev a place
I’th’ hearts o’ the Tyneside people,
Wi’ writin’ bits o’hyemly sangs
Aw think they’ll sing.’
As it is today.
An original image of the monument in pristine condition.
The Adelaide Hotel, also known as Joe Wilson's, currently known as the King's Manor.