Note from FARNE (Folk Archive Resource North East) - first collected from a man in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, in 1949. Seghill and Seaton Delaval (presumably the Delaval mentioned in the song) are adjacent mining villages about six miles north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in North East England, historically part of the English county of Northumberland.
Chris Rockcliffe posted in the
Derkeiler UseNet on Wednesday, 08 Feb 2006: "Songs of this type were frowned upon by the Union and had been banned in the local Miners' Welfares and various pubs and later clubs in the region for a century. The growing Northumberland and Durham Miner's Union didn't at any stage want division; they wanted unity and solidarity for good reason and to heal the wounds with later Unionised immigrant labour. As a result, the songs were rarely heard in public until the post-war folk revival and then some were watered down a bit with some of the more vitriolic and overtly racist stuff removed. The song's lyrics are about the events of the 1844 strike and the violent events of the time in South East Northumberland - in Blyth, Delaval, Hartley and Seghill in particular - and recorded in local papers of the time. There was another pitched battle in the Avenue leading to Avenue Head in Delaval. The song was no doubt revived in later strike actions by striking factions against blacklegs. Whether the lyrics we know now were written at the time of the first strike (1844), or some years afterwards - in my opinion the more likely - and whether it borrowed a tune from elsewhere, or it changed tunes or lyrics later is not known - but likely. Expert musicologists and song collections authors aside, this is about real history, events and real people."
The YouTube video below features an excellent guitar performance of a much older variant by Tony Archibald from Port St. Mary on the Isle of Man.