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My Grandfather was from Jarrow in the North-East of England and although he and my grandmother had moved south soon after they married and had lived there for decades when I knew them, they both retained the vestiges of their Geordie accents. Seeing Teriesias type Geordie into the catbox suddenly reminded me of how fond Grandad was of regional songs. Of course, I immediately went looking to see if any of the four I remember him singing most regularly were noded. Amazingly, not even the one that was the theme tune for a long-running TV series has found its way into the database.

Next, I turned to Google. Three of the four songs turned up lyrics immediately, but this, the fourth, doesn’t seem to exist anywhere on the ‘net.

It dates from the depression of the nineteen thirties, and the time of the Jarrow March. The travelling candy-man of the title was a junk merchant, with a horse and cart rather like The Steptoes who would drive up and down the streets, buying up anything and everything that he could on-sell, and bringing a little relief and cash into the homes of the poor and unemployed.

The “raggy goons” that he “dare not tak” were worn-out dresses that often turned out to be the women’s Sunday best, offered up by their children in the hope of getting hold of a few pennies for taffy. It may even be this that gained him the name of the candy-man, though that’s speculation – Grandad could never explain it. PaulM tells be that rag-and-bone men also used to often pay in kind with sweets and baloons - a more likely explanation.

For all I know, my family may be the last people to know this song – Grandad and my mother both sang it to me regularly, but I never heard it anywhere else so I offer it here, from memory, indicating, as far as possible the pronunciation, in the interests of preserving it from oblivion.

The tune is simple and up-beat, contrasting sharply with the grimness of time and place that made the candy-man such a necessity.

Travellin’ Candy-Man
Tyneside song, author unknown

Now, when ah left the colliery
Ah started on me roonds
T’be a travellin’ candy-man
An’ this is what ah soong:

“Any hare skins, rabbit skins
bits of brass, broken glass,
Al’ foor the travellin’ candy-man”

Now every Monday mornin’
Ah gan* on me daily roonds
Ah see the kiddies comin’
With their mothers’ raggy goons
But ah dare not tak ‘em
In case that ah be wranged
So Geordie blow your bugle
And doon the street we’ll gan

Singin’ “hare skins, rabbit skins
bits of brass, broken glass,
Al’ foor the travellin’ candy-man”

*gan = “go”

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