Renowned local historian Dave Harker will celebrate 50 years of research when his book – Cat-Gut Jim – about Ned Corvan, the first Geordie professional singer/songwriter, is published this month.
Cat-Gut Jim is also the basis for Mr Corvan’s Music Hall, a play with Corvan’s music, which tours the region in May and June.
Dave, 70, started researching the almost forgotten North East music hall superstar in 1967, and is delighted that his work will be shared by thousands of people.
“It’s been a labour of love and a wonderful voyage of discovery,” he said.
Corvan (1827 to 1865) was born in Liverpool to Irish parents and came to Newcastle aged five when his stonemason father helped to rebuild Newcastle under Richard Grainger’s vision to turn it from a medieval town into one of the greatest regional capitals in the world.
A former Manchester Metropolitan University lecturer, Dave has produced 12 highly regarded books on subjects ranging from North East songs to Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and the Shrewsbury pickets: “I first got interested in Corvan because he wrote for and on behalf of working men and women,” explained Dave, who has spent years trawling through newspapers in Newcastle, London and online, unearthing snippets of information.
He continued: “Ned was a great singer/songwriter, a virtuoso violinist and could also draw and paint. He ran away from his apprenticeship as a sailmaker to join the legendary Billy Purvis’s shows in temporary marquees throughout North East England and the Borders. Ned’s big break came when he played the Royal Olympic Concert Hall, near Newcastle Central Station, in 1853.
“It held 2,800 people and Ned went down a storm. A young Joe Wilson was so inspired that he went on to become the “Bard of Tyneside”.
“Sadly, much working class history is not properly recorded, so it’s taken decades of painstaking work to piece together Ned’s life.
“The biggest regret is that there is a photograph of Ned out there that I have not located. Anyone with any Corvan artefacts is welcome to contact me via the website.”