So how come the flaky reputation?
Trying to explain the background to Rapper, especially to those keen to dance ‘short sword’ after seeing an exciting performance, has been a wee bit problematic, especially to those ower the water in our long abandoned colonies. The Rapper, as recorded on its home ground in the North East is a product of the men who invented it. A million miles from the genteeel morris of sunshine, lawns and Olde England...
The Northumbrian Pipers Society, 1894, recorded that... “a general cessation of work by the Keelmen would necessarily stop the regular working of the pits, and the Pitmen thus laid idle would swell the numbers of the unemployed, and add a fresh element of danger to the public peace.
“In their own disputes over labour questions, the Pitmen were equally resolute and ungovernable. The memorable instance of this spirit was commemorated in the dismal gibbet erected on Jarrow Slake (where Thomas Jobling's hanged body rotted away for all to see after he was convicted of retaliating during a miner's protest. Jobling was accused of bringing a man down when they were attacked by horsemen). Earlier than this, the course of a ‘pitmans steek’ used to be traced in a line of wreckage as they proceeded from colliery to colliery and destroyed the winding plant at the surface. Their earlier history is marked by the more intractable character of the Keelmen, and by a yet more complete disregard of allegiance to society at large. In 1644, when the Scots army invested Newcastle, the breach by which they entered the town near the White Friar Tower was effected by the explosion of a mine which had been dug by the Pitmen of Elswick and Benwell. And but four years earlier the Mayor and Aldermen of Newcastle had promised Sir John Astley to utilise the store of arms belonging to the king and ‘to have 2,000 men belonging to the coal mines ready to bear arms on all occasions.’
“We have here arrived at a phrase of character which seems paradoxical. The men who were ready to sap and mine the city are equally ready to take part in its defence.”