A Grand Campaign Dinner in Northumberland
♫ Listen to it here ♫
Songs were a key aspect of grand campaign dinners, held in support of particular candidates and often extensively reported in the newspaper press.

A detailed account of a dinner for candidate Thomas Wentworth Beaumont during the Northumberland election of 1826 appeared in The Tyne Mercury shortly after the dinner took place. According to the report, on 28 April, over 200 Beaumont supporters dined at the Queen’s Head (a ‘highly respectable’ coaching inn located in Pilgrim Street, Newcastle) to ‘celebrate the success’ of Beaumont’s canvassing in Newcastle earlier that day. In between speeches, toasts, and music, ‘a gentleman favoured the company’ by singing a song. This was a version of the Irish writer Thomas Moore’s song inspired by the Tyrolean uprising of 1809, the ‘Tyrolese Song of Liberty’, unapologetically adapted to the requirements of the Beaumont campaign. It is reported that the performance was ‘loudly encored’ by the appreciative company (we can perhaps think of the applause at televised party conferences today).

As well as reflecting the significant role of newspapers in the circulation of contemporary songs and verse, this piece shows how election songs frequently drew upon the complexly patriotic, and the importance of other song cultures (including Irish song cultures) to the sounds of English elections.

Nancy Kerr’s interpretation revives the song as a stirring dinner performance piece.

‘Tune, “Merrily O”’, in The Tyne Mercury; Northumberland and Durham and Cumberland Gazette, 2 May 1826 © British Library Board, Penn.P31, p. 4