Billy Purvis, the Jester of the North, is to get a blue plaque on Newcastle’s Quayside to commemorate his contribution to North East culture.
Regarded as the “first professional Geordie”, Billy became an entertainer and showman. He was an actor, dancer, comedian and conjurer, while his musical skills included playing the big drum and theUilleann pipes.
Having served his time as a drummer at Newcastle Theatre Royal, then in Drury Lane, and later as a doorkeeper at the Assembly Rooms on Newcastle’s Westgate Road, Billy set up his own travelling show in 1818.
His troupe toured extensively throughout northern England and lowland Scotland for the next 35 years, although it was in the North East that he was most fondly remembered at race meetings, hoppings and gatherings.
Billy Purvis, the subject of a new autobiography by the Tyneside historian Dave Harker, features in Mr Corvan’s Music Hall. It was based on Dave’s biography of Ned Corvan, Cat-Gut Jim the Fiddler, and toured the region to great plaudits in 2017.
The blue plaque unveiling, hosted by Newcastle City Council, will take place in the Close on Newcastle Quayside (between the High Level Bridge and Wetherspoon’s Quayside pub) on Monday, February 18, at 11am. Afterwards there will be refreshments and entertainment in the Guildhall. Entry is free. All are welcome to attend.