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Polka

Hawk's Polka (mid 19th century)
Hawk's Polka (mid 19th century)

The picture above shows one of the region’s most well known polkas, The Hawk Polka, thought to have been written by famous Tyneside fiddler James Hill.

Usually written in 2/4 time, the polka is a dance of Bohemian or Polish origin. The invention of the step is credited to Anna Slezak, a farm servant from Elbsteinitz, near Prague in about 1830. It was introduced to Prague in about 1835, and in 1839 was brought to Vienna. There both the music and the dance met with extraordinary acceptance. In 1840 it was received with much applause at the Odeon Theatre in Paris and was soon the favorite dance at social events and gatherings. It spread rapidly through Europe and is now popular all over the world.

The Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore and Legend, July 1891, contains the following account of the introduction of the Polka to Newcastle

The polka, a favourite round dance, is of modern origin. It was first introduced into Newcastle about fifty years ago, when Thorne’s show used to stand in the Spital. It was customary at thet time for all the performers, both male and female, to appear in full theatrical costume on the stage outside the show, and, after promonading for a short time, wind up with the "Haymakers," "Speed the Plough" or some other popular country-dance. Large crowds used to assemble nightly when it became known that the Polka was to be danced. Mr. Henderson and Mrs. Grainger, dressed in full Hungarian costume, were the dancers, and they received unbounded applause for their performance.


Best known for his fiddle playing, George Hepple is heard on this recording, made in 1973, playing a typical 19thC polka on the banjo.

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