Coffee Johnny

Coffee Johnny aka Coffy Johnny and John Oliver (1829 – 7 April 1900) was immortalised in the 6th verse George Ridley's song 'The Blaydon Races'. [1] Coffee Johnny was a blacksmith in the village of Winlaton, a trumpeter in the Winlaton Brass Band, a bare fist boxer and Geordie celebrity[2]. He was well known for his tall height and for wearing a white top hat. This can be seen in photographs and in William Irving's painting 'Blaydon Races'.

Origins of the name Coffee Johnny

Although George Ridley's original manuscript gives the spelling "Coffy" [3]all later publications spell it in the usual way. Local history archives contain anecdotal evidence that he was nickenamed Coffy because he always used to have a cup before school. It has also been suggested that it was derived from his birth mother, Sarah Koeffer's surname. Sara Koeffer was a German lady staying at Ravensworth Castle, near to Winlaton.[4]


Coffee Johnny was adopted by Thomas and Margery Oliver c.1840 Coffee Johnny married Elizabeth Greener and they had 9 children, Katherine, Mary, Elizabeth, Margery, Sarah, Margaret, Tom, Joseph and Hannah. He also had a son Robert with Anne Hurst after the death of his wife, who was adopted his by Coffee Johnny's daughter Sarah and her husband Miles Batey.[5]

Coffee Johnny is buried in St. Paul's churchyard, Winlaton.


  1. ^ 'Blaydon Races' by Joan Gale (oriel 1970)
  2. ^ 'Blaydon Races' pub. Tyne and Wear Archive Service
  3. ^ 'Blaydon Races' by Joan Gale (oriel 1970)
  4. ^ 'Under His Hat' by Robert Batey (Eloquent Books 2009)
  5. ^ St paul's Church, Winlaton Parish Records/Tyne and Wear Archives

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