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Broadside ballad entitled 'Bonny Nelly Brown'


Verse 1: 'Bonny Nelly Brown, I will sing a song to thee, / Tho' oceans wide between us roar, ye'll aye be dear to me, / Tho' mony a year's gane o'er my head, since down in Linton's dell, / I took my last fond look o' thee, my ain dear Nell.'

'Bonny Nelly Brown' is the name of the sweetheart lamented by the narrator of this song. The phrases 'To' oceans wide between us roar' and 'They tell me Nelly Brown, that your bonny yellow hair, / Is snaw-white now . . .' suggest that the narrator had to emigrate from Scotland many years prevously, and that he only now receives news of Nelly Brown from friends back home. Emigration due to poverty was a common phenomenon in eighteenth and nineteenth century Scotland, and this, and lost love, were popular subjects for broadside ballads.

Early ballads were dramatic or humorous narrative songs derived from folk culture that predated printing. Originally perpetuated by word of mouth, many ballads survive because they were recorded on broadsides. Musical notation was rarely printed, as tunes were usually established favourites. The term 'ballad' eventually applied more broadly to any kind of topical or popular verse.

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Probable period of publication: 1860-1890   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.178.A.2(081)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Bonny Nelly Brown'
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