Verse 1: 'To the Bailies in council 'twas Mitchell who cried / It's as clear as the sun that the Provost has lied, / And his presence with us, all true men will agree, / Is a blot on the honour of Bonnie Dundee.' The ballad was to be sung to the tune of 'The Bonnets o' Bonnie Dundee'. The broadside was published in Dundee in November 1904. It carries the name 'Alvan Marlaw', but it is unclear whether this is the name of the author or of the publisher.
This broadside is a pastiche of the song 'Bonny Dundee' by Sir Water Scott (1771-1832). Whereas Scott's song is a romantic celebration of the Jacobite general John Graham of Claverhouse, this poem is an attack on corruption in Dundee's burgh council. In particular, the provost, or head of the council, is lampooned for being a tax-dodger, and a bully to the ordinary working man. In the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, broadside ballads increasingly served as expressions of radical and working class disenchantment with the social order.
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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