The Word on the Street
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Sport

Sport did not become organised to any great extent until the late 19th century. Through these broadsides, however, we get a glimpse of the part it played in the lives of ordinary people in Scotland in earlier times. Boxing - or more accurately prizefighting - racing and football were the main sports covered.

Battle Between Simon Byrne and Deaf Burke
It's a knockout!
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It's a knockout!

Prizefighting was a particularly popular pastime in the early 19th century. One broadside printed in Edinburgh in 1833 gives a round-by-round account of a contest between Simon Byrne and Deaf Burke. The language used throughout is colourful and expressive - 'smeller' is the word used for nose, 'peepers' for eyes and it typical of this form of early sports reporting.

It is interesting to note the author's approval that the fight proceeded 'without the interference of the beaks' - i.e. the police. Prizefighting was an illegal activity and did not become legitimate until the 1870s.

The Dooley Fitba' Club
The Dooley Fitba' Club
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The Dooley Fitba' Club

This broadside gives an indication of the growing popularity of football in Scotland in the late 19th century. The song in question seems to be the basis of the 'Fitba' crazy' song made popular by Jimmie Macgregor and Robin Hall in the 1960s. The composer was James Curran or Currin, a well-known Glasgow parodist and songwriter.
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National Library of Scotland 2004

National Library of Scotland