Verse 1: '"Noo, John Macgill, my elder, come listen to my word, / It's time to leave the harrows, it's time to draw the sword; / The sheep may wander on the hill, the stots rout in the byre, / But another path is ours, John, through danger and through fire.' A woodcut illustration of a man's head has been included at the top of the sheet.
In this ballad, John MacGill is approached by the local Minister to take up arms and fight in the name of religion. The Minister believes it is time to rise up again in defence of Presbyterianism. Reference is made to the defeat of the Covenanters at the battles of Rullion Green (1666) and Bothwell Brig (1679), where General Tam Dalyell and John Graham of Claverhouse, respectively, led government forces to victory. Both men had been appointed by Charles II to suppress the Covenanters in Scotland. Whilst John MacGill thinks it a worthy cause, he has no intention of fighting. The ballad ends with the Minister choosing to follow MacGill's example and remain at home.
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(101)
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