Verse 1: 'I'm a factory gal as you may see, / You'd like to know perhaps who I be; / If you will listen to my rhyme, / I'll tell you now all in good time. / My mother lives down pot alley, / The boys all call me charming Sally; / Be their delight I always shall, / While I'm a flare-up factory gal.'
The cheerful tone of the narrator of this ballad is at odds with our modern perceptions of the society she describes. The 'factory girl' is just that - a child labourer rather than a young woman. The employment of children in factories was an integral part of Britain's dramatic industrial expansion in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as they were a cheap, easily-managed workforce. Despite some strong opposition to child labour, until 1891 children as young as nine could be working almost sixty hours per week, often in unsafe and unhealthy conditions.
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:
1880-1900 shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(94c)
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