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Broadside ballad entitled 'Elizabeth M'Neil Afraid of the Hangman's Fa''


Verse 1: 'Sad news I have now to tell, / News of her death will gang far awa'; / She coon can tell, she kens hersel', / She'll get the hangman's fa'.' Chorus: 'O waes me, / My days do wear awa'; / I wish I were but free again / From the hangman's fa'.' This song was written by John McLean, a coalminer.

John Mclean's ballad is based on a real case. On August 3rd 1835 Elizabeth McNeil or Banks was hanged in Edinburgh for poisoning her husband Peter Banks with arsenic. Contemporary reports of the crime reveal that Peter Banks, a collier, was an abusive man, but also record that Elizabeth Banks had repeatedly stated that she would one day be executed. This unusual fact is referred to in verse four of the ballad.

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 date published: 1835   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(135b)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Elizabeth M'Neil Afraid of the Hangman's Fa''
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