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Broadside ballad entitled 'Parody on the Sailor's Grave'


This ballad begins: 'The fight was far, far from the land, / When the bravest of our gallant band / Grew deadly pale and weaned away / From a shillelagh's top on an autumn day.' It was to be sung to the tune 'The Sailor's Grave'. The broadside was priced at one penny and published on Saturday, 2nd May 1863. The publisher was the Poet's Box (probably Glasgow), but the town of publication has been obscured.

The word 'parody' in the title of this ballad suggests that it may be a satire on the words of an earlier song to the same melody. Anti-Irish sentiments are suggested by details like the 'murphies' or potatoes that are buried in 'Paddy's Grave' with the dead Irishman. Such sentiments were commonplace in the nineteenth century, with the Irish home rule struggle continuing and Irish migrants to industrial areas of Britain encountering suspicion and prejudice. This 'Sailor's Grave' is no relation to the later popular song by Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) and H.F. Lyte.
The Poet?s Box in Glasgow operated from 1849 to 1911. Matthew Leitch was the proprietor at 6 St. Andrew Lane?s, a narrow street on the south side of Gallowgate, from 1850 to 1858. His son William Munsie Leitch worked at the same address from 1859 to 1865 and at varous addresses in London Street until 1911. Many of the broadsides published by the Glasgow Poet?s Box were dated and some carried advertisements, not just for printed items but also for shoe blacking and ?soap for lovers?! Like the other ?boxes? in Dundee and Edinburgh, the Glasgow one sold love songs, sea shanties, parodies and dialogues. It is not clear what the connection between the different Poet?s Boxes were. They almost certainly sold each other?s sheets. It is known that John Sanderson in Edinburgh often wrote to the Leitches in Glasgow for songs and that later his brother Charles obtained copies of songs from the Dundee Poet?s Box. There was also a Poet?s Box in Belfast from 1846 to 1856 at the address of the printer James Moore, and one in Paisley in the early 1850s owned by William Anderson.
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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Date of publication: 1863   shelfmark: L.C.1269(176.a)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Parody on the Sailor's Grave'
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