The introductory text to this ballad reads: 'Given in Chambers's Journal, No. 175, where it is said to have been written by an old unmarried lady as a kind of burlesque of her own habits and history. It is sung to an air resembling that of "the Laird of Cockpen".' The ballad's first line runs: 'A lass lived down by yon burn-braes'. No publisher or date of publication have been given.
The re-publication of stories, ballads and reports was commonplace in broadsides, and usually the original source is mentioned. Here it is the popular 'Chambers's Journal', which was founded by Robert Chambers (1802-71) in 1832 and ran until 1938. For crime reports the stories usually come from newspapers such as the 'Edinburgh Courant' or 'Glasgow Courant'.
Broadsides are single sheets of paper, printed on one side, to be read unfolded. They carried public information such as proclamations as well as ballads and news of the day. Cheaply available, they were sold on the streets by pedlars and chapmen. Broadsides offer a valuable insight into many aspects of the society they were published in, and the National Library of Scotland holds over 250,000 of them.
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