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Broadside ballad entitled 'The Poor Drunkard's Child'


Verse 1: 'In taking of my walks on a cold winter's day, / Thro' the fields and the lanes I wended my way, / Till I arrived at a hovel both rustic and wild, / I heard a voice say, I'm a poor drunkard's child.' The broadside was published by James Lindsay of 9 King Street, Glasgow. It does not carry a price or a date of publication.

Ballads warning of the dangers of drink were quite commonly found on broadsides, especially in the later nineteenth century when the Temperance Movement had begun to gather momentum across Britain. One of the most persuasive arguments against drunkenness was the effect alcoholism had on children and family life, and the use of a pitiful 'drunkard's child' as narrator of a ballad, as in this case, was an effective way of appealing to the listener's conscience. Another broadside ballad, called 'The Drunkard's Raggit Wean', seems to have provoked a particularly strong reaction, as it was frequently reprinted and inspired several ballads responding to it.

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: 1850-1860   shelfmark: RB.m.169(086)
Broadside ballad entitled 'The Poor Drunkard's Child'
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