Verse 1: 'There are won'erfu news hae come doun to the town, / The Bill's got a desperate crunt on the crown, / The bishops hae gien't sic a terrible whack, / That the maist o folk think they hae broken its back'. It is to be sung to the air 'The Laird o' Cockpen'. A woodblock of the Royal Coat of Arms adorns the top of the sheet. The sheet was published by G. Caldwell, of Paisley.
This broadside would have been highly topical when it was published, probably around 1832 when the debate over Earl Grey's (1764-1845) Reform Bill was at its peak. The Reform Act was passed in 1832 and its aim was to make constituencies more representative. The author of this piece says he is a Reformer, but from the tone it is safe to assume that he does not think the Reform Bill goes far enough. To the ordinary person it would not have make a blind bit of difference as eligibility was property-based.
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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