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Broadside ballad entitled 'Margaret Bell's Lament'


Verse 1: 'ADIEU unto Barrhead, and to Neilston also, / Where the river Levern it sweetly does flow, / My poor aged mother, for ever farewell, / An exile for life is your poor Margaret Bell.' The broadside was published by James Lindsay of King Street in Glasgow. It is not dated.

'Margaret Bell's Lament' is narrated by a woman who is being transported for the murder of her illegitimate child. There are many broadsides on this subject. Due to the social stigma attached to illegitimate motherhood, infanticide among deperate single mothers was more common in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries than it is today. The usual sentence for the crime was death, but in this case the petitioning of the people of Paisley persuaded the Crown to commute Margaret Bell's sentence to transportation. This suggests that the was a great deal of sympathy and understanding among ordinary people for the plight of such women.

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 of publication: 1852-1859   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.178.A.2(028)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Margaret Bell's Lament'
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