This ballad begins: 'There were three gipsies in a gang, / They were both brisk and bonny, O, / They rode till they came to the Earl of Castle's house / And there they sung so sweetly, O'. A woodcut illustration of two young men standing before a gentleman has been included at the top of the sheet.
There are numerous versions and variations of this song in existence, including 'Johny Faa, or The Gypsie Laddie' and 'The Raggle Taggle Gypsy'. 'Johny Faa' appeared in Volume II of the 'Scots Musical Museum' (1788) and begins: 'The gypsies came to our Lord's yett'. Variations are common in works rooted in the oral tradition, whereby ballads and stories were passed down through the generations and often underwent changes in the telling.
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:
1860-1890 shelfmark: L.C.Fol.178.A.2(092)
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