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Broadside ballad entitled 'Widow MacFarlane's Lamentation for Her Son'


This ballad begins: 'On the Banks of Clyde I happened to wander, / In the month of August, when flowers was in bloom; / On the beauties of nature my mind it did ponder, / I heard an aged female who was making sad moan'. A woodcut illustration has been included at the top of the sheet, showing three men standing in front of a crouching figure. They are in a room with a vaulted ceiling.

Although this claims to be 'Widow MacFarlane's Lamentation for Her Son', it is highly unlikely that she actually wrote it. Broadside producers kept a keen eye on the market, and for particularly sensational or newsworthy crimes often produced a sequence of sheets covering every possible angle. Hans Smith MacFarlane and Helen Blackwood were executed in 1853, in Glasgow, for the murder of Alexander Boyd. Their case sparked a lot of interest and, as a result, received a great deal of coverage at the time.

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 published: 1853-   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.178.A.2(096)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Widow MacFarlane's Lamentation for Her Son'
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