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Broadside ballad entitled 'Toon of Arbroath'


Verse 1: 'Although far frae hame and the blooming heather, / Thousands of miles across the deep sea, / At night, when I'm weary, my mind loves to wander / To the scenes of my boyhood, so dear unto me.' This sheet was published by the Poet's Box at 10 Hunter Street in Dundee, but is not dated.                                                                                                                                                                  This broadside ballad tells of the yearning that an exiled 'Lichtie' (native of Arbroath) has for his place of birth. Throughout the ballad, the nostalgic 'Lichtie' recalls people and places from his childhood, and closes by stating that, come what may, he will be buried in the grounds of Arbroath Abbey. Given that the subject of the poem is an emigrant who now lives across 'the deep sea', it seems likely that this ballad reflects the nostalgic emotions of the thousands of Scots who, from 1700 onwards, emigrated to the New World of North America and far-off places in the British Empire.                                                                                                                                                          The Dundee Poets? Box was in operation from about 1880 to 1945, though it is possible that some material was printed as early as the 1850s. Most of the time it had premises at various addresses in Overgate. In 1885 the proprietor J.G. Scott (at 182 Overgate) had published a catalogue of 2,000 titles consisting of included humorous recitations, dialogues, temperance songs, medleys, parodies, love songs, Jacobite songs. Another proprietor in the 1880s was William Shepherd, but little is known about him. Poets? Box was particularly busy on market daysand feeing days when country folk were in town in large numbers. Macartney specialised in local songs and bothy ballads. Many Irish songs were published by the Poets? Box ? many Irishmen worked seasonally harvesting potatoes and also in the jute mills. In 1906 John Lowden Macartney took over as proprietor of the Poet?s Box, initially working from 181 Overgate and later from no.203 and 207. It is not clear what the connection between the different Poet?s Boxes were. They almost certainly sold each other?s sheets. It is known that John Sanderson in Edinburgh often wrote to the Leitches in Glasgow for songs and that later his brother Charles obtained copies of songs from the Dundee Poet?s Box. There was also a Poet?s Box in Belfast from 1846 to 1856 at the address of the printer James Moore, and one in Paisley (run by William Anderson) in the early 1850s.                                                                                                                                                          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: 1880-1900   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(6b)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Toon of Arbroath'
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