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Broadside ballad entitled 'Parody on M'Gregor's Gathering'


This ballad begins: 'While there's beef in the pat, / And there's soup in the brae, / There's twenty four hours, / In a nicht and a' day'. A 'pat' translates as a 'pot' in English. 'Brae' normally means 'hill', as this is a nonsense song it could possibly be meant as a joke. It was published by the Poet's Box of Dundee and sold for a penny.

This is a parody of Sir Walter Scott's 1816 poem, 'MacGregor's Gathering'. Scott's famous lines, 'While there's leaves in the forest / And foam on the river, / MacGregor, despite them, / Shall flourish forever!' have been altered in this version to, 'While there's leaves in a tammy book / Want we will never / Hurroo for Scotch Haddies / An parritch for ever.' A 'tammy book' is an account book held by a shop, and the lyrics imply that while you could get credit you would never go without haddock (haddies) or porridge (parritch).
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 days and 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 at Paisley in the early 1850s, owned by William Anderson.

The National Library of Scotland also holds a copy of the original Scott poem, also published by the Dundee Poet's Box. Scott is not credited as author, however.

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Probable period of publication: 1880-1900   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(27a)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Parody on M'Gregor's Gathering'
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