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Broadside ballad entitled 'The Unemployed Breakin' Stanes'


Verse 1: 'A' ye wha hae riches an' plenty in store, / Do ye ne'er wance gi'e a bit thought on the poor? / While feestin' an' drinkin' does it enter yer brains / Ho' the poor devils live who are breakin' the stanes?' The ballad was written by John Wilson, B.S.G.

In economically depressed Victorian times, it was common for parish boards to give the poor and destitute employment breaking stones. This was gruelling and arduous labour. The stones were used to fill potholes in parish-maintained roads. This well-written song highlights how demeaning it is for a skilled man to have to resort to this back-breaking and seemingly trivial work.

It is not clear whether the lyricist, John Wilson, is the famous poet, reviewer and essayist of the same name, who usually wrote under the pseudonym 'Christopher North'. He lived between 1785 and 1854, slightly before the Victorian depression although stone breaking would also have been carried on, to a lesser extent, in his day.

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Probable period of publication: 1880-1900   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(36b)
Broadside ballad entitled 'The Unemployed Breakin' Stanes'
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