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Broadside ballad entitled 'Drink and be Merry; or, The Bold 42!'


Verse 1 and chrous: 'There was a puir lassie I pity her lot, / Her lad went and listed to wear the red coat, / To wear the red coat he has gaen faur awa', / Oh, my love's gone and listed in the bold forty-twa. / Let us drink and be merry / All sorrows refrain, / For we may and may never / All meet here again.' The broadside was published by The Poet's Box, 224 Overgate, Dundee, which advertises at the top of the sheet, 'NEW SONGS OUT EVERY WEEK', and at the bottom, 'Songs sent to any part of the country on receipt of postage stamps'.

This ballad concerns a man who has enlisted to be a soldier in the 42nd regiment or 'Black Watch', leaving his sweetheart at home. The voice narrating the ballad seems to change throughout. The first two lines are sung by someone standing apart and describing the 'puir lassie's situation, but the next two seem to be sung by the 'puir lassie' herself. The chorus is then sung, appropriately, as a group: 'Let us drink and be merry'. Such changes in narrative were quite common in ballads, perhaps reflecting the fact that they would be performed by someone who would assume the different character roles during the unfolding of the ballad.
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.

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(41b)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Drink and be Merry; or, The Bold 42!'
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