The Word on the Street
home | background | illustrations | distribution | highlights | search & browse | resources | contact us

Broadside ballad entitled 'Drivin' in tae Glesca in a Sour Milk Cart'


This ballad begins: 'My name is Jemie Broon, an' I'm servin' at Polnoon. / A farmhouse near Eaglesham, that fine, old-fashioned toon - / Whaur wi' the milk ilk mornin', a wee while after three, / We tak, the road richt merrily, the auld black horse and me.' The broadside was published by the Poet's Box. 224 Overgate, Dundee.

The earliest printed ballads were versions of songs or poems from an oral tradition stretching back many years before printing was invented. Even as late as the nineteenth century ballads were written to be performed, and this example was clearly intended for performance by a man and a woman. The verses are narrated by the cart driver, the choruses by the woman he has given a lift to, and before each chorus there is a spoken aside by the woman, confiding her feelings for the cart driver. It is a theatrical structure.
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.

Broadsides are single sheets of paper, printed on one side, to be read unfolded. They carried public information such as proclamations as well as ballads and news of the day. Cheaply available, they were sold on the streets by pedlars and chapmen. Broadsides offer a valuable insight into many aspects of the society they were published in, and the National Library of Scotland holds over 250,000 of them.

previous pageprevious          
Probable period of publication: 1880-1900   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(43a)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Drivin' in tae Glesca in a Sour Milk Cart'
View larger image

NLS home page   |   Digital gallery   |   Credits

National Library of Scotland © 2004

National Library of Scotland