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Broadside ballad entitled 'Newhaven Fishwife'


Verse 1: 'Look kind on me, I'm sure you ought, / I dinna feel just richt, sirs; / I'm rather bashfu', 'tis my faut, / My first attempt the nicht, sirs. / At me I see the laddies steal / Sly looks of admiration; / But ladies ye alane can feel / My delicate situation.' This was to be sung to the tune of 'Up in the Morning?s no for Me'. The broadside was published on 27th June 1874, priced at one penny, and published by the Poet?s Box in Glasgow.

This comic ballad relies on the stereotype of fishwives being terrible gossips. In the first verse the narrator pretends to be shy, but from the start of the second verse she recounts her life story in minute detail, digressing wildly and even returning after the dance interlude to add three more 'encore' verses. The way the sheet is laid out, with the dance and encores clearly marked, confirms that this ballad was very much intended for public performance.
The Poet?s Box in Glasgow operated from 1849 to 1911. Matthew Leitch was the proprietor at 6 St. Andrew Lane?s, a narrow street on the south side of Gallowgate, from 1850 to 1858. His son William Munsie Leitch worked at the same address from 1859 to 1865 and at varous addresses in London Street until 1911. Many of the broadsides published by the Glasgow Poet?s Box were dated and some carried advertisements, not just for printed items but also for shoe blacking and ?soap for lovers?! Like the other ?boxes? in Dundee and Edinburgh, the Glasgow one sold love songs, sea shanties, parodies and dialogues. 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 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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Date of publication: 1874   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(48a)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Newhaven Fishwife'
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