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Broadside ballad entitled 'Don't Sit Down and Grumble'


Verse 1: 'There's people in this world, who though, / Possessed of strength and health; / Will sit and sigh and grumble, / Because they have not wealth; / Instiad of trying to win it, / They're time they wile away, / When people such as these I meet, / To them these words I say.' This song was written, composed and sung by Tom Glen, and published by the Poet's Box, Overgate, Dundee.

With its simple refrain, and sentiments such as 'Pluck up courage, don't despair', this song was clearly designed to raise the morale of its listeners. It is likely that the song was written to be performed in music halls, which in the second half of the nineteenth century were the most popular outlets of public entertainment in Britain. A better-known but similarly cheerful song that originated in music hall culture is 'It's a Long Way to Tipperary', by Jack Judge and Harry Williams.
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.

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Probable period of publication: 1880-1900   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(91b)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Don't Sit Down and Grumble'
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