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

Broadside ballad entitled 'The Hale Rick-Ma-Tick'


This ballad begins: 'Attention, freens, and listen while I sing to you a song, / And tell ye what I think is richt, and what I think is wrang, / Owre a' the principal topics, I'll rin in succession quick, / And gie you my opinion o' the hale rick-ma-tick.' It was to be sung to the tune 'Whole Hog or None'. The broadside was priced at one penny and published by the Poet's Box, 79 London Street, Glasgow, on Saturday, 8th February, 1879. However, another date on the sheet, reading 'D.-2-11-1872', indicates that this is a reprint of an older ballad.

'The Hale Rick-Ma-Tick' provides a fascinating snapshot of the issues that concerned Glaswegians in 1872, when this poem was originally written. The narrator condemns the cruelty of the wars of German unification which ended in 1871, and warns against Russian military aggression. The marriage of Queen Victoria's daughter, Princess Louise, to the Scots Marquess of Lorne, is celebrated. On a more parochial level, the narrator laments the absence of a tribute to Burns among the new statues that have been erected in Glasgow's George Square.
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.

previous pageprevious          
Date of publication: 1879   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(93a)
Broadside ballad entitled 'The Hale Rick-Ma-Tick'
View larger image

NLS home page   |   Digital gallery   |   Credits

National Library of Scotland © 2004

National Library of Scotland