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

Broadside ballad entitled 'I Wish My Grannie Saw Ye'


This light-hearted broadside begins: 'I'm Johnny Raw, a civil chiel', / I was reared up in the kintra, / Nae doubt ye winna ken me weel, / I'm a' the way frae Fintry. / Altho' I'm boosey, yet I'm fly, / Among the lasses I'm a pry, / And after me they a' do cry, / I wish my grannie saw ye.' This sheet was priced at one penny and could be purchased from the Poet's Box. Although the address has been scored out, probably as a result of a change of premises, it did read 80 London Street, Glasgow.

The accompanying tune is referred to as the 'Original', suggesting that the people buying this particular broadside were already familiar with the song and tune. Most of the songs and ballads that were printed by broadside producers were well-known amongst the populace. With no copyright law in place at this time, publishers were free to reproduce existing works without fear of prosecution.
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          
Probable period of publication: 1880-1900   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(120a)
Broadside ballad entitled 'I Wish My Grannie Saw Ye'
View larger image

NLS home page   |   Digital gallery   |   Credits

National Library of Scotland © 2004

National Library of Scotland