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Broadside ballad entitled 'The Low-Backed Car'


The first verse begins: 'When first I saw sweet Peggy, / 'Twas on a market day, / A low-backed car she drove, and sat / Upon a truss of hay!' This broadside was published by the Poet's Box, most likely in Glasgow, and is dated April 1878. It was to be sung to the 'Original' tune, which suggests people were already familiar with both the song and melody.

This ballad is believed to be the work of the Irish painter, novelist and songwriter Samuel Lover (1797-1868). It is not unusual that his name was omitted from this broadside. There are very few instances in the National Library of Scotland's broadside collections where such works have been attributed. With no copyright law in place, original works could be reproduced at will with no obligation to acknowledge or seek permission from the author.
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: 1878   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.70(122b)
Broadside ballad entitled 'The Low-Backed Car'
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