This ballad begins: ' MY Daddie left me geer enough, / A coulter and an old Beam Plough, / A nebbed staff and a nuting Tyne, / An Angle Bend with Hook and Line.' It was to be sung to the tune of 'Willie Winkies Farewell'. A 'coulter' was a piece of farm machinery and a 'nuting Tyne' was a nut-hook.
This clever comic song is a mock last will and testament. More than half the poem is taken up listing the late farmer's property and assets, before it is revealed 'And it was all for want of geer, That gart me steall the parlous Mare'. This implies that the farmer was probably hanged for stealing a horse in impoverished desperation. In a second irony, the final line reveals that the total value of the will is scarcely four Scots pounds.
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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