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

Broadside ballad entitled 'Nothing at all'


Verse 1: 'In Derry-down Dale when I wanted a mate, / I went with my daddy a-courting to Kate; / With my nosegay so fine, and my holiday clothes, / My hands in my pockets, a courting I goes; / the weather was cold and my bosom was hot, / My heart in a gallop, my mare in a trot; / Now I was so bashful, and loving withal, / My tongue stuck to my mouth, I said nothing at all, / But fol, de rol.' This ballad was published on Saturday, 24th November 1855 by the Poet's Box in Glasgow, priced one penny.

The text of this ballad is bookended by advertisements for other songs that can be obtained at the Glagsow Poet's Box. Categories include 'sentimental, love, comic, sea, Jacobite, negro, and all other descriptions'. This indicates how popular broadside ballads still were, over two centuries after they were first published. It also reveals that music emerging from various historical developments over the intervening years, for example the slave trade or the Jacobite risings, had entered mainstream British society and broadened the definition of 'ballad'.
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: 1855   shelfmark: L.C.1269(152a)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Nothing at all'
View larger image

NLS home page   |   Digital gallery   |   Credits

National Library of Scotland © 2004

National Library of Scotland