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Broadside ballad entitled 'Where is my Nancy?'


Verse 1: 'A charming young creature named Nancy Barr, / Nancy Barr, lived with her ma; / Of fair ones, oh! she was the fairest by far, / A charmer bewitching and smart. / No dicky-bird singing up in the sky, / In the sky. Was more happy than I, / But to happiness now I have said "goodbye," / For to pieces she's broken my heart!' This song was to be sung to an 'Original' tune, and was published on Saturday, 4th December 1869, by the Poet's Box in Glasgow, priced at one penny.

'Where is my Nancy?', which is narrated by a man who has been left at the altar by his prospective bride, should be a sad affair. Instead, the rhyme-scheme and vocabulary the author has chosen turn it into a funny, lively song. The repetition in the first and second and fifth and sixth lines commits the poet to finding internal rhymes, and sometimes these verge on the nonsensical, for example 'Love at first sight, lumps of delight' or 'My heart went wop, and flippity flop'. This seems to be a deliberate move by the author to make the narrator a figure of fun.
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: 1869   shelfmark: L.C.1269(153b)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Where is my Nancy?'
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