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Broadside ballad entitled 'Norah O'Neil'


Verse 1: 'Oh! I'm lonely to-night, love, without you, / And sigh for one glance of your eye, / For sure there's a charm, love, about you, / Whenever I know you are nigh. / Like the beam of the star when 'tis smiling, / Is the glance which your eye can't conceal; / And your voice is so sweet and beguiling, / That I love you, sweet Norah O'Neil.' This ballad was to be sung to an 'Original' tune and was priced at one penny. It was published on Saturday, 20th February 1869 by the Poet's Box, probably in Glasgow.

In the early days of broadside ballad publication, it is likely that the majority of ballads published in a certain area had their roots in or around that area. In this broadside from 1869, on the other hand, the text below the title explains that the song has been sung, by Albyn Buckley, at 'all the Principal Concert Halls in Britain'. Music halls became the premier form of light entertainment in Britain from the 1850s, and touring performers could become famous in their own right. It made commercial sense for broadside publishers in a certain area to produce copies of songs that had been performed locally by a popular visiting singer.
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(158a)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Norah O'Neil'
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