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Broadside ballad entitled 'Tommy's Got the Money'


Verse 1: 'I never wis so happy the days o' my life, / It no' because that I hav' got a ducky o' a wife; / It's a' because ma' uncle deed tae mak' the matter clear, / An' left me - a fortin' o' twa hunner pounds a year.' This broadside was published by William Shephard at the Poet's Box in Dundee. The 'words and patter' were written by Alex Melville, the music was by Sam Tute and the song was 'sung with great success' by W.F. Frame.

The verses of this song are linked with passages of comic 'patter' which elaborate on the song and digress into various other topics. The song, and these interjections, were clearly designed for performance to an audience, perhaps in a music hall. Music halls were the most popular venues for public entertainment in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, and it is probable that the broadside dates from this era. The lyricist, Alex Melville, is likely to be the Alex Melville who collaborated on songs with the pre-eminent Scots entertainer of the time, Harry Lauder (1870-1950).
The Dundee Poets? Box was in operation from about 1880 to 1945, though it is possible that some material was printed as early as the 1850s. Most of the time it had premises at various addresses in Overgate. In 1885 the proprietor J.G. Scott (at 182 Overgate) had published a catalogue of 2,000 titles consisting of included humorous recitations, dialogues, temperance songs, medleys, parodies, love songs, Jacobite songs. Another proprietor in the 1880s was William Shepherd, but little is known about him. Poets? Box was particularly busy on market days and feeing days when country folk were in town in large numbers. Macartney specialised in local songs and bothy ballads. Many Irish songs were published by the Poets? Box ? many Irishmen worked seasonally harvesting potatoes and also in the jute mills. In 1906 John Lowden Macartney took over as proprietor of the Poet?s Box, initially working from 181 Overgate and later from no.203 and 207.

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 at 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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Probable period of publication: 1880-1900   shelfmark: RB.m.143(055)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Tommy's Got the Money'
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