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Broadside ballad entitled 'The Gum-tree Canoe'


This rather short ballad begins: 'On the Tombigby river, in a hut a born, / In a hut made of stalks of the tall yallow corn ; / It was there I met with my Julia so true, / And we went for a sail in my gum-tree canoe.' The sheet was published by William Shepherd of the Poet's Box, Dundee, and cost a penny.

The song is not particularly distinctive or unusual, but the sheet is very interesting for the additional information it gives about ordering songs from the Dundee Poet's Box. Apparently, for just 2d in stamps, they will send out 'ALMOST ANY SONG YOU WANT'. This is qualified by the assertion that if your song is not in stock, they will send a book containing 'nearly all the latest Songs and Ballads of the day'. Presumably then, for a further 2d you could have a song of your choosing!
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.

On other sheets from the Dundee Poet's Box, the proprietor, William Shepherd, advertises the fact that locals may buy copies from street pedlars or by calling into the Overgate office.

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Probable period of publication: 1880-1900   shelfmark: RB.m.143(143)
Broadside ballad entitled 'The Gum-tree Canoe'
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