This ballad begins: 'I am the member of a school / Where the master is a fool, / And all the pupil teachers are the same, / And for kicking up a noise, / They have called us the jolly boys'. It was published and distributed by the Poet's Box, and probably sold for one penny.
The address of the Poet's Box - 80 London Street, Glasgow - has been scored out. This is very likely because they moved premises a number of times, and did not want to dispose of their old stock. The National Library of Scotland's collection includes a large number of broadsides published by the Poet's Box. Although this particular sheet was clearly printed in Glasgow, there were also Poet's Boxes in Edinburgh, Dundee and Paisley. Information on their origins is sketchy, however, and it is unclear whether the different establishments were connected in any way other than by name.
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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Probable period of publication:
1880-1900 shelfmark: RB.m.143(146)
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