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Broadside ballad entitled 'Sir James the Ross'


Verse 1: 'Of all the Scottish northern chiefs, / Of high and warlike fame, / The bravest was Sir James the Ross, / A knight of meikle fame.' It was published by Sanderson of Edinburgh.

Without at least an initial attached to the name Sanderson, it is difficult to know exactly which printer is mentioned here and, therefore, even more difficult to give this piece a time frame. It could be one of the Sanderson family associated with the Edinburgh Poet's Box. The text is about Sir James Ross - the 'the' in the title is to give the name a highland air, as this is how it would have been translated from Gaelic - and his love Matilda. The whole piece finishes with a 'Romeo and Juliet'-esque ending as Matilda throws herself on the sword which has just killed her lover James.
The Edinburgh Poet?s Box was in operation from around 1852 until about 1910. William Sanderson and from 1867 his son John had premises in the Canongate. The business passed over to John?s brother Charles in 1902. Few of the Sanderson broadsides bear the name Poet?s Box, but it is certain than the shop became known in Edinburgh at the Poet?s Box. 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, but it is not known whether there was any connection between this enterprise and the Poet?s Boxes in Scotland.
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: 1830-1840   shelfmark: RB.m.143(157)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Sir James the Ross'
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