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Broadside ballad entitled 'Watty and Meg, or the Wife Reformed'


This ballad begins: 'KEEN the frosty winds were blawing, / Deep the snaw had wreathed the ploughs, / Watty, waried a' day sawing, / Daunert down to Mungo Blue's.' It was printed and sold by John Sanderson in Edinburgh.

This lengthy ballad follows the tale of Watty and Meg, a husband and wife. It opens with Watty complaining to his friend Mungo about his wife's 'confounded girning'. Mungo suggests that he should call her bluff and threaten to leave, thereby silencing her once and for all! Watty follows this advice and the ballad ends with Meg pleading with him to stay and pledging never to scold him again. Presented entirely from Watty's perspective, it says nothing of the trials of having a drunken husband.

The author of 'Watty and Meg' is said to be the celebrated American ornithologist, Alexander Wilson (1766-1813). Born in Paisley, Scotland, Wilson left school at an early age to train as a weaver. He soon abandoned his apprenticeship to take up work as a pedlar and, inspired by the likes of Robert Burns, began to write his own poetry. After years of roving the countryside as a pedlar and working to survive, Wilson finally emigrated to America in the early 1790s. 'Watty and Meg' was written in 1791 and is generally considered to be one of his best works.

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Probable period of publication: 1850-1870   shelfmark: RB.m.143(160)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Watty and Meg, or the Wife Reformed'
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