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Broadside entitled 'The Free Kirk and her Boy Tammy'


This is a rather unusual broadside in that it reads much like a scene from a musical play, with several characters involved in the story. Written in verse form, the opening line of the dialogue reads: 'Whaur gat ye the bawbees? / My boy Tammy'. A note below the title states that these lyrics should be sung to the tune, 'My Boy Tammy'. Although no date is given, a footnote states that it was published by 'SANDERSON, Printer, 36. Cowgate-head, Edinburgh'.

The story behind this peculiar ballad-cum-dialogue centres on the mysterious origins regarding where Tammy got his pile of bawbees from - a 'bawbee' being a halfpenny. It seems likely that this dialogue is intended as a satire on 'The Free Kirk', who were commonly known as the 'Bawbee-kirk'. The newly formed Free Church, was, in 1844, deeply in need of financial support, for this reason it sent a deputation to the United States to raise funds. This broadside is an attack on the acceptance by William Cunningham (part of the deputation) and the others, of contributions towards Free Church funds from the Presbyterian churches in the slave-holding states of America. Thomas Chalmers (Tammy) was at this time the Moderator of the new Free Church. Frederick Douglass, the American abolitionist, in a visit to Scotland, spoke against the Free Church of Scotland for accepting this money from American slave-owners. He implored the Church to 'send back the money' they had accepted from the slave owners.

Broadsides are single sheets of paper, printed on one side, to be read unfolded. They carried public information such as proclamations as well as ballads and news of the day. Cheaply available, they were sold on the streets by pedlars and chapmen. Broadsides offer a valuable insight into many aspects of the society they were published in, and the National Library of Scotland holds over 250,000 of them.

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Probable date published: 1843-   shelfmark: RB.m.143(176)
Broadside entitled 'The Free Kirk and her Boy Tammy'
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