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Broadside ballad entitled ' Honest Jemmy Ayton'


This ballad begins: 'The Whigs are vapouring thro the town, / That Frank, the Barber's * coming down, / (The doited, petted, gabby loon) / To put out Jemmy Ayton.' A note below the title states that this ballad is 'A NEW REFORM SONG', and should be sung to the air, 'The King of the Cannibal Islands'. Unfortunately, no publication details are included on the broadside. However, the reference to Francis Jeffrey (founder and editor of 'the Edinburgh Review') at the foot of the sheet, suggests that it was most likely published in the 1820s or 1830s.

This political broadside contains an attack on the Lord Advocate, Francis Jeffrey (1773-1850), who stood - as a Whig - for election to become MP for Edinburgh in 1832. Instead, the writer wants electors to vote for Jemmy (James) Ayton (1797-1881), whom he believes to be more honest than the other candidates. Francis Jeffrey was editor of 'The Edinburgh Review', so the writer makes great play of advising 'Frank' to stick to his day job of writing reviews. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any information regarding who Jemmy Ayton was, thus highlighting the ephemeral nature of many broadsides. As Jeffrey was successful in his efforts to get elected, Jemmy Ayton probably suffered the curse of historical anonymity that often befalls losing candidates.

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(185)
Broadside ballad entitled ' Honest Jemmy Ayton'
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