This political ballad begins: 'OLD Leith and Portobello / Had once a snivelling fellow, / All in the parliament, sir, / Their cause to represent, sir, / Whose name was Piper John.' A note below the title states that the ballad should be sung to the tune, 'Buxom Joan of Deptford'. Although there are no publication details included on this sheet, the reference to Francis Jeffrey suggests that it was almost certainly published in Edinburgh during the 1830s.
Written towards the end of the great 'Age of Party', this broadside pours scorn on an Edinburgh politician called 'Piper John'. Unfortunately, however, the ephemeral nature of broadsides means that it is very difficult to positively identify all of the political personalities who are mentioned in the ballad. In turn, this makes it hard to place the sheet in its proper historical context. However, the Jeffrey referred to in verse six is certainly Lord Francis Jeffrey (1773-1850), founder of 'The Edinburgh Review?. Moving away from the people named in the ballad, the writer reveals much about electoral contests in Edinburgh during the 1830s.
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: ABS.10.203.01(095)
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