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Broadside ballad entitled 'Mary MacKree'


Verse 1 begins: 'In a small country cottage by the side of a moor, / Oh there lived one Mary Mackree'. There is a note included which reads 'See 11', although there is no context given to this comment. A woodcut of the torso and head of a young highland lady has been included at the top of the sheet.

This broadside is a good testament to the fact that women kept public houses, and that it was accepted as normal in the society of the time. There are other broadsides held in the National Library of Scotland's collection, which refer to women making careers in public houses. This whole tale - Mary's son Dan tries to seduce her maid - is a common theme in broadsides. In this tale, unusually, each character receives a voice and the seduction is virtually endorsed as a result.

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.169(008)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Mary MacKree'
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