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Broadside ballad entitled 'The Rambler from Clair'


Verse 1: 'The first of my courtship that ever was known, / I straight took my way from the county Tyrone; / Where mang pretty fair maids they used me well there / They called me the stranger or Rambler from Clair.' The broadside was published by Robert McIntosh. The date and place of publication are not given, but it is likely that this was the Robert McIntosh who operated from King Street, Glasgow, in the mid-nineteenth century.

This ballad concerns the many adventures of a man from County Clare in Ireland, and is narrated by himself. After knowing many women, joining the army, being imprisoned and then being broken free, the Rambler emigrates to America. The latter part of his story has a strong basis in fact. Both Ireland and the Scottish Highlands suffered from rural poverty and British government repression in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and this led to high levels of emigration. Many Irishmen also moved to Lowland Scotland as industrial workers and seasonal agricultural labourers, and this partly explains the large number of Irish songs which appear on broadsides in Scotland.

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: 1850-1860   shelfmark: RB.m.169(104)
Broadside ballad entitled 'The Rambler from Clair'
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