Verse 1: 'Oh have you seen my Mary Ann? / Was one time all the go; / But now 'tis neither pot nor pan, / 'Tis Jessifield you know.' CHORUS: 'Oh may, then, ne'er to that poor house / A son of Adam go, / For puss can't live, nor e'en a mouse / In Jessifield you know.' The broadside carries no publication details.
'Jessifield' is a ballad about a harsh prison, narrated by an ex-prisoner. Although the ballad's place of origin is not given on the broadside, it is likely that it refers to a prison that stood on the current site of Her Majesty's Young Offender's Institution, Dumfries, one mile west of Dumfries town centre. A prison has stood on the site since at least 1852, and the current institution is still known locally as Jessiefield.
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:
1880-1900 shelfmark: APS.3.82.5
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