The Word on the Street
home | background | illustrations | distribution | highlights | search & browse | resources | contact us

Broadside ballad entitled 'The Poor Discharged Soldier'


Verse 1: 'Gather round me one an' all, great and small, short and tall, / Till you hear the sad down fall of the poor soldier boy. / That has fought by land and sea, night and day far away, / For thirteenpence a day, says the poor soldier boy.' The sheet carries no publication details. It is illustrated with a woodcut of a Highland soldier.

This ballad is narrated by a former soldier who is starving after having been discharged out from the army without a pension. Until 1871 British soldiers were not entitled to retirement pensions and only those who left the army with a disabling injury received pensions. It is possible that this ballad was symptomatic of a wider discontent about this situation, as it was almost certainly written near to the time the rule on pensions was changed: references to fighting in India date the ballad to after 1857-58, when British forces suppressed the first Indian War of Independence, also known as the Indian Mutiny.

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.

previous pageprevious          
Likely period of publication: 1858-1871   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.178.A.2(217)
Broadside ballad entitled 'The Poor Discharged Soldier'
View larger image

NLS home page   |   Digital gallery   |   Credits

National Library of Scotland © 2004

National Library of Scotland