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Broadside ballad entitled 'The Blue Bells of Scotland'


This ballad begins: 'Oh, where, and oh, where is my highland laddie gone, / He's gone to fight the French, for King George upon / the throne, / And it's oh in my heart I wish him safe at home.'

There appear to be a number of different versions of this song. The one that was featured in Volume 6 of the 'Scots Musical Museum' (1803) begins: ' 'O where and O where does your highland laddie dwell; / He dwells in merry Scotland where the blue bells sweetly smell, / and all in my heart I love my laddie well'. In another version, meanwhile, the second line of the song reads, 'He's gone with streaming banners where noble deeds are done'. The words featured on this broadside refer to a young Scotsman going off to fight for king and country during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815). It is possible that variations occurred as different generations of listeners adapted this common theme.

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: 1800-1815   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.178.A.2(083)
Broadside ballad entitled 'The Blue Bells of Scotland'
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