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Broadside ballad entitled 'Paddy on the Railway'


This ballad begins: 'A PADDY once in Greenock town, / For Glasgow city he was bound, / Staring all round and round, / At length he saw the Railway.' A woodcut illustration of a man carrying two guns has been included at the top of the sheet. Standing next to him is a dog or some other type of animal. Sometimes used in a derogatory way, 'Paddy' is a familiar form of the name Patrick or an informal name for an Irishman.

Interestingly, but possibly unintentionally, this ballad changes from third to first person halfway through the railway journey. 'Paddy' suddenly takes over the narrative himself and explains the events following the train ride. Although he talks of working through the harvest after arriving in Glasgow, there is also mention of him returning home to Ireland. Paddy's travels in search of work were probably fairly typical of the thousands of migrant workers who travelled from Ireland to Scotland in search of employment, particularly during the nineteenth century.

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: 1860-1880   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.178.A.2(086)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Paddy on the Railway'
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