Introducing the Glasgow Broadside Ballads Website.

Welcome to the Glasgow Broadside Ballads website. It was created with a grant from Glasgow University’s Learning and Teaching Fund, and was designed primarily with students studying on Economic and Social History and Scottish Studies courses at Glasgow. However, it is open to all and we welcome the comments of all users whether they be teachers of Scottish history, folk-singers, ballad enthusiasts, or Glaswegians in search of their popular cultural history.

Simpson Trongate 001.JPG (59458 bytes)
'The Trongate, 1849, watercolour by William Simpson, 2898. Reproduced by permission of Glasgow Museums.
The ballad-seller 'pattering' to a small crowd in the foreground could represent the famous Glasgow street
character 'Hawkie'. The Trongate was part of his patch at this time.

This website is based around a collection of nineteenth-century broadside ballads that were either printed or sold in Glasgow, and which were collected by the Glaswegian solicitor David Murray. They now form part of the Murray Collection in Glasgow University Library Special Collections, who have kindly given us permission to reproduce them. The main element of the website is an index of more than 350 of these broadsides. For reasons of budgetary constraint not every ballad in the Murray Collection has been included. We have selected those ballads which have a clear Glasgow or Scotland connection, or which we think may be of interest to our students. However, many of the titles included will be familiar to anyone interested in folksong anywhere in the English-speaking world. Part of the purpose of the website is to encourage students to think about the fluidity of popular culture and the transmission of ballads, as well as what was specific to the song culture of Scotland. These are Glasgow ballads in the sense that the physical broadside now resides in Glasgow, but where they came from, and where they went to, are more difficult matters to resolve.

The index gives access to photographic reproductions of the ballads. The text should be easily readable and one can see how ballad printers presented their texts, how they arranged similar or contrasting songs on the same page, and how they illustrated them. Some of these ballads are also connected to other versions of the same song, either as sung by folk-singers (sound-files) or as collected by folklorists (text-files). Broadsides are interesting documents in their own right, they are windows into the cultural world of the past, but part of the purpose of this website is to encourage students to think about the relationship between print and other forms of communication. The ballads were not fixed texts but songs to be interpreted in many ways for different audiences.

Surrounding the core of the website - the broadsides themselves - are a number of other pages containing texts, images and other information we thought students would find useful. These include the complete autobiography of a Glaswegian street pedlar, street-scenes of nineteenth-century Glasgow where ballads were sold, a biographical note on the collector, information on the use of broadsides as domestic decorations…. We welcome visitors’ suggestions as to what other information might be included on this site.

Many people have helped in the preparation of this site. I hope we have properly acknowledged them all on the links page. But above all we need to thank David Morrison, who prepared and designed these pages. All queries and comments should be addressed to:

Dr. David Hopkin
Faculty of History
George Street,
OX1 2RL,
United Kingdom

Dr Valentina Bold
University of Glasgow
Rutherford/McCowan Building
Crichton University Campus