Singing a broadside
As you read the texts, and listen to the songs, within the Murray collection, it is vital to consider how singers used the texts, and how these texts both draw on, and have passed into, oral tradition. It is, of course, hard to understand the specific experiences of the nineteenth century performer, or their audiences.  The English poet John Clare, in his Autobiographical Writings, ed Eric Robinson, (Oxford, 1983), describes his literal devotion to 'Sixpenny Romances' from 'Cinderella' to 'Zig Zag'.  Walter Scott (himself an avid collector of chapbooks, as the library at Abbotsford demonstrates) refers to the use of broadsides in South West Scotland in Redgauntlet (1824) where Darsie Latimer is staying in a Dumfries inn: 'A notably clean Englishwoman keeps this small house, and my bedroom is sweetened with lavendar, has a clean sash-window, and the walls are, moreover, adorned with ballads of Fair Rosamund and Cruel Barbara Allan' (Letter 2).  However, we hope that, by including modern versions of David Murray's songs, we have allowed some opportunities for speculative reflection.
     By including these items, we hope both to give a flavour of how broadsides might have been used in the nineteenth century by singers, and to show how these particular songs are performed today. All these songs were physically recorded within Scotland, with the exception of Anita Best's Newfoundland version of 'Lord Bateman'.  The rest were all recorded in Murray's area, South West Scotland.  Several are from live sessions at Dumfries Folksong Club, made between 1979 and 1981.  Joyce Cunningham and Phyllis Martin were recorded at the Crichton Campus of Glasgow University, in Dumfries, and sang purpose-made versions of 'Annie Laurie' and 'Barbara Allen'.  At the time of recording, they had seen the broadsides in the collection although, for the site, they used their own versions of the songs.  All the other songs were recorded independently of this website.  Cunningham and Martin, incidentally, do not normally perform these songs in a public context, although they were within their passive repertoires. In future, we hope to include additional versions, along with reflections from the singers themselves.
    The songs can be explored in comparison, too, with other performances and texts. We include alternate sung versions, for instance 'Barbara Allen' by Phyllis Martin, for instance and 'Barbri Ellen' by Nic Jones.  In most cases, too, there are alternative versions of the texts in the Murray collection, for instance Mu23-y1:138 'Barbara Allan'  and Mu23-y1:138 'Barbara Allan the Cruel'.  Many of the songs, too, are available in printed collections and we would encourage users to explore the bibliography in our 'Further Links' section.  Within South West Scotland, too, there are a  number of significant collections of broadsides: in addition to Glasgow University's collection, holdings can be found, for instance, at the Ewart Library, Dumfries (within the Frank Miller collection) and in the archive at Broughton House, Kirkcudbright (within the Macmath collection). Significant collectors of song material relating to the South West include Robert Burns and Allan Cunningham, as well as William Nicholson, the Borgue packman who wrote 'The Brownie of Blednoch'.  These associations all allow, we hope, for a fruitful, and contextualised, exploration of David Murray's broadsides.