A broadsheet ballad titled 'Jack Ratlin'. This was one of the many sea/sailor themed songs wriitren by Charles Dibdin
and dates to around 1797 and was one of his most popular.
SignificanceBroadsheets were designed as printed ephemera to be published and distributed rapidly. This also meant they were quickly disposed of with many of them not surviving the test of time. The museum's broadsheet collection is therefore a rare and valuable example of how maritime history was communicated to a wide audience, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. They vibrantly illustrate many of the themes and myths surrounding life at sea. Some of them also detail stories about transportation, migration.
A favourite song.
JACK Ratlin was the ablest seaman,
None like him could hand, reef and steer;
No dang'rous toil but he'd encounter,
With skill and in contempt of fear:
In fight, a lion -- the battle ended
Meek as the bleating lamb, he'd prove;
Thus Jack had manners, courage, merit,
Yet did he fight and all for love.
The song, the jest, the flowing liquor,
For none of these had Jack's regard;
He, while his messmates were carousing,
High fitting on the pending yard,
Would think upon his fair one's beauties,
Swear never from such charms to rove;
That truly he'd adore them living,
And dying sigh to end his love.
The same express the crew commanded,
Once more to view their native land;
Amomgst the rest brought Jack some tidings,
Wou'd it had been his love's fair hand:
Oh fate! -- her death defac'd the letter,
Instant his pulse forgot to move,
With quivering lips and eyes uplifted,
He heav'd a sigh and dy'd for love.
Broadsheet rhymes and verses were the cheapest prints available during the 18th and 19th century. They were sold by street sellers known as Flying Stationers, who charged a minimal fee of a penny or half-penny. They featured popular songs that were often sung in homes, inns and taverns and covered a range of themes relating to contemporary events or stories. Printed alongside the songs were woodcut illustrations. Most of the broadsheet publishers did not date or mark their works, making it difficult to pinpoint when they were produced.
The publication of ballads was part of the commemoration and production of material about shipwrecks. Ships were part of the everyday life in the 19th century and stories about their voyages, wrecks, record breaking voyages and commissions often featured in newspapers and commemorative souvenirs.