Search the Collection
Advanced Search
Image Not Available

Broadsheet featuring the ballads 'The Irish Emigrant' and 'Ben Block'.

Date: 1834 - 1886
Overall: 250 x 190 mm, 0.024 kg
Medium: Woodcut engraving and printed text on paper mounted on card.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Broadsheet
Object No: 00017368
Place Manufactured:Durham

User Terms

    A broadsheet featuring the two ballads titled 'The Irish Emigrant' by Helen Blackwood and 'Ben Block'.
    'The Irish Emmigrant' was a popular ballad detailing the emigration of an Irishman after the death of his wife and child.
    'Ben Block' refers to a naval character who has always been neglected when it comes to a promotion.
    The sheet was printed by G.Walker in Durham.
    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 and migration.
    HistoryBen Block

    Ben Block was a vetran of naval renown,
    And renown was his own reward,
    The board had neglected his merits to crown,
    For no interest had Ben with my Lord,
    But yet staunch as old Benbow, was sturdy old Ben,
    And he would laugh at the cannon's loud roar,
    Until death dealing broadsides made blls to meet men,
    And the scuppers were streaming with gore.

    Nor could the Lieutenants poor stipend provoke,
    His staunch mind by their scanty prog.
    or his biscuit he'd break, turn a quid, crack a joke,
    And drown care in a jorum o grog.
    Thus for year after year, in a sea boat of state
    Poor Ben for his King fought and bled,
    Until time had unthatch'd ll the roof of his pate,
    And the hair from his temples had fled.

    Ben humbly sluted a fribbish old Peer,
    A first Lord of the Admirality once,
    Cried his Lordship, why Ben, you have lost all your hair,
    Since the last time I peep'd at your sconce
    Why my Lord, replied Ben, if the truth may be said,
    Since a bald pate so long I've walked under,
    There have so many captains walk'd over by head,
    Had you seen me quite scal'tdp' it was no wonder.

    Broadsheets or broadsides, as they were also known, were originally used to communicate official or royal decrees. They were printed on one side of paper and became a popular medium of communication between the 16th and 19th centuries in Europe, particularly Britain. They were able to be printed quickly and cheaply and were widely distributed in public spaces including churches, taverns and town squares. Their function expanded as they became used as a medium to galvanise political debate, hold public meetings and advertise products or cultural events.

    The cheap nature of the broadside and its wide accessibility meant that its intended audience were often literate individuals but from varying social standings. The illiterate may have also had access to this literature as many of the ballads were designed to be read aloud. In 'Popular Culture in Seventeenth-Century England', Peter Burke notes that the golden age of the broadside ballad, between 1600 and 1700, saw ballads produced at a penny each which was the same price for admission to the theatre.

    The ballads also covered a wide range of subject matter such as witchcraft, epic war battles, murder and maritime themes and events. They were suitably dramatic and often entertaining, but as James Sharpe notes, also in 'Popular Culture in Seventeenth-Century England', some of them were designed as elaborate cautionary tales for those contemplating a life of crime.

    The broadside ballads in the museum's collection were issued by a range of London printers and publishers for sale on the streets by hawkers. They convey, often comically, stories about love, death, shipwrecks, convicts and pirates. Each ballad communicates a sense that these stories were designed to be read aloud for all to enjoy, whether it was at the local tavern or a private residence.

    Discuss this Object


    Please log in to add a comment.