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Broadsheet featuring the ballads 'My Lovely Nancy' and 'The Life Boat'.

Date: 1834 - 1886
Dimensions:
Overall: 258 x 193 mm, 0.023 kg
Medium: Woodcut engraving and printed text on paper mounted on card.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Ephemera
Object Name: Broadsheet
Object No: 00017374
Place Manufactured:Durham

User Terms

    Description
    A broadsheet featuring two ballads titled 'My Lovely Nancy' and 'The Life Boat'.
    The sheet is published by G. Walker, Printer, 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.
    HistoryThe Life Boat.

    MAN the life-boat ! man the life-boat,
    Help or yon ship is lost ;
    Man the life-boat, man the life-boat,
    See how she's tempest-toss'd.
    No human power, in such an hour
    The gallant bark can save ;
    Her mainmast's gone—and hurrying on,
    She seeks her watery grave.

    Man the life-boat, man the life-boat,
    See, the dread signal flies ;
    Ha, she has struck, and from the rock,
    Despairing shouts arise.
    And one their stands, and wrings his hands
    Amid the tempest wild ;
    For on the beach he cannot reach,
    He sees his wife and child.

    Man the life-boat, man the life-boat,
    Now ply the oars amain ;
    Your pull be strong, your strokes be long,
    Or all will be in vain.
    Life-saving ark, yon doomed bark,
    Immortal souls doth bear,
    Not gem, nor gold, nor wealth untold,
    But men—brave men—are there.

    Speed the life-boat, speed the life-boat,
    O God ! their efforts crown ;
    She dashes on—the ship is gone
    Full fifty fathoms down.
    Ah ! see, the crew are struggling now
    Amid the billows' roar,
    They're in the boat, they're all afloat,
    Hurrah, they've gained the shore.

    My Lovely Nancy.

    Adieu, my lovely Nancy,
    Ten thousand times adieu ;
    I'm going across the ocean,
    To seek for something new.
    Come change your ring with me, my dear,
    Come change your ring with me—
    As that will be a token

    When I am on the sea.
    When I am on the sea, my love,
    You know not where I am ;
    But letters I will write to you
    From every foreign land—
    With the secrets of my mind, my dear,
    And best of my good, will ;
    And let my body be where it will,
    My heart is with you still.

    See how the storm is rising,
    See how it's coming on ;
    While we poor jolly Jack Tars
    Are fighting for the crown.
    Our captain he commands us,
    And him we must obey—
    Expecting every moment
    For to be cast away

    You gentlemen and strangers
    That lie snoring fast asleep,
    While we poor jolly sailors
    Are ploughing on the deep.
    Our officers command us,
    And them we must obey—
    Expecting every moment
    For to be cast away.

    Now that the storm is over,
    And we are safe on shore ;
    We'll drink to our wives and sweethearts,
    And the girls whom we adore.
    We'll call for liquors merrily,
    And spend our money free ;
    And when our money is all gone,
    We'll boldly go to sea.


    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.
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