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Broadsheet featuring the ballads 'The Greenland Whaler' and 'The Banks of the Clyde'.

Date: 1824
Overall: 257 x 183 mm, 0.023 kg
Medium: Woodcut engraving and printed text on paper mounted on card
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Broadsheet
Object No: 00017385
Place Manufactured:Strood

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    Broadsheet featuring the ballads titled 'The Greenland Whaler' and 'The Banks of Clyde'.
    Printed by J. and W.H. Sweet, Strood.
    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. Here is not a world of high-art but the rowdy life of the streets of Georgian and Victorian London. Being ephemera, the survival rate is poor.
    HistoryThe Greenland Whaler. (also known as The Greenland Whale Fishery)

    by John Ashton, 1888.

    We can no longer stay on shore,
    Since we are so deep in debt,
    So a voyage to Greenland we will go,
    Some money for to get, brave boys.

    Now when we lay at Liverpool,
    Our goodlike ship to man,
    ’Twas there our names were all written down,
    And we’re bound for Greenland, brave boys.

    In eighteen hundred and twenty-four,
    On March the twenty third,
    We hoisted our colours up to our mast-head,
    And for Greenland bore away, brave boys.

    But when we came to Greenland,
    Our goodlike ship to moor,
    O then we wished ourselves back again,
    With our friends upon the shore,brave boys.

    The boatswain went to the mast-head,
    With his spy-glass in his hand,
    Here’s a whale, a whale, a whale, he cried,
    And she blows at every spring, brave boys,

    The captain on the quarter deck,
    A very good man was he,
    Overboard, overboard, your boat tackle full,
    And launch your boats to sea,brave boys.

    The boats being launch’d, and the hands got in,
    The whale then appear'd in view,
    Resolved was the whole boat’s crew,
    To steer were the wale it blew,brave boys.

    The whale being struck, and the line paid on,
    She gave a splash with her tail,
    She capsiz'd the boat, and lost five men,
    Nor did we take the whale, brave boys.

    Bad news unto our captain brought,
    That we had lost five men,
    He hearing of this dreadful news,
    His colours down did haul, brave boys.

    The losing of this whale, brave boys,
    Did grieve his heart full sore,
    But losing of his five brave men,
    Did grieve him ten times more, brave boys.

    Come, weigh your anchor, my brave boys,
    For the winter star I see,
    It is time we should leave this cold country,
    And for England bear away, brave boys.

    For Greenland is a barren place,
    And the sun is rare to be seen,
    Nought but ice & snow where the whale it blows,
    And the day-light seldom seen, brave boys.

    The Banks of the Clyde.

    When I was young and in my prime,
    Where fancy led me I did rove.
    From town to town and country round
    Through every silent shady grove.
    Until I came from Scotland by name,
    Where beauty is seen on every side,
    There's no town there we can compare,
    With Glasgow fair on the banks of Clyde.

    As I went out in the evening clear,
    By the banks of Clyde I chanc'd to gang,
    O there I spied a lovely maid,
    Her beauty put me to stand.
    Her cherry cheeks and ruby lips,
    Her hair in ringlets round did glide,
    Her balmy lips I long'd to kiss,
    As she walk'd along on the banks of Clyde.

    I look'd at her and said, fair maid,
    How far this road do you mean to gang,
    A mile or two kind sir she said,
    Towards the town call'd Rothergin.
    Will you take company fair maid,
    With oue who is willing to be your guide,
    So arm and arm without fear or harm,
    They walk'd along on the banks of Clyde.

    I am afraid you are from Ireland,
    And from Belfast just come o'er,
    That seaport town of good renown,
    Towards the north-eastern shore.
    That you have left a beauty bright,
    That was well known to be your guide
    Therefore said she its dangerous for me,
    To walk with you on the banks of Clyde.

    No more I said but went with her,
    The water ran both fair and clear,
    The small birds going to their nests,
    The moon in glances did appear ;
    I laid my arm around her waist,
    And gently did embrace beside,
    And there I kiss'd her ruby lips,
    While we lay upon the banks of Clyde.

    As to what was said or what was done,
    No man on earth shall ever know,
    But as I kiss'd her ruby lips,
    Her colour it did come and go.
    Now since you've had your will of me,
    I pray make me your lawful bride;
    I promis'd I would when I return'd,
    But I forgot and cross'd the Clyde.

    'The Banks of the Clyde' was a well known Scottish tune and "recounts the arrival of a young Irishman in Scotland, 'Where beauty shines on every side'. He encounters a young woman on the banks of the Clyde and after reassuring her that he is betrothed to another, and poses no threat, they walk arm in arm. As is so often the case in such ballads, however, the young man disappears after persuading the young woman to compromise her morals. With mass emigration to Scotland from Ireland during the years of industrialisation, references to Ireland were common in Scottish broadsides. (

    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.

    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.

    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 occasionally they 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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