Broadsheet featuring the ballads titled 'The Nancy' and 'The Servant Boy'.
Printed by James Catnach of Monmouth Court.
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 Servant Boy.
YOU lovers all both great and small attend unto my
There's none on earth can pity me but those who felt
I liv'd between Dungannon & the town of Aughnacloy,
But I live now in America with my father's servant boy
Where is the man who can or will a farmer's son despise,
His bread to earn he does begin before the sun doth rise,
My love and I are Adam's seed I never will deny,
There's none on earth I love so well as my fathers
My parents wish'd to have me wed onto a gentleman,
And in the church we were to meet and join in wedlock's
The night before I stole from them onto a village nigh
Where I did meet my own true love, my fathers ser-
I brought my love along with me, I car d for nothing
I bad adieu to all my friends and to the shamrock
To Belfast town we both went down, and soon found
And in his ship I sailed away with my father's servant
But when we reach'd America our money we did spend,
And were some time supported, by a true Irish friend,
Till a gentleman from Ireland did give my love employ,
Two pounds a week I do receive from my fathers ser-
I left my parents lonesome, in sorrow they did weep,
Both day and night bewailing, without a wink o sleep
Until I sent a letter to the town of Aughnacloy.
Saying I was in America, with my father's servant boy.
Then they sent me an answer to Philadelphia town.
Saying if I would come back again I should have
But I was join'd in wedlock's bands, which crowned with joy,
And while I live I'll ne'er deceive my father's servant boy
This was the news that I did send from Philadelphia
Where they were worth one shilling there, I was
worth one pound,
With pleasure and contentment I never will deny,
I'm living in America with my father's servant boy.
MAYHAP you've heard that as dear as our
All true-hearted tars love their ships & their wives
To their duty like pitch, sticking close till they die
And who'er wants to know I'll tell them for why,
One thro' dangers & storms brings me safely on shore
Tother welcomes me home, when my danger's o'er
Both smoothens the ups & the downs of this life,
For the ships called the Nancy, & Nancy's my wife
When Nancy my wife o'er the lawn scuds so neat
And so light the proud grass scarce yield to her feet
So rigg'd and so lovely 'tis not easy to trace,
Which is reddest her top-knot, her shoes or her face
While the neighbours to see herforgot all their cares
And are pleas'd that she's mine, tho' the wished
she was theirs.
Marvel not then to think of the joys of my life,
I my ship called the Nancy for Nancy's my wife.
As for Nancy my vessel but see her in trim,
She seems thro' the ocean to fly and not swim,
Fore the wind like a dolphin she skims the rough seas,
With her top gallant sails tho' she looks best in
Scudding, trying, or tacking, 'tis all one to she,
Mounting high or low sunk in the trough of the sea
She has sav'd me in many hard squeaks of my life,
So I call'd her the Nancy cause Nancy's my wife.
' hca so sweet in the dance careless glides my hearts queen,
She sets out and sets in far the fairest of the green
So of all the grand fleet my gay vessel's the flower
She outsails the who e fleet by a knot in an hour,
The? the both sail so cheerful thro life's varying breeze,
All hearts with such pilots must be at their ease,
Thus I've two kind protectors to watch me thro'
My good ship the Nancy & Nancy's my wife.
These hands from protecting them who shall de-life
Ne'er ingratitude lurk'd in the heart of a tar
Why every thing female from peril to save,
Is the noblest distinction that honours the brave.
While a rag, or a timber, or a compass they boast
I'll protect the dear creatures against a whole host
Still grateful to both to the end of my life.
My good ship the Nancy and Nancy my wife.
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.