Search the Collection
Advanced Search
Image Not Available

Broadsheet with the ballads 'Bessy, The Sailor's Bride' and 'My Heart's in the Highlands'

Date: 1813 - 1838
Overall: 248 x 186 mm, 0.022 kg
Medium: Woodcut engraving and printed text on paper mounted on card.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Broadsheet
Object No: 00017412
Place Manufactured:London

User Terms

    A broadsheet with the ballads 'Bessy, the Sailor's Bride' and 'My Heart's in the Highland'.
    'My Heart's in the Highland' is a song written by the Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1789. Through the song Burns expresses a strong feeling of pride and a sense of belonging which suited the broadsheet format. He expresses his love of the Highlands natural and wild beauty as well nostalgia and regret from not being there. By the time Burns wrote this song, the traditional Highland way of life was under threat and many Highland inhabitants had been forced to leave the area. In light of this, the song is both a reflection of Burn's own feelings of distance, but also that of the Scottish population.

    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.

    My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
    My heart’s in the Highlands, a chasing the deer,
    Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe,
    My heart’s in the Highlands wherever I go.
    Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the north
    The birth-place of valour, the country of worth,
    Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
    The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.
    Farewell to the mountains high cover’d with snow,
    Farewell to the heaths and green valleys below,
    Farewell to the forests and wild hanging woods,
    Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.
    My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
    My heart’s in the Highlands, a chasing the deer,
    Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe,
    My heart’s in the Highlands wherever I go.


    Poor Bessy was a sailor's bride,
    And he was off to sea,
    Their only child was by their side,
    And who so sad as she?
    'Forget me not, forget me not,
    When you are far from me,
    And whatsoe'er poor Bessy's lot,
    She will remember thee.'

    A twelvemonth scarce had past away,
    As it was toldt o me
    When Willy with a gladsome heart,
    Came home again from sea.
    He bounded upthe cragy path,
    And sought his cottage door,
    But his poor wife, and lovely child,
    Poor Willy saw no more.

    'Forget me not, forget me not,'
    The words wrung in his ear,
    He asked the neighbours one by one
    Each answered with a tear.
    They pointed to the old church yard
    And there his youthful bride,
    With her pretty child he loved so dear,
    Were laying side by side.

    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.

    Related People

    Discuss this Object


    Please log in to add a comment.