Australian Folk Songs
songs | books | records | articles | glossary | links | search | responses | home
Women Made Famous By Songs (1905) Most of the heroes and heroines of popular songs, says a writer in, a recent "T.A.T.," have been, of humble origin.
Pretty Polly Perkins, of Paddington Green, for instance, was a barmaid, and her character hardly bears very strict investigation. Sweet Jessie, the Flower of Dunblane was the illiterate daughter of a poor hand-loom weaver, with whom the author of the ditty in
question, one John Tannahill, chanced to be acquainted. Annie Laurie was fair but false, for she jilted the writer of the ballad that was to confer immortality upon her, in order to wed a
rich rival of his, Alexander Fergusson, Esquire, of Craigdarroch. Just before the American Civil War, "Darling Nellie Gray", swept through the country like a cyclone. "Oh, my poor Nellie Gray,
They have taken you away.
And I'll never see my darling any more." To those words, and the plaintive melody that accompanied them, a hundred thousand men were soon marching upon the Slave States,
bent upon putting an end to that system that, could forcibly sunder lovers, no matter whether their skins were black or white.
The original Nellie Gray was a "yaller gal," who picked cotton for Mr. Donnison, a South Carolinian planter. About Maggie Lauder the less said the better. Highland Mary was either Mary Campbell or Mary Morrison, both of whom were loved by Burns. Ben Bolt was a young Massachusetts fisherman; and the "Sweet Alice, whose hair was so brown," was the daughter of the lighthouse keeper
at Cape Cod. Tom Bowling was an old salt, who was once a well-known character on Portsmouth Hard. The Village Blacksmith was a somewhat churlish individual of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who never ceased to grumble until the day of
his death at the "liberty" Longfellow had taken in "putting him into a song." The Vicar of Bray was a certain Simon Alleyn, who lived in the little Berkshire town during the reigns of King Henry VIII., King Edward VI.,
Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth ; and was first a Papist, then a Protestant, then a Papist, and,lastly, a Protestant again. The Lass of Richmond Hill had, contrary to the generallyaccepted belief, nothing whatever to do with Richmond Hill in Surrey. Her name was
Mary Janson, and she resided at Hill House, Richmond, Yorkshire, where she was wooed and won by the writer of the song; Mr. Leonard M'Nally. "My Pretty Jane" is said to have been one of the most profitable, songs ever issued. The original of the ballad was the daughter of a farmer
residing at Burwell, an old-fashioned village near Newmarket. She died young, of consumption but her portrait painted by Edward Fitz-Ball,
is still in existence. It was this same terrible scourge, by the-bye, that cut short, the existence of another song heroine, Dorothy Dene, the beautiful young model
who posed for, so many of Lord Leighton's creations. Notes From the Victorian newspaper The Geelong Advertiser 21 Jan 1905 p. 4. Top
australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory