Text and Memory in the “Oral” Transmission of a Crime and Execution Ballad: “The Suffolk Tragedy” in England and Australia

Abstract

A news ballad published in connection with a notorious murder trial in England in 1828 (the Maria Marten case) is here juxtaposed with versions of the song recorded from New South Wales in the twentieth century. The aim is to establish exactly the impact of oral tradition on content and form. The textual and contextual information provided by Australian folklorists permits deep insight into the way singers handle their songs and relate to their role as bearers of tradition.

eCompanion

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Sally Sloane sings “The Red Barn.”

Audio: John Meredith, March 16-17, 1957.

Four pages from the “songbook” of Lily Bobbin (“Aunt Lil”).

Courtesy of Rob Willis.

Page 1 of 4 from the “songbook” of Lily Bobbin (“Aunt Lil”).

Courtesy of Rob Willis.

Page 2 of 4 from the “songbook” of Lily Bobbin (“Aunt Lil”).

Courtesy of Rob Willis.

Page 3 of 4 from the “songbook” of Lily Bobbin (“Aunt Lil”).

Courtesy of Rob Willis.

Page 4 of 4 from the “songbook” of Lily Bobbin (“Aunt Lil”).

Courtesy of Rob Willis.

Carrie Milliner’s Written Reconstruction - two pages.

Courtesy of Rob Willis.

Carrie Milliner’s Written Reconstruction - page 1 of 2.

Courtesy of Rob Willis.

Carrie Milliner’s Written Reconstruction - page 2 of 2.

Courtesy of Rob Willis.

Carrie Milliner sings “Maria Marten”: first performance.

Audio: John Meredith, March 16-17, 1957

Carrie Milliner sings “Maria Marten”: second perfor-mance.

Audio: John Meredith, March 16-17, 1957

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