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