Nicholson Ballad Sheets, Belfast, 1800s & 1900s

John Nicholson of Belfast, last of the substantial ballad-sheet printers of the city, flourished from the late 1880s to the late 1910s. During these decades, he occupied the Cheapside Song House, premises at 24 or 26 Church Lane in the city, from which he also sold songbooks, some of them of his own printing.

Nicholson's product was sold across Ulster, and especially in counties Down and Antrim. His core market was loyalist and orange but, as will be seen from the sheets reproduced below, he also to a degree catered for nationalist and green sentiment and published songs of general interest.

The Irish Traditional Music Archive has recently been able to purchase an unusual sheet of four uncut nationalist-sentiment Nicholson ballads, and this is presented here as the second of two uncut Nicholson ballad sheets in the ITMA collections. The first, also a purchase, is a sixteen-ballad sheet of loyalist sentiment. The songs on both uncut and undated sheets are also copied as individual items. The final four Nicholson ballad sheets here were donated to ITMA by the late Leslie Shepard. All items are also presented in PDF format for ease of enlargement and printing.

With thanks to Leslie Shepard, Jill Shepard Glenstrup, & Dr John Moulden, who has donated to ITMA a copy of his 2006 Ph.D. thesis The Printed Ballad in Ireland: A Guide to the Popular Printing of Songs in Ireland, 1760–1920.

NC & MG, 1 August 2013