the source for more than three dozen of those known today. Scholars are still debating (and may never reach a reliable conclusion) as to the proportion of the words, and the music, of these ballads that she herself wrote. The literary biographer
remarked that she writes verses
But even if—as she herself maintained—she was simply and solely passing on inherited material, then it was an inherited women's tradition, whose composition had been done by women in earlier generations.
, later Mrs Brown of Falkirk, was known even in her lifetime as a collector and performer of ballads and traditional Scottish songs. She was the earliest performer from whom unprinted ballads were collected,