I have an essay in the recent book 'Street Ballads in Nineteenth-Century Britain, Ireland and North America' which includes a discussion on the origin of this song. The earliest version on 'The Road and the Miles' that I know of appears in broadside ballads from the Poets' Box in Dundee. There are three distinct publications, probably produced over a 20-30 year period at the start of the 20th century. But the song has an earlier origin as an art-poem called 'Grim Winter was Howlin', composed by Fife man Charles Gray (1782-1851). The poem was evidently subject a very common process by the Poets' Box and other broadside printers, whereby the flowery language of art-poetry was recast into the broadside idiom for broader appeal.