Saturday, 13 June 2009


This is a wee poem I wrote a few years ago, loosely based on a story I heard about my great-great-granny's brother.


Aroon a hunnèrt yeir syne, in tha Sooth o Coontie Doon,
Leeved a boy by tha name o Truesdale, near oul Rathfrilan toon.
His mither caa’d him Francis, but maist fowks gied him Frank.
He wus a boul big hallion, but he’d siller in tha bank.

Weel, Frank he wusnae merriet, an he haed a fairm o lan.
He wusnae mair nor fiftie, and life wus quare an gran.
Fur he cud dae whutivver he plaised, wi deil tha wife tae barge,
An monie a yin wushed he wus Frank, no lannit wi sim oul targe

Ae Fair Day morn, Frank hitchit tha trep an set aff fur tha toon,
Fae tha fairm at Ballynagappog, strecht up tha hill an roon,
Tae tha Kirk Square whaur he pued up, ayont an oul stane barn,

Whaur he spied twathie cronies, staunin smowkin, haein a yarn .

“Ach Billie Rab!” quo Frank wi glee, “whaur hae ye bin, oul freen?
An whut aboot ye, Joey? An hoo’s tha wife an wean?”
Oul Frank he wus in quare guid form, as he pit tha meer awa,

But he seen she haed a feed o coarn an a guid wee bed o strae.

Noo tha boys wus feelin drouthie, wi aa tha crack o tha Fair,

Sae Frank bocht them baith a whiskey, an the’ bocht a clattèr mair.
Afore lang the’ wus richtlie, an liltin sangs o yore,
Tha mair the’ cudnae houl a tune - ye cud tell the’ wus heff tore.

Tha lanlaird o tha yillhoose, telt them “Na. Nay mair!
Fur youse is pittin dacent fowk aff cummin in tha dair.”
Wee Joe wis oxter-coggelt oot, an telt no tae luk doon,
On accoont o whun he daen it, tha flair wis birlin roon.

Puir Rab near boked his ring up whun the’ gote oot in tha air,
Sae tha boys aa thocht the’d gang aff hame, afore thar day gote waur.
Frank gaed tae get tha oul grey meer, By Sowl, bit no too quäck,
Fer tha mair yin fit gaed forrits, tha ither stauchèrt beck.

Wi Meggie gote atween tha trams (A dinnae mine jist hoo)
An collar, hames an harnish oan, Frank creed oot, “A’m aff, noo”.
He sprachlit up intae tha sate, an it wus a sicht tae see,
Fer whaur yin meer stud fower oor syne, afore him noo wus thie!

Noo, Rathfrilan bes a ticht wee toon, biggit oan a hill, at tha croon,
An nae matter whut wye in ye lann, ye’ll hae a steich raa doon.
Sae whan he set aff hameairt boon, Frank tuk it gye an cannie,
Til John Barleycorn cheepit in his lug, “Yir drivin like ma grannie.”

Sae, wi sperks fleein fae tha wheels, an tha pechin o tha pownie,
It wisnae lang til Frank creed, “Hup”, as he spied his ain fairm loanie.
Bit tha reins wis like twa washin lines, an he nivver hit tha brak,
Sae Frankie an tha pownie, tha’ tuk tha turn owre quäck.

Tha trep it cowpt clean owre, an Frank wus kilt stane deid.
A ledge he nivver felt a thang, fur he lanit oan his heid.
T’wus brither Tam wha fun him, leein fornenst tha sheugh,
Wi fanklit airms an broo stove in, boys, he wus lukkin reuch.

Tha seestèrs baa’ed an greetit, fur the’ wus affleectit sair,

The’ wus powerfu fonn o brither Frank, an vext he wus nae mair.
Tha freens an neebours cam tae murn, an gie thair seempathy
An aa ye hearit wus, “Boys a Dear”, ir “Och Anee, Anee”.

Frank’s leein in a kirkyaird noo, weel plantit sax fut unnèr
An gin ye tak strang drink an drive ye’ll mebbe join him thonnèr

Sae whan y'ir gaun oot oan tha toon, lee tha motòr weel alane
An gin ye cannae get a taxi, jist ye dannèr hame yir lane

Saturday, 16 May 2009

A Rustic Love Making

As a wee change from the poems, here's a song entitled A Rustic Love Making by George Francis Savage Armstrong (1845-1906) from his Ballads Of Down (1901). Mark Thompson recently commented on his blog that I'd reminded him about Savage Armstrong's writings. Well, I'm glad he said that because I realised then that I hadn't actually posted any of his writings.

Unlike the majority of Ulster-Scots writers, Savage Armstrong was no homespun peasant. He was Professor of English and History, Queen’s College, Cork and a contender for Poet Laureate after Tennyson. He also wrote extensively on his mother’s family, the Savages of the Ards Peninsula (formerly of Portaferry Castle).

A Rustic Love Making

Noo, gie's a kiss, ye sonsie lass ...
Och, gie's a kiss fur kin'ness!
Yer beauty melts my heart like wex,
An' doits me nigh tae blin'ness.

Na! - Weel a ken the ways o' men;
The De'il fur mischief sent ye;
If yin a gied ye'd ax fur ten,
An ten wud ne'er content ye.

It's nae the merket-square ye're in,
But jist a lanesome by-way,
Saea tak' yer wee han' frae yer mooth,
An' ben' nae doon sae shyly.

Behave! The sun's ahint the brae;
A can nae langer stay, noo;
There, hau'd ye'er fingers frae my frills,
It's nae the time fur play, noo.

Yer lips ir, och, sae smooth an' swate!
An' whaur's the herm in this, noo?
Och, heth, ye're jist the rose o' June,
An' gie's a anither kiss, noo!

A tau'd ye this wud be yer game;
Ye'd keep fur aye embracin';
It's jist the ways uv a' yer kin',
Their tricks is nivver ceasin'!

Och, Natur' 't is that gi'es the law;
Mon's made tae luve the wumman,
The wumman's made fur mon tae luve
Noo, stay! There's naeyin comin'.

Luik, see! There's fow'k that gang this way
Whun gloamin'-time is nearin'
Come doon an' walk by Comber burn
That's oot o' sight an' hearin'!

A Pastoral In Praise of Allan Ramsay

Here's another one for all those who like to say Ulster-Scots is a recent invention. The earliest known writer of poetry in Ulster-Scots was William Starrat, a mathematics teacher of Strabane, County Tyrone. In 1722 he wrote a poetic letter to Scottish poet Allan Ramsay (1686-1758) and this, together with Ramsay's reply, was duly published, from an annotated version, in The Collected Works Of Allan Ramsay as Epistle From Mr William Starrat, Teacher of Mathematicks at Straban in Ireland.

A Pastoral In Praise Of Allan Ramsay

O'er ilka hedge it wildly bounds,
And grazes on forbidden grounds,
Where constantly like furious range
Poortith, diseases, death, revenge :
To toom anes poutch to daunty clever,
Or have wrang'd husband probe ane's liver,
Or void ane's saul out thro' a shanker,
In faith 't wad any mortal canker.

Then wale a virgin worthy you,
Worthy your love and nuptial vow ;
Syne frankly range o'er a' her charms,
Drink deep of joy within her arms;
Be still delighted with her breast,
And on her love with rapture feast.

May she be blooming, saft, and young,
With graces melting from her tongue ;
Prudent and yielding to maintain
Your love, as well as you her ain.

Thus with your leave, Sir, I've made free
To give advice to ane can gi'e
As good again : but as mass John
Said, when the sand tald time was done,
" Ha'e patience, my dear friends, a wee,
And take ae ither glass frae me ;
And if ye think there's doublets due,
I shanna bauk the like frae you."

AE windy day last owk, I'll ne'er forget,
I think I hear the hail-stanes rattling yet ;
On Crochan-buss my hirdsell took the lee,
As ane wad wish, just a' beneath my ee :
I in the bield of yon auld birk-tree side,
Poor cauldrife Coly whing'd aneath my plaid.
Right cozylie was set to ease my stumps,
Well hap'd with bountith hose and twa-sol'd pumps :
Syne on my four-hours luncheon chew'd my cood,
Sic kilter pat me in a merry mood ;
My whistle frae my blanket nook I drew,
And lilted owre thir twa three lines to you.
Blaw up my heart-strings, ye Pierian quines,
That gae the Grecian bards their bonny rhymes,
And learn'd the Latin lowns sic springs to play,
As gars the world gang dancing to this day.

In vain I seek your help ; 'tis bootless toil
With sic dead ase to muck a moorland soil ;
Give me the muse that calls past ages back,
And shaws proud southern sangsters their mistak,
That frae their Thames can fetch the laurel north,
And big Parnassus on the firth of Forth.

Thy breast alane this gladsome guest does fill
With strains that warm our hearts like cannel gill,
And learns thee, in thy umquhile gutcher's tongue,
The blythest lilts that e'er my lugs heard sung.
Ramsay ! for ever live; for wha like you,
In deathless sang, sic life-like pictures drew ?
Not he wha whilome with his harp cou'd ca'
The dancing stanes to big the Theban wa' ;
Nor he (shame fa's fool head !) as stories tell,
Cou'd whistle back an auld dead wife frae hell ;
Nor e'en the loyal brooker of bell trees,
Wha sang with hungry wame his want of fees ;
Nor Habby's drone, cou'd with thy wind-pipe please :
When, in his well-ken'd clink, thou manes the death
Of Lucky Wood and Spence, (a matchless skaith
To Canigate) sae gash thy gab-trees gang,
The carlines live for ever in thy sang.

Or when thy country bridal thou pursues,
To red the regal tulzie sets thy muse,
Thy soothing sangs bring canker'd carles to ease,
Some loups to Lutter's pipe, some birls babies.

But gin to graver notes thou tunes thy breath,
And sings poor Sandy's grief for Adie's death,
Or Matthew's loss, the lambs in concert mae,
And lanesome Ringwood yowls upon the brae.

Good God ! what tuneless heart-strings wadna twang,
When love and beauty animate the sang ?
Skies echo back, when thou blaws up thy reed
In Burchet's praise for clapping of thy head :
And when thou bids the paughty Czar stand yon,
The wandought seems beneath thee on his throne.
Now, be my saul, and I have nought behin,
And well I wat fause swearing is a sin,
I'd rather have thy pipe and twa three sheep,
Than a' the gowd the monarch's coffers keep.

Coly, look out, the few we have's gane wrang,
This se'enteen "owks I have not play'd sae lang ;
Ha ! Crummy, ha ! trowth I man quat my sang ;
But, lad, neist mirk we'll to the haining drive,
When in fresh lizar they get spleet and rive :
The royts will rest, and gin ye like my play,
I'll whistle to thee all the live-lang day.


Here's a wee poem I wrote a few years ago about the Balmoral Show.


Ilka May, thar’s twathie days whan kintra cums tae toon
An tha fairmin fowk o Ulstèr, lea hairth an hame ahint
It’s tha big Show at Balmoral, Bilfawst is whaur it’ at.
Sae gin ye hinnae bin afore, gae alang an see whut’s whut.

Thar’s traictors by tha dizzen, Massey Ferguson an John Deere
Pues an combine hairvisters – By Sowl, it’s aa here!
Thar’s aye sim weelads thonner (an ithers no sae wee)
Hingin roon tha stauns lik cleggs the’ ir, the’ dinnae want tae lea.

Whan ye hae yir fill o motòrs, hae a luk at aa tha bastes
Wi tups and yowes, an pïgs an soos, thar’s simthan fer aa tastes
Thar’s stirks an kye (sim moilies) nannie goats an coalie dugs
Turkeys, geese an banties, an a lock o doos an deuks.

An dinnae lee oot tha pownies, an brood meers wi foals in haun
Thar’s yearlins in tha showin ring, ach shure tha nivver staun
Thar’s trade turn-oots, cobs an Airish Draughts, side-seddle clesses an aa
An owre in tha Warkin-Hunnèr ring - thar’s aye a wheen tha’ faa.

Whaure’er ye luk thar’s ridin breeks, ir tweeds an Barbour jaickit
Wattèr buits, dunchers, tairtan shirts – fer fairmin thon’s tha ticket.
Fer aa them bastes ir gien a wash, thar’s aye sim dung aroon
Sae as y'ir gaun atweesht tha rings, tak guid tent whaur ye pit yer shune.

Mine, whan y'ir gaun roon as weel, tae use yer een an lugs
Fer fowk ir aye gaun aff tae see sim men aboot sim dugs!
Ye’ll affen hear sim quare guid crack, an mebbe mak a dale
Ir larn hoo tae bring tha barley in, an whit tae dae wi kail.

An aa ye sing’l menfowk, tak a luk at tha kintra quaens
Ye cud dae waur nor a fairmin lass, an ye’ll no leeve oan baked beans!
An whit aboot youse weeminfowk, gin yir oot tae cleek the yeir
Hae ye seen them boul big fairmers, wi thar shoodèrs oot tae here?

Sae whutivver taks yer fancy, jist tak yersel aff thonner
An gie a thocht tae tha fairmer, whan neist ye mak tha dïnner
Fer he growes tha craps an rares tha mate tae feed oor sins an dochters
An it’s fowk like him tha’ mine tha lan fer ithers tae cum eftèr us.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

A Country Lad's Observations At The Hiring Fair In Ballymena

Here's another Ulster-Scots poem - A Country Lad's Observations At The Hiring Fair In Ballymena, written in November 1899 by County Antrim poet Adam Lynn from Random Rhymes From Cullybackey (Belfast, 1911).

A Country Lad's Observations At The Hiring Fair In Ballymena

Weel, freens, A gat me tae the toon,
Although big clouds were hoverin' roon,
An whiles an odd yin did come doon
Tae we got drack'd;
Yet mony a sinburnt-luckin' croon
Seem'd tae be cracked.

The hale toon seemd tae be aware
That Sethurday wus Hiring Fair,
And that ferm-servants wud be there
For a big day,
Who meant tae hae a treat sae rare
Wae six months' pay.

Here and there wus a wee ban'
The centre-piece a big ould man,
What maks' his leevin' off the lan'
Without a doot;
Bit see him view the horny han'
'Ere he spak' oot.

"Tell me, my man, noo can you sow,
And can you milk, and plough, and mow,
And build a load of hay or stro'
For market day?
If you can do these things, say so
I'll fix your pay."

The toon assumed its usual gait,
Folk mashing roon at nae wee rate,
Each luckin' for there ain dear mate
In blank despair;
And so may I if I keep blate
To the next Fair.

The Weaver Question

I've always had an interest in the history of hand-loom weaving in Ulster, as at least four successive generations of my Newtownards male ancestors (and some of the females) were hand-loom weavers, right up to the 1950s. Indeed, I still have a wee pram rug which my great-grandfather Hugh McDonald wove for my father in 1929. Hugh's obituary states, "He was one of the old hand loom weavers, working in his own home weaving fine linens, but latterly weaving tweeds and tartans for both local firms [including James Mairs of Newtownards and Hugh Mack of Belfast] and the Scottish house of Peter MacArthur & Co" [still trading in Biggar, Lanarkshire] Talk about taking coals to Newcastle! The family death notice also included the following excerpt from a poem entitled The Weaver by Benjamin Malachi Franklin (1882-1965)

Not till the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.

Continuing the weaving theme, here's a wee Ulster-Scots poem called The Weaver Question by Thomas Given (c1850-1917) taken from G R Buick's Poetical Works Of The Brothers Given (Belfast, 1900). Thomas was a farmer from Cullybackey in County Antrim and one of three poetry-writing brothers. There is no indication that he ever worked as a weaver himself, but it's clear that he was familiar with the terminology and the issues of the trade. As Edward Sloan's poem The Weaver's Triumph also shows, life was not always easy for the weavers.

The Weaver Question by Thomas Given

We read o' meetings to support
The risin' nerra-guage,
Which is to be the strength and fort
O' every comin' age.
We read o' controversies lang.
O' puirhoose jaw and vapour,
But seldom does the weavers' wrang
Bedeck the public paper
On ony day.

Oor wabs are lang an' ill to weave -
Sometimes the yarn is bad -
Till scanty claes, wi' ragget sleeve,
Is seen on lass an' lad.
But noo guid fortune we'll attain,
For orators sae thrifty
Will gar the dreeper clip his chain
Wa' doon tae twa-an'-fifty
On ilka day.

Queels maun be wun when claith is wroucht,
An' pickers, shears an' treadles,
Tallow an' temples maun be boucht,
An' floor tae dress the heddles.
Then meat tae gar the wee yins leeve,
Maun come as weel's the tackle,
But shure the wages we receive
Wud hardly buy them treacle
Tae meal this day.

How aisy 'tis for men tae preach
Whun riches they hae got,
An' wae self-interest's purse-hurt screech,
Ca' us a sinfu' lot.
But, haud a wee! Ye men o' wealth!
Though noo for breath yer pantin',
We ax nae favours gained by stealth -
It's justice that we're wantin' -
Nae mair this day.

I ne'er was blessed wae gift o' gab,
Like some great learned men,
Instead o' school, I wove my wab,
Before that I was ten.
Though noo I'm auld an' gray's my hair,
I've studied weel the sense o't
For work let us get wages fair,
Nae matter 'boot the length o't
On ony day.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

The Ards TT

Here's another photo from my family collection, showing a driver in the Ards TT getting out of his car in Church Street, Newtownards. I think this wee row of houses may have stood at the front of Ards Hospital.

The TT ran from 1928-1936, over 6 hours on a 13.7 mile course which started in Dundonald and proceeded, via Quarry Corner and Bradshaw's Brae to Newtownards, down Church Street and Regent Street, through the Square and on to Comber Square, up Castle Street, on to the Belfast Road to the Elk Inn corner at Dundonald and back up to the starting point.

Unfortunately, I don't know which year our photo was taken, who the driver is, or what kind of car he's driving, although some of the manufacturers represented in the TT were Lea-Francis, Frazer Nash, Lagonda, Bugatti, Alfa-Romeo, Bentley, Mercedes Benz, Talbot, MG Midget, Maserati, Singer, and Delahaye. If anyone can throw any light on the identity of the car or driver pictured, I'd love to hear from you.

It's obvious that Health & Safety hadn't been invented then, as the crowd barrier consists of wooden barrels with string in between. In 1936, one of the cars crashed at the railway bridge (long since demolished) at the bottom of the Belfast Road in Newtownards, killing eight spectators and injuring 40 others. That was the end of The Ards TT.

In June 2003, several of the original TT cars took part in a demonstration drive of three laps of the old course, to mark the 75th anniversary of the TT and a memorial to the TT was unveiled in Conway Square Newtownards in August 2008.


Here's a wee poem I wrote a few years ago. I must have been feeling all jaded and cynical!


Ye’ll aye fin yins 'at sweer bline Elvis isnae deid ava,

An tha feck o fowk wud mebbe yit houl wi a freat ir twa.

But wushin ir haipin fur simthan, disnae mak it true,

Ye cannae lippen oan aa ye’r telt - maist o ye wud alloo.

Yince A haed a notion A cud quarely lilt a sang,

Til A heared masel, as ithers heared, an foon oot A wus wrang.

Fur a sough o truth blowed in ma lugs - By Sowl, it gunked me sair -

An noo, ootwith tha motor car, ye’ll hear me lilt nae mair.

Sure A shud hae knowed fae Rabbie Burns, tae no growe sic a thocht,

Fur aa his puir Jenny’s fency airs, the’ didnae get her ocht.

Thon hizzie she wus fu o pride, til tha loose craa’d owre her bonnet,

Bot w’ir aa tha yin soo’s pïgs, ye ken, an aye we shud hae mine o’it.

Fur there’s bums an blows ’at get oan like tha Kïngs o Dear knows whaur,

Ir let oan tae be oul hauns, an cannae dae ocht ava.

Whiles ye’ll mebbe hear a whud o sim gulpin cum tae po’er

An muckle heich aboon us growed, wi better yins past owre.

Tha warl’s fu o chates an lee’rs, an there’s boys wud dae thar grannie,

Owre tha heid o a wheen o pun – tak tent, freens, aye be cannie.

But whut gangs aroon wull cum aroon, accordin tae tha saw:

The’ll aa be ketched oot in tha en, by thair ain fowks, ir tha laa.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Writings on North Down, Ards and Strangford Lough

I've drawn up a rough list, which I'm sure is not comprehensive, of creative writers who've made reference to the North Down, Ards and Strangford Lough areas of County Down in either English or Ulster-Scots. The challenge is can you think of the ones I've left out!

Starting with the earliest:

Francis Boyle (c1730 - post 1811) – Local places mentioned in his Miscellaneous Poems (1811) include Gransha, Moneyrea, Comber, the Ards, Gilnahirk, the Stay Brae, the Brenniel [sic], [Crossna]Creevy, Moneyrea, Dundonald, Knock, Drumbo, Lisleen, Ballygow'n, Crossgear, Downpatrick, Donaghadee, Dunover, Mount Pleasant, Meharg's thorn (a local landmark in Gilnahirk) Bangor and Ballygaskin (near Crossgar). Many other places further away in County Down, County Antrim, Scotland and England are also named.

John Meharg – of Gilnahirk - mentions Gransha in his Epistle To Francis Boyle published in Francis Boyle's Miscellaneous Poems (1811).

Andrew McKenzie (1780-1839) of Dunover – Poems And Songs On Different Subjects (1810) - Writes about the Ards Peninsula

Robert Huddleston (1814-1887) – Poems and songs published (1844 and 1846) plus an unpublished novel and unpublished poems and songs. He writes about the Moneyrea area, Comber, Saintfield, Ballygowan, Ards Peninsula and Strangford Lough, Ringneill, Reagh Island, Killinchy etc. Other references include Newtownards, Donaghadee, the Lead Mines, Greyabbey and Mount Stewart.

W G Lyttle (1844-1896) – Betsy Gray, Daft Eddie, Sons Of The Sod and Robin’s Readings are all set in the North Down and Ards area and include references to locations on the Ards Peninsula, Strangford Lough, Newtownards, Tullynagardy Glen etc.

Hugh McWilliams – of Ballysallagh. Two books published in 1816 and 1831. Poems And Songs On Various Subjects (1816) includes topographical references include Crawfordsburn, Bangor, Conlig, Cairn Wood, Clandeboye, Ballysallagh and Portavoe.

George Francis Savage-Armstrong
(1845-1906) was born in County Down and was Professor of History and Literature in Queen's College, Cork. He produced two volumes on the history of the Savages of the Ards peninsula (his mother’s family) plus copious amounts of poetry and Ballads Of Down (1901) which included MacAnanty Fairy King Of Scrabo Hill.

Edward Sloan of Conlig - In his poetry book The Bard’s Offering (1854) there is a poem entitled The Lovely Glens Of Crawfordsburn (he dedicated the book to Sharman Crawford who lived at Crawfordsburn House) and in A Farewell he writes of walking through "Pirrie's Grove" (Little Clandeboye at Conlig was owned by William Pirrie) and "gazing upon the shores of Scottish lands".

I'm not famililar with the works of these next three, but have left them in the list to remind me to check them out!

William Cleland - Collection (1838)

William Bleakley of Ballinaskeagh - Moral and Religious Poems (1840)

Robert Gilmore - Collection Of Poems And Songs (1843)

Leslie Alexander Montgomery, aka Lynn Doyle (1873-1961) – He wrote of the Downpatrick area and Strangford Lough

Sam Hanna Bell (1909-1990) – December Bride is mainly set in the Ravara area, but much of the filming took place on Island Taggart and on the Ards Peninsula.

John Stevenson - Bab Of The Percivals (1926) is set on the Ards Peninsula and Two Centuries Of Life In Down (1920) while not fiction, includes a lot on North Down, Ards and Strangford.

Margaret Norris - Glenreeba (1939) is actually Greyabbey

J S Andrews (born 1934) - The Bell Of Nendrum (1969) is set in and around Strangford Lough

Van Morrison (born 1945) – The song Coney Island (from his 1989 album Avalon Sunset) mentions Shrigley, Killyleagh, the Lecale, Downpatrick, Ardglass and St John’s Point as well as Coney Island, which is a headline between Ardglass and Killough. The Song A Sense Of Wonder (from the album A Sense Of Wonder 1985) mentions Newtownards, Comber, Gransha and the Ballystockart Road.

Michael McLaverty (1904-1992) - Buried at Kilclief, Strangford – Wrote about Strangford Lough.

Michael Faulkner – wrote about his experiences living with his wife in a cabin on Islandmore on Strangford Lough in The Blue Cabin (2006)

Seamus Heaney (born 1939) – Even “Famous Seamus” refers to “Strang and Carling Fjords” (Strangford and Carlingford) in his poem Funeral Rites.

Joe Tomelty (1910 -1995) was born in Portaferry. Although better known as a film and stage actor and for BBC Radio’s The McCooey’s, Joe Tomelty also wrote novels and plays. Two of his plays, All Soul’s Night and April In Assagh are set in a fictional village on the County Down coast and another, Idolatry at Innishargie, on the Ards Peninsula.

Basil Abbott - Norfolk man Basil, whose mother is from Newtownards, recently produced a short play entitled Scrape The Beetle about the Flush Hall murder (of Willie Quinn) which took place in Newtownards in 1915. A CD of this is also available.

Colin Bateman (born 1962) – The novel Divorcing Jack (1998) is partly set in Bangor Market (although the film version uses Lemon's Wharf in Donaghadee as the location).

Captain James Moore writes of Portavogie and the County Down fishing industry.

I'm sure there are also numerous other references in songs. The Flower Of The County Down mentions Scrabo Hill, Lisnadill, Comber etc and The Greba Lasses is from Greyabbey. Then, of course, there are the Orange songs like The Hills Of Carrowdore and The Bright Orange Heroes of Comber.

Not forgetting Hamewarks Fae Ballyboley: The Cless O 2004:
Philip Robinson writes about The Dominie O Ballyboley Schuil;
John Wright writes of Donaghadee, Ballyvester and Millisle;
Jack Thompson mentions Carrowdore;
Sheena McCullough mentions Ballyboley school;
Fiona McDonald writes of Newtownards, the Ards, Bangor and Loughriescouse;
Will McAvoy writes of Mid-Isle on Strangford Lough;
Will Cromie writes of the Ards Peninsula; and
Noel Moore mentions Portavogie and Ballyboley;

First Newtownards BB Company Flute Band

A bit of local history for a change. A couple of years ago, I came across a load of old negatives among family papers so I scanned a few and Photoshopped them to get the positive images. This one shows First Newtownards BB Company Flute Band. As there's a train in the background, it was probably taken at Newtownards Railway Station, on the Belfast & County Down Railway (BCDR). I think the writing on the carriage door may say "Third" (Class).

To the best of my knowledge, this BB Band was the forerunner of First Newtownards Old Boys' Flute Band (founded in 1919) which, in turn, was the forerunner of Newtownards Silver Band (founded in 1923). If anyone knows otherwise, please let me know.

Tha Puddocks Return

We hae jist seen tha puddocks in oor wee pond theday so Spring 'ull no be owre lang cumin noo!

Epistle To Francis Boyle - By John Meharg

Here's another early example of Ulster-Scots poetry - Gilhahirk poet, John Meharg's Epistle To Francis Boyle, published in Boyle's Miscelleous Poems (1811).

By John Meharg

Dear Frank, it lang was in my view,
To write a verse or twa to you,
We Poets, poor discernin' few,
Love ane anither,
Wi' heart an' saul, an' far mair true
Than money a brither.
Let warly sons o' men combine,
An' gather gowd to mak them shine,
At this, dear Frank, we'll ne'er repine,
E'en let them gae;
We'll sing our joys in hamely rhyme,
On some burn brae.
How sweetly do the moments pass,
Aye whan our theme's a bonny lass,
Or wi' a frien', out owre a glass
O' gin or rum!
The sordid, grov'lin, miser ass,
May there sing dumb.

But as for riches what care I,
Sic low pursuits the Bards deny,
An' Fortune's frowns they will defy,
While e'er the Muse,
Will with their wishes kind comply,
An' no refuse.

An' yet my rhymes are unco rough,
As owre a country e'er did sugh,
They hardly please mysel' eneugh,
As aft's I read them;
But spun by ane frae loom or pleugh,
Nae man will heed them.

An' sae, my much respected friend,
I'll ne'er presume, nor yet pretend,
Wi' you in verses to contend,
For wit or theme,
Na, na, I ken that it wad end
In my great shame.

Your verses rin as true an' fine,
As if the Muses did combine,
Apollo an' tunefu' Nine,
To raise your name,
An' roun' your brow a wreath entwine,
O' endless fame.

In Grenshaw townland may you sing,
Till a' the hills an' vallies ring,
An' whan the Winter's owre, an' Spring
Begins to dawn,
Your Fancy yet shall spread her wing,
Out owre the lawn.

Aft hae I wish'd an' hope't to see,
Yet mony a year afore I die,
Your verses fill'd sae fu' o' glee,
In grandeur paintit,
Wi' ae request o' mine agree -
An' get them prentit.

An' let the warl' ken your name,
An' sons unborn exalt your fame,
An' narrow-minded men think shame
If ony reads,
Your torch o' satire, like a flame,
To show their deeds!

An' whan ye're mouldrin' i' the clay,
The stranger that shall pass the way,
Will to your dwallin' homage pay
An' spier the where,
Some frien' o' thine will point an' say -
"The Bard lived there."

But as for me, I needna think
E'er to appear in prent or ink,
For folk to read, then laugh an' wink,
An' cock their nose,
An' tauntin', say, "It disna clink
"Like verse or prose."

But what care I? e'en let them say;
Whan in the bonny month o' May,
On some burn side I'll lonely stray,
Whar nane shall hear,
An' chant to her my rustic lay,
I love sae dear.

O Love! O Life! O Friendship dear!
'Tis you I court, 'tis you I fear
All cares are drown'd when you are near,
In seas o' pleasure;
Ye Powers Divine, while I am here,
Be these my treasure!

"But Johnie, stap, ye're yet a boy,
Know, Beauty's but a fleetin' toy,
An' love's a momentary joy,
That soon will pass,
It will your inward peace destroy,
Ye simple Ass.

For all these joys will pass away,
When Age shall come, life's winter day,
An' firmest friendship will decay;
My son, good night."
Erato thus to me did say,
Then took her flight.

My bosom heav'd, I gave a sigh,
As after her I cast my eye,
Until her flight she winged on high,
Out o' my sight,
An' reach'd her distant kindred sky,
'Mang orbs o' light.

Sae now, dear Frank, my Muse is gane,
Which causes me a kin' o' pain;
But aiblins she'll return again,
An' wi' me dwell;
An' daut me like a sukin' wean;
Sae, frien', farewell.

The Magic X - by James Mullan

Here’s an early 20th century poem by James Mullan, The Drumsurn Bard (aka "Yung Han") describing the goings-on prior to elections in those days. Drumsurn is a village between Dungiven and Limavady, in County Londonderry.

Anybody who thinks poetry is for cissies would do well to remember there are plenty of folk who get worked up about it. Another local rhymer, by the name of Sandy Bond, held different political views to Mullan on the issue of Home Rule during the 1906 local elections. Bond made reference to Mullan in a poem about the election and the next time the two met in Limavady there was a bit of a fight which resulted in a court case, during which Bond’s poem was read out in evidence. Bond was fined 21 shillings, two other defendants were fined five shillings and the rest were discharged.

I thought at first that one of those fined, Samuel Irwin, was a relative of mine, but my one came from a different townland, so there must have been more than one about the town at the time.

The Magic X

I’m nae great scholar, ye man ken,
I micht coont up the length o’ ten,
I’m sure, but no a hunner.
My buiks hae a’ been real leeve men,
But I can tell a mak preten,
An’ make’ nae blunner.

But in my stammerin’s up an’ doon,
Sometimes ‘mang drains, sometimes in toon,
No lang in ony place.
I kept my ees a-glowerin’ roon
An foon three letters esteamed aboon
The alphabetic race.

Writ in succession, L.S.D.
A’hint yer name, ye hae a key
Wad open ony door.
Nae maiter what be yer disgrace,
They’ll aye fin’ ane redeemin’ grace,
Mair likely three or four.

Anither ane runs in the race,
Wi’ some I ken it taks first place,
Whan writ wi’ a big capital
I am the man; I panned the shirt.
Bar I the rest of folks is dirt,
Creation jest a nil.

But there’s a time I’m heartily gled,
Whan X can mak a bit I’ red,
An’ earn its slice o’ favour.
Since they hae gaen an X tae me,
Even the very wee drap o’ tea,
I gets a better flavour.

The candidates wee Rab the meit
They gae him lots o’ cakes an’ sweets,
An’ spiers, “What wye’s yer faither?”
I’ve aft been ca’d a rhaming mule,
An obstinate, dannared, dunnered fool
An’ sometimes worse than either.

The wife got twa new pair o’ stays,
She weirs nane noo, sure onyways;
Aince roon her waist twice roon the church,
Ye’d sweir it wuz a wee earthquake,
The wey the auld four-poster shakes,
When Jean begins tae turn.

Noo a’ the beasts aboot the hoose,
(Of coorse they didna see the singin’ moose)
They maun be gae well bred,
One ca’d the coo an astrahan;
The three legged cat, real Persian,
I doot she wuz misled.

My han’s been twisted, pu’d an’ rung,
Tae I thocht the shoulder bled had sprung;
I canna haud ane fur,
Whitewashed I wuz wi’ every grace;
They ca’d me tae my very face,
Honoured, respected sir.

Noo, I dinna ken if twuz Gledstone,
Oliver Cromill, or Wolf Tone,
An X pair bodies gaen,
But my blessin’ on his auld grey heed;
If he’s alive, sin’ if he’s deid,
I’ll pray that he’s aboon.

But I ken richt weel if the A.B.C.
Wuz stocks and shares, my £, s, d,
I wad invest in X’s,
An’ sell at the election time,
Then emigrate tae sum far clime,

Whar the’r nae rates or texes.

Friday, 13 February 2009

O! Whiskey My Darlin' - Robert Huddleston song

I'm a bit of a fan of (possibly obsessed with?) Moneyrea Ulster-Scots poet Robert Huddleston and I was having a look at his song, O! Whiskey My Darlin' trying to find a tune that would go with it. Jackie Boyce, in his Songs Of The County Down (Ballyhay Books 2004) does not list a tune, but says, "When I first read over this song I came up with an air almost immediately". When the song was published in 1844, the author gave his choice of tune as Ye Jolly Old Cock Would You Give Me Your Daughter but, as yet, I haven't been able to trace this. Then it struck me ... one of the tunes I've learned to play on the fiddle is Come O'er The Stream, Charlie (aka McLean's Welcome) by James Hogg, The Ettrick Shepherd and this goes perfectly, but I'm open to tune suggestions if anybody else can come up with something better. Now there's a challenge!


O, whiskey my darlin', thou care-killin' carlin,
How aft I have kissed thee for weeks at a time;
And aye whan I'm drinkin', thou easest my thinkin'
And now I'm come back for tae taste thee again.

O! a toss o' my head for a' their laid denties,
Gie me but the nappie tae kittle my joy;
An' tho' poortith shall stare me, it darna come near me,
A fig for sad sorrow, I'll live till I die.

Frae this tae the mornin' jade care I'll gie scornin',
An' lieve on the juice o' the blanter sae dear;
Ye winds that loud chatter, I carna your clatter,
Your frosty snell breath now me canna come near.


Yon silly aul' base ane, on verge o' perdition
Wi' deadly excesses, debauchery, an' crime;
Shall I grudge him his dishes, his trashtrie, an' wishes?
No, never such baseness - no, never be mine.


Gie me the Cork caver, wi' mountain dew flavour,
The poteen tae drink, an' my lassie alang;
Tho' warls care may wreck me, it ne'er can heartbrack me,
Sae lang as the usquebaugh stifles my rang.


O! whiskey, stick tae me, thou frien' o' my grannie,
Tho' weel I may like ye, I tak' it o' kin';
My aul' uncle Tammie, the twin o' my mammie,
Besides my aul' daddie, he drunk himsel' blin'.


Away antie Nelly, an' let us be jolly,
Ye ken yon big-wamed jug that's far aboon a';
An' fetch us a quart in before we gae partin',
And roun' by the ingle we'll joyful hurra.


Robert Burns' Doctor Hornbook

In an earlier posting I'd mentioned Robert Burns 1785 poem Death And Doctor Hornbook, with reference to Francis Boyle's Hornbook's Ghaist. I have to admit I wasn't familiar with the Burns poem so I looked it up. I thought the second stanza was interesting!

But this that I am gaun to tell,
Which lately on a night befell,
Is just as true's the Deil's in hell
Or Dublin city:
That e'er he nearer comes oursel'
'S a muckle pity.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

The Weaver's Triumph - by Edward Sloan

The latest poem posted is The Weaver’s Triumph by Edward L Sloan, of Conlig. Conlig is a village between Newtownards and Bangor, in County Down, and I was a pupil at the village Primary School. This poem comes from Sloan's 1854 book, The Bard’s Offering in the preface of which, he refers to himself as one, ‘young in years, almost uneducated … whose hand has more been used to the daily avocations of the labouring tradesman than wielding the pen’. Like many of the Ulster-Scots folk poets, Sloan was a weaver and a Freemason and there are hints in some of his poems that he at least contemplated emigrating to America. Many of Sloan’s poems are either in English, or have only a touch of Ulster-Scots, with this one being the most Ulster-Scots.

The Weaver’s Triumph
By Edward Sloan

It was but yestreen I had oot my bit claith, man,
Tuk it under my arm, doun tae Balford I went,
Untae the Braid Square, tae wee cockit Rab’s warehoose –
For a trifle o’ cash, man, it was my intent.
My noddle bein’ reeming wi’ stoups o’ guid liquor,
I marched in fu’ stately and throwed the dud down,
Whan a cock-o’-the-north o’ a foreman, ca’d Hudson,
Whispered tae his employer – ‘We’ll gi’e him a croon.’

My wee bit o’ labour bein’ thrown on the counter,
Wi’ butterfly’s een tae examine’t he goes;
He hemmed and he ha’d, and he swore it was shameless,
Syne oot wi’ his snoot-cloth and dighted his nose.
He swore that the warp would been better by double –
For their penny collars ‘twas nae use ava;
Though the price o’ my labour was just half-a-guinea,
He would gi’e me a shilling and let me awa.

I glowered at the ape wi’ twa een like red cinders,
While wee cockit Rab at his knavery did wink;
Quo’ I, ‘Honest foreman, ye ha’e turned a barber,
Tae shave simple weavers sae neatly, I think;
But haud ye, a jiffey, my potstick-legged callan –
For my nine-and-sixpence I’ll gi’e ye some fun:
I’ll ca’ doun your betters tae think on your capers,
And see if you’ll rob me, you half-stocked gun.’

Noo, twa honest neebours together convened.
And examined it weel, frae beginning tae end;
And the verdict they gi’en was, ‘Return him his money,
Or before Parson Wilkins* you’ll ha’e tae attend.’
My money I pouched wi’ a rollickin’ smirk –
O oh! What was the look that his foremanship gi’en!
Quo’ I, ‘Honest foreman, act somewhat mair justly:
You see arbitration’s but seldom your frien’.’

Noo, some o’ my neebours mayna ken this same foreman,
But I’ll draw you his portrait, as well as I can,
Though it’s nae easy job for a puir, simple weaver,
As I would wrang him greatly, tae ca’ him a man:
His face – it’s the texture an’ shape o’ a monkey’s;
Each cheek would hold neatly a shilling o’ pence;
A’ the wit that he has in his weel-theekit noddle’s
What oor neebour Tam ca’s a “guid griping sense.”

He’s like – but why need I attempt to describe him –
The pen o’ a Buffon would soon be tae blame;
Some day, when auld Nature has been busy working,
She has tossed by the gruns – made him oot o’ the same.
Fareweel tae ye, Robin; adieu tae your foreman –
A sweet pair o’ rascals you are, I declare;
It’s a pity tae waste pen and ink on sic creatures –
Guid-bye tae ye neebours, I’ll noo say nae mair

* A magistrate

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Tit For Tat; or The Rater Rated - Anonymous

This latest poem TIT for TAT; or the Rater rated was published in The Ulster Miscellany in 1753 ie before Robert Burns was even born. Nine of the poems were entitled Scotch poems. They are all anonymous, but were written in the Laggan area of East Donegal. In this one, a Laggan farmer is infuriated at the local Church of Ireland rector's attempts to gather tithes (which were taken regardless of your denomination) and his wife gives the rector's wife a piece of her mind.

TIT for TAT; or the Rater rated
A new song, in Way of Dialogue, between a Laggan farmer and his Wife


Ye’re welcome hame, my Marg’y,
Frae the grim craving clergy;
How deeply did they charge ye,
Wi’ fair oppresive tythe?
While some are chous’d, and cheated;
Some rattled are, and rated;
Ye hae been better treated,
I trow, ye luick sae blythe.


I hae been wi’ the rector;
His wife did scould and hector;
Instead o’ a guid lecture –
Quo’ she, ‘Ye go too fine,
‘With scarlet cloaks and bedgowns,
‘With velvet puggs and plaid-gowns,
‘With ruffled sleeves and headrounds,
‘More rich and gay than mine.’

‘Forbear, proud madam Persian,
‘Take back ye’r ain aspersian,
‘Wi’ tea, ye’r chief diversion,
‘Ye waste ye’r time awa;
‘While dressing ye’r and pinning,
‘I’ll spin, and bleach my linnen,
‘And wear my ain hands winning,
‘Ye rector’s lazy daw.

‘I rise e’er the cocks craw day;
‘My hands I spare not a’ day,
‘And wi’ my farmer laddie
‘At night I take my ease;
‘My husband plows and harrows,
‘He sows and reaps the farrows,
‘Shame fa’ them wad change marrows,
‘For rector’s gown and chaise.

‘Sure some kind deed has brought us
‘Yon yellow chiel, that taught us
‘To cleek the tythe potatoes
‘Frae ilk a greedy gown!
‘Nae bishop, dean, or rector,
‘Nae vicar, curate, proctor,
‘Dare ettle now to doctor
‘Our skeedyines under ground.


Dear Madgie, e’en fairfaw ye!
I’m blest that e’er I saw ye!
A braid-claith coat I aw ye,
Fac’d wi a velvet cape:
May milk and meal ne’er fail ye,
May loss of yews ne’er ail ye,
But geer grow on ye daily,

For birking madam Crape.

A Poor Man's Petition - by Andrew McKenzie (aka Philip McClabber)

Getting back to County Down, this latest posting is a poem entitled A Poor Man's Petition first published in December 1807 by Andrew McKenzie (1780-1839) the Bard of Dunover, writing under his pseudonym, Philip McClabber. Dunover is a townland near Ballywalter on the Ards Peninsula. Although he was not the earliest writer of poetry in Ulster-Scots, McKenzie's Poems And Songs On Different Subjects (1810) was the first single-author book of Ulster-Scots poetry published. McKenzie made a £200 profit from the book which, was enough for him to build a cottage and buy a fishing boat. However, the boat was wrecked and McKenzie narrowly escaped drowning. Due to his bad luck and some poor financial planning, he was evicted from his cottage in 1812 and he died a pauper in Belfast in 1839.

Going through some family papers recently, I discovered that McKenzie belonged to the same Masonic lodge as members of my own family. The lodge was originally called Greenhill 985 and it sat in Drumawhey until 1816. Brother Andrew McKenzie was initiated into 985 at Drumawhey on 2nd February 1810 (I wonder if that was before or after the book was published!). A new warrant, Union Star 198, was issued in 1821. This had previously been used in Dublin from 1749-1821 (during which time one of it's members had been Daniel O'Connell). Union Star has been in its present hall at Corry Street, Newtownards, since 1841 and readers of The Newtownards Chronicle may recall that the premises recently suffered extensive damage as the result of an arson attack.

A Poor Man's Petition

Noo hear the pair man’s peetious wane
His woes remind me o’ ma ain
What prangs tae me it wud hae coast,
Had a’ beheld the motly host,
Whaur penury, disease and pain,
Wur al assembled tae complain;
Wretches like, in tattered rags;
Sprains, rheumatisms, brauken legs;
Ears that canny hear a soon,
An een in utter darkness boon;
Scurvy, scrofula, epilepsy,
Consumption pale, an bursting drapsy;
Wae a’the life embitterin clan
That persecute the life o’ man.
Whaur sich calamities appear,
Whau cud refuse tae drap a tear?
E’en Satan, mans inveterate foe,
Micht melt at sich a scene o’ woe.
So choosin tae avoid the sicht,
A’ borra’d pen an ink tae write,
A faithful list o’ ah that’s mine –
That in below a’ wull subjoin;-
First then, a' never learnt a trade,
Bit daily wield a flail or spade,
Endeav'rin tae preserve in life,
Six naked children and a wife,
Ma mansion is a clay-bigged cot,
Ma hale domain a gairden plot
Fur this, each ennual first o' May,
Full thirty shillins a' hiddae pae:
Ye who in stately hames reside,
Th' abodes o' luxury an pride,
May deem it faalse whun a' assert,
Ma hoose wud harly load a cairt,
Sae little stray defends the roof,
Agin the rain it is nae proof,
But a' its failins tae declare,
Wud waste mair time than a' can spare,
So, wae yir leave, a' wull begin,
Tae tell what it contains wae'in:
A spade, bae weairin much abus'd,
A spinnin-wheel, but little used,
Three stools, yin bigger than the rest,
oor table whun we hae a guest,
A basket variously employ'd,
Tho' nearly bae oul age destroy'd,
It houls the prittas raw, or boil'd,
An serves tae rock oor youngist child;
A leaky tub, a pot unsoon,
Wae iron hoop encircled roon.
A jug, in what wae daily bring,
oor humble bev'rage fae the spring,
In oarder, on a shelf o stane,
(For chest, or cupboard a' hae nane)
A dish, an three al plates ere plac'd;
Three noggins, much bae time defac'd;
A mug, fae whaur the ear is pairted;
An al knife, bae its heft deserted;
Twa tae-cups, yin o' them is crack'd;
Three sassers, each wae some defect;
A tae-pot, bit the lid is loast ;
A beechen boul, bit so emboss'd
Wae clasps, it isnae unnerstud,
Whauther it's made o' ir'n or wud.
An in a corner bae the wa'
We hae a bed that cannae fa,
But dinnae let this create surprise,
Securely on the grun it lies:
Tae furnish it nae flocks o' geese,
Wur plunnered o' their downy fleece,
Plain strey it is . . an on oor bed,
The ruins o' a quilt ere spread.
Noo nithin else tae me belangs,
Except a braukin pair of tangs ;
an fur a shift, tae a' get them ment,
We use a brench o' wulla bent.
Yin minnit yit, a' beg yil spare,
An jist luk ivver ma bill o'fare,
Which wae my furniture accoards,
An little variety affords,
The cruel butcher's murd'rous knife,
Fur me deprives nae beast o' life;
Nae angler wae ensnarin wiles,
Fur me the finny race beguiles;
Nea sailor braves the dangerous sea,
Tae bring hame luxuries tae me -
Bit words a' wullnae multiply,
Prittas al oor meals supply;
A drap o' milk tae them we add-
An salt, whun that cannot be had.
That man tae honour shair is loast,
Whau o' his wretchedness can boast;
Yit gain sae rules the human breest
That men o' competence possest'
Cud ivry qualm o' conscience blush!
An sweer wae'oot a single blush,
Bit be ashaired nane sich em I,
Tho' very pare, a' scorn a lie;
An al thats represented here,
Indeed a' can tae truly sweer'.

Leezie M'Minn - by Samuel Turner

This latest offering is a poem called Leezie M’Minn written by Samuel Turner (1804-1861). Turner was a County Antrim man, born in Ballyeaston and taught at Loughmourne National School (near Carrickfergus) and at Ballycor, near Ballyclare. Although Turner contributed many poems to local newspapers and journals during his lifetime, a book of his poetry, Gleanings From Ballyboley Braes, was not published until after his death.

Leezie M'Minn

They talk o’ the spaewife o’ misty Glenramer,
O’ Madge o’ the hill-tap, an’ Kate o’ the Linn;
But trew me for devilrie cantraips and glamour
They may a’ cast their caps at auld Leezie M’Minn.
Sune as her loof ye hae cross’d wi’ the siller
She birls roun’ a cup,an’ she bids ye leuk in.
Och the foul thief himsel’ sure the words whispers till her,
That fa’ frae the lips o’ auld Leezie M’Minn.

Wauters o’ men come ilk day Leezie seekin’,
Frae hill an’ frae valley, frae hut an’ frae ha’;
Some in gay cleedin’, some barely a streek on,
Wee gilpies, young widows, auld maidens, an a’.
They come in the spring time, they come in the simmer,
They come when the snaw-drifts hae lang setten in,
They come o’ Fate’s black book to get a bit glimmer,
For wha can unravel’t like Leezie M’Minn?

She hecht to wee Mary the han’ o’ the Gauger,
Tho’ lang syne his troth he had plighted to Nell;
To Jeannie she spoke o’ a cuddy creel cadger,
An’ as she predicted, just sae it befel.
The cross-bones, the coffin,a ring that was broken,
Betocken’t that Nannie wad never get ane.
Nan swore it was lies the fause spaewife had spoken;
But as yet, true’s the word o’ auld Leezie M’Minn.

Should prowlers by nicht or by day rype your biggin’,
Despoilin’ your coffers o’ gowd and o’ gear,
On the tip-toe o’ hope to auld Leezie gae jeegin’,
Regardless how scoffers an’ scorners may jeer.
She’ll tell ye what’s stolen, she’ll tell ye wha did it,
An’ gin ye hae courage her glass tae keek in,
The face o’ the thief to your e’e she’ll exhibit,
Sae great is the power o’ auld Leezie M’Minn.

Gin Hawkie fa’ back o’ her milk an’ her butter,
Or haply lies rowtin’ elf-shot I’ the strwa,
Let Leezie but sain ‘er, some mystic words mutter,
An’ sune deil haet ails the puir beastie ava!
She’s far kent an’ noted for a’ I hae quoted,
An’ sair she’ll be miss’d when death tucks up her chin.
Tho’ frail noo, an’ feckless, an’ mair than half doted,
Yet show me the peer o’ auld Leezie M’Minn.

Address To A Cricket - by Sarah Leech

This latest posting is a poem entitled Address To A Cricket by East Donegal poetess, Sarah Leech, the Bard of Lettergull.

Sarah, who was the daughter of a linen weaver, had a short but interesting life. She was a
fervent supporter of the Protestant Anti-Repeal cause (which opposed The Catholic Association’s campaign for the repeal of The Act of Union) addressed the Brunswick Club on this issue, and dedicated her one volume of 25 poems, published in 1828, to the President and officers of the club.

Address To A Cricket

At gloamin' when the twilight fa',
And songsters to their nests withdrawn,
A cricket, snugh behind the wa',
Supplies their place,
And in corner sings fu' braw,
Wi' unco grace.

When younkers scamper, ane by aye,
And dowie I am left alane,
You cheer my heart wi'hamely strain,
Or shrill toned chirple,
As cozie roun' the warm hearth-stane,
You nightly hirple.

May wae befa' them, that would gie
A fiddler penny or bawbee,
When they can have sic music free,
Withouten stent-
Much fitter they should keep the fee,
To help their rent.

What tho' your note be aye the same,
In grateful strain I sing your name,
Weel might my muse blush deep wi' shame,
Should she neglect,
To greet you in her humble hame,
Wi' due respect.

And when the nipping frosty win',
Blaws frae the North with whistling din,
Or wintry floods roar o'er the linn,
In foam and spray,
I shall wi' crumbs, when night sets in,
Requite your lay.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The Hawk And The Weazle - by Samuel Thomson

Here's a poem entitled The Hawk And The Weazle, by Samuel Thomson (1766-1816) The Bard of Carngranny. Carngranny is near Templepatrick in County Antrim. Thomson was poor but, unlike many of the other Ulster-Scots folk poets, he was a schoolmaster, albeit of a 'hedge' school. Thomson associated with the intellectual leaders of the Belfast United Irishmen and, between 1792 and 1797, he was one of the most regular contributors (often using a variety of pseudonyms) to the poetry column of the Belfast radical newspaper The Northern Star. After the 1798 Rising failed, Thomson seems to have become more circumspect as he then contributed to the less radical Belfast News-letter. He published three volumes of his poetry (1793, 1799 and 1806).

The Hawk And The Weazle

To town ae morn, as Lizie hie’d
To seel a pickle yarn,
A wanton Whiteret she espy’d,
A sportin at a cairn.
Alang the heath beskirted green,
It play’d wi’ monie a wheel:
She stood and dighted baith her een,
An’ thought it was the Diel
She saw at freaks!

But soon her doubts were a’ dismis’t
A gled cam whist’ling by,
And seiz’d the weazle:- ere it wist,
‘Twas halfway at the sky.
But soon the goss grew feeble like,
And syne began to fa’,
Till down he daded on a dyke,
His thrapple ate in twa;
Let him snuff that.

The weazle aff in triumph walks,
An’ left the bloodless glutton,
A warning sad to future hawks
That grien for weazle’s mutton.
So reprobates, that spitefu’ cross,
Decree their nibour’s ruin,
Are aften forc’d, like foolish goss,
To drink o’ their ain brewin’,
Wha says its wrang.

To Disappointment - by Hugh Porter

Here's a poem entitled To Disappointment by Hugh Porter (c1780-?) the Bard of Moneyslane, taken from his one published volume of poetry (1813). Moneyslane is a townland in County Down, near Ballyroney. Porter was a poor linen weaver but, unlike most of the other Ulster-Scots folk poets, he had a patron, the local Church of Ireland rector, Rev Thomas Tighe. Tighe had links to many well-known literary figures of the day and another of his protégés was Patrick Brontë, father of the famous Brontë sisters.

To Disppointment

O THOU! On mischief ever bent,
As far contemn’d, as weel ye’re kent;
Few fellows will the loss lament,
When Grumphie gets ye;
It seems ye hae been born in lent,
For a’ flesh hates ye.

And O! that ye had never yet
Been born, to keep my heart sae het,
Or had I been endow’d wi’ wit
To keep far frae ye;
For sure on earth, there’s nane less fit
To wingle wi’ ye.

O happy ye! Wha daily drudge
Thro’ dirt an’ dung, without a grudge,
Nor hope, nor fear, can e’er dislodge
Your sluggish pace;
As deaf to honour, on ye trudge,
As to disgrace.

Ye miserable, happy wretches,
Nae canker on your conscience catches –
Nae sic repose the thinker thatches
Frae fear or fright;
But he or weeps, perhaps, or watches
The live-lang night.

Ye’re hale an’ healthie now, an’ therefore
Nae matter what comes next, or wherefore,
What crams your kits, is a’ ye care for
To taste or touch;
An’ what we can be wantin’ mair for,
Ye marvel much.

Wel, happy be, ye peacefu’ pack ye,
Happy as blockishness can mak’ ye,
An’ may vexation ne’er owertak’ ye,
To gar ye grane,
Nor blasted hopes, like mine, distract ye,
Amen, amen.

On Salts - by Robert Huddleston

Here's a poem entitled On Salts by Robert Huddleston (1814-1887) the Bard of Moneyrea. Moneyrea is a village between Comber, Ballygowan and Carryduff which had (and still has) only one (Unitarian) church. The locals used to say:

Moneyrea, sweet and civil,
Yin God and nee divil.

Robert Huddleston was a farmer, gunsmith, lyricist, poet and prose writer. Of all the Ulster-Scots poets, he was probably the most prolific. As well as his two published volumes of poetry and songs (1844 and 1846) there is a large collection of unpublished work. Huddleston was so disillusioned by the poor response to these books that he did not publish any more poetry during the last 40 years of his life. Instead, he concentrated his literary efforts on a novel (The Adventures Of Hughy Funny) but was unable to find anyone willing to publish this. Huddleston is buried in Moneyrea Unitarian church graveyard. Unfortunately, his family headstone (pictured above) has broken and the main part is now lying on the grass. It would be great to see this repaired and some kind of memorial erected celebrating Huddleston's literary work.

About the poem, Huddleston wrote, "To be original is a rare feature in composition. The origin of Salts and that which brought it before the public, was the borrowing of a physic from a friend, to the benefit of a sick heart, to whom the postscript refers."


O, Salts! thy glorious powers tae sing,
What Muse O, wadna spread her wing,
An' tightly lace her sweetest string
Tae gie thee lays;
A just reward to thee to bring,
To chant thy praise.

Ye Doctors 'mid yeir trampin' rife,
'Mang lad an' lass, an' man an' wife,
The king o' Doctors in a trice,
Is guid clean Salts.
Gie them the preference -- meed o' life,
An' health results.

Alas! whan we're wi' sickness groanin',
O, quat your pills an' po'ders schemin':
(But then it's Doctors' interest gloomin,
Wi' pain tae tease;
An' keep poor humans swallowin' human,
Wi' mair disease.)

Be honest, men, nor play the rogue,
Nae mair e'en bruise the snake or toad;
(An' for their hearts bluid to corrode,)
Or poisonous smalts:
Stan' teughly tae the healin' trade,
An' order Salts.

yeir this drug rid, the tither blue,
An' white an' green, an' yellow too;
An' then yeir drawers a motled vow!
Wi' cunnin' names;
But cannie notes the sleekit crew,
Wi' a' yeir schemes.

But this the plan ye tak' tae sell,
Tae feast the e'e an' please the smell;
A dose yei'd gie's tae mak us weel,
Just, just, for thruppence!
But haud ye there, Salts bans yeir skill,
We're weel for ha'pense.

Salts thou for me, and I for you,
Henceforth I hae a frien' that's true;
Ye'll dine but spare, an' never fu',
Ye paukie scroy,
Dae ye intend that chaps like me,
Yeir brew sud buy!

Ah! what disease wad Salts no cure?
They'd near pit by th' allotted hour;
Tho' feeble nerves, an' blood sae frore,
Wi' filth a rustin' --
Tho' dim we shine; sae clean they scour,
We 'gain do glisten.

Us poets, poor discernin' buddies,
Are aft annoy'd amid our studies;
By ane sae vile, the plague o' caddies,
Ca'd Indigestion: --
Salts are the boys that cleans the haggish,
An' tooms the brustin'.

Whan head or gut ache sair ye bothers,
Or pains in rumps, or stuffiin' mothers;
Pit Salts just on the trail my brithers --
Wi' stink an' win'; --
Just hissin' like a bag o' ethers,
Disease is gone.

Whan big my Lord he eats ower much,
Or's got a stappin' in his britch;
Ower roast beef, mutton, wine, or such,
O, thou art physic:
Sweet Salts, thou soon relieves the catch
An' reds the hash o't.

A wee bit ower, an' time tae trickle,
Oh! hear his tripes as rum'lin' keckle;
Away it goes wi' row't an' rattle,
An' rainbow thun'er;
An' tooms the brute - losh! losh! how muckle,
O' perfect scunner.

Whan toddlin' weanies tak' the dwam,
The cheapest Doctor's aye at han';
Just kilt their coaties up them roun,
Nor fear the ail:
But pour the potient liquid doon,
An' soon they're hale.

The love-sick maiden far apart,
'Mang wilds tae moan the waefu' smart;
Tae rouse the canker frae her heart,
Salts what's like thee?
Again she's lively as a lark,
An' brisk's a bee.

Wae worth the silly worthless dug,
Wha wadna raise his voice to laud --
A prey to sorrow, worm, or grub,
Salts thou'rt the devil
That tans the reptiles, fegs the lad
Free's us o' evil.

Wee baby-ba, the womb whan 'scapes,
What, what, preserves it frae th' pox?
Let mother matron 'mid her jokes
Now lagh an' say --
How aft she scour'd it 'mang the crocks,
Tae keep it free.

Out a' night wi' his w--s an' jades,
An' rantin wi' his jolly vagues;
Poor drunken Will a' torn in rags,
An' new gat hame;
O, Salts! how mony earthly plagues
Thou keep'st frae him.

Even the influence to procure,
That Salts are gi'en -- that same they'll cure;
The ---- in a needfu' hour,
Tae speak it plain;
As sure as C----y kept a boar,
That had it on.

For mental, weel as bod'ly ill,
Salts, Salts! the dose 'fore drap or pill --
Per this drug, that drug, Mr. Phill,
Yon glype sae buxsom;
The noblest med'cine in your hall,
Gie him the Epsom.

As suitin' best the silly scarum,
Wham lust an' laziness is at war in:
An' too, yon lass wham pride's devo'rin',
'Thout sense sae fumbled;
Her wi' the souple ---- e'en charm,
An' faith she's humbled.

The rigid bigot in his cause,
Despisin' every others laws;
I carna tho' o' priestcraft's braws,
I swear 'twere better
'Fore let him preach his cursed flaws,
He had the -----

Of Salt's power at reason spier,
I've mark an' but a sample here,
An' what need we for waste our lear,
Or bebble more o't!
We cudna sing their charms 'n a year,
An' set us for it.

Drink Salts, drink Salts, my freens, yeir fill,
An' crystal water frae the rill;
Ye'll lang respect yeir hale an' weel,
Nor tine yeir bliss;
An' fin' my doctorship an' skill
No far amiss.

Ilk man an' maid wha health reveres,
Nor care a fig wha at you sneers,
Come join the corps like flinty fiers,
An' stoutly back us.
Hurrae for Salts! let's gie three cheers,
An' guid black pretaes.


I'm much indebted tae ye madam,
An' for the physic ye sent Rabin,
May never sorrow bite yeir droddum;
But happ'ly blest,
Tae you may still turn fortune's totum,
A lucky cast.

Waes me! poor sorros lonely chiel!
Nae dou't but it will gar ye smile,
Whan i tell ye withoutan' guile,
Just plain r'ugh Rab;
Salts, salts for ance in first rate style
They doon their jab.

Ye'd thocht ae time my guts war churnin',
Anither time I was a' barmin';
A third, a rotin ill I's turnin',
Sae rude in manner:
While growl'd the win' like Mons Meg stormin,
Or distant thunder.

But ower my thrap a wee bit doon,
A wee drap drink my drouth tae droon;
Och, whishu! Care struck up her tune,
Ye may gie't credence;
Savin' yeir present, at the grun'
I got a redence.

Now hale and weel, and blythe and flinty,
Ance mair death bother't, thank ye, thank ye,
An' for yeir kin'ness dame sae denty
'Gain ye'd allow't,
Guid faith I hae a min' tae prent ye
In my new book.

Monday, 9 February 2009

The Auld Wife's Lament For Her Teapot

This latest posting is a poem entitled The Auld Wife's Lament for her Teapot by David Herbison (1800-1880) the Bard of Dunclug. Dunclug is near Ballymena, in County Antrim. Like many of the Ulster-Scots folk poets, Herbison was a weaver by trade. Five separate volumes of his verse were published during his lifetime. These were then reprinted after his death in a single volume, along with additional material.

Alas! Alas! what shall I do,
My auld black pot is broke in two,
In which I did sae often brew
The wee drap tea,
And thought it would hae cheered me through
Life’s weary way.

A better pot,sure, ne’er was made.
It wadna vent the sma’est blade;
Still when the tablecloth was laid
And it appeared
A smile out o’er my visage played
And a’ things cheered.

Before I brought it frae the town
It cost me nearly half-a-crown,
Nor did I grude’t, it was sae roun’,
And very snug –
At every party it was down,
Throughout Dunclug.

Lang after it cam’ to our house
I kept it for our Sunday use;
But when my daughters a’ got spruce,
And wanted men
Ah! then it got the sore abuse
Baith but and ben.

Whene’er their wooers cam’ to see them,
A wee drap tae they be to gie them,
For fear, as I thought, they would lea’ them,
Alone to rove,
They never failed wi’ sweets to free them
Frae ither’s love.

’Twas then my teapot had to thole
The power of mony a blazening coal,
Which gnawed me to the very soul
To hear it crackin’,
While they prepared the buttered roll
For lads to smack on.

They burned it till it was as thin
As my auld wrinkled, bluidless skin,
I still must say it was a sin
To use it sae
For lads that didnae care a pin
About their tae.

But noo my daughters a’ are wed,
And health and peace frae me are fled,
I find it hard to earn my bread
And creamless tea,
And wish I wi’ the pot was laid
Low in the clay.

For ah! I’m sure I’ll never see
Such joys as charmed my youthfu’ e’e –
The days are past when folks like me
Could earn their bread,
My auld wheel now sits silently
Aboon the bed.

And well may Erin weep and wail
The day the wheels began to fail;
Our tradesmen now can scarce get kail
Betimes to eat,
In shipfuls they are doomed to sail
In quest o’ meat!

For that machine that spins the yarn
We’re left unfit our bread to earn;
O Erin! will you ne’er turn stern
Against your foe,
When every auld wife can discern
Your overthrow.

Hornbook's Ghaist - by Francis Boyle

Here's a poem written by Francis Boyle (c1730- post 1811) of Gransha County Down from his 1811 volume Miscellaneous Poems. His was the Gransha near Dundonald rather than the one near Bangor. Although it is often said that Ulster-Scots writers merely imitated the works of Robert Burns, many of Boyle's poems were written before Burns work was published, although this one does appear to have been influenced by Burns.

Interestingly, Robert Burns wrote 'Death and Dr Hornbook' in 1785 as a satire about John Wilson, the son of Glasgow weaver who initially came to teach at Tarbolton and later kept a shop where he also sold drugs and gave out medical advice. A 'hornbook' was a sheet of paper with basic learning tools such as the alphabet, numerals and the Lord's Prayer and this would have been mounted on wood and covered by a protective plate of transparent horn. Burns wrote his poem after hearing Wilson going on about his medical knowledge at the Tarbolton Masonic Lodge. Here's Boyle's poem:


It happen't ance in Donaghadee,
No' monie perches frae the kee,
A gentleman I chanc't to see,
'Mang ither foks,
Wha deign't to talk a while wi' me,
An' sklent his jokes.

He saw that I was auld an' gray,
An' had but little for to say,
My garb was neither mean nor gay,
Just kintra weed,
An' as it was a frosty day,
Had tie't my head.

He took me for some kintra clown,
Wha liv't far distant frae the town;
He'll rue his folly I'll be boun',
To slight my leuk;
I'll spread his fame the kintra roun',
In my new beuk.

I hear he has attain't some skill,
To wait on women when they're ill,
An can prescribe sic dose or pill,
As mak's them worse;
An' braid receipts for them he'll fill,
To swall his purse.

But yet mair famous for his cures
O' batter't bawds, an' pockie whores,
While here an' there he taks his tours,
'Mang brothel-houses;
He sudna scorn my mental pow'rs,
Nor slight the Muses.

These sportin' Does, like Mrs. Clarke,
That win their wages i' the dark,
An' warm their logies wi' their wark,
Which staps their water
They maun gie Hornbook monie a mark
To mak' them better.

Young Tarry-breeks is come ashore,
Thro' storms an' tempests that did roar -
Revisits now his paramour,
The sportin' maid,
An' swears she's sprightly, aft an' fore,
An' fit for trade.

Some folk will say he's but a quack,
But that maun be a great mistak';
He cur't young Jamie, Wull an' Jack,
An' teuk their fees,
An' mim-mouth't Meg, the ridden hack,
O' her disease.

Nae Hornbook bred in shire o' Ayr,
Wi' our new doctor can compare;
My lads, jog on, an' never spare
To warm their tail;
Twa or three days in Hornbook's care,
Will mak' thee hale.

As Jock does live at the sea-side,
He sud bathe aften in the tide;
To brace his nerves, an' clean his hide,
In the saut water;
Perhaps this might allay his pride,

An' stap his clatter.

Hoo Tae Mak Tablet

This here's hoo tae mak Tablet. Gin ye dinnae haed it afore, it's like fudge onie ye dinnae hae tae chew fur it jist melts in yer moo. It's no hard tae mak an it's awfu nice, but dinnae cum rinnin whun yer teeth faa oot!

Whut’s In it

Twa pun o Caster Shugger
Thie oonces o Watter
Twa oonces o Butter
Twa tablepoons o Lyle’s Golden Syrup
Yin wee tin o Condensed Milk
Hauf a tayspoon o Vanilla

Hoo Tae Mak It

1. Pit tha hale lot intae a pot an warm it up tae tha shugger haes aa melted.
2. Keep stirrin aa tha time tae it biles an let it bile awa fur a guid hauf oor.
3. Tak it aff, gie it a guid batin an teem it oot intae a weel-creeshed tin.
4. Gie it a while tae cool doon an merk it oot fur cuttin, but dinnae cut it tae it’s coul.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Scrabo Snowscape

Here's Scrabo from my front gates. Doesn't it look great with a bit of snow? Probably not so good tomorrow morning if it's all turned to slush!

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Fae Cowie's Craig

Here's a poem I wrote a couple of years ago called Fae Cowie's Craig. You'll do well to find it named on a map, but Cowie's Craig (pictured above) is the highest point up at the Lead Mines between Newtownards and Conlig and, when I was wee, my dad often used to take my brother and me up there as it's a fantastic vantage point. Fast forward 30+ years to a Saturday, when I looked out at it from my bedroom window and decided to take my dogs there for a walk. Later on, as I stood there, with the wind in my hair, I realised that many of the places I could see have played an important part in the history of the area - and that prompted me to put pen to paper.


Stud thonner, oan tha leevin roak
O Cowie’s Craig,- grun alow banefire bleck -
Pit me in mine o Ninetie-Echt,
Tha nicht lift rid fur simmer sodjers trysts.
Drumhirk an Gransha fairmers’ sins,
Cottown chiels, Green Boys o Greba, Hairts o Doon
Turn’t oot tae richt sim wrangs, an
Hunners deed, at Sanfiel an Ba’nahinch.

An, doon tha Lough, thon’s Chapel Isle,
Raxin owre, tha oul yins roàd, tae Nendrum.
Nearhaun bes Cummer, ticht wee toon,
Aye weel-kent fur her whuskey - an early
Prittas. Aa’s quate noo, nae millies
Doon at Andras’, whaur weel-aff fowk noo bide,
Titanic Tam’s mindit wi a Haa, an
“Yin mair shot” G’lespie stauns in stane.

Luk - thon’s Tha Dee, whaur oor yins cum
Fae Gallowa, fower hunnert yeir syne noo.
Fowkgates, thrift, kirk an tung the’ brocht,
An turn’t tha wastit lan tae mak it guid.
Here, Innismurray brocht tha guns
Bak in Fowerteen, tae fecht agin Hame Rule.
An thonner’s Bellycopeland mill,
Thrang nae mair, waas lichtit wi simmer sin.

Whitespots, bes whut we caa this lann
Whaur yince fowk hoked fur lead (the’ caa’d it “whites”)
Doon coul wat mirky pots, tae fill
Their childer’s wames whun prittas haed tha blicht.
Abune tha plantin, Helen’s Toor,
Whaur Carson’s men camp’t fornent Bleckwood’s place,
Bellyleidy, o Clan Hugh Boy,
Afore tha Somme left Ulster fowk hairt-scaudit.

Noo scrammlers swairm owre whunnie knowes,
Fowk oot a danner deaved wi thar bizzin
Yeir roon, forbye laired in slonks an gutters,
Breeks clabbert wi glar tha wuntèr days.
Aa’s quate noo, an twathie deer’s pit up wi
Snokin dugs, ir sim siclike, an
Far awa, tha soon o lambegs
Dunnerin owre Conlig hill at dayligan.

An, unner Scraba, Newtown bes,
Braw bowle whaur Ah wus bakit – thar’s nane her make.
Her Meer’s chain o gowden floors
Wrocht, that skeelie Granda Dickson growed. Here
Boul Colonel Paddy caa’d his hame,
An Lyttle spun his cantie wabs o
Ards an Tullynagardy Glen, whaur
Daft Eddie foon McFadden, by tha Forkins.

By Movilla’s green hill thonner
Bes tha last lang road A’ll tak,
Life’s travel’s irnae daen, but, noo,
Ma ticket no yet clip’t, A mak fur hame.
Sauf yince mair, A staun lukkin oot
Ma gavel windae, owre oul reuch fiels o
Yella-floor’t whuns, drochtit gress, an
Tummelt doon stane dykes, tae Cowie’s Craig.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Tullynagardy Glen

Here's anither yin o tha photos A tuk o tha view fae ma wee hoose, lukkin iver tha Tullynagardy Glen, tha Crawfordsburn Road an Cairn Wood.

Tha Tullynagardy Glen (tha OS caa's it "The Golden Glen") is whaur Daft Eddie's Cave wus in W G Lyttle's buik, Daft Eddie or The Smugglers Of Strangford Lough. Mr McFadden wus tuk tae tha cave efter he wus kidnapped by Tha Merry Hearts o Down. A mine yin day gan doon tha glen lukkin fur tha cave an faain on ma arse in tha burn! Whut A didnae hear tae efter is it's meant tae be unner tha watter o tha Heich Dam. A wunner did onie o tha boys in tha Wilefowlers see ocht o it twathie yeir syne whun the' haed aa tha watter let oot fur tae big thon hydro-electric thang doon thonner?

Aamaist in tha wurds o Monty Python, noo fur simthang else aathegither. A'm no lang beck fae tha hoose o a freen . A wus haein bither gettin a thang daen, an this lass is in tha richt line o wark sae, tha mair A haednae clappt een oan her this ages, A gied her a caa tae esk if she wud dae this thang fur me, an wioot a thocht says she tae me, "Nae bither, cum on iver". Noo it wusnae ocht immoral, ir agin tha laa, but it wus a wee hair oot o tha ordinar, sae A wus quare an gled. Tae freens - whaur wud we aa be wioot them!

A guid feelin ...

A lukked oot ma bathroom windae this morn an seen a wunnerfu sicht - no yin, no twa, but thie burds o prey (A thocht the' wur rid kites, but A'm telt the' cudnae be on accoont o hoo the' wur onie bin pit beck intae NI in 2008, an the' wur maist likely buzzards) fleein roon aboon tha fiels at tha beck o ma hoose. Thon soart o thang daes yer hairt guid an A reckon it's pit me in guid foarm fur tha rest o tha day, an thon's a guid thang fur A'm aboot tae stairt a baa rollin theday that cud (fing'rs crossed) mak a quare difference tae ma wye o life.

A cudnae fin tha camera in time tae get tha burds, but A tuk a wheen o shots o tha view oniehoo. A hinnae this wabsteid warked oot yit fur it's onie lettin me pit tha yin up. Mebbe A'll get it soarted oot later on.
Aa fur noo ...

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Bairnies Cuddle Doon - Part 2

If anyone's interested, I found out a bit more about Alexander Anderson, the author of Bairnies Cuddle Doon. It seems he was quite a guy.

Bairnies Cuddle Doon

Here's a YouTube link to Jean Weir from the Greba (Greyabbey) in County Down reciting a lovely wee poem called Cuddle Doon. Jeannie remembers learning this at school.

The original text (Jeannie's varies slightly) is as follows:

Cuddle Doon
by Alexander Anderson

The bairnies cuddle doon at nicht
Wi muckle faught and din.
"Oh try an' sleep, ye waukrife rogues,
Your faither's comin' in."
They niver heed a word I speak,
I try tae gie a froon,
But aye I hap' them up an' cry
"Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!"

Wee Jamie wi' the curly heid,
He aye sleeps next the wa'
Bangs up and cries, "I want a piece!"
The rascal starts them a'.
I rin and fetch them pieces, drinks,
They stop a wee the soun',
Then draw the blankets up an' cry,
"Noo, weanies, cuddle doon."

But ere five minutes gang, wee Rab
Cries oot frae neath the claes,
"Mither, mak' Tam gie ower at aince,
He's kittlin' wi' his taes."
The mischief in that Tam for tricks,
He'd bother half the toon,
But aye I hap them up an' cry,
"Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!"

At length they hear their faither's fit
An' as he steeks the door,
They turn their faces tae the wa'
An Tam pretends tae snore.
"Hae a' the weans been gude?" he asks,
As he pits aff his shoon.
"The bairnies, John, are in their beds
An' lang since cuddled doon!"

An' just afore we bed oorsel's
We look at oor wee lambs,
Tam has his airm roun' wee Rab's neck
An Rab his airm roun' Tam's.
I lift wee Jamie up the bed
An' as I straik each croon,
I whisper till my heart fills up:
"Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!"

The bairnies cuddle doon at nicht
Wi' mirth that's dear tae me.
But soon the big warl's cark an' care
Will quaten doon their glee.
Yet come what will to ilka ane,
May He who rules aboon,
Aye whisper, though their pows be bald:
"Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!"

The poem was written by Alexander Anderson (1845-1909) who came from a working-class family in Kirkconnel, Scotland, and worked on the railways before becoming Chief Librarian at the University of Edinburgh. There's much more about Anderson on the following link: