Sunday, 15 February 2009

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.

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