Wednesday, 11 February 2009

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'.

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