Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The Boy in the Train by Mary Campbell Smith

Whit wey does the engine say 'Toot-toot'?

 Is it feart to gang in the tunnel?

Whit wey is the furnace no pit oot 

When the rain gangs doon the funnel? 

What'll I hae for my tea the nicht?

A herrin', or maybe a haddie?

Has Gran'ma gotten electric licht? 

Is the next stop Kirkcaddy? 

There's a hoodie-craw on yon turnip-raw! 

An' seagulls! - sax or seeven. 

I'll no fa' oot o' the windae, Maw,

Its sneckit, as sure as I'm leevin'. 

We're into the tunnel! we're a' in the dark!

But dinna be frichtit, Daddy, 

We'll sune be comin' to Beveridge Park, 

And the next stop's Kirkcaddy! 

Is yon the mune I see in the sky?

 It's awfu' wee an' curly, 

See! there's a coo and a cauf ootbye, 

An' a lassie pu'in' a hurly! 

He's chackit the tickets and gien them back, 

Sae gie me my ain yin, 

Daddy. Lift doon the bag frae the luggage rack, 

For the next stop's Kirkcaddy! 

There's a gey wheen boats at the harbour mou', 

And eh! dae ya see the cruisers? 

The cinnamon drop I was sookin' the noo 

Has tummelt an' stuck tae ma troosers. . . 

I'll sune be ringin' ma Gran'ma's bell, 

She'll cry, 'Come ben, my laddie', 

For I ken mysel' by the queer-like smell 

That the next stop's Kirkcaddy! 

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Irish Cottier's Death and Burial

(One of my favourite poems by Orr. I am especially fond of the fifth verse)

 A Highland Funeral, Sir James Guthrie, 1882

By James Orr
The blameless Cottier, wha his youth had pass'd
Erin! my country! preciously adorn'd
With every beauty, and with every worth,
Thy grievances through time shall not be scorn'd,
For powerful friends to plead thy cause step forth:
But more unblest, oppression, want, and dearth,
Did during life, distressfully attend
The poor neglected native of thy North,
Whose fall I sing. He found no powerful friend,
'Till Death was sent to Heaven to bid his soul ascend.
In temperance, an' felt few pains when auld,
The prey o' pleurisy, lies low at last,
And aft his thoughts are by delirium thrall'd:
Yet while he raves, he prays in words weel wal'd,
An' mutters through his sleep o' truth an' right;
An' after pondering deep, the weans are tald
The readiest way he thinks they justly might
Support themsels thro' life, when he shall sink in night.
Wi' patient watchfu'ness, lasses an' lads,
Careful' an' kin', surroun' his clean caff bed,
Ane to his lips the coolin' cordial ha'ds,
An' ane behin' supports his achin' head;
Some bin' the arm that lately has been bled,
An' some burn bricks his feet mair warm to mak;
If e'er he doze, how noiselessly they tread!
An' stap the lights to mak the bield be black,
An' aft the bedside lea, an' aft slip saftly back.
Rang'd roun' the hearth, where he presides nae mair,
Th' inquirin' nybers mourn their sufferin' frien';
An' now an' then divert awa their care,
By tellin' tales to please some glaiket wean,
Wha's e'e soon fills whan told about the pain
Its sire endures, an' what his loss wad be;
An' much they say, but a', alas! in vain,
To soothe the mither, wha ha'f pleas'd could see
Her partner eas'd by death, though for his life she'd die.
And while they're provin' that his end is sure
By strange ill omens - to assuage his smart
The minister comes in, wha' to the poor,
Without a fee performs the doctor's part:
An' while wi' hope he soothes the suff'rer's heart,
An' gies a cheap, safe recipe, they try
To quat braid Scotch, a task that foils their art;
For while they join his converse, vain though shy,
They monie a lang learn'd word misca' an' misapply.
An' lo! the sick man's dyin' words to 'tend,
Th' alarm'd auld circle gather roun', an' weep;
Deceiv'd by hope, they thought till now he'd mend,
But he thought lang in death's embrace to sleep.
"Let ithers will," he says, "a golden heap,
I can but lea my blessin' an' advice ----
Shield your poor mither, an' her counsel keep;
An' you, my senior sons, that ay were wise,
Do for my late born babes, an' train them for the skies.
"Be honest an' obligin'; if ye thrive
Be meek; an' firm whan crosses come your road;
Should rude men wrang ye, to forgie them strive;
An' gratefu' be for benefits bestow'd:
Scorn nae poor man wha bears oppression's load,
Nor meanly cringe for favours frae the proud;
In ae short sentence - serve baith man an' God.
Sae, whan your clay lies mould'rin' in a shroud,
Your saul shall soar to Heaven, an' care nae mair becloud."
His strength here fail'd, but still affection's e'e
Spak on; a moment motionless he lay;
Bade "Peace be wi' them!" turn'd his head awee,
And pass'd through death's dark vale without dismay.
The speechless widow watch'd the stiff'ning clay,
And shed some "nat'ral tears" - rack'd, yet resign'd;
To loud laments the orphan groupe gied way,
An' mourn'd, unfelt, the wants an' wrangs they'd find,
Flung friendless on the warl, that's seldom unco kind.
Come hither, sons of Plenty! an' relieve
The bonny bairns, for labour yet owre wee,
An' that mild matron, left in life's late eve,
Without a stay the ills o' age to dree:
Had I your walth, I hame wad tak' wi' me
The lamb that's lookin' in my tear-wat face;
An' that dejected dame should sit rent free
In some snug cot, that I wad hae the grace
To visit frequently, and bid her hardships cease.
Cou'd he whose limbs they decently hae stretch'd,
The followers o' freets awake an' mark,
What wad he think o' them, he oft beseeched
To be mair wise than mind sic notions dark?
To bare the shelves o' plates they fa' to wark;
Before the looking-glass a claith they cast;
An' if a clock were here, nae ear might hark
Her still'd han's tell how hours an' moments pass'd;
Ignorance bred sic pranks, an' custom gars them last.

But see what crowds to wauk the Cottier come!
Maist frae respect, but some to gape-seed saw:
Douce men an' wives step forward to the room,
The youths on forms sit rang'd roun' ilka wa';
Some at a plate light pipes as white as snaw;
Some hark in neuks wi' lasses whom they prize;
Some banter simple nymphs, their parts to shaw;
But though a laugh be sometimes like to rise,
They dinna either death or the deceas'd despise.
Belyve an auld man lifts the Word o' God,
Gies out a line, an' sings o' grief an' pain;
Reads o'er a chapter, chosen as it should,
That maks them sure the dead shall rise again;
An' prays, that he, wha's hand has gie'n and ta'en,
May be the orphan's guide, the widow's stay;
An' that, rememb'rin' death ere health be gane,
They a' may walk in wisdom's Heaven-ward way,
Like him, the man o' worth, that's now a clod o' clay.
An' now a striplin', wi' becomin' grace,
Han's the wauk-supper, in a riddle, roun';
Hard bread, an' cheese, might nicest palates please,
Bought frae a huxter in the nyb'rin' town;
An' gi'es them gills a piece o' rum sae brown,
By polished sots wi' feign'd reluctance pried;
Though here an' there may sit a menseless loun,
The thoughtfu' class consider poor folks need,
An' only "kiss the cup," an' hardly ance break bread.

While thus they sit, the widow lifts the sheet,
To kiss the corps that worms will shortly gnaw;
Some argue Scripture - some play tricks - some greet;
Here they're asleep - an' there they slip awa'.
Folk wha lay list'ning 'till the cock wad craw,
Now rise frae rest, an' come to sit a while;
Salute their frien's, and speer for their folk a',
An' to the fire step ben, frae which a file
O' warmer rustics rise, polite in simplest stile.
Syne wi' anither glass they hail day-light,
An' crack mair cruse o' bargains, farms, an' beasts;
Or han' tradition down, an' ither fright,
Wi' dreadfu' tales o' witches, elves, an' ghaists.
The soger lad, wha on his pension rests,
Tells how he fought, an' proudly bares his scaur;
While unfledg'd gulls, just looking owre their nests,
Brag how they lately did their rivals daur,
Before their first sweethearts, an' dashed them i' the glaur.

An' while some lass, though on their cracks intent,
Turns to the light and sleely seems to read,
The village sires, wha kent him lang, lament
The dear deceas'd, an' praise his life an' creed;
For if they crav'd his help in time o' need,
Or gied him trust, they prov'd him true an' kin';
"But he," they cry, "wha blames his word or deed,
Might say the sun, that now begins to shine,
Is rising i' the wast, whare he'll at e'en decline."

Warn'd to the Cottier's burial, rich an' poor
Cam' at the hour, tho' win' an' rain beat sair;
An' monie met it at the distant moor,
An' duly, time-about, bore up the bier,
That four men shouther'd through the church-yard drear.
Twa youths knelt down, and humbly in the grave
Laid their blest father. Numbers shed a tear,
Hop'd for an end like his, and saftly strave
To calm his female frien's, wha dolefully did rave.

An' while the sexton earth'd his poor remains,
The circling crowd contemplatively stood,
An' mark'd the empty sculls, an' jointless banes,
That, cast at random, lay like cloven wood:
Some stept outbye, an' read the gravestanes rude,
That only tald the inmates' years an' names;
An' ithers, kneeling, stream'd a saut, saut flood,
On the dear dust that held their kinsfolks' frames ----
Then, through the gate they a' pass'd to their diff'rent hames.

Erin! my country! while thy green sward gilds
The good man's grave, whose fall I strove to sing,
Ten thousand Cottiers, toiling on thy wilds,
Prize truth and right 'bove ev'ry earthly thing:
Full many a just man makes thy work-shops ring;
Full many a bright man strips thy meads to mow;
Closer in thy distress to thee they cling;
And though their fields scarce daily bread bestow,
Feel thrice more peace of mind, than those who crush them low.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014


Racently A wus mindit o' tha weel kent poem by Florence M. Wilson, 'The man from God knows where'. Noo a brave monie o’ ye’s wull hae herd its saxteen verses bit thur’s ithers that wullnae oor haenae. Maebae the’ hae bin pit aff by tha company it noo keeps oor tha matter o’ tha verses; fur thur’s thon wha cannae git thur heid roon tha presbyterian led risin o’ ’98 ava. Bit ma freens, gin ye’ll heed this aul han, ye’ll tak oan yer ain culture afore ithers tak it fae ye. Gin ye didnae credit me jist tak a wee gleek oan tha internet fur tha '98 risin, tae ye see hoo it’s scrieved. Onie road whether ye hae cum acroass tha poem befur oor no, it’s a pert o’ oor Ulster-Scots heritage and a canty rhyme furbye. Judge fur yersel.

The Man From God Knows Where
Florence M Wilson

Into our townlan' on a night of snow
rode a man from God knows where; 
None of us bade him stay or go, 
nor deemed him friend, nor damned him foe, 
but we stabled his big roan mare; 
for in our townlan' we're decent folk, 
and if he didn't speak, why none of us spoke, 
and we sat till the fire burned low.

We're a civil sort in our wee place 
so we made the circle wide 
round Andy Lemon's cheerful blaze, 
and wished the man his length of days 
and a good end to his ride.
He smiled in under his slouchy hat, 
says he: 'There's a bit of a joke in that, 
for we ride different ways.'

The whiles we smoked we watched him stare 
from his seat fornenst the glow. 
I nudged Joe Moore: 'You wouldn't dare 
to ask him who he's for meeting there, 
and how far he has got to go?'
And Joe wouldn't dare, nor Wully Scott, 
And he took no drink - neither cold nor hot, 
this man from God knows where.

It was closing time, and late forbye, 
when us ones braved the air.
I never saw worse (may I live or die)
than the sleet that night, an' I says, says I:
'You'll find he's for stopping there.' 
But at screek o'day, through the gable pane
I watched him spur in the peltin' rain, 
an' I juked from his rovin' eye.

Two winters more, then the Trouble year, 
when the best that a man could feel 
was the pike that he kept in hidin's near, 
till the blood o' hate an' the blood o' fear 
would be redder nor rust on the steel.
Us ones quet from mindin' the farms
Let them take what we gave wi' the weight o' our arms
from Saintfield to Kilkeel.

In the time o' the Hurry, we had no lead 
we all of us fought with the rest 
an' if e'er a one shook like a tremblin' reed, 
none of us gave neither hint nor heed, 
nor ever even'd we'd guessed.
We men of the North had a word to say,
an'we said it then, in our own dour way, 
an' we spoke as we thought was best.

All Ulster over, the weemin cried
for the stan'in' crops on the lan'.
Many's the sweetheart and many's the bride 
would liefer ha' gone to where he died, 
and ha' mourned her lone by her man. 
But us ones weathered the thick of it 
and we used to dander along and sit 
in Andy's, side by side.

What with discourse goin' to and fro, 
the night would be wearin' thin,
yet never so late when we rose to go 
but someone would say: 'do ye min' thon' snow, 
an 'the man who came wanderin'in?' 
and we be to fall to the talk again, 
if by any chance he was one o' them 
The man who went like the win'.

Well 'twas gettin' on past the heat o' the year 
when I rode to Newtown fair; 
I sold as I could (the dealers were near 
only three pounds eight for the Innish steer, 
an' nothin' at all for the mare!) 
I met M'Kee in the throng o' the street, 
says he: 'The grass has grown under our feet 
since they hanged young Warwick here.',

And he told me that Boney had promised help 
to a man in Dublin town.
Says he: 'If you've laid the pike on the shelf, 
you'd better go home hot-fut by yourself, 
an' once more take it down.'
So by Comber road I trotted the grey 
and never cut corn until Killyleagh 
stood plain on the risin' groun'.

For a wheen o' days we sat waitin' the word 
to rise and go at it like men, 
but no French ships sailed into Cloughey Bay 
and we heard the black news on a harvest day 
that the cause was lost again; 
and Joey and me, and Wully Boy Scott, 
we agreed to ourselves we'd as lief as not 
ha' been found in the thick o' the slain.

By Downpatrick goal I was bound to fare 
on a day I'll remember, feth; 
for when I came to the prison square 
the people were waitin' in hundreds there 
an' you wouldn't hear stir nor breath! 
For the sodgers were standing, grim an' tall, 
round a scaffold built there foment the wall,
an' a man stepped out for death! 

I was brave an' near to the edge of the throng, 
yet I knowed the face again,
an' I knowed the set, an' I knowed the walk 
an' the sound of his strange up-country talk, 
for he spoke out right an' plain.
Then he bowed his head to the swinging rope, 
whiles I said 'Please God' to his dying hope 
and 'Amen' to his dying prayer 
that the wrong would cease and the right prevail, 
for the man that they hanged at Downpatrick gaol 
was the Man from God knows where!

Tha Big Stane

Fur thon o’ ye’s no sae familiar wae tha Ards, tha big stane lees oan tha shore o’ Strangford Lough twathry mile fae tha Flood Gates. Ay, A hae mine o’ passin it ivery Saturday oan  ma wye intae Newton tae pick up oor weekly ration o’ soda bried an proota-oaten farls fae tha Brides Parlour. A aye thocht it fittin that this reminder o’ nature’s pooer haed a wee bible verse scrieved oan the side o’ it. A tradition whuch A’m gled tae say is still carriet oan tae this day. Hooaniver no ivery yin that went fur a danner tae tha big stane wus thur fur religious instruction, it wud seem that it wus a popular coortin spot forbye, specially fur thon ‘born in aul Newton not far from the Bowton’ es ye can fin oot fur yersels alow.

Images obtained from - Newtownards a pictorial history

The Big Stane

I was born in aul Newtown not far from the Bowtown
The first sound I heard was Walkers aul horn
Me Ma rocked the cradle, me Da played the fiddle
And I sucked a bottle of John Barley Corn.

I can still hear the laughter of the kaliman after
I still feel delight at the sound of her name
At the first kiss she gave me nothing could save me
She kissed me at the bottom of the aul dummies lane.

While walking for pleasure one fine summers evening
I met with my true love down by the big stane
We fell into courtin while gathering cockles
Now cockles and courtin can be a rough game

As the shadow of sunlight began to get dimmer
I felt a bit rough round by the big stane
Now sands good for building but no good for courtin
So stay on the grass when you are at the big stane

The days they got shorter and my love got bigger
Her Da got crosser and I got the blame
A shotgun was loaded and nearly exploded
You’ll pay for your courtin down by the big stane

One merry spring mornin our wedding was dawning
We met at the Church in the aul dummies lane
Her Ma she was cryin her Da he was cursin
And my son was born before we got hame.

He was born in aul Newtown not far from the Bowtown
The first sound I heard was Walkers aul horn
Now she rocks the cradle and I play the fiddle
And he sucks a bottle of John Barley Corn.
And he sucks a bottle of John Barley Corn.

My thanks to Mark Anderson for his contribution to this posting

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Cannae Thole Ye!

Cannae Thole Ye!

Hello aul freens. Hoo ir ye daein? This week A'd laik tae taak tae ye aboot yin o ma favourite Ulster-Scots wurds, thole. Tae aa thon wha hadnae tha benefit o bein brocht up wae tha hamely tongue, thole means tae endure oor suffer bit laik aa guid Ulster-Scots wurds it can bae employt in wheen o different wyes.
Gin thurs a creeter ye cannae stan, weel ye cud tell him that ye cannae thole him, tha mair it micht earn ye a clash roon tha heid. Whuch leads me oan tae tha nixt use o thole, haein tae suffer a bit o a hurt. Ay, gin ye hae an injury o sim sort ye micht bae toul tae thole it tae its better.

Oor ye micht cum acroass a carnaptious aul bessom thats sae crabbit, shae cud hardly thole hersel. An then thurs tha cretter whas that jealous he cudnae thole tha thocht o anither bodie haein mair nor him. Ay, tholes a richt handy wurd tae ken. Bit afore ye mak up yer mine ye cannae thole oany mair o ma bletherin All stap an lee yes wae a poem scrived by tha Coonty Doon writer an poet George Francis Savage Armstrong caad, A Cannae Thole Ye!

Ye may be clivver, may hae won
A wheen o' honour 'nayth the sun
But, whatsaee'er ye've earn'd or done,
A cannae thole ye!

Ye may be genial noo and then
Wi' helpless waens an' humble men;
But, though ye'd gilt auld Poortith's den,
A cannae thole ye!

Ye may be guid; ye may be great;
Ye may be born tae rule the State;
But, though ye rowl'd the wheels o' Fate,
A cannae thole ye!

Ye may hae drawn yer watery bluid
Frae Noe's sel' that sail'd the Flood;
But, though in Noe's breeks ye stud,
A cannae thole ye!

Ye may be lord o' mony a rood;
Yer smile may mak' a monarch prood;
But, though the De'il afore ye boo'd,
A cannae thole ye!

It's nae that ye hae din me wrang;
It's nae A feel a jealous pang;
It's jist that, be ye short or lang,

A cannae thole ye!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Oor Ain Saint

17.03.14 Templepatrick

(taken from this weeks 'Fae tha pen o' an Aul Han)
Greetins aul freens A hape yer aa weel. This week folk fae aa airts an pairts wull bae dressin up laik leprehauns, paintin shamroakes oan thur bakes an drinkin green concoctions that wud mak ye seek jist tae luk at thum. The’ hae sim daft notion that thur antics ir simhoo connected tae Saint Petherick. Hooaniver tha truth is nane o’ thon things haes ocht ava tae dae wae tha missionary wha cum tae bring Christianity tae Airlan.
Aye, ye can bae sur tha streets o’ monies a toon an city wull bae crooded wae folk wavin flags an singin sangs. Bit a wunner wull thur bae onie yin stannin oan tha wee shore atween Millisle and Donaghadee in tha toonlan o’ Templepatrick (Church of Patrick). A wud bae mair nor surprised gin onie yin kens that this wee streetch o’ lan is whur Petherick lanit, havin sail’t acroass tha echteen mile o’ watter fae Portpatrick in Scotland.
‘A jalouse yer wrang Aul Han,’ A hear ye’s say. ‘Sur it’s no even mentioned by tha Tourist folk.’ Weel ye dinnae hae tae tak ma wurd fur it, in years gan by ye cud o’ fun mention o’ tha fact in monies an epistle. Tak fur example oor aul freen W.G. Lyttle’s “The Bangor Season” published in 1888. Aye an gin thon’s no guid enech fur ye, ye can fin it mentioned in “Tha Montgomery Manuscripts” (fae tha earlie saxteen hunners) whur it tells o’ hoo tha O’Neils wur fit tae show tha Montgomeries tha very spot whur Patrick cum ashore. A fact that nae doot haed great bearin oan Patrick Montgomery’s decision tae settle in Templepatrick an big a grand hoose, whas coat o’ arms can still be seen tae this day.
Bit A jalouse it disnae sit weel wae sim folk that Petherick aamaist certainly cum fae Scotland oor that he lanit in whut was tae becum tha first hame o’ tha Scots in Ulster. A wunner, daes thon mak him Ulster-Scots?

Onie road, gin ye happen by thon wee negleckit spot ootside Donaghadee. Ye cud dae wurse thon tae perk yer motor an tak a wee jaunt doon tae tha shore whur Petherick first brocht tha gospel tae Airlan.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Introduction to the New Testament in Braid Scots - 1901

"The New Testament in Braid Scots"

Preface: "Thar are mony folks, wha hae spoken English a' their grown-up days, wha like to gang back to the tongue o' their bairnhood, i' the mirk and shadows o' auld age. Thar are ithers wha seem tae tak better to the Word when it comes to them wi' a wee o' the Scottish birr. And thar are a hantle o' folk and I meet them a'gate--wha dinna speak Scots theirsels, but are keen to hear it, and like to read it. "And thar is anither consideration--the Scots tongue is no gettin extendit, and some folk think it may be tint a'thegither or 'or lang. And God's Word is for a'men; and ony lawfu' means ane can use to get folk to read it, and tak tent til't, is richt and proper. For a' thae reasons and ithers I coud bring forrit, I hae putten the New Testatment intil Braid Scots. Lat nae man think it is a vulgar tongue--a mere gibberish to be dune wi' as sune as ane is bye the schule-time. It is an ancient and honourable tongue; wi' rutes deep i' the yird; aulder than muckle o' the English. It cam doon till us throwe oor Gothic and Pictish forebears; it was heard on the battle-field wi' Bruce; it waftit the triumphant prayers and sangs o' the Martyrs intil Heeven; it dirl't on the tongue o' John Knox, dencouncin wrang; it sweeten't a' the heevenlie letters o' Samuel Rutherford; and aneath the theek o'mony a muirland cottage it e'en noo carries thanks to Heeven, and brings the blessins doon!........." "And I haena putten pen to paper unbidden. A wheen screeds o' the Word dune intil Scots I had at times putten afore the public een; and folk wad write me, "Hae ye ony mair o't? Is the hail Testament in Scots to be gotten?" till I begude to think that aiblins Providence had gien me the Scots blude and the Scots tongue, wi' the American edication, for the vera reason that--haein baith lang'ages--I soud recommend the Word in Scots; and juist Scots eneuch not to be unfathomable to the ordinar English reader." "Whiles thar has been a chance o'making the meanin planer; whiles a Scots phrase o' unco tenderness or wondrous pith coud come in. And at a' times, ahint the pen that was movin, was a puir but leal Scots heart, fu' o' prayer that this sma' effort micht be acceptit o' the dear Maister--and, survivin a' the misca'in o' the pernickity and the fashionable--micht bring the memoryh o' a worthy tongue, and the better knowledge o' a Blessed Saviour, to this ane and that ane, as they micht chance to read it."

William Wye Smith (The Rev.) St. Catherines Canada