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