1804 Poem, James Orr, 'Donegore Hill'

Author: James Orr

Date: 1804

Source: Poem: ‘Donegore Hill’, from Poems, on Various Subjects, by James Orr (Belfast: Printed by Smyth & Lyons, 1804).

Comments: James Orr (1770-1816), a weaver from Ballycarry in East Antrim, is sometimes regarded as the best Ulster-Scots ‘rhyming weaver’ of his generation. A close friend and associate of Samuel Thomson, he penned over 150 poems in his lifetime and became firmly established as the Bard of the common people. An account of his life and poetry can be found in the ‘Introduction’ to The Country Rhymes of James Orr by Philip Robinson (Belfast, 1992).

Doc. ref. no.: USLS/TB/Poetry/1800-1899/001


Ephie’s base bairntime, trail-pike brood,

Were arm’d as weel as tribes that stood;

Yet on the battle ilka cauf

Turn’d his backside, an’ scamper’d aff.

Psalm 78, v. 9

The dew-draps wat the fiels o’ braird,

That soon the war-horse thortur’d;

An falds were op’d by monie a herd

Wha lang ere night lay tortur’d;

Whan chiels wha grudg’d to be sae tax’d

An tyth’d by rack-rent blauth’ry,

Turn’d out en masse, as soon as ax’d —

And unco throuither squath’ry

Were we, that day.

While close-leagu’d crappies rais’d the hoards

O’ pikes, pike-shafts, forks, firelocks,

Some melted lead - some saw’d deal-boards —

Some hade, like hens in byre-neuks:

Wives baket bonnocks for their men,

Wi’ tears instead o’ water;

An’ lasses made cockades o’ green

For chaps wha us’d to flatter

Their pride ilk day.

A brave man firmly leain’ hame

I ay was proud to think on;

The wife-obeyin’ son o’ shame

Wi’ kindlin’ e’e I blink on:

“Peace, peace be wi’ ye! — ah! return

Ere lang and lea the daft anes” —

“Please guid,” quo he, “before the morn

In spite o’ a’ our chieftains,

An’ guards, this day.”

But when the pokes o’ provender

Were slung on ilka shou’der,

Hags, wha to henpeck didna spare,

Loot out the yells the louder. —

Had they, whan blood about their heart

Cauld fear made cake, an’ crudle,

Ta’en twa rash gills frae Herdman’s[1] quart,

’Twad rous’d the calm, slow puddle

I’ their veins that day.

Now Leaders, laith to lea the rigs

Whase leash they fear’d was broken,

An’ Privates, cursin’ purse-proud prigs,

Wha brought ’em balls to sloken;

Repentant Painites at their pray’rs,

An’ dastards crousely craikin’,

Move on, heroic, to the wars

They meant na to partake in,

By night, or day.

Some fastin’ yet, now strave to eat

The piece, that butter yellow’d;

An’ some, in flocks, drank out cream crocks,

That wives but little valu’d:

Some lettin’ on their burn to mak’,

The rear-guard, goadin’, hasten’d;

Some hunk’rin’ at a lee dyke back,

Boost houghel on, ere fastened

Their breeks, that day.

The truly brave, as journeyin’ on

They pass by weans an’ mithers,

Think on red fiel’s, whare soon may groan,

The husbands, an’ the fathers:

They think how soon thae bonie things

May lose the youths they’re true to;

An’ see the rabble, strife ay brings,

Ravage their mansions, new to

Sic scenes, that day.

When to the tap o’ Donegore

Braid-islan’ corps cam’ postin’,

The red-wud, warpin, wild uproar,

Was like a bee scap castin’;

For ******* ***** took ragweed farms,

(Fears e’e has ay the jaundice)

For Nugent’s red-coats, bright in arms,

An’ rush! the pale-fac’d randies

Took leg, that day.

The camp’s brak up. Owre braes, an’ bogs,

The patriots seek their sections;

Arms, ammunition, bread-bags, brogues,

Lye skail’d in a’ directions:

Ane half, alas! wad fear’d to face

Auld Fogies, faps, or women;

Tho’ strong, untried, they swore in pride,

“Moilie wad dunch the yeomen,”

Some wiss’d-for day.

Come back, ye dastards! — Can ye ought

Expect at your returnin’,

But wives an’ weans stript, cattle hought,

An’ cots, an’ claughin’s burnin’?

Na, haste ye hame; ye ken ye’ll ’scape,

’Cause martial worth ye’re clear o’;

The nine-tail’d cat, or choakin’ rape,

Is maistly for some hero,

On sic a day.

Saunt Paul (auld Knacksie!) counsels weel —

Pope, somewhere, does the samen,

That, “first o’ a’, folk sud themsel’s

Impartially examine;”

Gif that’s na done, whate’er ilk loun

May swear to, never swith’rin’,

In ev’ry pinch, he’ll basely flinch —

“Guidbye to ye, my brethren.”

He’ll cry, that day.

The leuks o’ wheens wha stay’d behin’,

Were mark’d by monie a passion;

By dread to staun, by shame to rin,

By scorn an’ consternation:

Wi’ spite they curse, wi’ grief they pray,

Now move, now pause a bit ay;

“’Tis mad to gang, ’tis death to stay,”

An unco dolefu’ ditty,

On sic a day.

What joy at hame our entrance gave!

“Guid God! is’t you? fair fa’ ye! —

’Twas wise, tho’ fools may ca’t no’ brave,

To rin or e’er they saw ye.” —

“Aye wife, that’s true without dispute,

But lest saunts fail in Zion,

I’ll hae to swear *** forc’d me out;

Better he swing than I, on

Some hangin’ day.”

My story’s done, an’ to be free,

Owre sair, I doubt, they smarted,

Wha wad hae bell’d the cat awee,

Had they no been deserted:

Thae warks pat skill, tho’ in my min’

That ne’er was in’t before, mon,

In tryin’ times, maist folk, you’ll fin’,

Will act like Donegore men

On onie day.

[1] An Innkeeper in Ballycarry.


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