1804 Poem, James Orr, 'Tea'

Author: James Orr

Date: 1804

Source: Poem: ‘Tea’, 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/1800-1899/004


Celestial tea! . . . a fountain that can cure

The ills of passion, and can free the fair

From sighs and frowns, by disappointment earn’d.


Welcome, my frien’s, — ye’re just in time,

The kettle’s on, an’ soon will chyme;

An’ gif, tho’ us’d to strains sublime,

Ye’ll listen me,

I’ll clear my throat, an’ rudely rhyme

In praise o’ Tea.

What mak’s ye nice? I’m no yet stintet

To mashlin bread an’ weel-won mint to’t;

The far-fetch’d leaf is maistly grantet

Sev’n times a week’

An’, tak’ my word, the day I want it

The pipe does reek.

Leeze me on Tea! — the maskin pot

Keeps peace about the poor man’s cot:

Nae waitin’ wife misca’s the sot,

Wha stauchers hame wi’

A grain o’ pouther an’ o’ shot,

To charge the wame wi’!

The L—d leuk on her wretched bield,

Whase pence are out, and hank unreel’d!

Nae griddle’s het, nae pratoe peel’d,

To mak’ a bap o’t;

Nor weed nor head-ach tak’s the field

Without a drap o’t.

But blast the smuggler, fause an’ fell,

Wha brews’t in tinfu’s by hersel’;

An’ bribes the sma’-craft no to tell

Their drudgin’ daddy;

Deel nor he’d ay bounce in, pell-mell,

Just when ’tis ready.

When Riggie’s yell, an’ kitchen dear,

’Tis the poor cotter’s cheapest cheer:

The creamless blash, that sugar fair

Has little share in,

Sen’s glibly owre, his bonnoch bare,

An’ saut, saut herrin.

The poorest bodies far or near,

Their pipes wi’t ay on Sunday clear:

And a’ the state-days o’ the year;

But, chiefly, yule,

Wife, wean, an’ cat, can hardly bear

To let it cool.

At breakin’ clovin’, kirn, an’ quiltin’,

’Tis ay the base that bliss is built on;

An’ when the spae-wife to the Mill-town

In hiddlin’s slips,

Without it, vain were her consultin’

Divinin’ cups.

While roun’ the hag the young things catch

The story o’ their future match,

Tho’ a’ her skill’s no worth a fitch,

Sud at her haunch

Bauld Moses rise to “slay the witch,”

They’d mak’ him gaunch.

When claughin wives, wi’ heads in flannin’,

Forgether’d on a sabbath e’enin’,

Pit spoonfu’s twa a piece o’ green in;

(While wi’ the mother

The splain an’ stuffin’ — a’ compleenin’

Sit whazzlin’ throuther.)

Losh! how they rauner, rail, an’ ripple

Their nybers names, an’ mumph an sipple!

But, conscience! gif the auld delft nipple

Nae ooze wad bring,

The priest, an’ parish, king, an’ people,

Might tak their swing.

One wha oure-night has play’d the weary,

An’ crept frae slumber, half deleery,

Wi’ achin’ banes, an’ blinkers bleerie,

An’ tortur’d nerves:

While some slee jilt, wi’ mirth sincere ay,

His plight observes.

When wash’d his face, and camb’d his hair,

An’ in again frae takin’ air,

Sax reekin’ roun’s, or may be mair,

Can mak’ him able,

To think, an’ speak, an’ labour share,

In barn or stable.

Yet “Tea mak’s man a nerveless wrig,”

The doctor says — p-x on the prig!

Its juice has gladden’d monie a big,

An’ brave leel heart,

Wha’d firm as Gabbin keep the trig,

Or forward dart —

But, harkee! there’s a blyther singer;

I tald ye ’twad be nae lang hinger:—

Yestreen I daftly still’d the clangour

I’ the auld twin’d blether;

Or pints a piece o’ something stronger

We’d bouse thegither.


The Ulster-Scots Academy has been an integral part of the Ulster-Scots Language Society since 1993. The name "Ulster-Scots Academy" is registered to the USLS with the Intellectual Property Office.

Ulster Scots Academy


A new edition of Michael Montgomery’s From Ulster to America: The Scotch-Irish Heritage of American English recounts the lasting impact that at least 150,000 settlers from Ulster in the 18th century made on the development of the English language of the United States. This new edition published by the Ulster-Scots Language Society documents over 500 ‘shared’ vocabulary items which are authenticated by quotations from both sides of the Atlantic. A searchable online version of this dictionary is now also available here.


The Ulster-Scots Academy is currently working on the digitisation of Dr Philip Robinson's seminal Ulster-Scots Grammar and the English/Ulster-Scots part (with circa 10,000 entries) of a two-way historical dictionary of Ulster-Scots. These projects are planned to be completed and available on the site in 2016.



This site is being developed on a purely voluntary basis by the Ulster-Scots Language Society at no cost to the taxpayer. USLS volunteers have been involved in preserving and promoting Ulster-Scots for more than 20 years. All donations, however small, will be most gratefully received and contribute towards the expansion of the project. Thank you!

This site is being developed by the Ulster-Scots Language Society (Charity No. XN89678) without external financial assistance. USLS volunteers have been involved in preserving and promoting Ulster-Scots for more than 20 years. All donations, however small, will be most gratefully received and contribute towards the expansion of the project. Thank you!

(Friends of the Ulster-Scots Academy group)