1811 Poem, Francis Boyle 'Owre Hamely; or, The Famous Basket-Maker'

Author: Francis Boyle

Date: 1811

Source: Poem: ‘Owre Hamely;* or, The Famous Basket-Maker’ from Miscellaneous Poems by Francis Boyle (Belfast: Printed by D & S Lyons, Corn-market, 1811).

Comments: Francis Boyle, also known as Frank Boal, was from Gransha, near Gilnahirk in County Down. Unlike Thomson and Orr, he was conservative in religion and politics (a Covenanter and Loyalist) during the 1798 rebellion, but his command of Ulster-Scots in his verse is on a par with the best of those poets in his day. He only published one book of poems in 1811, along with a few (such as ‘The Carnmoney Witches’) in local newspapers before moving from Comber Parish to the Ards.

Doc. ref. no.: USLS/TB/Poetry/1800-1899/020

Owre Hamely; or, The Famous Basket-Maker

"Nor can his thoughts beyond mean quirks extend,

He thinks a trick nae crime that gains his end."


Great is the loss that we sustain,

Since our Owre Hamely’s dead an’ gane,

The bushes thrive on hill an’ plain,

An’ a’ gaes wild;

His like we ne’er shall see again,

In Patrick’s isle.

He cow’t the knowes whar grey saughs grew,

An’ guid aish suckers left but few,

He down the willow wands did hew,

An’ alders young,

He snig’t the holly souples through,

An’ hazel rung.

He early rase on ilka morn,

Ere Phœœbus did the fields adorn,

An’ plunner’t dykes an’ glens forlorn,

To tak his prize,

An’ mony burdens aff has borne,

Ere folk did rise.

Michaelmas moon he looed fu’ weel,

She shone - he saw the rods to steal,

Guid osiers cut to mak a creel,

About midnight,

But ance he thought he saw the De’il,

Or some ill wight.

The De’il, I trow, he never saw,

Some brockit yowe or brawnit ca’

That frae the lave had stray’t awa,

An’ tint it’s gate,

Had loupt in there to fill it’s maw,

When it was late.

He cared na meikle what he saw,

When ance he got the rods awa;

He leugh an’ did his elbow claw,

But made nae din,

Tobacco spittles brown did fa’

Out owre his chin.

Thae rods he wrought up a’ wi’ skill,

Ilk day when he did dry the kiln;

Tobacco chows his cheek did fill,

That cost a plack;

He teuk a whiff to warm his bill,

When he fell slack.

He had a stane whareon he sat,

A cutty pipe, an’ a pet rat,

He vow’t black vengeance on the cat,

That wad it kill,

Sae lang it liv’t, baith fu’ an’ fat,

About the mill.

The priest Owre Hamely never fee’t,

But geckt at him, an’ said he lie’t,

An’ tauld auld tales to win his bread,

That folk forgat;

But purgatory lang he dreed,

I’ the kiln-pat.

The farmers aften he took in,

He cried out want, an’ made a din,

And when the ingle does grow thin,

The fire he beets,

An’ when they hame for mair did rin,

He staw their peets.

To them that had nae horse ava,

An’ brought their corn a mile or twa,

He selt dry peets an’ guid ait straw,

To dry a cast,

Atween the fu’ sacks an’ the wa’

They ware laid past.

A greedy wife ayont the fiel’

Employ’t Owre Hamely, peets to steal,

She gied him fourpence for a creel,

Or a twin sack,

He gaed na far for them I ’tweel, -

To her ain stack.

It happen’t in a day or twa,

Her guidman lean’t against the wa’

He backwards in the hole did fa’,

The stack was bose;

Then frae the tap the peets rush’d a’,

An’ co’er’t him close.

Whan he gat up, he cough’t an’ spat,

An’ sten’t wantin’ the wig or hat,

His face did gloom, but soon the wat

Ran frae his e’en,

He swore Owre Hamely had done that,

Just on yestreen.

Ae cow he kept, she aye was fat,

While neebors ferlie’t what she gat,

Then ask the Muse - she’ll tell ye that;

Baith e’en an’ morn,

’Twas just the fu’ o’ his auld hat,

O’ weel dried corn.

O’ his auld coat he thought nae scorn,

Or hat, he ten lang year had worn,

Or leather breeks, a’ reft an’ torn,

About the spair;

Whan he gaed up to turn the corn,

His a--e was bare.

An honest man named Samuel Moore,

In Ballybeen lives to this hour -

A sermon preach’t afore his door,

Upo’ the hill -

To this Owre Hamely teuk a tour,

To try his skill.

His Reverence preach’t baith loud an’ keen,

An’ Samuel glow’rt wi’ mouth an’ een,

The deafest wife in Ballybeen,

Heard a’ he said;

Owre Hamely then slips aff the green,

An’ fa’s to trade.

Frae ilka bush he taks a few,

Alang the meadow dyke that grew;

An’ when he thought he had enow,

Then up he tie’t them,

But soon he fand he had owre few,

Whan mair he spie’t them.

He up the green again did steer,

An’ whisper’t saft in Samuel’s ear,

That’s a braw Preacher ye hae here;

Has he near done?

Na, na, quo’ he, the text he’ll clear,

This afternoon.

Owre Hamely thought this answer’t weel,

Then roun’ the tent he made a wheel,

An’ aff he set, mair rods to steal,

An’ thought nae shame,

What made three baskets an’ a creel,

He carry’t hame.

He tauld this tale right merrily,

An’ set it aff wi’ sic a glee,

Whan he fell into company,

Amang strange folk,

An’ didna stap to add a lie,

To crown the joke.

O’ baskets he made hunners ten,

Folk far an’ near did for them sen’,

What we’ll do now I dinna ken,

When out we dig;

The tubs an’ piggins we maun then

Tak to the rigg.

Wi’ him nane could a woodie thraw,

He aye made plenty for us a’;

An’ wi’ his crooked knife sae braw,

Did sned them clean,

The like o’ him I never saw,

Wi’ my twa een.

He o’ the kiln took special care,

Tho’ peets nor strae he didna spare,

Few could hae dried a cast sae sair,

An’ yet mill-free;

But och, alas! he’ll dry nae mair,

Poor Owre Hamely!

But och, alas! an’ weel away!

They bure him aff the ither day,

His head they hid in Moneyrea,

Beneath a sod,

The like o’ him, I weel may say,

Ne’er thraw’t a rod!

Oh, cruel Death! what made thee call

Owre Hamely, though he was grown aul’,

An’ what is now come o’ his saul,

I dinna ken,

If tales are true that I heard taul’,

He haunts the glen.

But if Owre Hamely be asteer,

Sure he might come a visit here,

Were it but twice or thrice a year,

Or ance itsel’;

That we might crack a while, an’ spier

Whar he does dwell.

Oh!  doolfu’ truth! Owre Hamely’s dead,

An’ Josey Bell, that does succeed,

He neither has the hands nor head,

Nor half the skill,

To mak us baskets when we need,

Or dry the kiln!

[* A name by which the basket maker was known.]


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