Poems by a Railway Lad

Author: Robert Brown

Date: 2010

Source: Ullans: The Magazine for Ulster-Scots, Nummer 11 Ware 2010

Robert Brown (Belfast, circa 1910)

We are indebted to Mark Thompson for sending us the following poems, which were in turn sent to him by his old school friend, Darren Gibson, a descendant of the author. We are very grateful to Darren for permission to republish them. The original volume is a collection of 19 poems, one of which is entitled ‘Robert Burns’ and is a six-verse tribute to the Bard. However, only the three poems we have included here are in Ulster-Scots, with the first in Standard Habbie.


A Conversation Between Twa Auld Farmers at Ballynahinch Junction

“Weel, my auld frien, how are ye fairin’?

How’s the health and times noo pairin’?

I trust that want’s no grimly starin’

But in his den

But that blithe look that ye are wearin’

Might make me ken?”

“Ay, Dannie, mon, ye see the beam

That dances thro’ my twa auld e’en;

The news I’ve heard, and things I’ve seen,

Would make ye whussle;

Oor negleckit cause is noo between

Brave Wood and Russell.

Each has an Ulster heather besom,

And a’ that dirt ca’d landlordism

’Ill be conveyed doon that dark chasm

From whence it sprung;

Oor champions, weel, I’ll say ‘God bless ’m’

Wi’ fervent tongue.

The landlords, they’re such idle buddies,

And struts about in finest duddies,

While we, like some dumb-driven cuddies,

Ill-fed and shod,

Wi’ worn wife and wee bit laddies

Hirple oor the clod.

But worse than a’, my auld mere Fenny

That earned me mony a bonnie penny,

Sure just last spring she slipped doon cannie

At the land’s en’;

But we’ll a’ stop there, mind ye, Dannie

Baith beasts and men.

I never pass the green-clad heap

But thro’ the hedge I take a peep;

The unbidden fear will gie a leap

And downward birl.

I stammer oot, I trust ye sleep

Contented, girl.

“None better served for sweetest rest,

O’ a horse kind she was the best

And up life’s hill, oft sairly press’d,

In straiten’d gap,

Yet ne’er a brae wi’ highest crest

She could na’ tap.

Misfortune oft has me tight-laced.

Worse than this year I never faced;

For a’ the hills spring had embraced

Tae coax the seeds,

Ere the auld plough a rig had creased

Tae kill the weeds.

But, still, I clear my bleared eye,

Though cauld, wet spring does sairly try

The backward corn, ill-thriven rye

In hill and bog;

But a’ this soon we can defy

An’ merrier jog.

“Ay, ay,” speaks Dan, “your story’s true,

In a’ you’ve said I’m just wi’ you.

Such things mysel’ I oft came thro’

But still I’m canty

To think that a’ that hellish crew

Must shift their shanty.

“Wha’ tills the land but each son’s fether;

Landlords were shipp’d in some ill-weather

And nestl’d here, and still they neither

Toil or yet spin,

But greedy takes a’ we can gather

And thinks nae sin.

“If yin ye meet this very hour,

He’d take a long, disdainful glower

Just wi’ a face as deadly sour

As the infernal;

You’d want some sure surpassin’ power

To keep your internal.

Of oor heritage we’ve been shorn,

As if we were a’ bastard-born

And had for a father that auld horn

With cloot acloven.

His features in those that do us scorn

Are better proven.

But it’s no; then men, ’tis that spirit

By some ill-luck they do inherit;

My conscience, Will, we will tear it

Topsy turvy,

And show that we are men o’ merit

And aye right worthy.

“I’ve heard o’ Wood, I’ve heard o’ Russell,

At the East Down election tussle;

The landlords need nae make sic bustle.

They’re fairly doomed;

We’ll neither spare oor tongue or muscle

Till glory croon’d.”

Wi’ that the train did skelp the rail

Which somewhat shortened Dannie’s tale;

I trust their hearts’ll never fail

Tae earn their breid;

Hae rousing crops o’ grain and kail

For a’ in need.

To AM.

Misfortune’s winds blow sharp and keen

And brings the wet into oor een,

But yet the wee bit olive green

Peers thro’ it a’;

Some sunlit heart aye glints between

Ill-winds that blaw.

When riving storms sweep o’er the mead

The modest flower, or wayside weed,

Adown their stem will droop their heid

Before the gale,

Till sweetly fa’s the pearly bead

To make them hale.

I hae been oft misfortune’s child,

And whirl’d about its tempests wild

Till sunlike thou rose clear and mild

Upon my way;

Then scenes around me once mair smil’d

Beneath its ray.

I hae been like the wither’d flow’r

That droops its head among the stour,

Till friendship fell on me as pure

As morning dew;

Then up again I had the pow’r

To poise anew.

Till westward life shall glide away,

As sinks the sun behind the brae,

I kindly shall remember ye

And that warm glow.

Of God-like bliss, sweet frien’ship’s ray

Thou didst bestow.

Having Been Informed by Mr. J.M.G. that the Author’s Two Calves were Trespassing

It’s sair against their master’s will

That drey should leave their own green hill

And toddle doon about the mill

To thieve and steal,

But stay at home and take their fill

O’ swede and meal.



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)