The Rambler 14/03/2003
EARLY in the last century Sam McCurry, a Belfast man, wrote several books of verse, for the most part written in the Ulster dialect.
These received favourable press notices in the "Belfast Telegraph', "Northern Whig', 'Irish Times' and Glasgow, Derry and Liverpool broadsheets.
His writings had forewords by distinguished academics, Viz Dowden of Trinity College, and Byers of Queens, who praised the writer for his thorough acquaintance with the Ulster dialect "especially that form of it in the North East where the Scotch element is largely in evidence."
With the setting up of an Ulster-Scots language body, no doubt we will soon be reading more of the McCurry style writings.
In the space available, I only have room for one ballad. It is obviously 1916 vintage.
In a vale in Emerald Ulster, when the war at the front
A dear old Irish woman, stood knitting beside her door,
Socks, socks to send to the soldiers kept her shining needles at play
For with sorrow and joy she thought of her boy and his comrades far away.
She had heard of the soldiers marching and the miles they
had to go
Of their terrible time in the trenches in the sleet and the driving snow,
She thought of the villainous Germans, and she cried as she clenched her fist
"I declare this day I 'cud up an' away - och, och, if a woman "cud list!"
"But how could you help them, Betty?", a listening
"Could you handle a gun or a bayonet, could you mount on a horse and ride?
If a wheen o' the Germans come at you wud you stan' your groun' to be shot
Nor budge an inch, when it come till a pinch, do you think you could manage the lot?"
Said Betty: "I know what I'm sayin', there's plenty a
woman cud do
I cud stan' at the back of the trenches and keep the Germans in view.
I cud watch them when the shells wud be comin', and before any blood wud be spilt
To the boys I would shou 'Here's another, look out, juke, juke or You'll all be kilt!'
"And after the shootin' was over, and the Germans had gone for the day
I wud hurry and boil rip the kettle and make them a cup o" tay,
Then. do wee turns for the craythers and clean off the clabber and dirt
And bathe their- feet at the hearth in the heat or mend their socks or their shirt. "
"But, och, if any was wounded, 1 don't right know what
Except to run for the doctor to help me to pull him throu',
And between us we'd manage to cure him, for I'd pray while he bandaged the sore. "
With that Betty stopped while the big tears dropped, she sobbed, and could say no more.