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Lagan Poems 2

Molly Bawn Lavery

This is a folk song of great lyric beauty. Again there are many variations in words and tune, adaptations often being made to suit the area where the song was being sung. The version quoted here was written by Pat Reynolds (a local poet) and comes from the Hume collection which was compiled at Beechfield in the townland of Ballykeel Artifinny, not two miles from the aqueduct where the scene of the drama is set. The song describes how James Reynolds went fowling by the Lagan late one evening and in the twilight mistook his sweetheart, Molly Bawn, for a swan and shot her dead. (In another version she was mistaken for a fawn, and in yet another a `cran' (to rhyme with Bann).) James is said to have come home in a terrible state and pleaded with his father to help him leave the country for, he said, `The Banns and the Bann Laverys, my life they'll swear away.'

It's all you young men that carry a gun
Beware of late fowling at the setting of the sun,
Concerning a young man that happened of late
That shot Molly Bawn Lavery, her beauty was great.

He being late fowling he shot her in the dark
But Oh and Alas he did not miss his mark,
With her apron about her he took her for a swan,
But Oh and Alas it was poor Molly Bawn.

But when he went to her and found she was dead
Abundance of tears from his eyes he has shed,
He went home to his Father with his gun in his hand,
Saying Father dear Father I have shot poor Molly Bawn.

It's outbespoke his Father, his hairs they were gray,
My son take my blessing and don't run away.
Stay in your own country, your trial to stand
And you will not be condemned by the laws of the land.

O Father dear Father I must go away
For in this country I never could stay
I shot Molly Bawn Lavery and she was my darling
The pride of the North and the Flower of Kilwarlin.

The maids of this country they are all very glad
Since Molly Bawn Lavery the beauty is dead.
But gather them together and put them all in a row
She appears in the middle like a mountain of snow.

She appeared to her Uncle as it were in a dream,
Saying Uncle dear Uncle James Reynolds don't blame
With my apron being about me he took me for a swan
But oh and alas it was I Molly Bawn.

In Lisburn she was born and in Lurgan educated
But oh in Kilwarlin poor Molly was defeated
With her apron being about her she was taken for a swan
But oh and alas it was poor Molly Bawn

Harry O'Rawe of 24 Lawrence Street, Belfast, worked as a hauler for five or six years after the First World War and must have often footed the twenty-seven miles of Lagan towpath. His poem The Lagan Canal' reminds us that though the canal ended at Lough Neagh, the boats continued across the Lough on the line of the tow towards other destinations. In this case the eventual destination, via the Ulster Canal, was Benburb.

The Lagan Canal by Harry O'Rawe

Oh Molly Ward's, you're silent now,
Compared to days that have gone by,
When lighters lay there in a row,
To wait the day when they must go,

No engines then to drive them through,
Just line and horse and hauler too.
Through locks and bridges pretty slow,
For twenty-seven miles they go.

The men that sailed them were strong and tough,
Made of the good old Ulster stuff.
Their journey's end the Lagan through,
And Lough Neagh's shores are there in view.

A tug awaits them there at hand,
To cross the Lough into the Bann.
Nine miles up to Portadown,
With mills and factories all around.

Blackwater River runs on the fall
With Coalisland another port of call
A nice wee town, lies on its own,
Set in the county of Tyrone.

The Moy comes next then Charlemont too,
The Ulster Canal is there in view.
So peaceful, still and undisturbed,
And further on is old Benburb.

Their load discharged, they turn around,
Back again for Belfast town.
Peat or sand they may collect,
Or a load of spuds tied up in sacks.

That journey o'er their work is done,
Ready they are for another run.
Those men have gone, the lighters too,
But the Lagan still remains in view.

Lorries have come and are here to stay,
God guide them safely on their way.

The verses which follow are taken from a longer poem by the late Thomas Reynolds of Ballyknock, Moira.

The Land I Love Best by Thomas Reynolds

In pondering over the history of Trummery
And wondering if more I should say,
It is with reluctance I leave it
And once more I go on my way.

Where once stood Hertford's Bridge there are changes,
For the old bridge no longer is there.
Missing too is the waterway
And the barges that sailed it with care.

I remember as a boy from its towpath
I fished in its waters so still;
Never once in those days did I think it
A place in history would fill.

For a while let me pause and consider
The new bridges that span the highway,
Where flowed the canal there is a roadway,
These changes have taken place in my day.

The barges that were pulled by the horse
Went past where I stand to Lough Neagh.
And many are the tales that could be told
Of the place in history they played.

They say these changes were necessary
To help progress on its way,
But the Lagan Canal and its history
I must leave to some other day.

Oft by Beanie's Quay I had wandered
In the past to pleasure my mind,
The architectural greatness of 'Equidock'
You will search in vain for to find;
Why did they find cause to remove it, I find it hard for to say;

The Lagan Canal and its barges
Are but memories of other days.
The journey with my thoughts it has ended
The sun sinks low in the west.
Of all the lands I have seen and heard of,
This is the one I love best.

This poem came from Noel McMaster. The words were passed to him by a friend in Australia.

Where the River Lagan Flows

Tis a lovely summers evening in a dear old English park,
The thrush's notes are blending with the love song of the lark,
The children's merry voices are raised in happy glee
All mingling with the praises of the song bird's melody.
Yet spite of all the beauty and enchantment of the scene,
My thoughts are in old Ireland and her fields of verdant green,
And I think I see the honeysuckle winding round the rose
Near Lisburn, dear old Lisburn where the River Lagan flows.

I fancy I'm in Blaris on a fragrant summer morn,
I can hear the bees a-humming through the fields of yellow corn,
I can hear the landrail calling, to her timid little brood
While the blackbird sounds a warning from her shelter in the wood.
Then on through sweet Ravarnet I wander in a dream
I can see the fishes sporting in the silver tinted stream,
While Dromara's lofty mountain a purple shadow throws
O'er Lisburn, dear old Lisburn where the River Lagan flows.

The fertile plains of England have engaged the poet's pen,
And others sing the praises of the bonny Scottish glen,
But come with me to Ireland and see her beauties rare,
And visit Lisnagarvey and her fields and valleys fair.
There's not a spot on God's green earth such beauty can disclose
As Lisburn, dear old Lisburn where the River Lagan flows.

Extracts from Once upon the Lagan by May Blair obtainable from Eason's book shops and the Linen Centre Lisburn