Monday, September 12, 2011

'The Big Stane' - an old song of the Ards


I was born in oul Newton', not far from the Bowtown,
The first sound I heard was Walker's oul horn
Me ma rocked the cradle, me da played the fiddle
And I sucked a bottle of John Barleycorn

I can still hear the laughter of the girl I ran after
I still feel delight at the sound of her name
At the first kiss she gave me, nothin could save me
She kissed me at the bottom of the oul Dummy's Lane*

When walkin for pleasure one fine summer's evenin'
I met with my true love down by the big stane
We fell into courtin' while gatherin' cockles
Now cockles and courtin' can be a rough game

As the shadows of sunlight began to get dimmer
I felt a bit rough round by the big stane
Now sand's good for buildin; but it's no good for courtin
So stay on the grass when you're at the big stane

The days they got shorter and my love got bigger
Her da got crosser and I got the blame
A shotgun was loaded and nearly exploded
"You'll pay for your coortin' doon by the big stane!"

One early spring morning our weddin' was dawnin'
We met at the church on the oul Dummy's Lane
Her ma she was cryin' - her da he was cursin'
And my son was born before we got hame

He was born in oul Newton', not far from the Bowtown,
The first sound he heard was Walker's oul horn
Now she rocks the cradle and I play the fiddle
And he sucks a bottle of John Barleycorn

*'Dummy's Lane' is said to have been near today's Greenwell Street, opposite the former Dominican Priory (which of course Hugh Montgomery restored in 1606-7).
- with thanks to the late George Holmes for giving me this oul song from Newtownards.
- photo of the 'Big Stane' near Cunningburn on the shore of Strangford Lough from this website


Unknown said...


The other day my mother and I were doing a GoogleMaps walk through Newtownards and when we reached a certain point she mentioned something I had never heard of. So I did a quick google search, and your blog was one of the top answers.

I live in Glendale California USA, my mother lives in Fullerton, California. Her parents came to America over a hundred years ago. Her mother was born in Bangor, and her father was born in Newtownards, they didn’t meet till they reached America.

Our family have been back to Northern Ireland numerous times, and I love visiting the hometowns of my grandparents.

The reason I’m writing, was that as we GoogleMapped along Greenwell Street, we reached the Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church. It has long been remodeled since my grandfather attended as a boy. I’ve been there a few times. As we were talking about the church. My mother mentioned there had been a small road or alleyway traveling up the East side of the church property. Apparently as a boy my grandfather would walk up this road to a school he attended. (The school from what I can tell is no longer there).

Here’s the point, according to my Grandfather, that small road was called “Dummy’s Lane”, which is referred to in the song ‘The Big Stane’ in your blog post.
The footnote you have on the song says that ‘Dummy’s Lane’ was near Greenwell Street, which confirms what my grandfather said.
His description places it across from Greenwell Place.
Your note says it was opposite the old Dominican Priory. I have visited the Newtownards Priory, is the one you are referring to different than that one, was it on Greenwells Street at some point in the past.

My Grandfather was James Shaw. He was born on Upper Greenwell Street.

Thank you for all the information you provide on your blog.

Kevin Paul Shaw Broden

Mark Thompson said...

Kevin - how wonderful for you to get in touch! We live in a world that sometimes can feel very small and 'local'. The area around the Priory and Greenwell Street is the oldest part of the original town. My grandmother attended Greenwell Street Presbyterian for some years when her father had a grocers shop in the street. Maybe my grandmother knew your grandfather!