Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hugh McCall of Lisburn (1805-1897); when the Orange Lodge protected the local Priest.


Hugh McCall is one of the many forgotten men of Ulster history. In his day he was a renowned writer, collector of folk stories, founder of a literary society, chronicler of the linen industry, occasional editor of The Banner of Ulster and expert on the 1798 Rebellion. He also took a prominent part in the Burns Centenary commemorations in Belfast in 1859. There is a memorial plaque inside Lisburn Cathedral to him, which reads:

Hugh McCall
1805 – 1897
One who was given to Philanthropy
Justice and Truth
A Journalist without fear
An Accurate historian
A Painstaking Chronicler
This Tablet
Is placed where he worshipped
To his remembrance by his friends
This above all to thine own self be true
And it must follow as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man

I came across his work a few years ago. His grandfather left Argyll for Ulster, around 1714, and came to Donaghadee but then headed into the Lagan Valley area. Hugh was born at Chapel Hill in Lisburn. Joseph Carson of Kilpike regarded McCall as a 'brother poet', and wrote this verse to him:

To Mr. Hugh M'Call, a Brother Poet.

Lord, man, I think it dev'lish queer,
We've bardies been this many a year,
Baith bustling on in life's career,
Unknown to ither,
An' neither wrote ae line to cheer
His rhymin brither.

Had I but known, my cantie blade,
Ye plied sae weel the "rhymin trade,"
I would hae some bit sang convey'd
To thee lang syne,
Ere friendship's lamp was quite decay'd --
Dear light divine!

The dearest blessings o' mankind,
Are no' to rank an, wealth confin'd --
The cottage wight an' labouring hind,
Fu' aft enjoy them,
While lords to mak an riches join'd.
As aft destroy them.

When life's lang toilsome day is o'er,
The question, were ye rich or poor?
Will no be asked, on death's far shore,
To us poor mortals,
Ere mercy opes the narrow door, --
Heaven's shining portals.

Lisburn Mechanics LOL 557, The Twelfth, Main Street, Hillsborough Here is a great 1798 rebellion story which McCall collected, reproduced here from this website:

'... In these perilous times Mr. McGhee, the Parish Priest, was going out one night to visit a parishioner in Blaris. An Orangeman, who knew the popular priest told him of his great danger owing to the mob on the road, invited him into the house where an Orange Lodge was sitting, where he remained in safety, and was afterwards accompanied by a guard of Orangemen ...'

In Betsy Gray and the Hearts of Down, WG Lyttle recounts that Father Magee and some of his congregation had helped to fundraise for the building of Lisburn Presbyterian Church, giving £10, - '... and the donation was very much prized by the Presbyterians...'.

The loss of stories like these impoverishes the Northern Ireland of today. Men like McCall deserve to be more widely known.