Monday, September 15, 2008

A Bricht February Mournin

Philip and Maynard reminded me of this poem over recent weeks. I wrote it in 1995, following my grandmother's funeral - she died on 12th February, and I had to break the news to my father. He had turned 50 just 3 days before. The funeral "service" was held in her home, with friends and neighbours jammed into the wee room with the stove. We buried her at Ballyhalbert alongside her husband William, who'd died 48 years before.

The whole experience was deeply intense for me, I'd never experienced the death of a close family member before, and I'm not the type to go to every funeral in the locality. Maybe that's a generational thing - I know folk, like my da, who feels the need to be present at as many as possible, to show his respect and sympathy. I've not been at the funerals of a few elderly relatives over recent years, maybe that's bad.

My granny lived just over the fields from us, and was a big influence on me when I was growing up. Her husband, William Thompson, was the poet and he died in 1957, leaving her to rear five weans. The photo below is of her and me at the door of her wee house at Ballyfrench, around 1975, with her holding my brother Graeme.

The poem was written as a bit of catharsis, but to my surprise when I showed it to some other folk they liked it, and it was published in Ullans Nummer 7, 1999 and then in the 2003 book A Blad o Ulstèr-Scotch. For Maynard and Philip to be talking about it lately must mean it's had some kind of lasting impact on both of them, so here it is:

We cairryt her
Doon tha brae
By tha fiel whaur we kepp tha beess
Dizens o fowk ahin us forbye,
An tears wallin up in ma een.

Past tha enn o Skelly’s road
An by Sam Beggs’s loanen
Tha wun wus coul on Bellyfrench
Thon bricht February mournin

A wheen o fiels an a dizen o hens
She spent her days leukin efter
It gien her hauns somethin tae dae
Amang tha tears an tha lauchter

A hae mynn o tha day she wus bakin
Her shoartbreid wus burnt
A filled ma pokits
Wi black shoartbreid
Ma granny micht greet

We taen her tae Bellyhailbert
An laid her alangside her man
Whaur he wus waitin foarty-echt year
Leukin ower tha Sheugh tae Scotlann

A miss her
A quair wee woman she wus
Bot A’ll see her yin day
An ma granda forbye
A’ll tell her o aa tha fuss
She gien us whun she left,
As intil tha grun she wus lowerin
An we happed her ower wi flooers an tears
Yin bricht February