Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The lost poem of John Bonar, sundial maker - Ayr, Bangor and Kirkcudbright

Old original sundial from the Bangor Abbey - Picture of North Down ...

Above is a photo from TripAdvisor of the sundial in North Down Museum which was once at Bangor Abbey. It was made by a famous Scottish sundial maker called John Bonar around 1630. Another of his is at Kenmure Castle, Kircudbright. Here is an intriguing reference to him, and to a (sadly lost) poem that he wrote about a journey from Ayr to Bangor.

"... In a manuscript volume of poems and miscellaneous pieces now in the possession of David Constable, Esq. Advocate, written about the year 1631, the author, John Bonar, schoolmaster. Ayr, gives in verse an account of a voyage from the port of Bangor in Ireland, with a description of some of the objects of natural curiosity and antiquity of the coast of Carrick, from Loch Ryan to Ayr. In this volume the following passage occurs:

The britones marchet, tuo dayes before the feild
To Marrok's mote, for easement and for beild;
Afore the night they waughtet liquor fyne,
Lyke filthie beasts lying like drunken swine.
Quhen fergus heare they wer in sutch a pley,
Doune fra Craigsbian he came right suddenly,
And tooke his will upon his traitrous foes,
Quhair thousands lay skatteret like windlestroes.
Coylus he fledd unto the river Doune,
Quher drownet were many yt thair did runn,
And northward held, quhil they cam till a muir.
And thair wes stayet be Scots that on him fuir.
Fergus he followet and came right heastilie,
Quhair Coyll wes killet and all his hole armie;
The cuntry people fra thenseforthe does it call
Coylsfield in Kyll, as ever more it sall.
Within twelve years, or litle mor's I guess,
A trew story ane ditcher told me these;
Tirring the earth for fewell to his flett,
His spead did run upon ane stane bot lett,
Quhilk, quhen he hade espyet earnestlie,
A tomb it wes buildet full curiouslye;
He roll'd awaye, and fund a pitcher law
With ashes, and bones, that all men might it knaw,
Upon the stone wer graven letters fayre,
Koyl's cij-p of this as now 1 speak no more..."

- From The New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845

Constable was a noted collector of Scottish literature, the son of Archibald Constable (Wikipedia here). His collection seems to now be in the National Library of Scotland. Maybe one day the Bangor poem will be unearthed.