The Bard of Moneyreagh - Ulster Scots

The Bard of Moneyrea: Robert Huddleston

Part of a series on Ulster-Scots across LCCC to mark Ulster Scots Language Week, 2020.

Lying on the east edge of the Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council area, Moneyreagh (Mónaidh Riabhach, ‘grey bog or moor’) was home to Robert Huddleston (1814-87), known as the ‘Bard of Moneyrea’.  Brought up and educated in the village, Huddleston published his first collection, Poems and songs on rural subjects, in 1844, quickly followed two years later by A collection of poems and songs on different subjects (1846), and left a rich body of unpublished poems, novels and stories.   A difficult character, Huddleston never received the fame for his writing that he felt he deserved.

A member of the non-subscribing Presbyterian Church, Huddleston was liberal in theology and politics and believed in Home Rule for Ireland.  Linde Lunney notes that ‘Huddleston was interested in Gaelic tradition as well as in Ulster-Scots folklore, and he may have learned a few words of the Irish language.’

A blue plaque, erected by the Ulster History Circle, marks the townland he lived.

Blue Plaque dedicated to Robert Huddleston

Robert Huddleston’s Blue Plaque: erected on his former home in Moneyreagh.

Video: A short clip for Ulster-Scots language exploring Robert’s life.

A verse from Huddleston’s, A Collection of Poems and Songs on Different Subjects, penned in honour of the Rev W J Blakely of Moneyreagh, a friend and fellow poet.

The Song of Creevy Ha’s Muse

The Song of Creevy Ha’s Muse

The eve got dusk, the wind was still
The Corncraik tuned her haverl lyre,
And far away o’er Seefar-Hill,
The Cuckoo’s chorus joined the choir;
The thrush sang drowsy day to rest,
In Anderson’s lone sylvan shaw;

And onward, as I homeward pressed,
The Redbreast sung by Creevy Ha’.

But, lo I upon the zephyrs borne,
I haard a sad voice sweetly glide,
Deep mourning, in a grove that’s lorn,
A little grove by Creevy side;
Its mellow tones my heart enthralled,
I stopped, I paused, I loved to hear,
And cowring low, I squatly crawled,
And gained a spreading beach ’twas near.

There, glimmering through the nut brown fence,
I spied, low seated by a pine,
An angel bland, like maiden wench,
Thus, bowing low at sorrow’s shine;
And as her wan cheeks dreeped with woe,
Her heavenly voice high raised these lays,
Till echoes far rang to and fro,
Throughout the verdant Spa-mount braes:-

“Alas! Fond Youth, oh! art thou gone,
Though I had numbered thee my own;
Dear, polished youth, oh! art thou flown,
And left me here to sigh alone,
Alas! the salt tears down do stream,
And many a trouble round me fa’,
Since I’m no more the poet’s queen,
Nor he, the Bard of Creevy Ha’.

Ah! with what pleasure did I hail
That joyful hour which gave thee birth-
All! with what joy did Phoebus smile,
And bless a poet brought to earth,
Can I forget the hallowed couch,
Where oft I lulled thy infant cares?
Can I forget, ah! no- I vouch,
Who wreathed thee one of poesy’s heirs?

Can I forget those happy days,
Before to lisp you scarce began,
When nature lit with heavenly blaze
Thy unaspiring, gentle tongue?
Can I forget, and not behold,
Thy youthful fancy, quick, and strong,
When first to thee I did unfold
The sacred mystery of Song?

Ah me! Ah no! – oh, how forget,
Those blissful records of the past?
And how remind, and not regret
That time such rapturous scenes should blast?
When forming in myself the plan,
That though shouldst Poesy’s laurels wear;
And long poor Erin’s cause maintain,
And nobly Freedom’s banner rear,

But ah! those happy hopes are flown,
And days of thrall and darkness lower
And I must weep, and weary groan,
To think on death’s destroying power,
Now here, beneath the wind and rain,
Both dark and cloudy are my days,
Since none to lift the passing strain,
Nor none my mournful song to raise,

Thalia my name-poor hapless one,
Though chief of all Apollo’s weans-
‘Twas I that taught a Beattie song.
‘Twas I a Drummond stored with strains,
‘Twas I that Milton owned to find,
When walking in the heavenly way;
‘Twas I the flowery garlands twined.
That wreathed sweet Goldsmith, Pope, and Gray.

But now, dejected, I must mourn,
An outcast in my native isle,
Since no exulting mortal’s born,
To court a polished Muse’s smile.
For Io! the coquette thrums the lute,
And foppery dares the harp to swell,
And o’er its silken chords the wit
Pour rudeness for a muse’s spell.

No village tales, ah! now are told –
No burlesque coxcomb, crammed by art,
Can with the poet be enrolled.
Whose fame is deathless nature’s part.
Thou’rt Nature’s self to touch the heart,
Sweet Auburn’s Song, and I, the Muse;
Nor captive critic, e’en so pert,
But meanly borrows from thy views.

All hail! thou powerful source of light,
Thou, Universal Eye, on high;
Where shall I go, a genius bright
To seek, beneath this frowning sky?

Can Erin not say, here am I?
Has Celtic mothers none yet bore?
Must Erin’s harp now sleep for aye?
Can Erin boast no poet more?

0, Moore! Ierin’s darling son,
Thou faithless object of my toil,
How oft I’ve lulled thy cares with song,
How oft through sorrow caused thy smile;
Thou wert the pride of Erin’s, boast,
Hadst thou not spurned the land of birth,
Or left thy native island’s coast,
To bask in British joy and mirth,

Ah! Where can peace or pleasure lie,
When lo! thy island’s wrapped in gloom?
Must thirst of gain thy bliss annoy,
And pride destroy the poet’s boon?
Can riot give a happy feast,
When fame and honour are all foiled?
Can pomp uphold for riches lost,
When Erin cries thy name’s defiled?

But why lerin’s praises sing –
And drowned in dolor here Ihe rose-
Since poet none inspires my theme,
Nor bard my mournful song disclose.
Ah, no! no poet treads the green,
To brook assiduous o’er my lore,
To turn to joy the gloomy scene
Or fondly Thalia’s ways explore.

Erato fires the toil-worn few,
My lovely sister mild and bland,
And Huddleston, with heart so true,
Attentive waits her high command.
But, ah! no poet seeks my aid,
My sun is set to rise no more,
And woeful here I seek the shade
To weep the youth did me adore.

But sleep, fond youth- sweet genius rest
And though thou ne’er return again;
Dear memory in this beating breast,
Shall fondIy still thy name retain.
Farewell! adieu! for now I rove
By many a moor, morass, and shaw,
To weep his death, and sing my love,
For the sweet Bard of Creevy Ha’.

Sources:

Huddleston, Robert by Linde Lunney in Dictionary of Irish Biography

Robert Huddleston (1814 – 1874): Poet – The Bard of Moneyrea by Patrick Devlin, Dictionary of Ulster Biography

John Hewitt, Rhyming Weavers and other country poets of Antrim and Down (1974)