Objects: James McKowen, the Bard of Lambeg!

In November 2021 the museum launched a new exhibition.  ‘The Bard of Lambeg, James McKowen (1814-89), Poet of Lisburn’ explores the life and work of local poet and historian James McKowen, and is launched in conjunction with a new book by the author and historian Gilbert Watson.  The book, ‘History into Poetry, the Works of James McKowen’, is the first edited collection of McKowen’s poems, songs, and letters, and offers a fascinating insight into the work of one of Lisburn’s most important literary figures.  The book is published by the Ulster-Scots Agency, and supported by Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, and can be purchased from Museum Reception for £10.

There is no likeness of James McKowen, nor does the museum hold any items in the collection directly relating to him. Yet, McKowen wrote poetry on a range of topics, including Lisburn’s rich history, from the 1863 election to Sir Richard Wallace and his time as landlord, and the display is rich in items drawn from the collection and relating to these events.  Moreover, the museum was delighted to display McKowen’s original manuscripts, and newspaper clippings, from his archive held at Belfast Central Library. Notable is the inclusion of correspondence between McKowen and the world famous art collector, philanthropist and landlord of Lisburn, Sir Richard Wallace (1818-90), of the Wallace Collection Fame.  Another highlight is McKowen’s handwritten manuscript for his much-admired folk song, the Old Irish Jig!

Why not call in and view these amazing artifacts!