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Living History in Ring of Gullion

Living History in RoG

The Ballad of Camlough River by James N Richardson (1846-1921)

The Ballad of Camlough River by James N Richardson (1846-1921)
Know ye the fame of the brilliant little river,
Which floweth through Bessbrook from moorland and lea?
Between blue waving flax-flowers and rushes which quiver,
He runs his short course from the lake to the sea.

His sire is the mountain of Camlough up towering,
His mother-the lake in the valley below;
His cradle-grey rocks with red heather a flowering
And gay golden gorse at the source of his flow.

And Mount Keggal the Wolf, and Mount Sturgan the Lion,
From bare rugged breasts pour his sustenance down;
While blue in the distance Slieve Gullion on high, on
The crest of the ridge is his glory and crown.

Not a stream in all Erin gives half the employment
(For its size)- since our Island rose green from the foam;
Nor a stream (For its size)- which yields fuller enjoyment
To the thousands who make his valley their home.

His labours commencing at Camlough’s wide village,
With threshing, and scotching, and “‘t’arging of tow;”
He merrily ripples through meadow and tillage
To the four falls of Bessbrook beyond and below.

At Bessbrook he screeches, he roars and he thunders
Now cold amid turbines, now scalding in steam;
When after creating ten dozen of wonders
Say’s goodbye, and roles onward – the tight little stream.

At Millvale he seizes, with watery fingers,
Forked lightning and binds it to wagon and car;
And by Millvale’s soft woods you might deem that he lingers.
While watching the merchandise drawn form afar.

Mid his many strange antics – ‘tis strangest that no one
Is ever quite sure when he changes his voice,
For at Camlough his ripples ring sweet “Garryowen”,
While at millvale they brattle “ The Protestant Boys”.

Then onto Craigmore, under viaduct arches,
(The old Irish name, meaning “ Rocks in the Wood;”)
Thence with wonders repeated he rapidly marches
To the last of his labours in freshet and flood.

At Moorvale the last of those labours is ended,
Ten bowshots beyond, and behold him no more!
His current with salt of the ocean is blended,
And mingled with billows which beat on the shore.

Dear River of Camlough, thy springtide primroses
We’ve gathered in childhood, as men gather gold;
Youth and maid, on thy banks, we have plucked summer posies,
While shy tales of love have been whispered and told.

In autumn we’ve seen thee mid ferns grow yellow,
In winter ‘neath bitter winds icy and drear;
And yet in all seasons we find thy voice mellow,
Whilst sometimes lost voices thou bringst to our ear.

So then loftier bards, with a loftier ditty,
May boast them to Dublin, Belfast, or Armagh;
But we will sing pledge to our own little city,
To the Camlough Mavoureen and Erin-gobragh.

We are told that beyond deaths dark bars is a river
Of water of life flowing fourth from the Throne,
On whose banks Christ’s redeemed, for ever and ever,
May mingle and meet when God gathers His own.

Be it ours when we kneel in contrition for error
To breath for each other the penitent prayer-
That in His own time, freed from tears and from terror,
And parting in pain, He may gather us there.

James N. Richardson interestingly wrote in an epilogue to this poem;

“Camlough River in its course strangely and mysterically symbolic of the state of political parties, which for good or ill exists in this Province of Ulster, through which it flows. For about exactly half its length, the dwellers on its banks are distinctly Nationalists and for (the) other half as strongly Unionist, and yet like the current of its own bright waters, both can and do, blend to carry the useful and beneficial work which those waters render possible”

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