Poems

The Harry Smith Collection

A SELECTION OF POETRY BY HARRY SMITH, MINER POET, NEW CUMNOCK.  By permission of his son, Mr J. Smith, of New Cumnock.

THE GRAVES AMONG THE HEATHER

My thochts afftimes tak me awa’
where peeweep whirls an’ muircocks craw
Tae the faur hillsides where the pure win’s blaw
Oer the graves amang the heather.

In fancy I see yon brecken knowes
Doon the stey hillside the burnie rowes
By mossy howes whaur bog-myrtle grows
By the graves amang the heather.   

Tae see again the canna nod
Hear the redshanks cry oer the hallowed sod
That covers the graves o’ these folk o’ God
That lie beneath the heather.

Faur in the sky the Laverock sings
Frae the faur hillside the whaup’s cry rings
Auld Scotia’s heritage frae Stewart kings
–the Graves amang the Heather!

 

 ROCKETS and POLARIS

The Yankees think they’re clever
The Russians on a’ froon
There is a race atween them
Tae be first upon the Moon
We are nae interested
These feats we dinnae mind
Nae race upon the face o’ Earth
Has duin mair thae help mankind
But they come here wi’ Polaris
and weapons tae destroy,
Or send up rockets intae space
peacefu’ people tae annoy.
Why don’t they get thegither
Tae help their fellow-man?
Or try tae mak’ a bid for peace
-we’ll help them a’ we can!
We gi’ed the world the tarmac
Tae mak’ a better road,
The first machine upon it
Tae help tae ease man’s load;
We gave you penicillin
Forbye the telephone
Antiseptics keep wounds clean
–Light and t.v. for the home;
A magic drug called chloroform
–A boon tae every nation
Steam tae drive the trains an’ ships
And radio location!
Ither usefu’ things we gave
Tae ease your life from birth,
Why send these dreadful weapons
Tae mak’ a Hell on Earth??
Tak’ them away from Scotland!
We don’t want them near our hames!
Tak’ them away frae Clydeside–
-YE CAN BERTH THEM ON THE THAMES!!

 

THE UNMARKED GRAVE

The sun was shining brightly
The bird notes sweet and clear,
Two maidens sang their hymn of praise
To the God they loved so dear
The raised their voices, praising Him
Who died on Calvary’s Cross
Then troopers came upon them ,
And their heart’s blood stained the moss!

They would not burn their bible
Or take the hated test,
Their faith was in the living God
-They were murdered like the rest;
They said their prayer to their God above,
Then met their death so brave;
They are resting on Corsegallioch
In an unmarked grave.

What dark times these, in Scotland
Under bigot Stewart kings!
Among the wild hills of the west,
The murderous volleys ring;
They paid the price of freedom
Those teenage martyrs brave,
No stone to mark the hallowed spot
Of that Corsegallioch grave.

 

JOHNNIE WALKER

Your name ’tis Johnie Walker
Ye say you’re going strong
‘Born in eighteen-twenty,
Man, ye fairly get along,
Nae doot ye gang ow’r strang for me,
It’s jist too much tae dip
Tae get a wee drap o’ yer bluid,
An’ pey twae bob a nip!

Yer hame is auld Kilmarnock
In the bonnie shire o’ Ayr,
Her sons weel kenn’t ow’r a’ the Earth,
Her dochters aye sae fair;
Aye weel kenn’t for the whisky,
We aince cairried at the hip,
Noo wee cannae get a daicint dram-
An’ pey twae bob a nip!

 

JOCK TAMSON’S WEANS

God created Heav’n and Earth,
The sea and all therein,
A perfect world for all to share,
Free from vice or sin;
He then made the form of man,
Then He took frae oot his banes
A rib tae gi’e him Mither
Tae a’ Jock Tamson’s weans.

The humble Jew, the chosen race,
His power tae them did show,
He fed them Manna from abuin,
Frae the rock made water flow;
Then sent doon Moses frae Sinai,
Wi’ His written words on stanes,
His laws–tae prove tae a’ mankind,
We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s weans!

A’ men are born as brithers,
We are but a common clay;
Oor days are short upon this Earth,
We return tae dust ae day;
Try tae ease yer brither’s load,
His mony aches an’ pains,
Help them that are a’ doon an’ oot
—They’re a’ Jock Tamson’s Weans!

 

ON THE HILLS ABUNE MANEICHT

Go tend yer puny gairdin floo’ers,
They need yer tender care!
Gi’e me the bonnie hillside blooms,
Dame Nature’s modest fare.
They dinnae need nae sheltered neuuk,
Or help frae man or graith,
They bloom in wild profusion
On the hills abune Maneicht.

They shoot up ‘mang the miry clay,
They thrive amang the peat;
When the snaw has melted on the hills,
Auld Sol’s warm rays they greet;
I gars ye ponder in yer step,
In sic wonders is yer Faith,
Tae see the Maister’s handiwork,
On the hills abune Maneicht!

They dinnae need the help o’ man,
Tae bring them oot in floo’er,
It’s but a sample o’ His craft,
On every hill an’ moor;
Tae see the breeze upon them play,
‘Tis sic a bonnie sicht,
Ye’ll come awa’ entranced, I trow,
Frae the hills abune Maneicht!

 

A MINERS SETTURDAY NICHT

When drouthy miners leave the street,
In Funny Broon’ Crosskeys tae meet,
To hae a wee hauf o’ guid cheer,
Or muse ow’r a frothy pint o’beer
Or maybe hae a gemme at chaps
Or twinty-five, or throw a dert
Tae while awa’ a pleesant hoor
Forget the week ‘mang reek an’stour
Or hearken tae the sangs sae sweet
[They’ll either mak ye laugh or greet–]
Wi Wullie Morrison in the chair,
Burgoyne tae play an auld sweet, air,
Or the young yins singin rock an’ roll
–It’s a’ laid oan at Pathhead Toll!
There’s debates aboot the fitba teams,
The merits o’ the Blue, the Green,
The fishers roond the fireside neuk
Discuss their baits, their flees and heuks;
The punters at their papers keekin,
Their cigarettes or pipes weel reekin;
The waiters are by noo kept rinnin
Wi’ spirits an’ pint jugs a-brimmin;
The boozers noo feel at their ease
A’ Tamson’s bairns at Broon’s Crosskeys;
Salvation lassies noo come in,
An’, bunnets aff, they sing a hymn;
The nicht gaes bye wi’ lichtnin flicht,
The shortest hoors are oan Setturday nicht!
Auld Faither Time controls all joys,
When Funny shouts, It’s time, noo, boys!
Sae oot the lobby we maun glide,
Tae seek oor hame, and ain fireside,
An’ bid fareweel tae freens weel-kenn’t
–A miner’s Setturday nicht weel spent!

 

THE THISTLE

There’s a sang in my hert
There’s a tingle in my bluid;
I’m sae prood tae be born
in the land o’ the flood;
At hame I’m weel content,
In my Hameland let me be,
The hills an’ glens o’ Scotland
Will aye be dear tae me!

It is aye dear tae me,
‘Twill aye be dear tae me,
The bonnie Scots thistle
That blooms on the lea
It’s the emblem o’ my Country,
The land where I was born,
Where the heather an’ the thistle
The hillsides adorn.

It’s the land o’ wild widland
An’ bonnie tumblin’ rills
The lovely shinin’ lochs
An the great, majestic hills;
Nae mair I seek in life,
In this fair land let me be;
The Land o’ the Thistle
Will aye be dear tae me!

 

THE MARTYRS OF CORSEGELLIOCH

On the slope of Corsegellioch, and east of Ben Beoch,
There three Covenanters lie peaceful in sleep;
Their graves never shaded or seldom invaded
Except by the call of the whaups, and the sheep

The scene all around is serene and so peaceful,
And Nith thro’ the valley goes murmuring down;
In that lovely spot are the graves of three heroes,
Who worthily earned the Martyrs’ crown.

They lie there in solitude, graves never tended,
Shot down like beasts, they died in their Faith;
They trusted their maker, and no Earthly faker,
For that only reason they met with their death.

On a great standing stone their names are engraven,
Wilson, Jamieson, Humphrey, your names are revered,
Like many another, your blood stained the heather,
True to your faith , only God had you feared.

Douglas and Claver’se, what crimes you committed,
And that other hellhound, the dastard Dalziel,
They murdered the dearest, the bravest and purest,
Because they were far better folk than theirsel’s

 

CONNEL BURN

Is there a place can cheer the heart,
Like Bonnie Connel burn
Where perfume sweet permeats the air,
There’s beauty at each turn;
Where you may wander in content,
See Nature in the raw,
And thank the Greatest Architect
For Connel burn sae braw.

The blackbird and the Mavis sing
Amang the leafy trees;
The piping o’ the shulfie’s notes,
The humming of the bees;
The whaup’s wild cry up in the hills,
That’s heard sae far awa’,
The clear notes o’ the lark on high,
By Connel burn sae braw!

It’s bonnie in the autumn tints,
When the nip comes in the breeze,
Tae see auld Nature’s colour scheme
Amang the hills an’ trees;
Tho’ maist wee birds hae ceased their sang,
An’ the flooers are with’rin’ awa,
The Maister mind that never rests
Mak’s Connel burn aye braw

When blust’rin’ win’s hae done their worst,
An’ trees are gaunt an’ bare,
Tho’ Mither Nature’s gaen tae rest,
I love tae wander there;
Tae see it tumble doon in spate,
The hillsides clad wi’ snaw–
For He who mak’s a’ things complete
Mak’s Connel Burn aye braw!

*[Note; This is an expression of delight from Harry Smith, who saw Connel Burn as it was then. Harry’s heart would be heavy indeed if he could see what has been done to it in recent years—-]

 

The following verses refer to Bank number Two—the Model mine where Harry was employed for some years as ‘engineman’ on the surface, his job being the hauling of loaded tubs –hutches–up to the surface. The clay was of a quality suitable for the manufacture of bricks at the Bank brickwork nearby.

MONEY FOR CLAY

Some get a living
thro’ using their brains,
There are some who steer buses,
While ithers drive trains;
The queerest o’ callin’s
Ye’ll hear people say,
Is doon at the Model–
They get money for clay!

Awa’ up in Carluke,
They get money for jam,
They mak’ whisky at Killie
Tae gi’e us a dram;
The best job o’ a’
is at Bank number twae–
They don’t need tae worry–
They get money for clay!

Some work at the hervest,
Some at the ploo,
They a’ earn their breid
By the sweat o’ their broo;
Some work in the meadows
Till the licht turns tae grey,
But doon at the Model
They get money for clay!

Some will work at the brushin’,
Tho’ it’s sair on their backs,
There are some will shift pans,
An’ some put in packs
There are some will howk coal,
Till they’re black as a slave–
But doon at the Model,
They get money for clay!

There’s Angus an’ Wattie,
An’ Craig, an’ wee Bill
They go doon the dook,
An’ it’s clay that they fill!
They toddle a’ week,
Then they lift their big pay—
Ye can hear them a’ mutter,
It’s money for Clay!!

 

THE HAPPIEST TIME

There are some wha’ll say their coortin nichts
Were the happiest time o’ life,
When walkin’ oot the bonnie lass,
They hoped tae mak’ their wife;
Tae me the happiest time of a’,
O’ them my thochts ne-er tire,
Were sittin’ by my ain hearthside
Wi’ the weans aroond the fire.

There are some will say their schuildays,
Were the happiest time of a’,
When they wid scamper ow’r the braes,
Till the shades o’ nicht wid fa’,
Tae dook or guddle in the burn,
At sic ploys they ne’er wid tire,
Tae me , my joys were a’ complete ,
Wi’ the weans aroond the fire!

Sometimes they’d ask their questions,
Whit’s this, an’ whaur is that?
Or hoo mony eggs the Whitt’rick lays,
Why are there whiskers oan a cat?
Whaur does the cuckoo mak’ its nest?
Daft things they wid inquire;
Oh, these were aye the happiest nichts–
Wi’ the weans aroond the fire!

 

THE COMPASS AND THE SQUARE

Greetings tae ye, Brithers a’,
Frae north, south, east an’ west,
I put my richt haund on my heart,
An’ wish ye a’ the best;
I hope yer Mither’s thrivin’ weel,
An’ that she’ll ne’er be puir,
The Holy Book be aye yer guide ,
Wi’ the Compass an’ the Square.

The sons o’ ancient Israel,
Cam’ frae darkness intae light,
He split the sea tae let them through,
And escape frae Pharoh’s might;
He created darkness for their foe,
A piller o’ fire to flare,
an’ guide the ancient brethern
O’ the Compass an’ the Square.

The sun shall rise tomorrow morn,
As ever, in the East,
An’ reach meridian at mid-day,
The time of rest and feast;
Our ancient brethern watched its course
Till it sank doon in the west,
Then left the moon and stars to reign
O’er night time while at rest.

Blessin’s on ye , Brithers a’,
O’ ilka hue an’ creed,
Nae maitter from whit race we spring,
We’re a’ of Adam’s seed;
We try tae keep weel on the plumb,
A man can dae nae mair,
Than base his life an’ morals
On the Compass an’ the Square.

 

Harry Smith spent much of his boyhood in the toon six mile tae the west—Cumnock.  He cherished some childhood memories of that Burgh and some are brought to the fore in the following poems.

THE AULD KIRK IN THE SQUARE

There’s a landmark in Auld Cumnock,
Weel kenn’t ow’r a’ the Earth,
It is ever in the memory
O’ Cumnockians by birth;
When they think o’ their auld hame toon,
They see it standin’ there,
The symbol o’ Auld Cumnock,
The auld Kirk in the Square

It’s in the thochts o’ exiles
That are born o’ Cumnock seed,
Nae maitter in whit land they be,
Nae maitter whit their creed,
They mind o’ it wi’ reverence,
As they think o’ childhood there ,
Whaur they played as boys an’ lassies
Roond the auld Kirk in the Square.

There may be finer architecture
In big toons or ow’r the sea,
Whaur the natives built for worship,
Or the human eye tae please;
As Solomon built his temple,
Tae praise his God in prayer,
They did likewise in Auld Cumnock,
Wi’ that auld Kirk in the Square!

 

ABUNE THE JILE

I little thoct that when a boy,
Juist in my early teens,
When I gaed tae bide up in Toonhead,
I wid land amang sic freends!
Weel I mind the ploys we had,
It mak’s me often smile,
When I think o’ a’ the happy days,
Up there abune the jile.

The memories o’ these happy times
Alas are noo lang gaen,
When we gaed up the Glaisnock burn,
Guddlin’ broo an’ stane;
They often tak’ my mind awa’,
A’ ither thochts beguile,
When I think o’ a’ those happy days,
Up there abune the jile.

We often gaed for peesies eggs,
We gaed wi’ muckle hope,
As we toddled up ow’r Craigens hill
Then roond by Izart slopes;
Cam hame at e’en doon the wee houlm burn,
Wand’rin’ mony a weary mile,
Tired an’ lame we cam’ limpin hame,
Tae oor hames abune the jile.

Whaur hae a’ these auld freends gaen?
They’re scattered faur an’ wide,
Some hae gaen across the seas,
Ithers o’er the great divide;
I will always cherish these auld freends,
They were great freens, indeed—
Nae better folk I never kenn’t
Than my Freends frae auld Toonhead.

 

D’YE KEN AULD CUMNOCK?

Can ye tell me whaur booed Scotland is?
An whaur is Cumnock cross?
Or tell me whaur the Reenie is,
An’ whaur is Caddie’s close?
Tell me whaur the gorbals is,
An whaur’s the Soor mulk raw?
If ye dinnae ken the answers,
There’s no much ye ken ava’!

Whaur awa is Peden’s thorn
That blooms in summer fair?
Whaur’s the Twae divities?
Hae ye sat in the auld airm chair?
Can ye tell me whaur the Kye road is?
An whaur’s McLatchies lann?
Whaur awa the cley slap is,—
Hae ye walked doon Cumnock stran’?

Where-aboots is Calston heids?
If in Cumnock ye did dwell,
Whaur awa is Raikens green?
Hae ye drank frae Robin’s well?
Wha composed the Cameron Men,
A ballad o’ great fame?
Tell me whaur the Spoot raw wis—
And whaur’s the auld Deil stane?

 

NAE WIN

I wis aince a collier,
Frae hard work was not afraid,
I could always haud my en’ up,
Nae maitter whaur I gaed;
When workin’ in the solid,
Or strippin’ in the rin, [2]
Noo I hae tae gi’e it up—
I haenae got the win’.

I hae often worked in watter,
Bad air an’ pooder reek,
[When I had a daicint place,
There wisnae muckle cleek] [3]
Thae days are gaen forever,
I hae liftit a’ my graith,
I hae a job noo on the roads
For I scarcely hae a braith.

I hae worked hard at the brushin, [4]
I’m quite clever at a pack, [5]
For oney job aboot the face,
I always had the knack;
Noo I say fareweel forever,
Nae hutch will need my pin [6]
I leave my place tae a better man—-
I haenae got the win’!!

[2]–the coal face.
[3]cleek—the supply of empty coal tubs or hutches
[4] –Brushin’—the daily advancement of the coal face supply roadways.
[5]–Pack—the use of stone debris to pack up the void left by coal extraction.
[6] The pin was a brass identity disc used to identify the collier who had filled the hutch.

 

THIRTY-FIVE-AND-NINE

We were let doon by the union
We daurnae show a fight,
Everything we dae is wrang,
The gaffer’s always right;
Ye’ll hae tae dae a wee bit mair
It’s the same words a’ the time,
Ye’ll hae tae strip a few mair feet—
Or it’s thirty-five-an’-nine!

A letter frae the manager,
It’s addressed tae you–Jock Brute,
We’re cancellin’ yer contract,
You, we can dae withoot!
When ye’re slavin’ at the brushin’,
An’ ye think ye’re daein fine,
Ye’re tell’t tae blaw a few mair feet,
Or it’s thirty-five-an’-nine!

If ye’re workin’ as a panman,
Or graftin’ at the packs,
Wi’ gaffers a’ aroond ye,
Ye will hae tae face the facts;
The mines they arenae payin’,
So you must toe the line,
An’ dae everything the gaffers say,
Or it’s thirty-five-an’-nine!

When there’s nae air in yer workin’ place,
Or there’s watter frae the riff,
Ye cannae louse ow’r early,
Ye maun feenish oot the shift;
Tho’ yer heid is gaun like clockwork,
Or ye’re shiverin’ a’ the time,
Ye’re tell’t ye must increase the darg—
Or it’s thirty-five-an’-nine!

 

A VIEW FROM BROCKLOCH HEICHTS

I love, when on a simmer nicht,
Tae tak’ a walk up Brockloch heichts,
There tae see sic bonnie sichts
O’ nature gran’;
The beauty there surpasses faur
The craft o’ man.

The Knipe an’ Blackcraig tae the East,
Are bonnie on the een tae feast,
A view like this aye charms the breist,
An’ cheers the heart;
Wild Nature’s beauty meets yer gaze
Frae every airt!

Across the valley, Corsencon
Stauns majestic and alone,
Aroond his heid the win’ has moaned
For eons past;
It never ge’id that auld chiel grief
Tae staun the blast!

I turn an’ look then, tae the sooth,
Richt doon the valley o’ the Deuch,
Whaur aft I gaed in days o’ youth
Wi’ swing o’ airm;
I see the mists hang ow’r Cairnsmuir,
Ayont Carsphairn.

My een noo turnin’ tae the West,
Whaur Enoch shows his michty crest,
There grouse an’ whaup aye mak’ their nest,
‘Mang moss an’ rashes;
There they hope tae rear their brood
Whaur nae-yin passes.

Then tae the North I look, an’ sigh,
Corsegellioch stauns oot in the sky,
Whaur Martyr men an’ women lie
Aneath the heather;
They died that we may worship God,
Oor Heavenly Faither.

John Bone was the supremo over the New Cumnock group of collieries during a period which spanned the time of the Knockshinnoch disaster. He was not a popular man—which doesn’t necessarily mean that he was a bad man. In spite of his high rank in management, his direct and often rancorous dealings were often experienced by individual miners. There was, too, a widespread feeling that his part in planning had some connection to the causes of the disaster. Harry’s poem following just about sums up how many miners felt about him—

JOHNNIE BONE

That big lump of iniquity,
That is known as Johnnie Bone,
None will be sorry
When he is dead and gone;
The folk will all be happy,
And everyone will sing,
When dancing over Johnnie’s grave
We do the Heilan’ fling!

No one will be sorry,
No one will be sad,
We will take a holiday,
For we will all be glad!
When he tries to go to Heaven,
Tere’ll be no-one at the gates,
The angels there will be afraid
Big Johnnie breaks their rates!

Auld Nick is sure to greet him,
With all his wiles and charms,
He’ll open up the gates of Hell,
Greet John with open arms,
Then he’ll tell his stokers,
When Johnnie starts to moan—
Put on another ton of coal,
For this is JOHNNIE BONE!!!!

 

KILCREADY GLEN

Awa in the hills at the fit o’ the Enoch,
The wee streams o’ Hawk an’ Kilcready conjine;
Amang wild mossy howes that are dear tae my bosom,
Wi’ win’s that are pure–it’s like sweet nectarine.

I sit there an’ muse in that wild muirlan’ gairden,
On the myst’ries o’ Nature, sae hard tae define,
An’ think o’ the hunted in cauld stormy weather,
In glens sich as thee , for their worship Divine.

O wild rugged Kilcready, it’s gey hard tae leave ye,
Your stey winny slopes wi’ wildflooers sae braw,
So I tak’ aff my bonnet an’ bow tae ye humbly,
As I staund here before ye in wonder and awe!

 

GLENAFTON

Come awa the Afton,
The best team that we ken,
The pride of dear New Cumnock
Come awa the Glen!

Flow gently on, sweet Afton,
Doon thro’ that flow’ry den,
We sing aloud your praises–
Come awa the Glen!

We will support the Afton,
There’s not a team we fear;
Thro’ the length an’ breadth o’ Scotland
Our voices you can hear!

” We are on the way to Hampden
That park of fitba fame
Yes we will mow the meadow
And bring the Scottish hame”

 

BONNIE, BONNIE ANN

My thochts they afftimes wander
O’er the happy time o’ life,
When up amang the Burnfoot hills
I brocht my ain Dear Wife;
O she was as braw a lassie
As e’er won the heart o’ man;
As the years roll by my thochts still lie
Wi’ Bonnie Bonnie Ann.

O she was a winsome lass,
An’ bonnie in my sicht,
Her een were like the hillside burn,
Her Hair as dark as nicht;
Tae me She’s dear as ever,
Still my memories afftimes scan
The happy times thegither,
Wi’ my Bonnie, Bonnie Ann

Tho’ we had oor ups an’ doons,
We took them in oor stride,
An’ aye looked tae the future,
E’er we crossed the Great Divide;
I will thank the Great Provider,
As wi a’ my heart I can,
For a’ the thochts I treasure
O’ my Bonnie, Bonnie Ann.

.

More to be added