1824 Poem, George Dugall, ‘Public Spirit’

Author: George Dugall

Date: 1824

Source: Poem: ‘Public Spirit’, from The Northern Cottage and other poems; written partly in the Dialect of the North of Ireland by George Dugall (Londonderry: William McCorkell, 1824)

Comments: George Dugall (c.1790-1855) was the son of Rev. George Dugall, Presbyterian minister of Magherafelt from 1786-1810, and lived most of his life near Newtowncunningham in Donegal. He was a schoolteacher in north Donegal, and his only book of poems The Northern Cottage contains an extensive glossary of Ulster-Scots words. The vocabulary and cultural context of his poems are rich in Ulster-Scots reference.

Doc. ref. no.: USLS/TB/Poetry/1800-1899/050

In the early part of 1817, shortly after the commencement of the public distress, the late Rev. Thos. P*mb*rt*n, Rector of Taughboyne and Allsaints, in conjunction with the Parishioners of the latter, organized the Allsaints Spinning Institution, for the purpose of affording poor female residents of the Parish the means of subsisting by their own industry.

Under the supervision of a Treasurer, who took cognizance of the receipts and disbursements, (chosen in rotation from among the subscribers) who managed the public business and regulated the price of labour, and the Inspector, whose province it was to examine and assort the yarn for market, flax was purchased, cloved, hackled, and given out in small quantities to spinners, under certain regulations, who generally made returns every fortnight to the ware-room of the Institution, and on such occasions received the highest price for their work.



To the Allsaints Spinning Institution

Written in August, 1819

“The gen’rous band,

Who touch’d with human woe, redressive search’d

Into the gloomy horrors.”Thomson.

That fame has her whimsies, we find it quite true;

And whimsies as odd as that black should be blue:

The butcher of thousands her register hallows,

While the wretch who has murder’d but one gets — a gallows.

When the names of her heroes she gives to the wind,

Who, soulless and stern, cut the throats of their kind;

Where discord and havoc, triumphantly smother,

That sacred injunction, “To love one another,”

Shall the worthies of Allsaints be deemed less deserving,

Who cherish their race and keep hundreds from starving?

Such virtues are rare in the song-singing page —

We seldom have found them — scarce once in an age.

’Tis said, that Old Nick, on a certain state day,

To the regions of Light somehow grop’d out his way:

On mischief intent, for the fiend was cock-sure,[1]

To ruin the rich, and to murder the poor.

“Give me,” said old Spitfire, “but one solid dearth,

And I’ll shew you the fruits of religion on earth;

Let want at the poor, and the rich I’ll be bound

Will draw them in cartfulls to fatten the ground:

To prove this a fact, is the boon which I crave;

I’ll forfeit my horns if they bury or save.”

With half a grant scarcely his Fiendship withdrew,

And back in fell triumph to Tartarus flew;

To the Demon of Famine he open’d his plan,

With orders to muster the chiefs of the clan;

Shaking winds, rotting rains, that on poverty revel;

Deep snows, and late harvest, with ev’ry such evil

Let loose upon earth: and the watch-word was “Starve;”

Then follows hot-foot[2] with a corps de reserve:

These Satan stole forth, lest the famine should fail,

Led on by grim Typhus,[3] with death at his tail.

Yet Allsaints display’d, in the midst of the buzz,

The virtues — the patience, and firmness of Uz:

’Tis true that in number her worthies were more;

Uz boasted of one, but she boasts of a score.

See Famine’s fell bands now array’d for the field,

Whilst Industry droops without banner or shield;

Defenceless and naked, in care, want, and woe,

With scarcely a rock-stick[4] to wield at the foe.

But the tactics of Charity routed the dearth;

And Nick may go mull’d[5] while he treads upon earth;

For while he stood marshall’d of victory sure,

The genius of P*mb*rt*n rose for the poor:

’Twas his to propose the “Outlines of a Plan,”[6]

That foil’d the Black Phalanx in rear and in van.

“To give the poor odds, you must keep them still winning;

We’ll purchase the flax, and we’ll pay them for spinning”

He said — and his purse prov’d the motive was just:

The parish then lib’rally threw down the dust,

And W*ckl*w distinguish’d in rank and in zeal,

As gen’rous as noble encourag’d the wheel.

With joy-beaming eyes, and with fostering hand,

Our Vicar completed the fabric he plann’d:

But daughters of woe, let your sympathy tell,

How he stood, till he freed you from danger — then fell!

To thee worthy shade — to thy virtues away!

A muse much indebted pours forth the sad lay:

Now cold is the bosom that charity warm’d;

And low lies the hand that benevolence arm’d;

Philanthropy, friendship, and truth are exil’d,

For dull are the eyes and the lips where they smil’d.

Be thy dust ever hallow’d, and calm be thy rest!

While gratitude lives shall thy mem’ry be blest.

May the breath of detraction ne’er strip of its bloom,

The wreath ever green that encircles thy tomb:

A tomb that has purchas’d, while fame shall endure,

This envied inscription — The friend of the poor.

As the Corsican howl’d over lost Waterloo,

While the wreck of his host yet arose to his view,

When Cloots look’d about for his forces, and miss’d em,

His roars flew in thunders from system to system:

“Perdition and fury! my projects are over;

I as well might have thought of a landing at Dover:

The fall of nine days[7] through the chaos profound,

To the pit where my bedstraw was blazing around,

With dread less portentous my bosom could fill,

Than the rock-rending sermons of Dowling[8] and Dill.[9]

The fellows are snug, and quite out of my reach;

Not a virtue extant but they practise and preach:

Ere long these fanatics (their success avouches,)

Will have ev’ry rascal quite out of my clutches:

They industry rouse, and convince by their zeal,

That ’tis better to work, than to beg, or to steal;

Not a vagrant is strolling — such horrible cant

Has made begging worse by full fifty per cent.

Defeated abroad, and tormented at home,

Ere now a usurper perhaps in my room:

From Allsaints above I once fled in confusion;

Now Allsaints below has repell’d my intrusion.”

He look’d to B***y-House with sobbing and grinning,

And vanishing, roar’d out, “to h--- with the spinning.”

My honest old aunty, who saw him retire,

Affirms that he fled in a fuzzball of fire.

Meanwhile to his court, from the grand expedition

A bulletin came, of kill’d, wounded, and missing:

Despair, as the clerk, bellow’d out — “They defeat us,

Our Field-marshal Famine is kill’d with potatoes:

Brave Typhus is pris’ner — his wounds are severe

From a party of doctors that fell on his rear:

Of staff, rank and file, not a devil is left —

Arouse, sons of darkness! — Reform’s the last shift.

In the kingdom of soot, since the earliest time,

An absolute sway has oppress’d the dark clime;

No ministry there keep sedition at bay,

For hell has no L******** — no C**********.

The prince stands alone to enact and to awe,

All bow to his nod, and his will is their law.

But some still presume, with an impudence strong,

That the will of a devil may sometimes be wrong;

Thus Radicals rise, but as oft’s they appear,

Their discord and folly arrest their career.

And well for the state — for were such at the helm,

Old h--- had long since been a limited realm.

When a measure’s dislik’d, straight the cry is — Reform;

Each blast of adversity rouses the storm:

Their clamours at length, grown too loud to despise ‘em,

He thinks of a council henceforth to advise him.

From regions of horror, Oh Muse, let us rise!

And the names of the victors engrave on the skies:

In star-written numbers their characters trace,

And dethrone demi-gods with the bright sons of peace.

We have F-lt-n, and C-w-n, and Th-ms-n, and M-ff-t

Unmatch’d; and C-lh-n, true disciple of Ovid;

K-ng, Br-d-, Sm-th, and H-d: they’re nine stars of bright lustre,

I’d challenge the zodiac to shew such a cluster:

Not Pleiades surely, sev’n petticoat b----------,

Our worthies are nine, and they all have their breeches.

And long may they shine in our social lunations,

Unsullied by vapours, or dark aberrations:

Thrice happy the land that on such still depends;

Thrice happy the man who boasts nine of such friends.

Their foibles are scant — but their virtues to tell,

These few ragged rhimes to a volume would swell;

And swell’d to a volume — still more to unfold —

Like the royal Jew’s wisdom — the one-half untold.

’Tis said, “the priest christens his own children first:”

So F-lt-n the foremost shall stand on the list;

In word and deed worthy, both able and willing

To plead for the poor, or to give them a shilling.

Still first in the cause of the helpless to stand,

He wrenches the rod from oppression’s rude hand:

A patriot sound, who still pleasant and witty,

Illumes by his talents our princely committee.

And long may he flourish ‘midst peasants and gentry,

The boast of our farmers — the pride of their country.

Has probity, value? has fair dailing, worth?

Is industry laudable, wise, and so forth?

These C-w-n are thine — warm-hearted and kind —

Whoever denies it is wilfully blind.

The crime would be less, though perhaps thou should’st swear,

(With leave of the c-----y) than many a prayer.

In each part unexcell’d — contradict me who can,

Friend, neighbour, or climax of all — honest man.

In Th-ms-n’s bold mein and benevolent mind,

The gentleman honest and open we find;

To whose lot at his birth more integrity fell,

More honor and truth, than the poet can tell;

Who to make both ends meet, that each trait might be true,

Enquir’d for his faults — but these nobody knew.

But Gotsha![10] ’tis M-ff-t, ne’er dull or demure;

A bard beyond doubt, if the fellow were poor:

When mirth — nay when wit, and good humour betide,

May I still have a man of his parts by my side;

But ye Pow’rs! who preside over all my sad dumps,

Keep him out of my way, should I e’er have the mumps.

C-lh-n, a rare compound of whim and good nature;

With fire in his eye, and with fun in each feature;

Not on purpose to furnish the dead with their linen,

But for the joke’s sake, he encourag’d the spinning;

And monopolizes (for coaxing his trade is,)

The friendship of man, and the love of the ladies.

Though of gravity, mildness, and modesty too,

No man needs have more than the man in our view;

Unblemish’d in morals, polite and sincere,

Yet who’d not be K-ng,[11] when the clergy’s so near?

In his bardship’s esteem, Br--de is none of the least,

Whose virtues and failings are both of the best;

With good men’s essentials the former would class —

The latter in bad men for virtues would pass:

For thy sake, (though some old wives in spleen should be writhing)

May the hacks of the parish need quarterly teething.

There’s Sm--th of Cole-hill — but to sketch out my friend,

Will a paradox prove from beginning to end:

He’s gen’rous and noble, and yet not a H--w--rd;

He’s caution herself, yet the man is no coward:

Too plain for a fop, too well-bred to be rude;

Too proud to be dull, yet too dull to be proud;

Too keen to be dup’d, yet too artless to scheme:

A medium of prudence without an extreme.

At the stern is our H----d as a compass and helm,

Conducting our worthies to fame’s starry realm:

The fav’rite of science with laurels o’erspread;

The wisdom of ages in one single head.

In the fire of his eye, with a glance you may trace,

Of sages successive, the chief of the race:

Deep vers’d in the secrets of Newton and Boyle,

What land has not heard of the H----ds of the Moyle.

Oh Childhood, how gay is thy orient sky!

Whilst spangl’d with bliss, and with hopes that must die:

They gleam for a while — their soft splendours they shew;

But as life’s day arises the visions withdraw.

From the wide world, where dangers and mis’ries infest,

That denies the poor wand’rer a haven of rest;

The mind that with ardor and sympathy burns,

To thy tender attachments, how wishfully turns!

Content with her cares — nay, her wrongs if she find

One wreck of thy infantile pleasures behind.

Lives the man who from self and duplicity free,

Reads the soul, and can tell how the actions agree;

Of principles steady, on nature’s first plan,

Ingenious, yet simple? Yes, T---s[12] is that man.

Is the friend to be found that when sorrows invest,

The secrets of woe find a home in his breast;

On whose truth as an anchor the heart may depend;

Thrice dear in adversity? T---s is that friend.

But lend me thy quill ever-laughing Cervantes,[13]

For here the squad comes that each fortnight must haunt us;

All sizes and ages, dame, hag, witch and fairy —

Alas! for the butter if T---s kept a dairy:[14]

Some handkerchiefs clean, and some caps black as Clootie,

Some virtue, and (Gents would you think it?) some beauty.

Some curse, and some pray, some laugh, and some justle;

All’s noise and confusion, and hubbub and bustle.

What’s here? — come speak out! — your name and your number?

Three hanks — Oona Shirkey — one hundred. Such lumber!

Wringing wet, and bad weight! Any odds? Come be civil;

Three cuts by themselves, and some flax. What the d----.

How d’ye do? — Dear tobacco! — I thank you. — Bad times!

Mr. F--lt--n, my balance! — He’s mad, Sir! — Good rhimes?

Three and four pence — My stars! Come, begone now — now more!

A bad wheel — two and two -’s a bad thing are just four.

Well hackl’d. — Some tow. — Very late. — Ann M-g----.[15]

M’L----ghl--n[15a] is better. — All done. — You’re a l---r.

Four pence ha’penny. — Ha, ha! Sir, I’m here. — Is she begging?

May be so. — Let me go. — Mind your eye — then a naggin.

Now comes the pay night, when the clove and the hackle

Are laid for the week, with the rest of the tackle:

The parson retir’d, and the ev’ning now dusky,

Strong doses of care they gulp down in stout whiskey.

While o’er the full pint, as it slides round the board,

The “Peck o’ maut” rises — is sung and encored.

Profuse are the toasts — at the last revolution,

M’L----ghl--n proposes “The Flax Constitution,”

And drinks deoch an dhurris [sic] [16] — then homeward they reel,

Regardless of guagers, policemen, and P------.

Flow, Charity flow, from our valley afar,

Bright Queen of the virtues — the soul’s leading star:

Faith and hope shall subside in fruition above,

But thou art immortal as Light, and as Love.

While thy laws spring improv’d from the lips of a youth,

Whose life is a sermon of duty and truth;

Whose gentle persuasives this maxim impress,

To build our good works on humility’s base;

Here mis’ry shall rest from her troubles and tears,

And Allsaints be blest in the title she bears.

Dear Allsaints, where scenes of my youth still arise;

Where each fond attachment — each sympathy lies;

Be the truth of thy sons still unmov’d as thy hills,

Erect as thy forests, and pure as thy rills:

Be thy daughters still fair as thy flow’rets that blow,

With bosoms unstain’d as the chaste winter snow:

And when the last strains of the minstrel decline

On time’s latest harp, be those melodies thine.


[1] Cock-sure — quite certain

[2] Hot foot — close at their heels.

[3] Typhus Fever

[4] Rock-stick — the rock bearer of a spinning-wheel.

[5] Mulled — without horns.

[6] The printed proposals which were distributed at this period among the Parishioners, were entitled, “Outlines of a plan, for affording employment to the industrious spinner.”

[7] Vide Paradise Lost, Book 6.

[8] The late Rev. Dionysius Dowling, perpetual Curate of Allsaints.

[9] A worthy Dissenting Clergyman of the neighbourhood.

[10] Gotsha, (Irish) come hither!

[11] The Clergyman of the parish, at that time resided in apartments belonging to Mr. King.

[12] The Inspector.

[13] Author of the inimitable “Adventures of Don Quixote.”

[14] Vide notes on the 37th stanza of the “Northern Cottage.”

[15] Two famous rival flax-dressers, employed by the Institution.

[16] Deoch-an dhurris, (Irish) a drink at the door.

Other poems from ‘The Northern Cottage’


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