1824 Poem, George Dugall, ‘Sir Enoch. A Tale of the Times’

Author: George Dugall

Date: 1824

Source: Poem: ‘Sir Enoch. A Tale of the Times’, 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/1800-1899/056


A Tale of the Times — Founded on fact

“People, and it is to be regretted, people of influence too, seem more desirous to listen to vain and visionary theories, which come recommended merely by being paradoxes, than to promote the solid advantages of the country.”N.W. Magazine.

Ye friends of Erin’s weal excuse

These rhimes amid your bustle,

Then jigs to finger-posts my muse

Shall ever after whistle.

Wi’ icy grips December spoil’d

O’ blade an’ flow’r the frozen wild;

An’ bitter o’er the whiten’d heath,

Unfeeling blew his chilling breath:

More callous they, whose happiness

Springs frae their fellow man’s distress —

Their promis’d land o’ milk an’ honey;

Who heed no calls but those o’ money.

Reynard, an underling of office,

Sly, spitefu’, insolent and huffish,

Who strutted in a station bright,

Assistant-bailiff to a knight,

An’ frequently without a call,

Would dance attendance at the hall,

An’ there detail wi’ seeming scorn,

The rising price o’ lint an’ corn;

Besides, in base invidious strains,

Descant upon the farmer’s gains,

Of which, he’d swear the highest rent

Was but a scanty rate per cent.

Chief agitator o’ distrainings,

Though gracious still wi’ a’ the tenants;

Wi’ whom, to screen himsel’ frae blame,

Sir Enoch’s orders were his theme;

An’ as he labour’d for the booty,

Complain’d o’ the unpleasant duty.

To those who had frae begg’ry rais’d him,

An’ by their int’rest thus had plac’d him,

His gratitude the mair to shew

He prov’d a secret, bitter foe:

But woe to him, whose captious fate

Call’d forth the petty tyrant’s threat,

That minister’d to his aversions

As sure’s the code o’ Medes and Persians.

The subject o’ this weel-won fame,

Frae break o’ day had been frae hame,

On deeds o’ mercy far around;

His praises fill’d the routing pound,

As loud as kye could sing or say,

Without a bite o’ hay or strae:

The blast to Reynard clapp’d its spurs;

The day had measur’d half its course,

An’ frown’d through clouds abrupt an’ angry;

The carle was owrie, caul’, an’ hungry,

Wi’ speed the lengthen’d paces fetching,

Intent upon Sir Enoch’s kitchen;

Whar for his services rewarded,

His stomach often had been larded.

But ere the wretch can fill his jacket,

He to the knight lets fly a packet,

Wi’ shiv’ring frame, an’ whiskers hoary;

The gentle echoes blabb’d the story.

“O sir! I’ve something got to tell

Of farmer Frank, that imp o h----:

Caul’ though it be, I’ve ventur’d down;

(The tale I’m sure is worth a crown.)

Last night, Squire Worthy’s tenant Jack

Had stapp’d at Frank’s to ha’e a crack;

They talk’d o’ you, an’ o’ the squire —

I heard them frae the kitchen fire:

The stranger braggit out o’ measure,

How worthy was a public treasure,

Unlike the mob o’ empty great,

The useless trappings o’ the state;

Who mak’ the praise o’ men their boast,

An’ think all hidden virtue lost;

Or that reward will ne’er be giv’n,

Till post-boys waft the deed to heav’n;

He keeps his unassuming name,

A secret frae the ears o’ fame,

Save in the lowly mansion, where

It animates the grateful pray’r.

To fell distress a constant guest —

Mair frequent than the parish priest;

His alms are giv’n — no witness nigh —

They’re only heard of in the sky.

His firm uncompromising justice,

O’ ev’ry creed the sacred trust is;

His word disarms the worst o’ spites,

An’ foes in friendship’s band unites;

An’ to his honor’d name belongs

Avenger o’ the poor man’s wrongs.

Nae man wi’ harshness e’er could tax him,

Retrenchment is his fav’rite maxim,

Retrenchment unconfin’d to speeches,

He practises still as he preaches:

When the delusion was wrought up,

An’ war withdrew the miscroscope,

That left aul’ Erin’s shrivell’d face,

Bare to the sober eye of peace;

An’ England sunk wi’ a’ her farming,

To state as helpless — as alarming;

’Twas his to guard against the worst,

An’ mark the bubble as it burst;

An’ when our payments fail’d of course,

He trac’d the evil to its source,

An’ as the proper cure he knew,

Recall’d the rents o’ ninety-two.

“Frank sat in silent admiration,

Till he had heard the hale narration;

Then, sir, the villain mention’d you,

An’ thus the shocking picture drew:

A beardless knight — a rank oppressor,

His tenants’ curse, an’ chief distresser;

From whose mean, greedy, fraud an’ grinding

No lease secures — no contract’s binding;

He racks us duly on the day,

For money to be thrown away,

To raise a laughing-stock at court,

An’ pay them double for their sport;

To see him cringing to his betters,

An’ rivetting his country’s fetters;

An’ lavishing on foreign soil,

The produce o’ our thankless toil:

Hame whiles he comes, but never wiser —

He struts a fresh imported vizier;

Insults the raggit wight in passing,

Or stalks through woods a snipe assassin.

Nane o’ the patriarchal train,

For our Sir Enoch walks wi’ men,

Through heav’nly ways o’ game an’ drinking,

Secluded frae the hell o’ thinking;

Parisian airs, Italian vice,

St. James’s selfish proud caprice,

Greed an’ profusion, close allied

In him are seen personified.

Here too, Religion (pliant maid!)

Can shape her doctrines as she’s paid;

She would be branded as a witch,

Should she presume to fright the rich;

So, wisely his weak stomach treats,

To mod’rate samples of her sweets:

She tells him, (meek an’ lowly guide!)

That, faith is form, an’ virtue pride;

An’ that howe’er the zealot swaggers,

Humility is but for beggars;

Then trains him by gradation nice,

To rank wi’ dukes in Paradise;

Mounts him as easy to the sky,

As the mill-door admits a fly,

Or in a phrase you understand,

Drives him to heav’n four-in-hand:

But keeps her flames, an’ racks, an’ fetters,

For wretches who insult their betters,

An’ hoards red veng’ance up in store,

For those d------d scoundrels call’d the poor.

Respect an’ homage to obtain,

He treats us with a due disdain;

An’ flies afore the way-worn beggar,

As though the rags conceal’d a dagger;

Tak’s umbrage at the cotter’s midden,

Wi’ stinking pride that’s mair forbidding,

An’ by an edict rig’rous, cruel,

Proscribes their means o’ food an’ fuel:

The lan’ o’ poverty to clear,

Throws down ten hovels ev’ry year;

An’ as a compensation fair,

Each out-cast may rebuild with — air;

An’ if he canna raise a palace,

May e’en go labor for a gallows;

Or banish’d far frae beau an’ belle,

To Owen’s[1] bee-skepps, or to h---.

He keeps in pay a squad o’ trustees,

To throw a specious air o’ justice

Owre plans o’ rapine, while they’re brewing,

That end in many a fam’ly’s ruin;

The Ignis fatui o’ science,

Who blunder on in art’s defiance;

Nor ance for aye do they appear,

But troops successive year by year.

The fav’rite survey is the newest —

Its acres maist — of course the truest;

By one best suited to the work,

Because, forsooth, he cam’ frae Cork!

Wi’ Hawney’s lore, a mod’rate smatt’ring,

An’ recommended by a patron,

In tracing parts sae very keen,

He smells them whar they are na seen.

Then comes a sage — the valuator;

Nae doubt some win’-fa’n navigator,

Sae weel wi’ land ideas stor’d,

You’d swear he had been bred on board;

An’ such a valuation gi’es him,

As if he had been sworn to please him.

“By arts like these, a sum is laid,

That maun through blood an’ tears be paid;

Enforc’d by ev’ry harsh enactment,

Impounding, latitat, ejectment,

Till sunk in mis’ry an’ distress,

His lands are turn’d a wilderness:

Regardless o’ a sacred claim,

The farmer’s driven frae house an’ hame;

An’ wand’ring hopeless, poor an’ bare,

Mak’s room for those who promise mair;

(But as a judgment on their head,

Their promises are never paid.)

Bound as it were by countless ties,

Love, friendship, kindred, early joys,

Harsh usage pulls those ties apart,

And rends them from the bleeding heart,

Till far beyond Ohio’s wave,

He seeks a hovel or a grave,

And finds, midst tomahawks and snakes,

And ills that haunt her woods and brakes,

A refuge from oppression’s storm,

And savages in Christian form.

“Frank ended here — it cut my saul,

To hear a tenant speak sae baul’

O’ ane sae guid, nor is it strange,

I meditated on revenge;

An’ ere this morning I cam’ down,

His ev’ry hoof was in the pound.”

The knight began to stamp an’ rave,

An’ call’d the spy a lying slave,

Who was himsel’ wi’ faction linkit,

For such a libel — none dare think it.

He curses Reynard black an’ blue,

Who swears again the story true;

Yet doubts until the tempest clear,

He maun forego his beef an’ beer.

Meanwhile aul’ farmer Frank drew nigh,

To pay demands, an’ free the kye,

While thus, Sir Enoch, mad wi’ rage,

As Reynard flies, salutes the sage:

“How comes it Frank, that unafraid,

You brave me thus with rent unpaid?

While you enjoy your festive rants,

You care not who the d---l wants;

Besides your idleness demands,

That you no longer spoil my lands:

May next — depend upon’t I’ll match you,

A speedy John Thrustout[2] will catch you.”

“Think Sir,” quo’ Frank, “’tis rather sore,

To pay a rent ne’er paid before,

At such a time — but, wi’ your leave,

Your money’s here aye when you crave;

Yet weel you ken by usage true,

That May maun come ere it be due:

Although you load me wi’ abuse,

Amang the first I met your views

In drills an’ ploughs; but when I settle,

I pay for weeding an’ a pettle.

Truth needs na come in dark disguise;

Nor should decorum sanction lies;

While my Lessee wears Britain’s crown,

I’ll fear no arbitrary frown:

Not for mysel’ my bosom grieves,

But our poor burden’d, goaded slaves,

Whom auction’d leases bind to troubles,

That each new hopeless season doubles;

Revil’d the more, the more they crave,

But not one finger stretch’d to save.

Sir, ‘live and let live’s’ my delight,

An’ liberty of speech my right;

For he wha to a wayward brother,

Would urge the tane, maun claim the tither.”

“Hush!” quo’ the knight, “your haughty revel,

Nor bring me to so base a level;

Submission must be taught inferiors,

Who thus behave towards superiors.”

“My humble lot I’ll never blame,

Your grandsire, sir, was ance the same;”

Frank said, “he neighbour’d lang my father;

They aften paid their rent thegither,

In days when gold was to be found,

An’ cattle seldom in the pound:

I mind fu’ weel his elevation

Sprang frae the gear o’ a relation,

Wha lies amang the western nigers;

His equals then, have since been beggars.

Your proudest boast sir, is a stock

O’ honest, decent, country folk,

On whose account you’r not rejected,

Nor yet ae whit the less respected;

For pedigrees I little mind them,

But tak’ a’ mankind as I find them.”

These observations were na heard:

At length the knight, as if he shar’d

His tenants woes, bade God befriend them;

Wish’d frae his saul that he could mend them;

An’ thus in pious declamation,

Proceeded wi’ his lamentation:

“Oh! would the farmers of our land,

Their lasting good but understand;

And fly from vain seductive lectures

To us, their natural protectors;

Nor sep’rate by a captious blame

Our int’rests, which are still the same:

Avoid the nuisances of wives,

And lead industrious, godly lives,

Nor suffer once the Jewish maxim

‘Encrease and multiply’ to vex ‘em:

Eat food that’s weak, and eat but little;

Drink water, or inhale their spittle;

Nor is it wish’d, they practise less

The same economy in dress:

Discard their cottiers, hateful thrice,

For filth, for poverty, and vice;

And then, in humble, meek content,

Improve the soil, and pay the rent;

This state of things would be our pride.”

To which the farmer thus replied:

“Why sir, have some folks sage debating

On evils o’ their ain creating?

The plants that chiefly need their pruning

Are these — Oppression an’ Disunion:

In sacrifice to gods o’ strife,

They dedicate a selfish life;

Bereft o’ conscience an’ contrition,

Fomenting faction an’ division;

An’ trace the mis’ry o’ the nation

To a redundant population;

Then as a knife’s the cheapest fother,

Humanely gar them rip each other:

Set up a howl for church an’ state;

Mak’ fools an’ leave them to their fate,

But gi’e the knaves a cozie nest;

Then in their sleeves enjoy the jest.

This truth bears the impress o’ time,

That slav’ry is the nurse o’ crime;

An’ whar we view a trampl’d nation,

Sloth mixes wi’ her degradation.

There are, (the great will scarce believe us)

Whose high-ton’d morals aften deave us,

Of whom, from scanning actions human,

We’re mair than saction’d in presuming,

That left in mis’ry to themselves,

Like ither ill-starr’d luckless elves,

Poor out-casts on the wild o time,

Whose poverty’s their damning crime,

Would their superior worth exhibit,

In working tightly for a gibbet.

Your public spirit is na doubted,

I would na sir, for ane dispute it,

But if its success you’d ensure,

Ne’er heap invective on the poor;

For when the needy are rejected,

The independent will suspect it,

An’ think your lenient measures look

Like forcing pay, by hook or crook.

A duck there was, traditions say,

That laid her owner ev’ry day

An egg — at length this would not do;

Aul’ Goody thought she might lay two:

The force o’ blows, good soul she tried;

The duck laid twa that day, and died.

You needna for the moral look,

Our agriculture is the duck,

But then sir, like the hav’rel wife,

Guid bless you dinna tak’ her life.

Ripe crops are glanc’d at waving high,

An’ valued wi’ a partial eye,

Unmindful though the price be lang,

How many ways it has to gang:

To pass by rent, an’ tithe, an’ taxes,

The candid voice o’ feeling axes,

What pays the us’rer six per cent

For hundreds o’ the purchace lent?

What hangs upon it yet to clear

Deficiencies o’ many a year?

Owre woes perhaps o’ townland fines,

The wretched owner still repines:

Leaves he the tradesman in the lurch?

Or goes he raggit to the Church?

What sums the servants’ wages pays?

What gies his fam’ly meat an’ claes?

These burdens sir, an’ a’ the rest,

The wretch who bears them knows them best.

When landlord, county, church an’ state

Receive their charges, tare an’ trett,

The farmer reft o’ food an’ clothing,

Enjoys his envied hoards o’ nothing.”

In lolling attitude reclin’d,

With careless air the knight rejoin’d:

“The mis’ry that around us pours,

Has baffl’d wiser heads than ours:

The Senate, in a sage debate,

With pains discuss’d our woful state;

And sanction’d this result mature:

The evils don’t admit of cure.[3]

Improvement is the work of time,

’Tis this will renovate the clime;

Observe your Scotch, and English neighbours,

And strive to imitate their labors:

Our sluggards as they did not mind them,

Are a full century behind them.”

Frank took a pinch, then shook his head,

An’ kindling, thus indignant said:

Ere you the bright example broach,

Sir, give us union like the Scotch,

An’ wealth, an’ pow’r, that love the soil:

Give these, and then command our toil.

Wi’ English nostrums many a score,

To mak’ her thrive aul’ Erin bore;

Pretending o’ her ills to cure her,

They never fail’d to mak’ her poorer.

But troth, you’ll claw an aul’ man’s pow,

Afore our farmer milks a cow;

Or in the dairy mak’s a clutter,

To skim the bowls, or hair the butter.

Soon as he apes the English sots,

I trust you’ll bring him petticoats;

For if within the pail he keeks,

You’ll find the wife maun hae the breeks;

An’ wi’ the pot-stick till he smarts,

The calf will get his just deserts.

We’ll stand or fall by Albion’s banners,

But still we’ll reprobate such manners;

An’ tell her scullions owre again,

If we be taught, ’twill be like men.

Projectors too, anew we hae,

Who talk o’ ploughing at their tea;

Ev’n ladies teach us harrow labor,

An’ drap the scandal o’ their neighbour:

Sure industry maun oddly thrive,

When lazy drones direct the hive,

And one, and all, in savage freedom,

Insult the working-bees who feed ‘em.

I doubt, (for I maun speak my mind)

The country an’ themsels will find,

Yet, ere the seventh annual sun,

They at the wrang en’ hae begun.

At best, (experience is na bouncing;

She’s maistly cautious in pronouncing:)

Hale years maun yet decide the matter,

How far these things are for the better.

When the distemper o’ the nation,

Is that o’ vi’lent strangulation,

What Gothamite o’ Galen’s tribe,

A ling’ring issue would prescribe?

Why rent, that rose wi’ price o’ produce,

Should yet be claim’d, in truth right odd is;

When ae base phantom sunk frae view,

The tither should hae vanish’d too;

Yet, self-secur’d, it keeps its station,

Defying justice, truth an’ reason:

That labor should improve is granted;

An’ ev’n that a change is wanted;

But help the weak, for sense may tell,

The strong will stand alane himsel’.

If you would raise the farmer’s fence,

First, hedge him wi’ your confidence;

An’ that his drains may have their course,

You maun desist to drain his purse:

’Tis not wi’ rent upon the day,

Whiles double what his lands can pay,

That he can lie supinely neuter,

Philosophizing on the future.

Besides, as lang’s improvement’s canted,

An’ yearly paid for, we maun want it;

For while our landlords thus will tax it,

The greatest fool is he that maks it.

But thanks to Heav’n, my native land,

Though bandied lang frae hand to hand,

To compensate for troubles past,

Has found three honest men at last,

Who seem her renovation planning;

A George, a Wellesley, and a Canning.”

“Fie!” quo’ the knight, “your talk’s too bold,

Such lectures wont keep out the cold;

Come, take a glass, and smooth your brow,

To drink with me, God speed the plough.”

“Our ploughs,” quo’ Frank, “I lang ha’e bless’d them;

But till we get a change o’ system,

I’m doubtfu’ sir, those pious cares,

Are but a useless waste o’ prayers:

But that your kindness be na lost,

I’ll drink for once, this earnest toast:

Lang life an’ health be ever yours;

Such health, as length o’ days ensures:

Heav’n keep aloof that wofu’ day,

When from your tenants torn away.

They throng the slow receding bier,

Bedew’d wi’ mony a hopeless tear;

An’ sobbing cry, (man, wife, an’ wean)

We ne’er shall find his like again.”

“Hold!” cried Sir Enoch, “Frank you’re mad!

My tenants think me very bad;

And you for one, can’t think me better;

Be candid and explain the matter.”

“Then sir,” quo’ Frank, “since you’re sae bent;

Your grandsire first receiv’d my rent;

An’ wi’ your father’s ruling year,

We got severer, for severe:

Ere now, as they are baith in dust,

They ken how far they acted just:

Thus each new claimant on our purse,

Has taught us still to fear a worse.

You, sir, made mony a fair profession,

Yet didna bauk this expectation;

For in a landlord we’re sae fix’d,

We’re led to dread the d---l next.”

“Go,” quo’ Sir Enoch, “cease your prattle,

And take your money, and your cattle.”


[1] Mr. Robert Owen, the famous concentrator of human instinct.

[2] A writ of ejectment, so called, from a certain nondescript, or imaginary personage whom it mentions.

[3] See the Parliamentary proceedings of the Session of 1823.

Other poems from ‘The Northern Cottage’


The Ulster-Scots Academy has been an integral part of the Ulster-Scots Language Society since 1993. The name "Ulster-Scots Academy" is registered to the USLS with the Intellectual Property Office.

Ulster Scots Academy


A new edition of Michael Montgomery’s From Ulster to America: The Scotch-Irish Heritage of American English recounts the lasting impact that at least 150,000 settlers from Ulster in the 18th century made on the development of the English language of the United States. This new edition published by the Ulster-Scots Language Society documents over 500 ‘shared’ vocabulary items which are authenticated by quotations from both sides of the Atlantic. A searchable online version of this dictionary is now also available here.


The Ulster-Scots Academy is currently working on the digitisation of Dr Philip Robinson's seminal Ulster-Scots Grammar and the English/Ulster-Scots part (with circa 10,000 entries) of a two-way historical dictionary of Ulster-Scots. These projects are planned to be completed and available on the site in 2016.



This site is being developed on a purely voluntary basis by the Ulster-Scots Language Society at no cost to the taxpayer. USLS volunteers have been involved in preserving and promoting Ulster-Scots for more than 20 years. All donations, however small, will be most gratefully received and contribute towards the expansion of the project. Thank you!

This site is being developed by the Ulster-Scots Language Society (Charity No. XN89678) without external financial assistance. USLS volunteers have been involved in preserving and promoting Ulster-Scots for more than 20 years. All donations, however small, will be most gratefully received and contribute towards the expansion of the project. Thank you!

(Friends of the Ulster-Scots Academy group)