Friday, 2 September 2011

Rachel Henderson - The Pride of Croaghmore


In North Antrim there is a long poetic tradition. The process of composition is locally called 'making a poem'. This one was 'made' by James (Poet) McGowan of Broughgammon, 4 miles west of Ballycastle, and his subject was a young lass from nearby Croaghmore. The poem would also have been sung in the unaccompanied style of the district. I published this poem along with some family history in BBC NI's Your Place and Mine a few years ago.


I am a bold undaunted youth, I live in sweet Ramoan
In Magheracashel I was born and bred and there I am well known
I fell in love with a pretty maid and her I do adore
She is the daughter of James Henderson and lives in Croaghmore

The first time that I saw my love I knew not what to do
For to address this handsome maid I straight did her pursue
I asked her name and where she dwelt, some questions three or four
She says, "I am Rachel Henderson and live in Croaghmore"

My love's a sparkling tall young girl, her age is scarce nineteen
If I was heir of Erin's Isle sure she would be my queen
Or was I Duke of Cumberland with whips of gold in store
I'd freely share with that young maid who lives in Croaghmore

Her teeth are like the ivory, her hair is a nut brown
For wit and good behaviour her equal can't be found
Her eyes shine bright like stars by night, she has wounded me fullsore
I'm sorely pained by that young dame who lives in Croaghmore

Jacob served seven years for Rachel to be his own
His father-in-law deceived with Leah 'tis well known
And for the sake of Rachel, Jacob served seven years more
For that same name I would serve the same, she's the pride of Croaghmore

I courted her with compliments, her favour for to win
The more I did pursue my love, the more she did me shun
Was I to live a thousand years instead of a few score
I ne'er could find one to my mind like the maid of Croaghmore

Now to conclude and finish, I mean to end my song
I asked her off her parents, they said she was too young
But if I don't gain this handsome maid, I'll leave my native shore
And bid farewell to all my friends that live round Croaghmore


This version of the poem/song was copied in Philadelphia, PA., USA in January 1898 by A.A.J.B.

[The Duke Of Cumberland mentioned in verse 3 was William Augustus, second son of George the Second, King of England. He was known for his harsh methods in quelling the rising of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745.]

Rachel, daughter of James Henderson and Annie Greer, was baptised by the minister of Toberkeigh Presbyterian Church on 21st June 1849. The poem could have been written about 1868 and it is told that James (Poet) Magowan once transported Rachel into Ballycastle on his cart and this event inspired the poem.

On 18 February 1871 Rachel married William Brown and they lived at the Hillhead, on the outskirts of Ballycastle. They had eight children - Daniel, Annie, Margaret, John, Charles, Catharine, Mary and James - born between 1872 and 1892. Daniel, who was born at Cloughcorr, and Mary both married McGowans and Catharine married James Taggart of The Poole, Ballyoglagh, Mosside, son of James Taggart and Margaret Martin.

Rachel died on the 9th October 1945, aged 96, and was laid to rest in the burial ground of Ramoan Presbyterian Church at Moyarget, Ballycastle.

Here's another poem rooted in the same Croaghmore.