In the late 1800s, the life of the farmer was very difficult. Farm landlords could demand any price they wanted and could throw tenants out on a whim. Locals worked long hours on the land and were usually in debt. Land reforms were eventually introduced in the 1880s, to stave off rebellion. Henry McAnally’s poem makes reference to these times.
Dear land of my fathers — immortal in story,
The birthplace of clansmen and heroes of yore;
To love thee sincerely is my highest glory,
Though destined to wander thy valleys no more.
Bright scene of my childhood — gay, cheerful, and merry,
Forget thy grand aspect is more than I can;
For I love so fondly the green hills of ‘Derry,
In all their wild pride by the Banks of the Bann.
Now Spring — gently breathing, is gaily adorning
Those banks with primroses of beautiful bloom;
All sweet and serene as the radiance of morning
From Coleraine along to the meadows of Toome.
And nature’s musicians — the gay-feathered charmers.
Are pouring their songs to the Author of man;
All warbling together, delighting the farmers,
While tilling their fields by the Banks of the Bann.
Alas! for those farmers, their wives, sons, and daughters,
The glory and boast of their own native plains,
In serfdom supporting the tyrant that slaughters
The weal of their country, and holds them in chains.
Will God never lift them from that degradation,
Nor humble the despot in his wicked plan;
The haughty oppressor, the land’s ruination —
The only one curse by the Banks of the Bann.
Sweet land of my fathers, O, beauty’s own dwelling!
Where freedom but slumbers to waken anew;
Long, long has the heart in my bosom been swelling,
Afflicted with sorrow and anguish for you.
But now I am hoping, for liberty’s dawning,
For thraldom’s foul visage already looks wan;
To swallow the tyrant perdition is yawning,
And peace will return to the Banks of the Bann.
Henry McAnally, 1884