Sailing Down the Bann

River Bann Coleraine

Portglenone Poem – Sailing Down the Bann

The poem below, about sailing down the River Bann in a rowing boat, is reproduced from an 1883 book by Norah Pembroke, called “Days in a Life“. 

Norah Pembroke

Norah’s real name was  Margaret Dixon McDougall (born December 26, 1828 – died October 22, 1899). She was an Irish-born writer/journalist/teacher who emigrated, living subsequently in both Canada and the United States. Her surname also crops up as MacDougall.  She was born Margaret Moran Dixon in Belfast.  Her parents were William Henry Dixon and Eleanor West.  Her family moved to Canada while Margaret was in her twenties.

After publishing extensively in local newspapers, Margaret returned briefly to Ireland as a correspondent for the New York Witness and Montreal Witness during the Parnell unrest in 1882.  Her time back in Ireland inspired two books – Days in a Life was one of them.

Sailing Down the Bann

Well and truly I remember
That sweet eve of eves,
When, in mellow-grown September,
‘Neath the willow-leaves.
Three fair Northern girls, assisted
By me — rhyming man —
Floated idly as we listed.
Sailing down the Bann.

Derry’s meadows, on our starboard,
Bright with grain had grown;
And away upon our larboard
Smiled dear Portglenone;
While the stream so gently bore us,
Far as eye could scan,
Coot and gull swept on before us,
Sailing down the Bann.

Beauteous was the verdure scattered
O’er the river shores;
Gleefully the damsels chattered,
Tugging at the oars:
For the poet — do not shudder
At the ungaliant plan!
Smoked his weed, and held the rudder,
Sailing down the Bann.

Soon in soft and joyous cadence.
As we swept along,
Burst there from the merry maidens
Many a tuneful song;
But along the path the mowers.
Brown with solar tan.
Came to watch mv dainty rowers.
Sailing down the Bann.

Gaily went the boat careering
O’er the silver foam;
Faithful to her pilot steering,
Soon we sighted home:
And we wondered, undecided
How the minutes ran —
How, too fast, those moments glided.
Sailing down the Bann.

While the tasselled willows quivered
O’er your gentle breast,
Flow thou on, oh! noble river,
To your distant rest.
So shall we, inside the measure
Of life’s gloomy span.
Catch some sunshine gleams of pleasure.
Sailing down the Bann.



"I have spread my dreams beneath your feet. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

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