The Ploughman Alone is King


Several hours last Saturday were spent, rather than writing up a weekend post, brushing out the flood in my house.  I had turned on the bath and forgotten about it.  I stepped off the sofa, to bizarrely find myself plodding around in water. Every room was impacted. Two hours of brushing water, whilst canoeing, and 5 fans subsequently running until midnight, ensured all the floor tiles were finally dry.   The sad thing is, I don’t even recall turning the taps on. Ah, the joys of getting older.

A few weeks ago, while looking through old newspapers, a wonderful old poem cropped up.  The 1899 poem, called ‘The Ploughman Alone is King’, was composed and submitted by a Dunloy man, to a local newspaper in Ballymena. It emphasised the one-time importance of the rural ploughman.

It got me thinking. I was not old enough to ever recall work-horses on the farm at Eden.   From my first memories, in the late 60s and early 1970s, I do recall a few old farm machines, laying in out-houses, or corners of fields, rusting, and long since unused.

There was also the old Fordson tractor, the engine seized-up decades previously, rusted and colour-less by that point, and permanently abandoned in the hut, in the top yard (aka ‘upper’ yard) at Eden.

Thinking of that, reminded me of my grandfather, Tommy Mulholland, often proudly saying:

That was the first ever tractor in Eden.

If memory serves me correctly, Sonnie Kennedy may have fixed that old tractor up, in the 1980s, and got her working. She might have subsequently appeared at a few vintage rallies.

That reminds me, I must finally publish the story of the ‘hut’ in the near future. It was acquired from Portglenone forest at the end of the war. It had housed American soldiers. There’s quite a story to be told.     

Barney horse Eleanor Moneymore
Barney and mum, Moneymore

When I think of my maternal grandparents farm, just outside Moneymore, I do recall mum sometimes mentioning their horse, Barney (who she always spoke of with great fondness). He would have done all the heavy work around the farm, before the emergence of the tractor, put him out to grass.

After rummaging through old photos this weekend, a photo of Barney showed up.  Mum was wonderful, nearly always labelling who was in her photos, and often including the year as well. She would either write the details below the photo, or on the back of the image. That’s her writing above.

Ok, back to our poem. 

The first power of a nation consists in knowing how to guide the plough.

John Ruskin

ploughman ploughing field

The Ploughman Alone is King

They may have who will the sword or the quill,
Or a life on the bounding sea;
But a steady team and an even beam,
And the good old plough choose we.
For who rules the realm, or who holds the helm,
And is steering the ship stale,
To the ploughman’s arm must look for the charm
That determines the nation’s fate.

Then hip!  There, horses, ho!
While jogging and fro,
As merry as the birds we’ll sing.
To knaves and clowns
Leave thrones and crowns.
For the ploughman alone is king.

With the larks we rise, as the blushing skies 
Of the day’s approach give warning,
And the hills all wake from the misty lake
That rolls on the shore of Morning;
We take the feeds to our whinnying steeds,
While the farmyard cocks are crowing,
And we break our fast on the chast’ning blast
That up from the North is blowing.

Then hip!  There, horses, ho!
While jogging and fro,
As merry as the birds we’ll sing.
To knaves and clowns
Leave thrones and crowns.
For the ploughman alone is king.

When the morning gleams with our harnessed teams,
Away to the fields we hie us;
And we’re happy there and as free from care
As the schoolboy whistling by us.
Then, a fig for wealth! for still rich in health
And a cheerful heart his reliance,
The knight of the plough, with uplifted brow.
Bids the world and its cares defiance.

Then hip!  There, horses, ho!
While jogging and fro,
As merry as the birds we’ll sing.
To knaves and clowns
Leave thrones and crowns.
For the ploughman alone is king.

Oh, the fresh, sweet breath of the turning earth. 
And the soft pacing back and fro,
Bring peace of mind and health of a kind
That only we ploughmen know.
And we cheerful toil through the dusty soil,
While the drones on their couches loll;
For these furrows brown shall the harvest crown
With Heaven’s golden gifts for all.

Then hip!  There, horses, ho!
While jogging and fro,
As merry as the birds we’ll sing.
To knaves and clowns
Leave thrones and crowns.
For the ploughman alone is king.

The proud, would-be lord and the lackey horde,
That attend at his beck and call
May go strutting by, with their heads held high.
But they’re our dependents all.
Let no wealthy knave nor the pedant grave,
Boast themselves than the toiler better;
For the king on his throne calls the land his own,
But for bread he’s the ploughboy’s debtor.

Then hip!  There, horses, ho!
While jogging and fro,
As merry as the birds we’ll sing.
To knaves and clowns
Leave thrones and crowns.
For the ploughman alone is king.

Then, my comrades on! speed the day with song,
From morn till the dews are falling;
And let’s pray God, while we turn the sod.
For peace to pursue our calling.
But should Freedom’s ‘larm bid each true man arm
And go forth in her cause some day,
Oh, the sharpened share will be foremost there
In the van of the glorious fray.

Then hip!  There, horses, ho!
While jogging and fro,
As merry as the birds we’ll sing.
To knaves and clowns
Leave thrones and crowns.
For the ploughman alone is king.

Tamie Rabin
Dunloy
October 1899

Ballymena Observer – Friday 3rd November 1899

Trudger

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

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