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In the introduction to his 1929 book, Ballads and Verses from Tyrone, the Reverend William Marshall is proud of the local rural dialect of his early days. He notes that:

the dialect in many of the ballads is from my own county of Tyrone. I do not conceive that any apology is necessary for the inclusion of such ballads. In past days this dialect was something which the schoolmaster ‘lenged’ out of us with a cane. Nowadays the cane is laid aside. The dialect is no longer begging at the backdoor. We have looked a little more closely at Shakespeare and Milton.

He was a Tyrone man, who ended his preaching career in Castlerock. He died there in January 1959, at the age of 71. He was buried back home in Tyrone. Very few poets have been so loved by the ordinary people as William Marshall.

My parents always loved his poem, Me and Me Da. 

The ‘clabber to the knee’ line is one that many country folk easily identify with. We’ve all been there.

Living in Drumlister

Clabber to the knee

Me An’ Me Da


I’m livin’ in Drumlister,
An’ I’m gettin very oul’,
I have to wear an Indian bag
To save me from the coul’.
The deil a man in this townlan’
Wos claner raired nor me,
But I’m livin’ in Drumlister
In clabber to the knee.

Me da lived up in Carmin,
An’ kep’ a sarvint boy;
His second wife wos very sharp,
He birried her with joy:
Now she wos thin, her name was Flynn,
She come from Cullentra,
An’ if me shirt’s a clatty shirt
The man to blame’s me da.

Consarnin’ weemin, sure it wos
A constant word of his,
`Keep far away from them that’s thin,
Their temper’s aisy riz.’
Well, I knowed two I thought wud do,
But still I had me fears,
So I kiffled back an’ forrit
Between the two, for years.

Wee Margit had no fortune
But two rosy cheeks wud plaze;
The farm of lan’ wos Bridget’s,
But she tuk the pock disayse:
An’ Margit she wos very wee,
An’ Bridget she wos stout
But her face wos like a gaol dure
With the boults pulled out.

I’ll tell no lie on Margit,
She thought the worl’ of me;
I’ll tell the truth, me heart wud lep
The sight of her to see
But I wos slow, ye surely know,
The raison of it now,
If I left her home from Carmin
Me da wud rise a row.

So I swithered back an’ forrit
Till Margit got a man;
A fella come from Mullaslin
An’ left me jist the wan.
I mind the day she went away,
I hid wan strucken hour,
An’ cursed the wasp from Cullentra
That made me da so sour.

But cryin’ cures no trouble,
To Bridget I went back,
An’ faced her for it that night week
Beside her own turf-stack.
I axed her there, an’ spoke her fair,
The handy wife she’d make me,
I talked about the lan’ that joined
– Begob, she wudn’t take me!

So I’m livin’ in Drumlister
An’ I’m get’tin’ very oul’
I creep to Carmin wanst a month
To thry an’ make me sowl:
The deil a man in this townlan’
Wos claner raired nor me,
An’ I’m dyin’ in Drumlister
In clabber to the knee.

By “The Bard of Tyrone”
The Reverend William F. Marshall

© The Estate of Margaret Marshall