Union Songs

Little News from Dunamore

A Song by Michael Burns©Michael Burns 2013

- [play]

Dear John, I beg your pardon,
as this letter is so late,
thanks for the papers from Wilkes Barre*,
they've caused a great debate
Now don't you let your spirits sink
though Kildress is far away
Charles and Barney don't forget
they ask for you each day

Mick Quinn is now evicted
he's for Philly come what may
and look out for Frank Devlin
'll be in Larksville Christmasday
Now Tom McKenna and his wife
took ship, or so they say
Ned Loughran's quit Killucan
and the Lagan boys won't stay

Well no more of our problems
so what news can I report
Pat McCullagh's married -
though his bride is rather short
Bernard Conway's off to Sixmilecross*
to sell his mare today
he hopes she'll make enough
If so, he'll soon be on his way

Felix McAleer's in Cookstown
so we don't see him so much
I hear he's charming all the lasses
seems he hasn't lost his touch
Now some've no turf to warm the house
or spuds to set next May
and half the men have crossed the sea,
for where their wives can't say

Well Betty Dick's new husband is
a middle aged old beard
they had to hold him hostage
till the wedding drink appeared
with prices at the market down
for baccy we can't pay
If it wasn't for my mother
I'd not stop another day

And Mary Ann's been called a belle
so oft her head is turned
can't condescend to clean the house
or get the butter churned
Some's plight this time is most severe
no stock and nought to plant
So next year surely some will starve
'less Dublin* sends a grant.

It seems so strange on Sundays
not to see you cross the aisle
We hope you'll sometime think of us
with tears or a smile
We're glad that oak leviathan
brought you safely to that shore
there's no more news to give you
So I'll close from Dunamore


Many thanks to Michael Burns for permission to add this song to the Union Songs collection.

This song is based on phrases that occur in a number of letters written by various people in and around Dunamore, Co Tyrone, to America. They were written at the time of 'The little Famine', 'An Gorta Beag' of 1879-80. Many men and families left the area due to eviction, hunger and the fear of a repeat of the starvation of the 1840s. Relief came, as ever, not from the British government, but from concerned organisations and individuals in Ireland, the USA and Britain, such as the Land League.

*There were at least three papers in Wilkes-Barre at that time period: the Daily Record of the Times, later known as the Wilkes-Barre Record; the Union Leader; and the Leader/Evening Leader. There was also the Weekly Star, published in nearby Plymouth. The *Dublin referred to in the song was the mayor of Dublin's Relief Committee. There was a fair at *Sixmilecross on the 18th of the month.

The letters can be read in full here with more correscpondance on the same subject here

More work from Michael Burns in this collection

Visit Michael's website at http://michaelburns1.com/

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