John Gillan 3 - Sligo Poets

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John Gillan Poems 3 - The Sligo Nationalist 1914

These four poems illustrate the reach of Gillen's poetic interest. He describes in detail the Sligo town celebration of the passing of the Home Rule bill in 1914, he comments on the preparations for the annual Sligo Races, he tells us at length of his own trip to Rosses Point on the regular service and he writes a short tribute to his mother when she dies. This, in contrast with his other works, is short and restrained.

On 25 May 1914 the Home Rule Bill was passed in the House of Commons and sent to the Lords which was tantamount to its becoming law. "Ireland a Nation", the Sligo Champion proclaimed and reported rejoicing in Sligo town on the night of 25 May. A parade, led by the Brass and Reed band, culminated at a bonfire in Pound Street on which an effigy of the Ulster leader Carson was burned. "We got Home Rule in spite of him", a banner read. Gillan took part in the parade we presume and described it well. He has a sneer at the "odd “sour-face” here and there" who wasn't pleased at the passing of Home Rule and once repeats the "wooden guns" slur on Carson and the Unionists.

The boat "Eileen" provided a regular week-end service from Sligo town to Rosses Point during the summer. Victoria Bridge is now Hyde Bridge over the Garavogue river.

Gillan includes a reference to RIC men alert to the possibility of Unionist "
gun-running motors/'Fram guid old Portadown'" bringing arms to Sligo. This may not be as far fetched as it seems. The Sligo Independent reported the establishment of a Sligo unionist Volunteer corps, which it claimed had about seventy members at the end of August 1914. The next mention of these Volunteers was in early 1915 when meetings to organize regular drill practice and elect officers were held. By May 1915 half their members were said to have joined the colours. The Larne gun running had taken place on 24 and 25 April 1914, replacing the Ulster Unionists' wooden guns with real weapons.

The Redmond reference at the end of the poem seems to be an awkward effort to link the trip with Home Rule, with John Redmond at the helm of the boat "Eileen" a personification of Ireland. Incidentally the only person recorded in County Sligo in the 1911 Census with the surname Redmond was a seventeen year old scullery maid, Margaret Redmond from Enniscorthy, Wexford. She worked at Hazelwood House, the residence of Philip Perceval who was president of the Sligo branch of the Irish Junior Unionist Alliance.

Gillan enjoys using what he regards as unusual terms or colloquial pronounciations and emphasises these by using quotation marks - "aisy",
“sthave”, "jolly crack", "gas" and even "bikes".

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      Sligo Nationalist 2 May 1914.
        Lines on Hazlewood Races.

(By John Gillan).

Their cash weeks before some youngsters do save,
And each night and each day always they “rave”
To be as well dressed as they possibly could
To go to the Races in famed Hazlewood.

In our busy streets as we walk along,
Charming music we hear and an odd “sthave” of a song,
And tramps selling ballads, pipe-leads, and boot laces,
On the morning before the great Hazlewood Races.

Loud does be the yells of the “blow-hards”
Who sell off quickly their “correct cards!”
Then with “painted” noses, black-eyes, and cut faces,
They walk at their ease to the Hazlewood Races.

On the trains days before, horses do come
Over this splendid course the race-day to run,-
To go in for flat or for steeplechases
This great day in Sligo of the Hazlewood Races.

At the Ulster Bank – och! there does be the “gas” —
Watching each mule and jinnet, or great big jack ass,
With cartfuls of passengers – (some with shaky traces) —
Start on their way for the Hazlewood Races.

The wheeler, the saddler, and the coachsmith,
Till late night before their work they can’t quit—
Repairing old cars, fearing hospital cases
Coming home on the road from the Hazlewood Races.

The horse-shoers, too, have no “asey” time
to get in order “oul” “knags,” to make them step fine;
They shoe all sorts of horses, from far and near places
To be ready for the day at the Hazlewood Races.

Out on the racecourse, if you have good teeth,
You can buy cakes, sweets, and oranges, and the best of pigs’ feet;
But mind that your jaws don’t get all in “crases”
“Working” the “crubeens” at the Hazlewood Races.
You’ll see there pretty girls and fine boys in groups,
Spending their cash on the “trick-o’-the-loops”;
Some on roulette tables—more stand back a few paces
To ring the bell with a pop-gun at the Hazlewood Races.

Years ago there used be music so grand
Played by the Militia on the Grand Stand.
Why not employ our prize-band (with their cornets, horns and “bases”)
To next Friday perform at the Hazlewood Races.

Sligo Nationalist 30 May 1914.
         (By John Gillan)

Long should be remembered
Sligo’s streets on Tuesday night,
When in every window in every house
Were candles burning bright.

The band the town paraded–
Such a sight wasn’t seen for years–
And after it proudly stepped
The Sligo Volunteers.

The procession from the “Hibs” Hall left
Then up the Mail Coach Road–
Along Jail Street they also went
And the best of order showed.

An odd “sour-face” here and there was seen
Looking rather cool
At this great demonstration
At the passing of Home Rule–

From Noone’s corner, where large crowds stood
Talking on the Home Rule Bill,
’Twas grand to see the bon-fires blaze
At the top of Harmony Hill.

Our city all excitement was
With melodeons playing sweet,
But the grandest sight in Sligo
Was famed Lord Edward Street.

There were fine arches there and banners,
And tar-barrels blazing, too,
And from the windows six lanterns shone
Of Mr. John McHugh.

Here were singing, dancing, and funny jokes,
By “hardy sons of toil,”
And stump speeches were delivered
By Mr “German” Doyle. (Boyle?)

To see going up O’Connell Street
’Twas no doubt a “jolly crack” –
A crowd after Paddy Brennan
Carrying “Carson” on his back!

Many jeers and scoffs from the people came, –
Some laughed heartily at the fun,
To see, in his hand, neatly fixed
A double-barrelled wooden gun!

Thank God, we’ve lived this glorious sight to see–
Lights on hill and street and lane–
And that our loved Isle’s now to be
“A Nation Once Again!!!”

          Sligo Nationalist 23 May 1914.

Death and Funeral of Mrs. Gillan, George’s Street, Sligo.
On Friday morning, the 15th  May, one of the oldest inhabitants of Sligo passed peacefully to her reward in the presence of Mrs Isabella Gillan, at her residence, George's St.,  after a very long illness of five weary months. Deceased, who belonged to a respected Co. Leitrim family, was the widow of the late Sergeant Peter Gillan of the Dublin Metropolitan Police Force. She was, during her long life (of close on 80 years) an exemplary mother, a good wife, and reared a very large family.
To her family we offer our sincerest sympathy on their great bereavement.
The funeral to the Cemetary on Sunday was large and representative. The chief mourners were - Patrick and John Gillan (sons);  grandsons, Peter, Joseph, Pat and Johnnie (grandsons); Mrs Ellen Gillan (daughter-in-law); Pat Gillan (brother-in-law); Mrs Mary McGloin (sister-in-law).
Wreaths were sent by some of the leading ladies of Sligo.
The prayers at the graveside were recited by Rev. Father Mulligan. R. I. P.


From this bleak world you’ve gone forever—
     Your suffering is ended, Mother dead—
Yet I feel so very lonely
     When your voice I cannot hear.
Your chair is vacant now, dear Mother,
     Your loss stings my heart with pain,
But, please God, one day in Heaven
     You and I shall meet again!

 Sligo Nationalist 27 June 1914.

(By John Gillan)

Last Sunday I stood at Victoria Bridge
To watch the falls swiftly run,
And list’ to the waters’ humming noise
As the ripples glittered in the sun.

To the “Line” green hills I also looked—
From there the crowds viewed the wavelets quiver;
Delighted were they at this grand sight
On our excellent Sligo Garavogue river.

A policeman passed to and fro
Along the path at the Ulster Bank—
Keeping an eye on “what we know” —
On the “corner-boy” and the rowdy “crank.”

And the gun-running motors
“Fram guid old Portadown”
Their numbers here are taken down
When they come to Sligo town.

Near the Borough were swans in rows,
To see them was a pretty sight,
As they swam so gaily down
Slowly along, all spotless white.

The day was warm, bright, and calm,
And a sound I heard of some kind—
A clock struck “three” and at once
Bridge, falls, hills, and all, I left behind.

Down to the Quay I quickly went,
And exercised my every joint,
To be in time for the motor boat
To take me to the Rosses Point.

To this pleasure craft I soon got in
Where were ladies and gents, the finest e’er I’ve seen,
And soon we sailed in gallant style
On Mr. Bruen’s boat that’s named “Eileen.”

We “ploughed” away through the waters blue,
And on and on did the skipper guage
The beautiful ship till very soon
We were landed safe at the Steamer Stage.

Passengers to the village soon got,
Which each, no doubt, seemed to enjoy;
The Greenlands then did couples go—
Each lady and gent, each girl and boy.

Mr. Gilmartin’s Bar I a visit first paid—
To serve a good drink he’s always willin ‘
But there’s none at this lovely sea resort
Gives a better “glass” than Mrs. Captain Gillen.

Never go on “Shank’s Mare”
When starting for a Sunday’s trip
While you can have at a moderate fare
A pleasant “run” on this nice “wee” ship.

Some on cars, “bikes,” or trains,
Going for sport are often seen,
But no one should miss to have a sail
On Redmond’s boat—the famed “Eileen.”

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