Johnny Reid - Sligo Poets

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Sligo Times 18 January 1913
            JOHNNY REID
Died 30th December, 1912,
            aged 72 years

Be never slow to bend the back
        When ought you get to do,
And never fret when work is slack,
        And helping friends are few;
And if your plans are upset when
        Most anxious to succeed,
Keep up your heart, and try again,
        Like sturdy Johnny Reid.

Don’t gripe, and hoard up all you can,
        While some in want you see,
For grateful friends are better than
        A grasping legatee;
And if you’ve nothing else to give
        To others more in need,
Give kindly words and strive to live
        Like poor old Johnny Reid.

When neighbours in a heat fall out,
        As happens now and then,
If you are one brings peace about,
        And makes them friends again;
If well you stand with old and young
        Of every class and creed,
And never use a hurtful tongue—
        The same was Johnny Reid.

On Friday’s when he changed his cheque,
        Delighted, on the spot,
He’d give his ancient friends the "beck"
        And call for something hot;
They’d tell old stories o’er and o’er,
        When once their tongues got freed,
But here on earth they’ll meet no more,
        Themselves and Johnny Reid.

Oh! far from Teeling Street today,
        The Square and Humbert Hill,
He rests on Court beneath the clay,
        His heart for ever still;
And by the deep and narrow bed
        That fate for him decreed,
Sad tears by faithful friends were shed
        For hard-tried Johnny Reid.

When lying on a bed of pain,
        The hand of death you feel,
And anxious ones who watched in vain,
        In supplication keel—
When comes that hour, as come it must,
        May angels intercede
For you for mercy, as, we trust,
        They did for Johnny Reid.

                                   J. D. S.
Tobercurry January 6th.


This is an interesting dirge for a dead friend which concentrates on the living more than the dead and has little of the religious piety contained in some other laments.

It spends the first three stanzas outlining the good qualities of the deceased by setting up a scenario, giving advice and referencing the late Johnny Reid as a good example. Stanza four then tells of his habit on Fridays to entertain friends to 'something hot' after cashing his cheque. This may be a pension.

The penultimate stanza is a lament for his absence from the familiar haunts, all in Tubbercurry, and the poem ends with a meditation on the deathbed.

The repetition of the deceased's name in the last line of each stanza gives it the feeling of a litany and the full rhymes at each line end are well handled.

The Tubbercurry references with the address of the author suggests that the subject, Johnny Reid, lived in Tubbercurry at the end of his days.

However he was buried in
Court Abbey which is in the parish of Achonry-Mullinabreena which might indicate that John Reid was a native of that parish. Perhaps he was a resident in Tubbercurry Workhouse. The workhouse was in Humbert St., Tubbercurry and the mention of Humbert Hill in the poem may be significant.

There is no John Reid (or Reed) in Sligo in the 1911 census who might be the man mentioned here.

In the 1901 census John Reid, a labourer aged 50, was living in Tubbercurry with a cousin Mary Davy. Neither were married. This may be the person but I cannot find him in 1911.

Who was J.D.S.? It is almost impossible to tell but if Johnny Reid ended his days in Tubbercurry workhouse then there was a John Sweeney, an a
ttendant in the infirmary ward of Tubbercurry workhouse in the 1911 census who could possibly be the author. He was aged 58.

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