London Notes - Sligo Poets

Go to content

Main menu:

1915 > Sligo Poetry 1915 > Sligo Champion

Sligo Champion 14 August 1915.
        Ballymote City!

How dare you call it just a Town,
Or worse than that, a Village;
With scraps of gardens up and down,
And little bits of tillage!

How very stupid not to note,—
I think it is a pity,
All must admit that Ballymote
Deserves to be a City.

They have a Chapel tall and grand,
The finest in creation,
They have a Police Barrack, and
They have a Railway Station.

There is a market on the hill,
There is, I hope you follow,
A creamery and Corn Mill
In Newtown in the hollow.

A boulevard called Emmet Street,
A Pump, if you can find it,
A Sessions House sedate and neat,
A Fair-green just behind it.

Improvements come at every call,
They follow fast and faster,
You have the stately Loftus Hall,
Memorial of its pastor.

You have the old historic School,
The best of all I call that;
You have a ruined Castle pool
With ivy round, and all that.

Of Banks you have no less than three,
To show how trade has risen;
There's just one thing you cannot see—
They do not need a Prison.

Of holiness they have a feast,
Of virtue there’s an orgy,
For they have got as Parish Priest
The pick of all the clergy.

They always lead the van somehow,
Don’t ask me why, I pray thee, —
They even have a Doctor now,
A brilliant local lady;

A Postal Service up to date,
The Telegraph is humming,
A Postman who is never late,—
The Telephone is coming.

They haven't got a local Press,
I don't suppose they mind it,—
They read the SLIGO CHAMPION, yes
And full of news they find it.

Go, search old Ireland up and down,
You won't discover any—
You cannot find another town
Whose beauties are so many.

Embosomed in its sunny vales,
Enchanting I have found it,
Unrivalled verdant hills and dales
Encircle and surround it.

If you deny the claims I quote,
I think it is a pity,
For I submit that Ballymote
Deserves to be a city.


The Sligo Champion Parliamentary Correspondent was J.F. Cunningham who contributed a weekly London Notes column which during 1915 made comments on the war and on the volume of war poetry being published. He also regularly included poetry in his column, some of which was apparently written by himself. In October 1915 he included extracts from the Times' Supplement of War Poetry  commenting that there was "not much merit in the collection".

James Frederick Cunningham was a native of Bunninadden, County Sligo, who had had a distinguished career in the British Colonial Service in central Africa.  He wrote Uganda and its Peoples, a 370 page volume with maps and photographs which was published in 1905. He retired in 1912, studied law and was called to the bar in February 1915.

The Our Village poem comes for a "recent poetry" item in his column and may be the work of another poet taken from an English publication of the times.

The Sligo and Ballymote poems are fairly standard efforts showing a good command of two different poetic forms. Both have effective rhythm and rhyme. Ballymote City has plenty of local colour and details.

The poem about the Rosses Point recruiting meeting is a masterful concoction with a playfulness which matches its mockery of those unionists who took part in the meeting and blamed the nationalists of Connacht for not enlisting in the army. It has more than a touch of W.S. Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan about it.

The Christmas Greetings song, which is the only one by Cunningham to appear on its own outside his London Notes, seems almost comical in its disregard for the events of the year and its determination to enjoy the season. There is no hint that "missing face, an empty chair" refers to war casualties. But for the inclusion of the year in the title one would guess that this was a pre-war song resurrected to provide some Christmas cheer.

Cunningham mentioned a poem by MJ Kearns in one of his columns and Kearns dedicated a poem to Cunningham in return. He also challenged John O'Dowd to write a ballad about the awarding of the Victoria Cross to Irishman Mike O'Leary.


Sligo Champion 21 August 1915
            OUR VILLAGE

There’s no stir in the village,
No cricket on the green,
No courting at the draw-well,
Where courting has always been;
And the smithy door is padlocked,
Where the gossips used to lead.

It’s strange when school is over,
Without the children’s din;
Silently they steal from school—
It’s silenter within,
Where the mothers sit with folded hands,
Waiting the post come in.


Sligo Champion 11 September 1915.

They tell us of beautiful lands far away,
Of nations and peoples more happy and gay,
But brilliant and potent however they be
My own native Sligo is dearer to me.

Far dearer to me are the mountains and glens,
The valleys and uplands, the moorlands and fens, —
Far dearer to me is the wild rocky coast
Than the most famous scenes that the world can boast.

With heather more purple and shamrocks more green,
And flower-laden meadows unrivalled in sheen,
With clear, crystal rivers more beautiful still,
And where can you equal the charms of Lough Gill?

Killarney has beauties of mountain and alke,
And, because they are Irish, some credit we take,
But for sweet, fairy isles to love dearly and best
You should visit Lough Gill, the bright Gem of the West!

The Cumberland lakes, the Alps, and the Rhine—
Italy, — Egypt, — they’re all very fine,
But when you have seen them you miss something still
Unless you have sailed through the isles of Lough Gill.

What numberless beauties of forest are there,
Where the Bonet flows down from far-famed Dromahair
And the Highlands of Breffny, its plateau and brake,
Are reflected below on the breast of the lake.

Like a magical mirror or weird fairy dell
Are the vistas and lawns near the old Holy Well
Every feature of beauty the river displays,
And the wild lilies revel in creeklets and bays.

If it be pleasure or health that you seek,
Just run down to Sligo and stay for a week, —
I mention a week but I venture to say
You will make it a month before getting away.

Lough Gill and the Rosses, Strandhill and the rest
Are the chief of the healthy resorts of the West,
The scenes and surroundings you’re certain to find
Unmatched for restoring your body and mind.

When I last saw Lough Gill, only two years ago,
The ladies of Sligo were out for a row;
Rosy-cheeked, and with tresses bewitchingly curled,
I thought it the loveliest scene in the world.

They rowed and they chatted unconsciously coy,
They filled the whole valley with laughter and joy,
And the coldest of mankind must worship and dote
When they trailed their pink fingers alongside the boat.

I saw the fair lilies bow down as they passed,
The tall nodding rushes demure glances cast,
And the whispering willows had something to say
When those charming young ladies had paddled away.

Wondering sea-birds were hovering about,
In search of some peace from the ocean without,
Like me, who had reckoned, at most, on one day,
They came for a glance but decided to stay.

Of that river and lake the impressions endure,
Was Eden more lovely? Is Heaven more pure,
Can the beauties of Nature, commingled, combine,
Make another such scene so supreme and refined?

Though my thoughts wander far, I must honestly own,
That Lough Gill and its isles stand apart and alone,
And for health-giving tone to the strong and the weak
The pure ocean breezes are truly unique.

They may tell us of beautiful lands far away,
Of nations and peoples more happy and gay,
But brilliant and potent however they be
My own native Sligo is dearer to me.

Sligo Champion 9 October 1915.
        A Jumble Rhyme.

The recent recruiting meeting at Rosses Point. (The editor apologizes for printing the profane language.)

How they swore at the Rosses,
     How they swore.
     How they tore
        Into tatters
     All their passion
     In a fashion
        To deplore!

The profane Ulster bosses
When they spouted at the Rosses
     How they cursed!
     How they drivelled!
     How they swore!
     Who were there?
     Not the Mayor,
     No, not Higgins,
     No, not Foley
     It was wholly
        An affair
     Of random spouters
     Random shouters
        From elsewhere;
     Yet there was some Sligo in it
     For his Majesty’s Lieutenant,
     Smiled upon that ribald meeting
        From the chair.

     There was something—
     Was it new—
     There were ladies
     Present too—
     You can credit it
     Or leave it,
     For myself
     I don’t believe it,
Yet even so, whatever could they do?
     They couldn’t tell before
     That such language was in store—
     Having come, however wicked,
     They were bound, I say to "stick it";
And I gather there were only just a few.
     Even I, I winced and squinted
     When I saw the curses printed,
And I felt that an apology was due.

     Since the first recruiters came
     Hasn’t Sligo played the game?—
She has hundreds—maybe thousands—at the front.
     There was never a delay
     And I confidently say
That the Sligomen, as always, bore the brunt.
     Has not every appeal
     Been responded to with zeal?
Hasn’t Sligo now as ever done her best?
     For since Redmond led the way
     I emphatically say
There never has been slacking in the West.

     Now, I ask you
        For I must,
     "Is it cricket,"
        Is it just
That brave Connaught should for ever lead the dance?
     Is it still
        A day too soon
     To let Ulster
        Call the tune?
Shouldn’t Ulster, "loyal" Ulster, get a chance?
     Let the orators of bluster
     Try their luck in "loyal" Ulster,
Surely Ulster would be glad to break a lance—
     Let poor Connaught
        Have a rest,
     And put Ulster
        To the test;
It is Ulster’s turn now to go to France.

     I assert it
        Just the same
     That we all
        Should play the game,
And if Ulster, "loyal" Ulster, should decline
     Leave posterity
        To scout her
     Let us face
        The foe without her—
Every man for dear old Ireland toe the line!
     If you wish
        To win Home Rule
     You must now
        Be brave and cool
The verdict of the world win and see;
     You’ll be proud
        With all your heart,
     That you played
        A noble part
When Ireland is a nation, great and free.

    Sligo Champion 25 December 1915
            (By J. F. Cunningham.)
            Tune: "Un peu d’amour."

Once again the cycle of the seasons
    Closes in the orbit of the years;
Once again Old Christmas gives his reasons
    Why everyone should revel in good cheer.
              Put your cares aside, supress your woes,
              The year was amply long for such as those;
              Remember, Father Christmas comes to smile,-
              To revel and be merry for a while.
              What though a missing face, an empty chair,
              Has left a blank we never can repair;
              What, though someone we worshipped passed away,
              A smile must light our faces for to-day.

Once again a year of life is turning,
    Once again the brilliant prospect ends,
Once again the Christmas fire is burning,
    Once again we muster all our friends.
              Put your cares aside, supress your woes,
              The year was amply long for such as those;
              Remember, Father Christmas comes to smile,-
              To revel and be merry for a while.
              What though a missing face, an empty chair,
              Has left a blank we never can repair;
              What, though someone we worshipped passed away,
              A smile must light our faces for to-day.

Back to content | Back to main menu