The Daeler's Wake

Weel known throughout the countryside,
Was cattle daeler Rab McBride,
His wit, his genial temperament
Aye won him frien's wheree'er he went.

At ivery market, show or fair,
Big Rab the daeler wud be there.
Aye ready wi' his frien'ly palm
Tae grup a neighbour by the han'.

He was a man o' mony pairts,
Indulged in a' the sports and airts.
He focht game cocks on Capnagh Hill,
And run his own wee private still.

On coursin' days he proved his worth,
His greyhounds - pride o' a' the North,
Bred aff "McGrath o' Lurgan Town,"
Had won him fame, reward, renown.

At ploughin' matches Rab was there,
Tae guide his weel-graithed chestnut pair.
Obedient tae his skilful han'
The finest turnout in the Ian'.

An' even in the realms o' airt,
Rab seldom failed tae play his pairt.
Recited poems - short or lang,
Could sing a good oul' Ulster sang.

An' aften folk wud stan' entranced,
As on the flute his fingers danced.
The merry notes, sweet, loud and clear,
Wud gi'e enchantment tae the ear.

And whiles his dronin' pipes wud skirl,
Tae mak' the happy dancers birl.
And tempt the merry toe and heel
In some hilarious jig or reel.

At ivery schoolhouse, barn or hall,
At wake or weddin', churn or ball,
You'd find the daeler at his best
Wi' subtle wit and hearty jest.

Like some etemallivin' fire,
He niver seemed to droop or tire.
What ills he had, he'd niver tell
But kept his sorrows tae himsel'.

Imagine then wi' what dismay
The neighbours heard yin woeful' day,
That Rab had crossed the 'Golden Shore'
Alas! They'd niver see him more.

Aroun' the country far and near,
Drapped mony a painfu' silent tear.
The blow was hard, 'twas plainly seen
They'd lost a faithfu', trusty frien'.

But through the gloom Rab's widow spake --.
Says she, "We'll houl' the greatest wake,
Was iver held in this townland
And thus fulfil Rab's last command.''

For he'd ordained that when he died,
The folk should come from far and wide,
Tae eat and drink and merry be,
Indulge in games and jolity.

Thus to ensure the wake's success
Rab had provided - more or less
That ivery man and woman there,
Should eat and drink, wi' some tae spare.

Large tins o' snuff he'd stored away,
And pipes o' finest Derry clay.
Tobacco brown - plug - flake and twist.
Black as your boot - thick as your wrist.

The drink had been his special care.
His guidin' Motto - "Drink tae spare."
Sweet 'mountain dew' frae Alec's Hill.
A barrel frae his ain wee still.

The neighbours flocked frae far and wide,
Tae cheer the widow - Nan McBride.
They came by cairt, by car and brake,
In scores tae Rab the daeler's wake.

At first wi' due regard and grace,
They stood in groups about the place;
Discoursed in tones subdued and brief,
And made new friendships in their grief.

But soon the spacious kitchen floor,
Was packed wi' neighbours tae the door.
And there amidst this multitude .
A coffin on the table stood.

And in it there at his request,
Lay Rab, clad in his Sunday best.
An' beside him for immediate use
A barrel o' the 'Divil's Juice.'

So roun' the table, glass in han'
Each worthy neighbour took his stan'
Both male and female -young and oul'
They drank tae Rab's departed sowl.

The wake was soon weel on it's way,
Unbridled tongues began tae play.
The neighbours still kept pourin' in
Tae add confusion tae the din.

But by and by the settled doun'
While cups o' tae were banded roun'.
They all agreed wi' praises due
The widow made a splendid brew.

And as they stood aroun' and joked
And supped their tay, and snuffed and smoked,
A cunnin' ban' had been at play,
And drap't some jallop in the tay.

Then very soon - some half a score
In anxious baste made for the door,
But soon discovered to their cost
"That be who hesitates is lost."

Soon every man and woman there
Was wanderin' through the midnight air.
Except the sturdy, stern and tough
Whose innards were of sterner stuff.

But bye and bye in twos and threes,
Wi' guilty looks and wobbly knees,
They striddled back and tried tae hide,
The things they'd seen and done outside.

Their grunts, their groans were fine excuse -
So once again the 'Divils Juice'
Was ladelled roun' wi'liberal han'
A reemin' glass tae ivery man.

The weemin not to be outdone .
Held out their glasses - just for fun.
They sniffed - they sipped - but in the en'
Were drinkin' faster than the men.

They drank, they danced, they hooched, they raved,
The more they drank the more they craved.
And just when fun was at it's height,
Out went the flickerin' kitchen light.

The Bible says, "Men love the dark".
It hides full many an evil lark.
And ere the light had been restored,
Alas - Rab's body was no more.

Some two or three wi' Divilish trick
Had shifted Rab - and mighty quick.
They dumped his carcase 'neath the stair.
'Mangst helpless, drunken crayturs there.

Drunk as they were they seized their chance,
Coaxed Rab tae join them in a dance
And 'oxtercogged' him through the door,
And 'stood' him on the kitchen floor.

For just a moment - silence reigned.
The blood frae every face was drained.
Then wi' a frightenin' curdlin' yell .
The place became a seethin' Hell.

The air was rent wi' weemin's screams,
The lamp was smashed tae smithereens.
The coffin toppled tae the floor,
And soon was trampled intae stoor.

The weemin' tried tae gain the door,
But strong men flung them tae the floor.
Beneath the table some had dived --.
Lord knows how anyone survived.

They hurled the cream crocks aff the shelf,
They smashed the widow's precious delph.
The clock came crashin' tae the floor,
It struck eighteen or maybe more.

They wrenched the door from off it's frame,
Smashed every single window pane.
Then mad wi' fear took tae their heels,
Through hedges, ditches, sheughs and fields.

When all the noise and dust had cleared,
The drunks wi' Rab again appeared.
They dragged him stiffly up the stair
And bedded him wi' special care.

As Rab lay motionless and white --
They raised their caps and said 'Good Night,'
And promised him that "Come what may,
They'd meet again next market day."

John Clifford (1953)

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John Clifford
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