[From Manx Quarterly #19,1918]
BY GEORGE QUARRIE,
3056 Albany Crescent, New York, U.S.A.
(How many are still living who have cut corn with the sickle before the day of the reaper? Does anyone know what the " lyena" is like? It would be intensely interesting to hear of or from such a man.)
All me, when I allow myself to stray
Back through the haunted corridors of years,
Haw nimbly memory can still portray
Scenes of the past, of mingled smiles and tears.
Some things when so recalled, stand out so bold,
So clear a picture of what once had been,
We feel we must indeed be growing old,
To still be here, and such things to have seen.
But, chet, la! it's neither a profit or pl'asure
To talk of owl times in that Englified m'asure
An' then, hev yo noticed when fallas get mad,
Or when they're half clicky because they're so glad,
That words will gush from them, to cuss or to praise,
That only they knew in their 'arliest days?
Now, I'm sort of keigh, for of shearin' when tokin',
Some smarties will laugh and make out that I'm jokin'.
They'll say that my memory's a-cuttin' me capers
That corn all my days had been cut by the r'apers !
Sas stheiry me bhoys; for, b'heve me or not,
' Am jus' goin' to, tell yeh the truth to a dot.
An' Chas for to say, as to cuttin' of corn,
'Ave helped at that job afore r'apers was born.
At owl-fashion shearin' 'ave put in me day,
No matther what people that tbrape me can say.
In age burr a whelp, 'a was alwis that big,
That though not thirteen I was put on a rig.
How well I remember that very fus day
The r'aper was started at owl Buluvae
That heavy old bruiser was known as a " Dray."
(An' that was the very fus r'apin' machine
That ever on tight little Mona was seen).
Bill Beg said, " The masther spens money like flitthars,
Bur he'll navar shear corn wis such things as scitthars.
It did'n take r'apers to make them fine haccads,
When the beeg Russhan war come an' fult up his pockads!
Bur if wis this r'aper he'll every fiel' sweep
As quick as they're clippin' the wool off a sheep,
That manes thar a mighty big chainch will come then,
An' of us he'll want wan, wheere now he wants ten.
If hev it we will, bhoys, then, hev it we mus',
But one thing I give it my bittharest cuss!
If Masther made money the owl shearin' way,
He'll navar be richer by r'apers, I say!"
'Twa,s long a hot topic all over the farm,
The minds of old shearers it worked up like barm
" Some boggarin' thing cuttin' corn like a charm.
A thing, if 'is in, by the devil conthrived."
But, behowld you, one day that thing had arrived!
Dhremeshuggle's tall wheat stood as straight as an arrow,
But the gate of that field was a long way too narrow .
A gap was soon dug in the hedge by the road,
(The highway that passes my boyhood abode,)
And great the excitement, the shouting and bawling,
The plunging of horses and pulling and hauling,
To drag up, that monster that somewhat steep grade
Of soft, sandy earth, through the gap that was made.
At last it was up, though with sand in the cogs,
'Mid cheering of youngsters and barking of dogs.
Not all the king's soldiers nor all the king's men
Had ever succeeded as we had done then!
With half of the parish, it seamed, of Kirk Bride,
Some came to admire, but a lot to deride,
(For most of the neighbours. at least a good half
Thought the whole thing a joke and came there to laugh).
With so many critics and some would be smart
The waiting seemed endless before we could start.
But with two pair of horses and two men to drive,
One man to the oil can, why then, man-a-live!
As soon as the gaff or got on with the rake,
Well strapped and well buckled, no chances to take,
And he'd called to the drivers, " All right, go ahead!"
Whips cracked, they were off but stopped again dead!
" Hoh! Hob!" cried the scoffers. " I towl ye it wouldn',
It'll navar cut nothin'. I tell ye it couldn' !"
" Back your horses, boys, bark! Let me get the knives clear.
I forgot," said the gaffer, " to put her in gear!"
" Clink-clank" went the lever; " Now, boys, let her go"'
The cogs now in gear, made that ring we all know
The wheat with a shake, fell the platform across,
And sheaf followed sheaf at the rake's magic toss
So even they were and so square at the butt,
Like dices of cheese by a carving-knife cut.
" My gough !" cried the doubters, " that thing is a wondtlier
I's gar as chit reesh, bhoy! It floors it like tundther!
Now, all we gorra do is to tie shaaves an' run,
An' thry to keep up. Aw, the siggle is done!"
" You're right," said Bill Beg, pulling off his owl hat
" Pay yer footin' now, masthers, for showing yeh that!"
Presenting his greasy old dhollan around
To strangers, whoever they were, on the ground.
"'Am goin," said Bill, for to start at the top;
An', Pazon, that's why yer the fus 'a will stop."
As usual, the rector, with heart on his sleeve,
Both quick to respond and the best to believe
Gave proof it's as blessed to give as receive.
He'd a son by the hand whose weakness was skegs,
A promising kid, mostly freckles and legs,
Who afterwards waxed more than six feet in length,
An amiable Hercules, too, in his strength;
Well-known and well-thought of by friends near and far,
An ornament destined to be at the Bar.
From the rector, Bill shambled around with his story,
The next to be tackled being good Ballacorey
A man may be Christian by good deeds he doth,
Or only by name. (Ballacorey was both.)
With good-natured, humorous banter he quoth,
" How much are you wantin', now Bill, bhoy been ough !
The money'll be spent at ye, likely for jough?"
" Tha's the for!" answered Bill, " an' wont yeh be willin'
For ohris'nin' the r'aper to, give us a shillin'?
" Yes, Kyolyer, I will, an' if one'll not do,
As likely as not I'll be giving you two."
" Gooramio ! said Bill, as for others he slanted,
His nose in the air, for he'd got what he wanted,
A start and a good one! For when he got round,
lie lacked but a sixpence of having a pound.
And this was repeated; for people flocked there
To see the new wonder at old Ballavair,
Till some days the harvest field looked like a fair.
They cmne in their carts and on foot and in gigs,
'on horseback, in traps and all sorts of rigs.
Old Lyaigue, with his spirals of light yellow hair
Saw the reaper with joy; but he left in despair.
For Bill, from their second half-barrel of ale,
Showed praichin' the " total" could little avail;
For seizing the jough-can, that man lost to grace,
Took a long froughin' swig, right before Christian's face.
" See the roobm," cried Lyaigue, " thar it makers in the howl'
When the divil gets a man an' teers out his sowl !"
That was all that Bill got, but his judgment was such,
That he certainly didn't expect very much.
From Maughold to German, from Bride to Malew,
Ballavair was a Mecca for men not a few.
But one or two farmers of envious mould,
Then rushed and bought reapers, and afterwards told
That they were the first and the true pioneers
In bringing to Manxland those horse-driven shears.
But Bride was the parish, Dhremeshuggle the field,
Ballavair was the farm, where it first was revealed
That a new age of harvesting, there saw its dawn,
And the day of the sickle forever was gone.
And for proof that this reaper Bill heartily cursed
Was, of all on the Island, most surely the first,
Those sightseers' visits must ever prevail,
And the toll that Bill levied and turned into ale.
As the sickle was dead, you might call it a wake,
The men all that harvest so merry did make.
Jem Jerg joined two sickles and hung them, point clown,
With weepers of crape, and above them a crown,
Not of tharns, but of ears oats, barley and wheat,
Which surmounting the sickles, looked festive and neat.
To this, on the wall, o'er the mantelpiece, hung,
The sickle's past triumphs and glories were Sung;
And mighty the bumpers and many the toasts
Addressed to that emblem, nor few were the boasts
That the fame of old sickle days never would fade,
No matter what reapers would ever be made.
" Aw, as long," as old Bill said, " as wather will flow,
Ay, as long as the corn for the ha.rvis' would grow!
An, lemme" quoth Bill, " jus' tell ye once more,
'Ave bent to the siggle for harvests two score;
It was good, hones' work for many like me
But we're dished be that reaper, as thrue as can be!
Oie vie, me owl clipper!" cried Bill. as he drew
And held up his sickle to everyone's view
" Aw, the farmers'll not want mi owl siggle no more!"
And 'he dashed it to splinters upon the stone floor.