Bear this little bunch of heather to my brother far away,
And tell him that it grew and bloomed on Altamuskin brae;
And tell him that I plucked it ere the dew on it was dry,
And send it in remembrance of the happy days gone by.
He’ll prize this bunch of heather, that is wet with Irish dew,
For the sake of him who plucked it, for the sake of where it grew;
For the sake of Erin’s mountains, with their beauty wild and strange,
That haunts the exiles’ memories, no matter where they range.
Full many a plain and mountain, and many a league of sea
Now separate my brother from his native hills and me.
But this bunch has magic power – when this heather meets his gaze,
‘Twill bear him back to boyhood’s haunts, and boyhood’s vanished days.
He’ll stand on Altamuskin, in the early hours of morn
When whins are crowned with yellow, and the bloom is on the thorn.
He’ll see his boyhood peopled with the bogmen marching up
With turf spades and turf barrows, to the mountains airy top.
He’ll hear the skylark’s song again, the curlew’s piercing cry,
And the startled moorhen’s cackle when the bogmen pass anigh.
So bear this bunch of heather to my brother o’er the sea –
He’ll cherish it for old time’s sake, for sake of home and me.
MICHAEL MULLIN, ‘THE BARD OF FOREMASS’,
Foremass Lower, Sixmilecross, Co. Tyrone
(This poem was written when granda’s brother Patrick went first to London. Both Patrick and his brother John came back to live in Howth for a few years then went back to London. Patrick’s daughter Shiela married an Italian Renato Cardano and they all moved to Italy. Patrick died and is buried in Italy)
Patrick’s wife Ann though ‘London born’ her parents were from Cork and always got ‘The Cork Weekly Examiner’ and we know this is why he sent so many poems to the poetry competitions in this paper. Patrick sent the paper back home to Foremass. Interesting – the paper went from Cork to London and back to Foremass. Sometimes letters from The Cork Examiner to granda addressed Sixmilecross would have ‘NOT SIXMILEBRIDGE’ marked on them. It was obvious they went to Sixmilebridge Co. Clare first which was just outside Cork.