Robert Young

1800-1870? [‘Fermanagh True Blue’]; b. Fintona, Co. Tyrone; nailor by trade; wrote sectarian poetry in the Orange cause ; The Orange Minstrel or Ulster Melodist (Derry 1832), and anthology of his own and other writers’ work including Rev. John Graham (‘by permission’) and a copy of the pop. song “The Boyne Water” which provides the title for the novel of John Banim and a line in a poem of W. B.Yeats - and hence an epigraph for Seamus Heaney [see note]; also Poetical Works (Derry 1863); received government pension. PI RAF

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The Orange Minstrel or Ulster Melodist (Derry 1832); The Poetical Works of Robert Young of Londonderry comprising agricultural and Miscellaneous Poems and Songs with copious notes. Dedicated by permission to the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Enniskillen (Derry Standard Office 1863); The Ulster Harmonist, Original and Collected Poems, with Historical and Biographical Notes (1840).

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Chris Morash
, The Hungry Voice (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1989), reminds us that D. J. O’Donoghue [Poets of Ireland, 1912] wrote archly of Young, ‘in the 1860s he was awarded £50 a year by the Govt., ostensibly for literary ability, but as he had none, it must have been for political services; Poetical Works (Derry Standard Office 1863). Morash selects “Stanzas on the Death of Daniel O’Connell, Esq. M.P.” [as infra.]

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Stanzas on the Death of Daniel O’Connell, Esq. M.P.”: ‘[... // ] Behold him at Tara and old Mullaghmast, / Commander-in-chief over multitudes vast, / The ruler to whom they in homage bow’d down, / A monarch in all but the sceptre and crown; / While his ample coffers with cash always teem’d / and he, in his greatness, omnipotent seem’d. // Oh! had he green Erin lov’d better than Rome, / He morally great could have made her become; / Industry, contentment, and peace widely spread, / And to independence his countrymen led; / But all his exertions were put forth to raise / Rome’s priests, the Church of Old England abase. // Deep hatred to Britain, her throne, and her laws, / He loudly proclaimed ... [and ending:] He boasted how dearly his country he loved, / But to it, when ending his course, hearless proved!’ (Quoted in Morash, op. cit., 1989, pp.251-53).

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Univ. of Ulster (Morris Collection) holds The Poetical Works of Robert Young of Londonderry comprising agricultural and miscellaneous poems and songs with copious notes. Dedicated by permission to the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Enniskillen (1863). Belfast Central Library holds Poetical Works (1863), printed by subscription. British Museum Library holds The Ulster Harmonist, original and collected poems, with historical and biographical notes (1840).

Belfast Central Library holds a copy of John Keegan Casey’s Rising of the Moon in which there is an undated cutting from the London Review comparing Casey’s acceptible nationalism with Robert Young’s ‘rabid, stupid, nonsensical’ Orange verses’.

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The Ulster Melodist (1832)

The Ulster Melodist (1832) contains inter alia, “The Boyne Water”, a traditional Orange song, not attributable to the author: ‘King James he pitched his tents/The lines for to retire;/But King William threw his bomb balls in, / And set them all afire’ [copy in Belfast Central Library; q.p.]. W. B. Yeats includes a line clearly echoing this in “Lapis Lazuli” (viz., ‘Pitch like King Billy bomb-balls in/Until the town lie beaten flat.’).
  In his Autobiographies (Macmillan 1955), Yeats recalls that his father read to him in boyhood Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome, which Yeats calls ‘the first poetry to move me after the stable-boy’s Orange rhymes’. (Quoted in W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition, IAP 1984, p.95; citing p.56 [?edn.].) Of this event, A. N. Jeffares writes: ‘there was a stable-boy, Johnny Healey, who read Orange ballads to him in the stable loft, and when there were rumours of a Fenian rising Willie though he would like to die fighting the Fenians’ (Jeffares, W. B. Yeats: A New Biography, Macmillan 1988, p.6; citing Autobiographies, Macmillan 1955, p.14).
 Jeffares further cites H. H. Sparling’s anthology Irish Minstrelsy (1888) as source for the lines in question, remarking that Yeats introduced ‘pitched his tents’ and ‘bomb-balls’ into the original as having ‘the vehemence he required’ (Jeffares, p.364.) Daniel Albright (ed., Yeats, Poems, 1992, p.744) faithfully cites to Jeffares’s attribution and adds the variant lines of “Lapis Lazuli” from the Variorum Edn., but also supplies the relevant stanza from the Orange song in its entirety - viz.

“The Boyne Water”

‘July the First, in Oldbridge Town,
There was a grievous battle,
Where many a man lay on the ground,
By the cannons that did rattle.

King James he pitched his tent between
The lines for to retire;
But King William threw his bomb-balls in
And set them all on fire.’

[ Historical Songs of Ireland, Percy Society Publications, Vol. 1; quoted in Russell K. Alspach, Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798 (Phil: Pennsylvania UP 1959), p.44; cited in Albright, ed., Yeats, Poems, 1992, Notes, p.744. ]

 In a later generation, another poet has occasion to refer to Young’s verses - or, more precisely, Yeats’s evocation of them - when Yeats’s autobiographical sentence is made to serve as an epigraph for Seamus Heaney’s collection Field Work:

‘He (the stable-boy) had a book of Orange rhymes, and the days when we read them together in the hayloft gave me the pleasure of rhyme for the first time. Later on I can remember being told, when there was a rumour of a Fenian rising, that rifles were being handed out to the Orangeman; and presently, when I began to dream of my future life, I though I would like to die fighting the Fenians.’

[ Quoted in Tony Curtis, ‘A More Social Voice: Field Work’, The Art of Seamus Heaney, ed. Curtis, [ rev. edn.] (1994), p.102.]

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Comrades in arms: poems by the Rev. John Graham (ed.) are included by consent of the author (i.e., Young) in Ulster Melodist [1832].

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