In the Owl Days

In the Owl Days

“It’s a long time ago now,” says Kirry;
“Aw ay, chile – a long time ago,
When I wasn’ much bigger till you are,
An’ bein’ reared by me Gran’mother Crowe.
Aw! a wunnerful wumman was Granny;
I can see her yit workin’ hard in the fiel’s
In her sunbonnet an’ coorse raprun apron,
Or helpin’ out in the house with the meals.


“Joanney Beg” she was called in the parish,
Or “Li’l Antie” for short as they say;
A rale angel in times o’ sore trouble,
An’ rich an’ poor got trated jus’ the same way.
She’d traipse out in all weathers for new babies,
An’ for the owl folk, the sick’ and the maul;
Ay! even hosses, cows, cats – ‘twas no matther,
“They’re God’s craythurs,” she’d say, – “one an’ all.”


Here, le’s sit on this li’l birra wall, chile,
By this tholtan that belonged to Jem-Joe
In them days when I had tay here with Granny
Nigh on sixty-five long years ago.
Twins they were, Gran and Jem. “How’re yer doin’ boy?”
She’d ask. “Aw, I’m middlin’, Joaney gel,” he would say;
“I’ve set the table out here in the garden;
Tuck in, both o’ yer, while I’m pourin’ the tay.”


An’ a li’l taypot arrim same as the china,
The lovelies’ pattern yer aver did see;
All li’l bunches o’ morve an’ yaller pansies
Smilin’ up at yer as sweet as could be!
My! no tay in the worl’ has tasted batther
Till them cups o’ Jem-Joe’s – while avery scone
On them li’l pansy plates set that dainty,
I’ll remember till me las’ day is done!


Goy! what lashin’s o’ butther on the bonnag!
An’ the home-made jam! Lawse! I’d eat avery bit!
“Aw! yer a right wan!” Jem’d say fair delighted,
“We’ll make a giant arra this li’l spithag yit!”
An’ though I navar tol’ a sowl about the china
He mus’ a knew the grip that it had on me heart,
For he’d smile so nice as I handled it gentle;
Aw! that pansy tay-set! I loved avery part!


Then Jem-Joe said wan day, “Listen, Joanney,
All I’ve got, gel, will be yours when I’m gawn;
But kape the whole pansy set for this li’l wan,
A sert o’ remembrance when I’ve long passed awn.”
An’ Gran’s eyes was all wet as she promised;
Then “Lawse! the boghtnid theer’s on yer!” she said;
But her han’ with the pansy cup thrembled,
An’ her lips moved as she bowed her grey head.


The sun always seemed to shine in the owl days,
An’ on the hill Jem’s thatched cottage stud out
Like a lan’mark with hollyhocks an’ balsam,
An’ red fuchsias ‘gin white walls thick an’ stout.
“Aw ay, li’l wan,” Jem ‘ud say to me often,
“It’s the simple things in life tha’s the bes’;
Be like Gran’ an’ foller the taychin’s o’ Jesus,
For He’s always with yer for to guide an’ to bless.”


Aw, poor Jem-Joe, the sowl! He died when his cottage
An’ averythin’ in it was burnt down to the groun’;
Then Gran died too, so I was sent far away, chile,
An’ ‘twas thirty years ‘fore I got back to look roun’.
An’ as I sat theer idly siftin’ the topsoil,
An’ longin’ for the frien’s o’ the good owl days still,
Me han’ found the lid o’ the li’l pansy taypot,
An’ dear God, how I wep’ chile, up here on the hill.


maul = miserable
craythurs = creatures
tholton = a ruined dwelling
till = than
spithag = a small thing
boghtnid = nonsense

(source: by Kathleen Faragher; photo)

Bernadette Weyde

Bernadette Weyde

I'm a web designer, amateur historian and keen gardener and I enjoy bringing Manx history, folklore and poetry to a modern audience.

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kathleen faragherpoetry

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