The Story of Baird and Hardie Part 18

Chapter XVIII

This is Chapter XVIII of the serialisation, the wording reproduced exactly as it appeared in the Stirling Sentinel, on Tuesday 11th June 1889.

The Kilsyth Poet’s Dirge – A Balfron Radical’s Outpouring – Britain’s Lament – Lines in Memory of Andrew Hardie

This chapter may appropriately be devoted to a few of the poetical pieces which were called forth by the tragical fate of Baird and Hardie. None of these can boast of any great merit as poetry, but there is no mistaking the sincerity of the writers, and the sentiments expressed are frequently of a kind which it is impossible not to sympathise with and regret in the circumstances. The first and most ambitious piece we present is the “Dirge” written over the grave of Baird and Hardie by Daniel Taylor, of Kilsyth, in fulfilment of his promise to Baird:-

Though I can boast no animating song

To melt the lover, or inspire the brave;

Yet friendship bids me leave the busy throng

To prove my sorrow o’er this bloody grave.

Not only friendship, but the dying charge,

My promise made – how base were it forgot!

Then o’er this grave to write this funeral dirge,

And mourn their fate, since here I find the spot.

Thou gracious Power who taught the shepherd swains,

To sing the glory of Emmanuel’s truth,

Teach me in friendship’s pious humble strains

To mourn a friend – a brother of the earth.

Teach them who weep o’er this revered grave

To bless Thy name thou Everlasting Hope,

Who Baird and Hardie such assurance gave,

As made them hail with joy the “fatal drop”.

For, hear the brave the generous youths exclaim,

When the degrading hurdle ceased to move,

And from his car the bloody axeman came,

With terrors more than human strength to prove,

“Hail, harbinger of everlasting peace!”

In manly accents they addressed the stage

Where soon the sorrows of their souls would cease,

To join the saints of every former age.

But o’er this grave, the children yet unborn

May shed a tear, when told by history’s page,

How they from friends and aged parents torn,

Braved all the horrors of a bloody stage.

Surprised, perhaps to read the mournful tale,

The rising youths may ask their aged sire –

“Was Scotia conquered? Did her foes prevail?

Oh, where was then your patriotic fire?

Or did her laws such sacrifice require?

No foreign foe that ever ploughed the wave,

Or crossed the Tweed, methinks the sire replies,

Could leave us weeping o’er so sad a grave.

No! Scotia every foreign foe defies;

But oh, my son, excite me not to tell

What I have known of Hardie and of Baird,

So strong of freedom did their hearts excel.

But let those tears express my fond regard –

Yet why should fancy fly the present grief,

And point our hopes to some more distant isle?

Has fate decreed for us there is no relief?

And must we sink beneath oppression’s weight?

Forbid it, heaven. Oh may thy mighty arm

Protect the humble and the friendless poor,

Oh, let Thy grace their sinking spirits charm,

Be Thou their stay – their refuge most secure.

However dark the present may appear,

Though those in power our dearest rights deny,

Yet truth and justice shall our bosoms cheer

And Freedom’s sun shall blaze o’er Europe’s sky.

But night returns with all her sable train,

And I must bid the lone churchyard adieu;

Yet never shall this dreary spot contain,

Two hearts more faithful, honest, kind and true.

It may be said we’ve patriots resting here

Who gave their life to hail their country’s woes,

For Baird and Hardie loved their country dear,

And only fell before their guilty foes.

Here piety, perhaps, weeps o’er a friend;

They too were pious as their letters tell;

Say ye who saw them to their latter end,

Could stronger faith in human bosoms dwell?

Though near this place no marble statue stand;

No weeping angel pointing to the spot,

Their fame is known through all their native land,

And never, never, shall they be forgot.


One of the Balfron Radicals – Adam Young – was the author of our next selection. He is said to have been a staunch Reformer, and being a marked man, he suffered a good deal at the hands of the Government agents. For months he did not sleep two nights in the same bed, and often was in hiding in the glens and caves in the Killearn district. On the day of Baird and Hardie’s execution, he was observed wandering in the woods alone, apparently shunning the companionship of man and refusing to be comforted. On the following day he continued in the same state, and it was then he composed the following lines, which relieved the pressure of his feelings. He was nearly getting into trouble on account of his verses, for some busybody sent a copy to one of the Government agents, and it was duly transmitted to the Lord Advocate, and inquiry was made, but as Young had taken the precaution of writing anonymously, nothing came of it.

BRITAIN’S LAMENT

Tune – “Scots wha’ hae wi’ Wallace bled.”

O’ Britain’s sons, lament the day,

That Baird and Hardie fell a prey,

Fell victims to the fatal sway,

Of horrid cruel tyranny.

Farewell, ye brave, now gone to rest,

Whose bosoms freedom aye possessed,

Light be the turf upon the breast

Whose last adieu was Liberty!

Ye friends, aye mind the fatal morn,

The youths were frae yor bosoms torn,

And let it be a motto worn,

They fought and fell for Liberty!

One day each year of you I crave,

The city’s lanes a while to leave,

With tears bedew the heroes’ grave;

They died, alas, for Liberty!

Come, comrades all, where’er you be,

And drop a briny tear wi’ me,

For them that died to set you free,

And scorned the chains of slavery.

Ye winter winds that’s loud and chill,

Ye flocks that’s bleating frae the hill,

Ye toddling burns wi’ wimpling rill,

Lament – they died for Liberty!

Ye birds that usher in the spring,

Your mellow notes give o’er to sing,

Spread o’er the grave your downy wing

And weep – they died for Liberty!

Come Autumn, weeping o’er the plain,

O mourn the brave’s untimely end.

For in thy reign they did disdain

To yield, as slaves to tyranny.

Ye seraphs on your airy wing

Attune your harp aloud and sing;

Make heaven’s resplendent portals ring

With shouts – They died for Liberty!

And thou that soar’st above the sky,

Look down with sympathetic eye,

And hear the plaint and mournin’ cry

Of those, that lie in slavery.

Farewell ye brave now gone to rest

Whose bosoms freedom aye posessed;

Light be the turf upon the breast

Whose last adieu was Liberty!


LINES ON ANDREW HARDIE’S GRAVE

Look, look you here, ye heavenly-minded few,

To whom the cause of liberty is dear

As milk to infant, as flower to dew;

Oh yes, ye persecuted ones, look here:

Here, here in death your much-loved Hardie lies,

A blood-stained monument of Britain’s shame!

Yes, Saviour-like, a guileless sacrifice

That tyrants singled out to be their game.

Ah! Yes, the iron-hearted despot crew

(Afraid some free-born soul would soon or late

Unfold their vile oppressive ways to view,

And hunt them from their ignominious seat),

Let slip their ruthless blood-hounds on the scent

With secret charge, if they could rouse no prey,

To sow the seeds themselves of discontent

And lure into the toils the innocent astray;

And, oh, your hero, yearning to be free,

His soul, on hearing their gay-gilded tale,

Swelled high to think the star of liberty

Would yet unclouded shine o’er his loved isle,

And in the fulness of his youthful joy

Their tale he drank like heavenly water in,

And swore, enraptured by his god on high,

In freedom’s cause his dearest blood to drain;

And lo! His country’s sacred rights to save,

In battle bold he rushed upon the foe;

But which, fell treachery – rotten as the grave –

That planned his fate, then wrought his overthrow!

And here now lies his once gay, stately form,

A shapeless wreck of what its stature was;

For ah! When thrall does conquer like a storm

It kills, then mangles its dead prey, alas!

Yet while around the recreant tyrants’ tomb

Unhallowed clouds shall eternally lower,

Like to the dark and never-ceasing gloom

Envelopes those condemned to Satan’s power.

Around this mound of unassuming earth,

Where sleep our heroes’ manes in hallowed rest,

Shall shine the radiance of undying worth,

Like to the light that circles round the blest!

Glasgow, 1832.               J. Lemon

———-

LINES IN MEMORY OF ANDREW HARDIE

The adventurous muse of Scotia’s rustic lyre

In solemn dirge shall sing the patriot true;

The name of Hardie history will inspire,

And future ages give thy name its due.

High on the list of martyr’d worth shall stand

The fearless hero ‘midst the marshalled host;

Thy piety to God – to man a friend –

Thy country’s champion – but the perjured’s ghost.

The unborn children of our native land,

In lisping accents speak of Hardie’s name;

Nor shall thy virtues ever cease to scan,

But stamp thy deeds with everlasting fame.

Hail! Thou sweet harbinger of endless day!

When death’s fell apparatus came in view,

Thy soul enraptured with a bright display,

In solemn sadness smiled and bade the world adieu!

————

Let my woes be the dirge that the young striplings sing,

And my plaints let the wild echoes tell,

Let the choristers mourn when they hail gentle spring,

And tell how my young hero fell.

He fell like the summer flower, reft from its stem,

When the sweeping tornado is blowing,

And his blood it has sullied the loveliest gem

In Britain’s proud diadem glowing.

Despairing, the juror’s racked conscience shall mourn,

When his soul’s darkened deeds he’s reviewing,

And the guilt-feeding flames in his bosom that burn

Must proclaim the poor wretch’s undoing.

Ye state-strapping vagaries, what can you bestow,

To a mind thus distracted with pain?

The earthquake’s dread shock is still felt that’s below,

And its groans are not heard with disdain.


To be continued…