Moses Teggart, The Poet of The Boglands.
| Over a century ago a young man who was to become a household word in the Birches district, emigrated to the United States of America. Moses Teggart was born in the townland of Ballinary on 1st February 1854, the son of the local postman who also held the position of Parish Clerk of Tartaraghan Parish Church, where part of his duty was to answer the responses on behalf of the considerable proportion of the congregation who were illiterate.
Young Moses showed considerable promise as a pupil at Cloncore Lower Primary School and proceeded to Belfast for further education; he entered the teaching profession serving locally in Milltown and also in Cork. But he had itching feet and moved to Scotland where he took up government employment and became a great admirer of the poet Robert Burns. He undoubtedly felt an affinity with the National poet of Scotland. Teggart being a common Scotch name; and moreover, both men were of humble origin, self-educated and had a keen eye for the glories of Nature. Yet he did not make Scotland his home, but in the 1880’s joined the steady stream of emigrants to the New World; and arriving in Springfield Massachusetts joined the staff of a local company.
Moses, however, could not forget the environment in which he had grown up, and the poems he penned and sent regularly for publication in the local press were watched for and appreciated by the bogland folk. Descriptions written in very different surroundings proved to be accurate portrayals of the district where he was reared, and which lay close to his heart. The mosscheeper fluttering among the rushes, the “chay lady” (childhood’s pet name for the cow), the turf-stacks, the heather and the belles, are all portrayed in life-like fashion in his poems. The lifestyle of the bogland people he vividly described and often with a touch of humour as in the poem “Treasure Trove”
|Our Mary (light be now her troubles
By her help it was we throve)
Digging, one day, in the stubbles,
Lit on bogland treasure-trove.
Digging - not with spurt and splutter!
To the quick, and deeper, far.
She dug up a tub of butter,
Axle grease as black as tar.
|Whence, oh whence, and from what region,
Did the hoard, once yellow come?
Ask the winds – their name is legion,
Yea, beseech them, and they’re dumb.
Shouldered home – an awkward bundle!
And the black staves knocked apart,
No longer squeaked the barrow trundle,
Creaked no more the old turf cart.
Moses Teggart was a versatile writer and his poetic gift is to be seen also in religious and classical themes. He paraphrased various Greek works such as “Hero and Leander” and Homer’s “Vision of Penelope”. Although he did not attain to the high standards of Robert Burns, yet he was a gifted man, and his verse about the boglands struck a new original note. He was able to awaken others to the beauty and charm of what at first sight appeared to be an unattractive region.
In the autumn of 1908 he returned to visit his aged father who was then in failing health, and while he was staying at the old home in Ballinary his step mother died. It would appear that the dampness and rigor of the winter weather told on his constitution which never had been very robust, and he decided for his healths sake to hasten to the drier climate of the U.S.A., He boarded the Allan Liner “ Carthagenian” but did not live to complete the voyage. And in the firy of an Atlantic gale the ship was stopped and his corpse committed to the deep. His farewell poem. Written at the Birches on the 11th. February, 1909, just eight days before his death, reflects the depressing circumstances which he felt had compassed him round about.
|Farewell, ye cold black bogs and moors!
Good-bye, ye gold-bloomed whins!
Ye teach me how the love endures
That in friendship fond begins,
Good-bye ye little red-breast all,
That sing so sweet at dawn!
At dusk I hear your pensive call,
And shall when I am gone.
|Ye joyous lark that in the blue
Already carols loud.
I know your song is sweet and true
Though I’m with sorrow bowed.
At home across the western wave
Once more I go to seek;
Beside your song so loud and brave
This dirge sounds worn and weak.
|Farewell, ye kindly people all.
In bogland and in town!
Your friendship I esteem, and shall
Till I this head lay down
In that deep sleep o’er which the dawn
Of heaven some morn shall rise,
When I, fond hope! Though some time gone,
Shall join you in the skies.
Moses Teggart Bard of the Boglands by Dr.
This anthology contains the vast majority of Teggart's extant poems,
including many written for audiences in Scotland and USA. However, his
considerable and growing reputation is mainly dependent on his Irish
lyrical verse and virtually all of this genre has been included.
Undoubtedly, North Armagh's greatest literary figure, his poems, written
between 1875 and 1909, have a strong appeal for modern readers,
transporting them back to a bygone age when nearly every cottage
resounded to the whirr of the spinning wheel, the clack of the loom and
the chorus of rustic voices as every townland name was famed in song.
To obtain a copy contact Dr. John Wright at: email@example.com
Below are links to a few poems by Moses,
|The Belle of Clonmakate||Bonnie Mary of Drumcree||Gorse||The Turf