The boy frae Lisnamore

WHENEVER the Titanic is mentioned people think of Thomas Andrews, the ship’s chief designer. He came from Comber and is much celebrated there.

Fewer people know that there was another man from Co Down on board that famous ship. James McGrady was 16yrs old when he left Lisnamore near Crossgar in County Down for a life at sea.

He served on the Oceanic before getting a job as a 1st Class Steward on the Titanic. James’ was the last body recovered and returned to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

He was interred in Fairview Cemetery and his headstone bears his name and the number 330 signifying he was the 330th body recovered although in fact there are no numbers 328 and 329.

This happened because the record keeper turned over two pages by mistake. These words look at the events of the times through the eyes of….

The boy frae Lisnamore (The Fate O James McGrady)

My frien what made ye stummle on

This humble grev in Fairview lawn

Ir ye lukin for sombdy lang since gone

Or dae ye fin this tale romantic?

Maybe ye joost want tae know

What happened all thase years ago

The night the Titanic went below

In the icy north atlantic

Dae Crossgar folk min I come frae there?

Dae the crowds still rin tae the Wednesday fair?

Is the market hoose still stannin in the square?

Ach it’s a lang time since I left her.

Daes the tren still rin that carried me

Awa frae Crossgar tae the sea?

Naw knowin’ what ley in front o me

Naw knowin’ whit I wis efter

At sixteen year an me sap still risin’

I went tae chase the far horizon

I foun’ me path whun a clapped me eyes on

Belfast docks a’ heavin’

I knowed I’d foun’ me wiy in life

Nae hoose for me, nor wain nor wife

Nae sowdgers musket, drum nor fife

The sea wud be me leevin’

I joined a ship an learned me irt

And served wi mony an awkward blirt

I shovelled coal an red up dirt

It was tough but niver too hard

I dane me job n drew me piy

Whit iver they aksed me I said aye

I grafted on an by n by

They ca’ed me a full steward

An then bae wurd o mooth a hard

a big new ship shane leein the yard

wis lukkin for men wi a sailors card

A took aff at a fair oul kilter

Whun I won me berth I fairly glowed

Tae yin an all it man hae showed

That boat was made by yins I knowed

And I come frae whor they built her

A sailor’s seen it a before

He’s crossed the briny ten times o’er

He’s stud on mony a distant shore

Australian, Greek, Hispanic

But nathin that I’d iver seen

And narry a place I’d iver been

Houl’d a cannle tae that majestic Queen

The RMS Titanic

The tenth O april came at last

An the passengers wur burdin’ fast

We lined the rels an watched them past

Thur eyes aflem wi wunner

The gangwi’s pulled bac tae the quay

The ropes cast aff an we wur free

The Titanic edged her wi tae sea

Her horn roared oot lake thunner

First tae France an then tae Cork

Queenstoon the last stap afore New York

Then I settled down tae dae me work

Servin drinks tae the rich an famous

Ah hae tae sey they wur dacent folk

They laked a yarn an crac’d a joke

An tased me aboot the wi a spoke

Afore misfortune overcame us

Four daes oot on a moonless night

Nae stars wur oot for guidin light

the first class lounge wus warm an bright

an they danced tae the music ple’in

We feelt’d a wee shudder, nathin gret

Plates slid a bit frae whur they wur set

A drink or two spilled but naebdy got wet

We wunnered what they wur daein’

An then we feelt’d her start tae slow

An shane the passengers lukked tae know

So I set aff fer doon below

Tae get some wurd tae please them

The officers a wur lukkin tense

A caught ip wi some suspense

Folk lukked tae me tae hear some sense

But I had nae wurds tae ease them

I made me wi tae the steerage stair

I couldnae tak in what met me there

Folk were rinnin iverywhere

Wains an men an weemen

I couldnae see what cass’d the din

What was makin all them people rin

But whun I tried tae go on in

There was enough watter there tae sweem in

This was the ship that couldnae sink

That’s what they’d got is a tae think

But I seen that watter, blac as ink

An I changed me wi o thinkin

I seen the wiy thon watter flowed

Ten years a sailor so I knowed

This thing wud only en yin road

The Titanic was surely sinkin

Abain is noo the bells wur ringin

I run tae whor the boats wur hingin

Yin bae yin we set them swingin

Wi as mony as we could heave in

plenty wurnae keen tae go

“this ship cannae sink ye know

we’re safer here than doon below”

some yins niver stapped believin

In that mad melee we dane oor best

But still tae come wus oor hardest test

When the last boat drapped we lukked at the rest

Wi a dreadful trepidation

They lukked tae is tae bring them hame

I cursed the sule o whaivers tae blame

I hung me heed in helpless shame

I cudnae offer them salvation

Some yins stud wi vacant stare

ithers bowed their heeds in prayer

somebdy started singin there

Abide with me

but before anither hour was gone

All o is pre’d to see the dawn

An aye it’s true the band ple’d on

nearer my God to thee

Young lovers hoult their sweethearts tight

The lonely stared oot across the night

Mothers toul wains it would be alright

But the wee sules still were cryin

I wus kinna gled I was on my ain

Withoot a wife or mare, a wain

An nae wi for me tae aise their pain

There’d be nae comfort in this dyin

Tae see the eyes o a full grown man

Wi his two childer bae the han

An knowin’ full weel whor thur gan

Was lake being tae hell descended

I cannae luk him in the eye

I cannae tell thon man a lie

His wains an him an me will die

Afore this night is ended

The night was split by a powerfu crac

Oor stricken ship had broke her bac

The lights went oot an a went blac

My heart was fairly thumpin

I knowed the time was dra’in nigh

The aft end noo was risin high

My turn wus comin tae sae guidbye

All aroon me folk wur jumpin

In vain I stud but nae searchlight swep

Beside me a heartbroke lassie wep

I tuk her han an the gither we lep

An fell tae that ice coul water

The shock o hittin broke oor grip

I feel’d her han frae my han slip

The last young lass tae lee that ship

I prae the lifeboats got her

A droonin mans life rins afore his eyes

An he sees all o his truthes an lies

An haes time tae repent afore he dies

But that privilege forsook me

The icy coul that hut me there

Too much for ony man tae bear

I cudnae tak it onymare

An blacness overtuk me

My frien ye’re squaring up tae lee

But whativer grief ye might feel for me

I’m lying here an naw at sea

Ye could sae me fate was kinder

Twelve hunner mare they cudnae save

Wha left this world alow a wave

They’re lyin noo in a watery grave

Wi nae heedstane for reminder

Willie Laverty

18th January 2012