The Third Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge

Thanks to Geniaus for finding this challenge from Bill West.

1. Find a poem by a local poet, famous or obscure, from the region
one of your ancestors lived in. It can be about an historical event, a
legend, a person, or even about some place (like a river)or a local
animal. It can even be a poem you or one of your ancestors have written!
Or if you prefer, post the lyrics of a song or a link to a video
of someone performing the song.

2. Post the poem or song to your blog (remembering to cite the source
where you found it.)

3.Tell us how the subject of the poem or song relates to your ancestor's
home or life.

I can immediately think of 2 possible posts. I grew up in Tenterfield so Peter Allan's, Tenterfield Saddler could be a good choice. However, last year I went to Northern Ireland and was very fortunate to be shown around the Castledawson, Bellaghy area by Eugene Kielt from Laurel Villa in Magherafelt.

Laurel Villa Guesthouse in Magherafelt is often the venue for Seamus Heaney to read his poetry. In fact each of the guestrooms at Laurel Villa is dedicated to a great Ulster poet - MacNeice, Kavanagh, Longley and Seamus Heaney.

I have chosen something (I had trouble stopping at one) from Heaney. A search of my four Heaney books doesn't give the poem I want, but a search on the internet has.


Riverbank, the long rigs
ending in broad docken
and a canopied pad
down to the ford.
The garden mould
busied easily, the shower
gathering in your heelmark
was the black O
in Broagh,
its low tattoo
among the windy boor trees
and rhubarb-blades
ended almost
suddenly, like that last
gh the strangers found
difficult to manage.

Copied from the blog Irish Matters

I have Irish papers which state that my great, great, great grandfather James Agnew and his brother Henry came from Broagh. For many years I searched for Broagh as a townland. I could not understand why I couldn't find it. I knew it was near Castledawson, Derry but it was nowhere to be found.  Last year I finally discovered that it is part of Tamniaran but that residents have always said they come from Broagh. At last I had discovered exactly where the Agnews came from. Broagh is obviously a significant place for Heaney and for me also. (The Heaneys and the Agnews lived quite close to each other in the 1800s.)

You need to listen to the poem to really appreciate it. Unfortunately I couldn't find an audio version anywhere and it doesn't appear to be YouTube. The pronunciation of the name Broagh is quite tricky but I hope to master it one day. 

I also have to include a portion of Heaney's essay titled Mossbawn (the farm where he grew up). Heaney describes the land.

" The world grew. Mossbawn, the first place, widened. There was what we called the Sandy Loaning, a sanded pathway between old hedges leading in off the road, first among field and then through a small bog.....The sides of the lane were banks of earth topped with broom and ferns, quilted with moss and primroses. Behind the broom, in rich grass, cattle munched reassuringly. Rabbits occasionally broke cover and ran ahead of you in a flurry of dry sand. There were wrens and goldfinches. But, gradually, those lush and definite fields gave way to scraggy marshland. Birch trees stood up to their pale shins in swamps. The ferns thickened above you. Scuffles in old leaves made you nervous and you dared yourself always to pass the badger's set....
To this day, green wet corners, flooded wastes, soft rushy bottoms, any place with the invitation of watery ground and tundra vegetation.....possess an immediate and deeply peaceful attraction."

(Finders Keepers - Selected Prose 1971-2001 - Seamus Heaney)

Each time I read this, I can imagine the landscape and I'm sure this is what my great, great grandmother Matilda must have experienced and saw when she ventured out in the fields of Broagh. 

April 2010 

April 2010

April 2010

Moyola River, near Broagh - April 2010


  1. One brick wall knocked down and literary allusions as well. As for the pronunciation, well that's another challenge.

    1. Hi,
      My family comes from Broagh as well and as for the pronunciation, it's simply said like brook! That's it! Hope this helps.

      P. McGuire

    2. Thanks very much for the tip.

  2. I'm wondering what sort of shoes they wore in Broagh - that's how I'd pronounce it.

    Interesting that we Aussies are choosing Irish poets.

    Another fab post from one of my fave Aussie bloggers, thanks.

  3. I've been meaning to read Heaney's poetry ever since I read his translation of Beowulf. This post reminded me to do it. Beautiful imagery!

    Thanks for taking part in the Challenge!


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