Published on Friday the 7th June 1895.
This poem which I recently discovered was written by a lady named Lizzy Smith. Lizzy lived in Meikle Earnock village in 1895 and I get the feeling that she was quite the character. I also must admit that in this period, Lizzy’s poem is the first which I have stumbled across which was written by a woman, as most poems seem to have been written and sent to the local newspaper by men. So, she was probably quite a head strong woman.
For me, this poem is a real gem and I am so happy that I found it, because Lizzy not only tells us of what life was like in 1895 but she tells us in the language of the day, how the old Hamiltonian’s spoke and of the people who were alive in this period and we hear old family names being mentioned. So, here is Lizzie Smith’s poem, in her own words.
THE PLOOMANS BALL.
By Lizzy Smith 1895.
In Meikle Earnock’s ancient toon,
Leaves Wullie Smith a cairter loon,
And a bonny day in June,
He met a lass,
Wha, search the country side aroun,
Nae coo’d surpass.
Her beauty, elegance, and grace,
Her bonnie lauchin, winsome face,
Garr’d ither chiels join in the chase,
Her he’rt to win,
But Willie did them a’ ootrace,
And steppit in.
At least he thocht that first he’d been,
But he like plenty mair, I ween,
Was sae in love wi Bonnie Jean,
He couldna’ see,
What ithers a’ alang hsd seen,
She’d twa or three.
He geid her presents o’ the best,
And day nor night he couldna rest,
But thocht himsel uncommon blest,
That thus had got,
His bonnie dear to answer yes,
To share his lot.
And thus wore by the summer time,
And trees and floers were past their prime,
And autumn wi’ its days sae fine,
Had bid adiew,
And grass was wat wi hoary rime,
Instead o’ dew.
Twas then took place the ploomen ball,
Whan fully fifteen couples all,
Were gathered in the spacious hall,
At Chapel Farm,
Which as ye ken, baith young and auld,
Is just the barn.
Twa just to pas the time a wee,
Or else a wee but fun tae see,
Or something else that prompted me,
That night tae gang,
But this is hoo, without a lee,
They got alang.
Gibb Berry, wia lass ca’d Nell,
Thocht nane were as guid’s himsel,
But the truth I was to tell,
I’d say that he,
Doon in the dirt had aften fell,
At mony a spree.
Jock Watson, in his Sunday claes,
As fresh as daises on the braes,
And een as black as ony slaes,
Was there on’ a’,
And aye himsel he tried to rise,
An inch or twa.
For he was swalled wi conscious pride,
And that’s a fact he couldna hide,
And Maggie Rankin by his side,
Was unco mim,
And blushed as sweet as only bride,
And looked at him,
And next a chap, they ca’ him Will,
He’s servin’ up at Cornhill,
He danced and jumped aboot until,
His heid grew dizzy,
And teen joined in wi’ right guid Will,
That winsome hizzy.
But by my sang, he didna think,
As he wi’ Teen that nicht did link,
Pair chap, that he was on the brink,
O’ being jookit;
The stallion man gied her the wink,
And aff they hookit.
Frae Craigenhill there next cam Dan,
An honest and a manly man,
Wi a hizzy o’ the Fifer Clan,
Tho’ somewhat soor,
I think she had made up a plan,
To look aye dour.
Of course for me it widna dae,
To name them a’ in sie a way,
For the truth to tell, its hard to say,
They’d tak’t amiss,
My very life they’d swear to hae,
For writin this.
O’ this discourse I’ve lost the threed,
Bur then it is a lengthy screed,
And sie a Jumble’s in my heid,
O’ mirth and fun,
And then that glorious midnicht feed,
It took the bun.
The time gaed by wi’ mirth and glee,
A’ things were there to catch the e’e,
There was rowth o’ pastries, cakes and tea,
Pankakes and bannocks,
And some they ate sae greedily,
They fyled their stammacks.
A chap who happened to be there,
Got up on tae the barn flair,
And wi’ a voice baith sweet and rare,
Made echoes ring,
Wi’ Norah’s pride o’ sweet Kildare,
Feth he could sing.
But quately speaking, tween me and you,
Twas chappies in the royal blue,
Could shift a pickle mountain dew,
Doon ower their neck,
And everything that cam’ in view,
They took their wheck,
The man wi’ feet was there an ‘,
I’m shair they’re onything but sma,
Twelve inches lang and ither twa,
I’m shair they’d be,
Sis feet as them I never saw,
At ony spree.
And Jean, she sang a sang sae sweet,
To hear her was a perfect treat,
There’s na compeers,
She finished and then took her seat,
Mid deefenin cheers.
And thus, wi mony a dance and sang,
The lightsome hoors they sped aland,
The guid Scotch drink was dealt amang,
The ploomen chiels,
And aye their sturdy legs they flang,
At jigs and reels.
But everything maun hae en end,
And sae maun balls, as well ye ken,
Oor several ways we a’ did wend,
Just as daybreak,
For fear oor maisters we’d offend,
And get the seck.
Then here’s a health to guid John Mackie,
He did his best tae mak; us happy,
He was sae droll and aye sae crackie,
He cheered us on,
When I gang up I’ll tak’ a drappie,
And drink’t wi John.
Meikle Earnock Lizzie Smith.
This poem was probably written just after the party in the barn ended. The barn dance could have been a once a year event that took place in the summer, where the hard working ploughmen had a chance to go out and meet some nice girls and also in turn, the young girls some allowed to go and by the sound of the poem, some that went without their parents knowing.
The barn dance sounded like a community event where old and young enjoyed each other’s company and it could have been a bit like a gala day. So, a day and night out, that all looked forward to.
I wanted to find out more about Lizzy Smith, so I decided to do some research and luckily for me, there was only one person called Elizabeth Smith who lived in Meikle Earnock in 1895 and here is what I found.
Lizzie, or Elizabeth Smith was only nineteen when she wrote this poem. She was born in Glasgow on the 7th of August 1876 to parents Hugh Smith & Mary Sweeny. The family lived at Haggshouse Farm in Kinning Park, Glasgow where Lizzie’s father was working as a ploughman. Her father then moved the family to Blantyre, where he was now working as a greengrocer.
In Blantyre, Lizzie and her family lived at Aitkenhead Buildings and Lizzie worked along with her father as a green grocer’s assistant, but the their time at Blantyre was short lived as they then moved to Meikle Earnock, where Lizzie’s dad was now working back on a farm and working as a cow feeder.
When the family lived at Meikle Earnock, there was another family that went by the name of Cuthbertson and I will come to this soon and let you know why I have mentioned this.
Lizzie Smith was now working most likely at the same farm as her father. Her farther was the cow feeder on this farm and Lizzie, just like she did at the green grocers in Blantyre worked side by side with her father and she was working as a dairy maid. I get the feeling that Lizzie and Hugh had a close father daughter relationship.
On the 9th of December 1898 Lizzie married a Cambusnethan man who went by the name of James Gilchrist. James who was a coal miner worked in various places including Muirkirk in Ayrshire, Ormiston in East Lothian, Tranent, East Lothian and then back to Hamilton. This man’s father was a coal miner just like him and it is unknown why the family lived in mining communities scattered all over Scotland, perhaps his father was blacklisted by the colliery owners, but this is just a guess.
The marriage with James produced seven children and sadly two died in infancy, but this was not a happy marriage. On the 11th of June 1913 James files for divorce from Lizzie, now there was probably more to this, but the reason given was that Lizzie was talking of another man while she slept and when confronted by James, she confessed to have been unfaithful.
By the time of the divorce, James was living in Hamilton at 9 Windsor Terrace on Bothwell Street and Lizzie was living at Whitecraighead in Cleland. I found a newspaper report printed in the Motherwell Times on Friday the 13th of June 1913 which stated:
“MOTHERWELL DIVORCE CASE. Betrayed by Talking- in Sleep.
The story of how a woman betrayed herself in her sleep was narrated in the Court of Session on Saturday last. James Gilchrist, miner, Orchard Cottage, Bellshill, sought divorce from wife, Elizabeth Horne Smith or Gilchrist, Whitecraighead, Cleland, by Motherwell, and Thomas Lindsay, mason, ’station Cottage, Muirkirk, was called as the co-defender.
The pursuer said the marriage was solemnized in 1898, and there were five surviving children. The co-defender had been a lodger in the house. One Sunday in
April 1912, when they were then living at Strathaven, the pursuer heard his wife talking in her sleep.
She was carrying a conversation with someone to whom’ she was heard to say: “This would have to be their last meeting and that it would be better to separate.”
The preceding week had found a letter sent by Lindsay to his wife, in which he said that he was uneasy in his mind. When he taxed his wife, whom he awoke, she admitted having had relations with the co-defender. She subsequently signed an admission, of misconduct. After some further evidence, decree was granted to the pursuer on the ground of the defender’s infidelity”.
After the divorce, Lizzie moved back to Meikle Earnock in Hamilton. Her dad Hugh had died on the 16th of March 1910 at his house in Hollandbush Cottage. If I were to take a guess about one of the reasons as to why Lizzie was not happy in her marriage, then it could have been a lack of compassion from her husband, or perhaps she was so close to her dad that she may possibly of had a bit of depression after his death, however, this is only what could have happened and I do not have any evidence to back this up.
After Lizzie moved back to Meikle Earnock, she met a man named Robert Cuthbertson, who was a widower. It appears that Lizzie and Robert were old acquaintances and they knew each other in their younger years, and it appears that they were childhood sweethearts. Robert lived at Meikle Earnock at the same time as Lizzie when she was living in the village.
They married on the 21st of June 1913 in St. Rollox in Glasgow, the reason as to why they married here is unclear, however, they did continue to live at Meikle Earnock after the wedding. They lived at Croft Cottage right up to May 1921, where they decided to leave Meikle Earnock and indeed Scotland forever.
On the 21st of May 1921 the couple boarded a passenger ship and left for Sydney, Australia. Travelling with them are Robert’s sons James, Malcolm and his daughter’s Mary & Nancy and Lizzie’s son Hugh. They saw out the rest of their days in Australia and Robert lived to the ripe old age of 89 where he died in Nowra, New South Wales on the 18th of June 1962.
Lizzie died only seven months after her husband passed away. She died at the same place on the 12th of January 1963.
What started of a poem written in a local news paper turned into a story of a strong lady who had her ups and downs in life. Lizzie Smith from Meikle Earnock emigrated to Australia and she now has family connections on each side of the world. I wonder if what we write today will have someone reading about it in another 125 years. Also, I would love to go to a party in a big barn, I wonder if the local farmers around Hamilton still have parties like this? Below is a picture of Lizzie Smith.
Written by Garry McCallum