36TH (ULSTER) DIVISION, 7.21 a.m., 1st July 1916

A’m liein here this brave while,

yin o Genèral Nugent’s men,

oot in Nae-man’s Lan gye an earlie

that bit neardèr tae thaim Huns,

tae be readie, an mair nor readie,

fur whan tha whussle wheeps.

A’m liein here this lang while,

face-doon in tha glar,  

tha barrage up aheid.


a saft, saft wurd

fur a wile heavy thïng.

Barrage, Barrage – lik whut ye’d say

tae peacify an ailin baist,

straikin its sheeglin hide,

“Barrage, barrage, oul sinn,

yer pain’ll soon be bae ye.”

Barrage! Barrage! Barrage!

a wrathsome nieve, blargein,,

duntèrin, poondin…

… till tha delf leps frae tha boord

            an doon it dings agane

Agane, agane he’d dae it,

a man tae murdèr  

onie bit o peace.

A’d lie, face doon, oot o his road,

ma hauns tae ma lugs,

keepin him oot o ma heid.

Ma faither…

Aa tha wrathsome faithers o tha worl

is here theday,

blattèrin thair weans

in yin great stramash.

we ir sae smaa unnèr this sky o shells,

tha grun aneath iz swallaed up bae soon

an we its spu’ins! Thon scraich

wull split ma heid!

Struck deef…!

Nae soon? Tha

guns hae


Yin mïnit fur tae tak a braithe …

Yin mïnit fur tae see, sae clear,

sae clear, thon lang-deid man,

his nieve aye clinchit

but, sae clear jest noo,

a luk o pain

flictèrin owre his face…

Yin mïnit mair

an A’ll be on ma feet

fur God an Ulstèr an tha Croon…

Ma Faither God, ye didnae spare yer sinn.

Inunnèr hemmer blows Ye lee’d him

Yit an wi aa he sayed, “Intae Yer hans…”

Ma sperrit… can A trust Ye wi it?

An wi ma faither’s…?

… fur tha sake o his yin nekked luk o sorra,

eneuch tae mak ma hairt gae oot tae him

an thon’s tha whussle

an tha wurd

that haes me up

an forrit

intae Yer hauns…

On the first morning of the First Battle of the Somme (1st July 1916), General Nugent sent Armagh Volunteers into no-man’s-land before zero hour. They had to lie and wait till the whistle blew for the general advance at 7.30am, the idea being that they would be that bit closer to their objective (the Hun). The first of them were sent out at 7.10am and then three further groups of Nugent’s Ulstermen at five-minute intervals. They had to lie under the ‘curtain’ of British shell bombardments passing above them. This must have been a horrifying experience.

This poem appeared in ‘Yarns’, 2021, an anthology of Ulster-Scots writing published by the Ulster-Scots Community Network. My grandfather was from Newtownstewart in County Tyrone, so the poem is not based on his experience. He was in the 36th (Ulster) Division which also took part in this battle. I wrote this poem in Ulster-Scots because he and so many of the men would have spoken like this. A tiny glossary: Glar sticky mud; Sheeglin trembling; Nieve fist.