500,000 Curses Ballad

3 minute read

Here we took another road to visit Glenveigh and see Adair’s castle. On the way we were informed by a woman, speaking in Irish, that a process-server near Creeslach was fired at through the window of his house. He had been out serving processes, and was at home sitting with his head resting on his hand. Three shots were fired, two going over his head and one going through the hand on which his head was resting. Two men are taken up to-day.

I have secured a copy of the ballad referred to by our guide, which records the desolation of Derryveigh. All such actions are celebrated in local poetry; but this is one of the fiercest; you can publish it if you think best: -


The cold snow rests on levelled walls, where was a happy home,
The wintry sky looks down upon a desolate hearthstone.
The hearth by which the cradle song has lulled our infant’s sleep,
Is open to the pitying skies that nightly o’er it weep.
There is rippling in the waters, there is rustling through the air,
Five hundred thousand curses upon cruel John Adair. \

“It is not we that curse him, though in woe our sad heart bleeds,
The curse that’s on him is the curse that follows wicked deeds.
He suspected and he punished, he judged, and then he drew
The besom of destruction our quiet homesteads through;
So it’s rippling in the waters, it is rustling through the air,
Five hundred thousand curses upon cruel John Adair. \

“We little dreamed upon our hills destruction’s hour was nigh,
Woe! Woe the day our quiet glens first met his cruel eye!
He coveted our mountains all in an evil hour,
We have tasted of his mercy, and felt his grasp of power;
Through years to come of summer sun, of wintry sleet and snow,
His name shall live in Derryveigh as Campbell’s in Glencoe. \

“A tear is on each heather bell where heaven’s dew distils,
And weeping down the mountain side flows on a thousand rills;
The winds rush down the empty glens with many a sigh and moan,
Where little children played and sang is desolate and lone.
The scattered stones of many homes have witnessed our despair,
And every stone’s a monument to cruel John Adair. \

“Where are the hapless people, doomed by John Adair’s decree?
Some linger in the drear poor-house–some are beyond the sea;
One died behind the cold ditch–back beneath the open sky,
And every star in heaven was a witness from on high.
None dared to ope a friendly door, or lift a neighbor’s latch,
Or shelter by a warm hearthstone beneath the homely thatch. \

“Beside the lake in sweet Glenveigh, his tall white castle stands,
With battlement and tower high, fresh from the mason’s hands;
It’s built of ruined hearth stones, its cement is bitter tears,
It’s a monument of infamy to all the future years,
He is written childless, for of his blood no heir
Shall inherit land or lordship from cruel John Adair. \

“His cognizance the bloody hand has a wild meaning now,
It is pointing up for vengeance to Cain-like mark his brow,
It speaks of frantic hands that clasped the side posts of the door;
Pale lips that kissed the threshold they would cross, oh, never more.
The scattered stones of many homes, the desolated farms,
Shall mark with deeper red the hand upon his coat of arms.
The silver birches of Glenveigh when stirred by summer air
Shall whisper of the curse that hangs o’er cruel John Adair.” \

Letters of “Norah”
On Her Tour Through Ireland
Margaret Dixon McDougall