Now, reader, you and I must start
Together with both hand and heart,
Off to the far-famed level of green,
Which once in verdure lay between
The old Scotch Kirk, and where now Hall
Confectionery sells to all;
And we shall pass as something new,
Old scenes before us in review,
And I shall fire up these rhymes
With battles of the good old times;
And out of what I shall relate
No single case for magistrate,
Or stern judge to adjudicate
Arose, for then, a bloody nose,
Or broken head, between fair foes,
Was counted neither loss nor gain,
Nor thought of 'till they met again.
'Twas in the glorious olden time
When smashing craniums was no crime--
When people got no invitation
At half-past nine for presentation
Of damaged eye and broken skin,
To answer for nocturnal sin
Before that tribunal where bail
Can't always keep one out of jail.
'Twas in July in '29,
If true this memory of mine,
At early- morn upon that green
'Twas twelve o'clock, and all was well,
"And merry as a marriage bell,"
Thought one might see just here and there
Were many tents of canvas seen
Within which might be found good cheer
In whiskey kegs and kegs of beer;
And on a little table, too,
Tin measures were exposed to view,
For thirsty souls their clay to slake,
And draughts of inspiration take--
For then the numbers were but few,
Who shun'd the sparkling mountain dew,
And people under no pretence
Could dream of total abstinence:
Even John B. Gough's most magic sway
Had failed in Bytown's early day.
Vast was the throng assembled there
At Bytown's first and greatest Fair,
And merry were the antics seen
Upon that famous ancient green.
'Twas not to buy or sell they came
From far and near, the blind and lame,
The grave, the merry, sad and gay,
Upon that old eventful day;
They all assembled, wild and free,
To have a ranting, roaring spree!
And, by the shadows of the past!
Frolic flew furious and fast,
And many a head was pillowed on
Old mother earth ore set of sun.
A fiddler here the catgut drew,
And there a highland piper, too,
Shrieked forth with loud and stirring bar,
The boding battle-notes of war--
And lavishly the whiskey flew
Among that mirth devoted crew,
As oft into the tents they ran
To renovate the inner man.
Legs seeming somewhat worse of wear,
And in the air perhaps might hear
The prescient sounds of conflict near,
For Irish accents there were many,
Cork, Tipperary, and Kilkenny.
'Twas afternoon, and frolic's pacing
Was then diversified by racing,
Then soon was cleared of busy feet
The race course, old Wellington street,
Bets then were made, and up the money,
Pat Ryan's horse, and Davy's pony,
Together entered for the match--
Perhaps it would be called a "scratch"
Race in the turf's expressive phrase
Unknown in By-town's early days.
Fair, free and gallantly they started,
And headlong up the street they darted,
While loudly sounded cheer on cheer
As swift the winning post they near;
They ran together without check,
And passed it almost neck and neck,
So close, the judges, though they tried,
The winning horse could not decide.
The race was o'er and down the brakes,
Each party shouted for the stakes;
And loud and fierce the clamor rose,
And words soon lost themselves in blows;
The very stones began to speak,
And skulls, of course, began to break,
And black thorns and maple sticks
Played such fantastic ugly tricks,
That soon the well thronged battle plain
Was strewn with bodies of the slain--
The "Kilt," who fell to rise again
Without the doctor's mystic aid,
And plunge once more into the raid.
Stones flew in showers, the windows shook
Around that famous Donnybrook,
While Tipperary's battle yell,
Did loudly o'er the conflict swell!
And many a celt with accent racy
Roared for a Sleavin or a Casey!
And fierce the struggle raged around
Where the seven Sleavin's stood their ground--
Seven brothers, back to back they stood
Like hero's, though their streaming blood
Told how they bravely turned at bay
'Gainst hundreds in that savage fray!
O'erpowered at last they did retreat
Face to the foe, still in defeat,
Defiant as they moved along
Pursued by the relentless throng!
They reached their home, shut fast the door,
And stood within upon the floor,
Ready to meet the coming foe,
Who in their vengeance were not slow
Stones showered from the assailing crew,
In pieces every window flew,
Then, with a loud and savage yell
They rushed to storm the citadel!
A gun-barrel through a broken pane
Made the invaders pause again,
A sharp axe sticking through another,
Their thirst for slaughter seemed to smother;
A battle council then took place,
And very soon there was no trace,
Of conflict or of bloody fray
Round where the Sleavin's stood at bay!
Thus ended Bytown's first old Fair,
A Donnybrook most rich and rare;
This annal of the olden time
Was not premeditated crime,
It sprang from what forms quite a part
Of every genuine Irish heart,
A sort of Faugh-a-Ballagh way
That sticks to Irishmen to-day.
Recollections of Bytown and Its Old Inhabitants.
William Pittman Lett, Citizen Printing and Publishing Co., Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario. 1874