Next Tuesday night on Lesser Spotted Ulster on UTV Joe Mahon continues his exploration of the Ulster countryside with a visit to the homeland of W F Marshall, the Bard of Tyrone.
Rev William Forbes Marshall was a Presbyterian minister, poet, author and historian. He had a deep affection for his native county of Tyrone and was also a fervent unionist and Ulsterman.
He died in January 1959 but the 50th anniversary of his death passed almost unnoticed. There were no television programmes or festivals to mark the occasion and there were only one or two newspaper articles. It is important that Marshall and his work are not forgotten.
The following poem is one of his political poems and it appeared in the Northern Whig on the day that the Ulster covenant was signed in September 1912:
The Blue Banner
Firm-leagued we face the future, tho’ the road be dark and steep,The road that leads to honour is the lonely road we keep,
And, though all the world forsake us, this is the course we hold,
The course our fathers followed in the Cov’nant days of old.
We fain would look for comfort to the land from whence we came,
Where still abide our kith and kin and clansmen of our name.
Where lives were deemed of small account by valiant men and true,
For Christ, His Crown, His Cov’nant and the war-worn folds of blue.
Long years have been and faded since the old-time banner waved,
See! How it flashes once again ere dangers must be braved,
The Cov’nant oath we now will swear that Britain may be told,
We stand for faith and freedom and the memories of old.
For all they died for gladly in the homeland o’er the sea,
For blood-won rights that still are ours as Ulsterborn and free,
For the land we came to dwell in, and the martyr’s faith we hold -
God grant we be as leal to these as were the men of old!