Doran’s hands (Object no. 173)

John Doran poemYesterday was Father’s Day here in the UK, so I have been thinking of my Dad more than usual. Going through some old papers of his I found these scraps with jottings in his familiar hand. A quick read through revealed that I had at last found the mystery poem he had written, about his ancestor, John Doran. I had found other poems of Dad‘s but not this one, although I knew he had written one as I remember him reciting it to me; as a young revolutionary himself, he had been very taken with the drama of the story.

I wrote about Doran in a previous post,  and this family legend has also been on my mind lately as I have been reading Roddy Doyle’s A Star Called Henry with its vivid and visceral portrayal of the later Irish uprisings. As it happens I am going on holiday to Ireland this week, for a friend’s wedding in Wicklow, so this is a timely find.

Sadly, either Dad never finished it, or the finished version is yet to be discovered, as these verses are incomplete. It’s no masterpiece but I like it, and in my head I hear it recited in my Dad’s stirring tones. Below is the best transcription I can make out from these notes, I have had to substitute the odd word [in square brackets] where I can’t read it but I hope I have kept to the spirit of his words. He didn’t give it a title so I have called it Doran’s Hands:

John Doran was a scholar, for he could read and write
He set his hand to Ireland’s cause, to help her in her fight
But peasants’ hands are earthy brown
And Doran’s hands were white.

He wrote the village letters and the village sums made right
He said, Be free, and Irish hands unite!
But peasants’ hands are earthy brown
And Doran’s hands were white.

Stravaiging for arms, the boys were out one night
The Bishop’s House surrounded, but no hand raised in fight
Pass out your guns, and quick, the early light
The shutter bangs against the wall, the staff obey in fright
The peasants’ hands were earthy brown
And Doran’s hands were white.

The Bishop grim in shadow waits, his [failing] sight
No face could see, but the eager hands, and his guns in passive flight
And the peasants’ hands were earthy brown
But Doran’s hands were white.

The king an armed troop has sent the village to [surround]
And by the Captain command the Bishop, [not to fail]
To [bring to] him the man who led the boys that summer night
And they have taken the scholar John Doran
And they will put him to the wall the [record] to set right
For where their hands were earthy brown
John Doran’s hands were white.

Maybe one day I will find a finished version, but this will have to do for now. And one day perhaps I will do some research to find out how much truth is in the family legend. But as I’d hate to spoil the myth that has been passed down the generations,  I probably won’t.  After all, why let the truth get in the way of a great story? I’m sure Dad would agree!





About Hoarder of Babylon

A chartered librarian and curator of my family archives.
This entry was posted in 18th century, Dad, Letters, cards and documents and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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