Henry Bradley was proprietor of Bradley’s Gala Store at “The Cross”, a village in County Donegal near Killygordon. He was postmaster of the post office located at the store as well. Through the years, Mr. Bradley composed several excellent poems, some of which were brought to my attention recently. One poem, “Going Back to Ireland”, caught my eye because the settings in his poem are the same locations I used in my novel in “Donegal Generations” about life in 18th and 19th century Ireland. Mr. Bradley tells me “Going Back to Ireland” is about an emigrant who often thought about returning to Ireland but for some reason never did. Old age and hard times caught up with him and there is little chance of him ever going back. His consolation is that he still has his memory, and while he has his memory, he can go back there in his dreams.
Mr Bradley is now retired and lives in north-western County Donegal.
Here is his poem…
GOING BACK TO IRELAND – Henry Bradley
to stand where neon lights don’t blind me,
to hear the song birds welcome in another day,
to walk where the air is fresh and clean,
and to see a sunset at the end of day.
I often thought of going back to Ireland,
to a home I left too many years ago.
I’d promise to go back “next year”
but next year came and went and I didn’t go.
Now I’m sitting here tired in mind and body
With misty eyes and a pocket drought of means,
and all I’ve got, and I thank God for that,
I can go back there in my dreams.
When that train pulls into Killygordon Station
I’ll know my journey home is near an end.
I’ll stand in silent contemplation
and view familiar sights once again.
Each step I take will awaken long lost memories
of friends; when they and I were running free.
Those carefree days I’ll recall with pleasure
when I stroll beyond “Bonners” big oak tree.
The “Tennis Court” and the “Barley Hill”
are sights I’ll see if for moment I would stall.
Then thoughts of yore would take me back
to nights I danced in the old tin hall.
A few short steps will find me standing
on the bridge across the “River Finn,”
gazing down on tranquil waters
where many years ago I learned to swim.
Next in line the old school around the corner
foreboding; in the townland of “Dromore,”
a place of trial and tribulation
with many tears shed upon the floor.
But time and tide they say waits for no one
so I must hurry on my way,
for I have sights to see and places to be
before the evening light fades away.
To the right; quiet and still stands “Garrison Hill”
tucked away behind the bushes and the trees.
Further on “Kilcadden” and “Drumavish”
lie sheltered and snug from the winter breeze.
Up and down run the fields of “Ballinacor”
a place from where the angelus bell doth chime.
And to see again the old ball alley at “The Cross”
would resurrect memories of a joyful time.
Next it’s over the bridge in my dream I’ll go
to some of the places I had left behind,
“Aveltygort” always a favourite spot
forever engraved upon my mind.
“Ardnaganna” saw me pick potatoes there
as did “Ballyarl” and “Drumfergus” too.
Though tired and weary and sometimes sore
I was thankful for the work I had to do.
I have tramped “Drumcannon’s” winding roads
and left my footprints around “Mounthall”.
“Corradoey” found me wandering there
When I was small and everything looked tall.
“Gleneely” boasts a panoramic view
of the valley and sights below.
“Monellan” a gem of hidden beauty
where the waters clear and crystal flow.
And so; my dream journey has come to an end
But precious sights will forever be with me stay.
And the bells of St Anne’s and St. Patrick’s
remind me that it’s too long I’ve been away.
Yes the bells of St. Anne’s and St. Patrick’s
remind me that it’s too long I’ve been away.
In his youth, Mr. Bradley lived in the hills above The Cross in the area of Corradoey and Rushey Hill townlands. The memories of his days as a child watching a stream on his father’s land inspired the following two poems:
THE HILLY BIT – Henry Bradley
I USED TO SIT ON YON HILLY BIT
UNDER A CLEAR BLUE SKY WHILE BENEATH MY FEET WITH BROKEN BEAT
THE SHIMERING BROOK WENT TUMBLING BY.
I SAT ME THERE WITH OUT A CARE,
FOR THINGS THAT WENT ON AROUND.
UN DISTURBED THOUGHTS LINGERED ON,
BROKEN ONLY BY THE SOUND,
OF THAT LITTLE BROOK WITH WEEDY LOOK,
THE BROWN TROUT DEEP WITHIN,
THE SLIVERY EEL GLIDING PAST,
AND THE KINGFISHER PEEPING IN.
MY THOUGHTS WERE OF
THE DISTANT PAST, THE HERO’S OF LONG AGO.
THE STORIES THAT THE OLD MEN TOLD,
AND FAR OFF PLACES I WISHED TO GO.
TIME TO ME WAS THE SUN,
THE MOON AND THE STARS ON HIGH.
FOR I WAS YOUNG AND CAREFREE THEN
AND CHILDISH DREAMS HAD YET TO DIE.
THE FLEDGELING STREAM – Henry Bradley
FROM MARSHY SEAM’S AND RUSHEY GREEN’S
A “FLEDGELING” STREAM WAS BORN ONE DAY,
AND SEEPED ACROSS THE SOGGY MOSS
ON DOWN THE GRAVEL BRAY.
IT WEAVED IN AND OUT AND LOOKED LIKE STOUT
WHEN IT WASHED AGAINST THE BOGGY BROUGH,
AND EACH SPINK AND DAM WOULD ADD A DRAM
WHEN THEIR SURPLUS WATERS GREW.
DOWN HEATHERY HILL’S AND ROCKY SPILL’S
THE FLEDGELING STREAM BEGAN TO GROW,
AND RUSHED ALONG, FIELDS OF CORN
AND OUT PAST MEADOWS SOFT AND LOW.
IT LAY IN POOLS’S AND LOCKED SO COOL,
WHEN THE SUMMER SUN; BURNED HIGH?
THERE; TROUT WOULD SCOUT AND WAIT ABOUT
FOR AN UN-SUSPECTING FLY.
WILD FLOWERS GREW BESIDE IT TOO,
AS DID BRIER’S, FERN’S AND WOODLAND TREE’S.
BIRDS FLEW FROM HIDDEN NESTS,
AND BEE’S WOULD HUM ACROSS THE BREEZE.
IT CHURNED WHITE AND BROWN AND MADE ANGRY SOUND’S
WHEN THE RAIN FELL HEAVY FROM THE SKY.
IT TURNED STARK AND COLD AND LOOKED QUITE BOLD
WHEN ICY WINTER WINDS BLEW BY.
FROM FAR OFF HILL’S AND MARSHEY SPILL’S
“FLEDGELING” STREAM’S BEGAN TO STRAY,
AND SLIP DOWN O’ER EACH VALLEY FLOOR,
TO JOIN WITH OTHERS ON THE WAY.
WIDE AND STRONG THEY MEANDERED ON
BECOMING RIVERS AS THEY GREW.
AND THERE AMIDST THE RAPID THRUST
THE “FLEDGELING” STREAM’S WERE SUCKED FROM VIEW.
AND THERE AMIDST THE RAPID THRUST THE “FLEDGELING” STREAM’S WERE SUCKED FROM VIEW.
(Poems used with permission)