‘The Ballad of Bella Brooks’ © Joe Canning 2019. All Rights Reserved.

[Local history | ‘The Ballad of Bella Brooks’ | Purportedly murdered in 1876 and found drowned in the Finn near Castlefin, Co Donegal | No one was convicted of the crime tho’ rumours abounded at the time]

Joe Canning ‘ A look at Ireland in verse’

‘The Ballad of Bella Brooks’
© Joe Canning 2019. All Rights Reserved. 

Seven score long years and three 
Have passed since Bella Brooks did leave
The mortal coil that bound her to this life.

A servant lass was Bella B. 
That worked in kitchen, toiled in field,
That scrubbed on soapy linen washer board.

Few speak of that young lass today,
Whose bones rest in Tír Connaill’s, clay,
And with her too the mystery of her end.

It’s said she lost her heart to love,
Surrendered she her treasured dove,
To a scoundrel all bereft of sense of duty.

She took the blackguard’s living seed,
And in her young womb life did proceed,
No doubt her mind was wild in consternation.

It’s said the blackguard did not care,
For foetus, life, heart beating there,
A cad with full intention to abandon.

A callous heart his chest contained,
No time for Bella or her wean,
But wanting to erase the coming problem.

In peasant households all around,
The tales of murder did abound,
That evil deed did strip her life away.

‘Tis said the scoundrel did invite,
Her to his father’s house one night,
To rid himself of mother and of child.

I can but only speculate,
That he had sealed poor Bella’s fate,
Awaiting her to fall to sleeping slumber.

And as she rested snug and warm,
He soaked a cloth with chloroform,
And on her face held that obnoxious substance.

He carried out his ghastly plan,
That God his soul did truly damn,
And that of he that with him did consort.

The helpless lass they did convey
To river Finn, to lapping edge,
And cast her to her doom and life eternal.

And as days passed they found the lass,
Devoid of life a sight so sad,
And pray did they for Bella’s gentle soul.

The doctor’s, peelers, did attend,
‘An accident did cause her end’.
Declared the coroner in a short summation.

But still the rumours did their rounds,
‘Foul play’ they cried, in all the towns,
That guineas paid for favours and decisions.

No one did face the hangman’s rope,
For the orphan lass there was no hope,
Just a passing of a tragic pauper.

It’s said that he, the farmer’s son,
Was shielded from the deed he done,
Abetted by conniving servant labour.

The truth I fear ‘twill not be told,
Corrupted men ‘tis said took gold,
And power stayed within the hands of gentry.

But justice will be served on them,
That brought poor Bella to her end
For sinners surely answer to the Master.

And so the tale of Bella Brooks,
Was told as kettles boiled on crooks,
Where prayers were said for two departed souls.

And so her tale lives on today,
But only God the truth can say,
As He cradles in his arms a child and mother.

[Bella Brooks was found floating in the river Finn near Castlefin Co Donegal, in 1876 | Foul play was suspected but never proven | This poem was inspired as a suggestion from Terry Mc Cafferty | There is another poem about the incident as well by Francy the Fiddler (Frances Kelly) from the time]

Image | River Finn, Stranorlar, Co Donegal | Credit: tomgallen.com

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