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James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

January 24

After the Lecture on Spion Kop

By Joseph I. C. Clarke (1846–1925)

  • Delivered at Mulligan’s Hall, New York.
  • On the night of Jan. 23 (1900), Sir Charles Warren’s division of General Sir Redvers Buller’s army, under the immediate command of General Woodgate, occupied Spion Kop in the belief that it was the key to the Boer position. When day broke they found themselves in an unsheltered place on the ridge, with no water except what was in their canteens and exposed to a terrible artillery fire from the neighboring hills, to which they were unable to reply. They held their position all day with heavy loss and at nightfall, the command having devolved on Col. Thorneycroft, General Woodgate being mortally wounded, a retreat was ordered and they marched down the hill without knowing that artillery had been ordered to their relief and was then close at hand.

  • “MAN, Blake was fine: ev’ry word that he spoke

    Snapped out like the crack of a whip.

    D’ye mind where he looked through the cannon smoke

    As the English let go their grip?

    For that one hot minute on Spion Kop.

    God willin’, I’d roast ten years!

    No wonder the lecture was called to a stop

    Till the boys were dead with their cheers;

    And so,” said Burke with his glass in his hand,

    “God bless the burghers of Boerland!”

    “And Blake left a leg there,” ’t was Kelly stood up.

    “They’ve scattered the Irish Brigade:

    But few as they were they emptied their cup,

    And the man who dies twice isn’t made.

    ’Twas a fresh red mark on the old war-map:

    They signed it, men, for us all,

    And we’d rather lie stiff with them there in the gap

    Than to cheer them in Mulligan’s Hall.

    Oh, the fights all along the Tugela were grand,

    So, God bless the burghers of Boerland!”

    “Ah, things have gone badly,” said Burke, “since then.”

    “In time,” said Shea, with a frown,

    “Two hundred and fifty thousand men

    Will wear forty thousand down.”

    “If I was De Wet,” said Burke, “I’d set—”

    “If you? arrah whisht,” said Shea,

    “Phil Sheridan couldn’t give points to De Wet.

    In a dash and a smash and—away.

    He’d keep up the fight with a lone command,

    God bless the burghers of Boerland!”

    “And the Boers are Protestants. One would think,”

    Said Burke, “’twould for something count.”

    “In questions of loot,” said Shea with a wink

    “That wouldn’t reduce the amount.

    When Cromwell made Ireland an open grave

    And gave us the edge of the knife,

    It wasn’t our souls he wanted to save,

    But to case us of land and life.

    And ’tis Ireland yet, lads, mountain and strand,

    So, God bless the burghers of Boerland!”

    “The smoke of their homesteads darkens the sky,”

    Said Burke, “but their guns are bright:

    Their women and children are herded to die.

    But they don’t give up the fight.

    The world has left them, more shame to the world,

    To rastle their way to death.

    But an Englishman’s soul to the pit is hurled,

    When a Boer gives up his breath.

    And they’re fighting to-day from the Cape to the Rand:

    God bless the burghers of Boerland!”

    “A race doesn’t hate for the sake of hate,

    “Nor,” said Kelly, “when gun faces gun;

    But the bitter black flow’r grows early and late

    Where the killing of women is done:

    On the graves of the children its roots strike deep,

    Then the hearts of live men it will clutch.

    And till Judgment their race will its foothold keep:

    You can’t kill the Irish—or Dutch!

    So, if none but us three were to stretch them a hand,

    God bless the burghers of Boerland!”