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- O Jeanie leave your father's ha' - 1856

Journal by ngairedith

John BARR, poet (1809-1889) lived Kaihiku, Clutha + Dunedin, Otago from 1852

the biography of John BARR is on Dictionary of New Zealand from which I have taken parts of and put here

I found a poem he submitted to the 'Otago Witness' 19 April 1856 which I cannot find anywhere else so want to share with our readers

... John Barr was born on 24 October 1809 at Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland, the son of a manufacturer, James Barr and his wife, Rebecca Barr. He was educated at a parish school before entering the engineering trade, eventually establishing the firm Barr and McNab, which took on large shipbuilding contracts on the Clyde. On 11 April 1844, at Paisley, he married Mary Jamieson LAMB; they had at least two daughters and two sons. The closure of the firm following contract failures decided the Barrs on emigration, and in 1852 they sailed for New Zealand on the Dominion, arriving at Port Chalmers on 28 September. They settled on a farm at Halfway Bush, Wakari, later moving to a property at Kaihiku which they named Craigielee. About 1861 Barr sold the farm and retired to Dunedin. From the time of his arrival in the colony Barr enjoyed a successful career as a poet and achieved some eminence in Otago society ... Barr's enthusiasm for the potentials of the new colony is often grounded in a grim retrospection. The majority of his references to Home focus on the oppressiveness and injustices of the rigid class system he had left behind. A strongly egalitarian idealism emerges:
'Nae mair the laird comes for his rent,
When I hae nocht to pay, sirs.
Nae mair he'll tak me aff the loom,
To touch my hat, and boo to him';
and there are sharp contrasts between the helpless poverty of the British working classes and the prosperity of the settlers' lives:
'There's nae place like Otago yet,
There's nae wee beggar weans,
Or auld men shivering at our doors,
To beg for scraps or banes.
... read more at link above

Barr's Poems and songs are characterised by a strong Scottish identity, immediately evident in the language.
This is the poem published in the Otago Witness 19 April 1856
O Jeanie leave your father's ha',
And gang wi' me my dearie O
To yonder cot beside the burn
That wimples down sae clearly O,
There wild flowers deck the clay-built wa's,
There's nought to mak' you eerie O,
For love stands blinking at the door
To welcome you my dearie O.

The moon shines bright o'er yonder hill,
And stars are sparkling rarely O,
But your twa een outshine them a',
And that my heart kens sairly O;
O pledge your troth to me sweet lass,
There's witnesses abune us O,
Nae mair our loving hearts shall part,
Till death come in between us O.

She has pledged her troth in sweet embrace,
With joy their hearts are swelling O,
While crimson blushes on her cheek,
Their tale o' love are telling O.
Now Georgie in his humble ha'
Is happy late and early O;
There's mutual love between the twa,
Altho' they live but sparely O.

Then wha wad sigh for lordly ha's,
Wi' a' their pomp and splendour O,
And wha to mingle wi' the great
Wad peace o'mind surrender O;
He's happier far that ower the riggs
Gangs hame to his ain desire O;
In slumbers sweet he taks his rest,
And waukens blythe and cheerio O.

- J. B., Craigielee

31 May 1856 - FOR SALE
... The property called Craigielee, situate in the Wakari District and containing 20 acres of land, and a weather-boarded house thereon. Ten acres of the land have been under the plough, 3 acres of which are now laid down in grass. There is abundance of timber and a fine stream of water upon the property. The price will be low and early occupation given. For particulars apply to Messrs Harris and Gillies, Dunedin
... this ad ran until October 1856 when it then read "To Sell or Let" and the ad was still running, and John Barr still living there, in May 1861 when John put it up for sale by Private Contract. By Feb 1862 John was in Dunedin when he printed a 'little volume' of poems, published in Edinburgh. The 'Otago Daily Times' wrote ... "quite irrespective of their local character, which endows them with a peculiar attraction, the Poems possess intrinsic merits in themselves which entitle them to rank high as literary productions"

In 1857 he moved with his wife Mary and their four children to Balclutha, and established a farm which he called Craigielee. He was the founder of the New Zealand Robert Burns Society

on September 18th 1889
at his residence, Ravensbourne, John Barr, Craigielee, in his 80th year ...

21 September 1889
Our obituary column this morning (says Thursday's Daily Times) contains intimation of the death, at the ripe age of 80 years, of Mr John Barr, well known by his territorial appellation of "Craigielea." The deceased gentleman was born in Scotland, and was for some years a member of the firm of Barr and McNab, engineers, Paisley. In 1852 he emigrated to Otago, "?n order," to use his own words, "to hew out a home for himself and his family in the wilderness." In those early days of the settlement the figure of Mr Barr was well known, and not less widely than his genial humor and his talent for comprising songs and poems. Yhe fruits of his efforts in this direction he published in book form in 1861, and many of the pieces contain fine specimans of humor and satire. He settled at the Half-way Bush on his arrival, and afterwards removed to Kaihiku, where his farm was subsequently bought by the late Mr Kettle. Mr Barr then lived at the Water of Leith, and some few years back became the recipient of a considerable legacy, since which time he has lived a somewhat retired life, latterly at Ravensbourne, where he died yesterday. He is survived by Mrs Barr and two daughters, one of whom is married. There is no doubt that when the early history of Otago comes to be fully written, Mr Barr's name will be found prominent among those of the early settlers

9 November 1889
Mr John Barr, known in Dunedin as the "Water of Leith poet", died on September 18 at his residence, Ravensbourne, Otago. Mr Barr, who was eighty years of age when he died, was born in Paisley, Scotland, and arrived in New Zealand in 1852. He was an apt versifier, and some of his poems bore traces of deep feeling and great sympathy with nature. In 1861 he published a book of songs which is still to be found in Dunedin libraries. For many years he lived near the picturesque Water of Leith, until recently when he removed to Ravenshourne. Mr Barr had also an estate at Craigielea. In addition to his poems, Mr Barr was an occasional contributor to several New Zealand journals

11 November 1889
IN THE ESTATE OF JOHN BARR, late of Craigielea, deceased. All person having claims against the late Mr John Barr, of Craigielea, are requested to send in their accounts to the Executors, care of the Perpetual Trustees Company, before the 15th inst., otherwise they will not be recognised. Walter Hislop, John McFarlane, Executors

If you know who his children were, or if you're a descendant, we would like to hear more. Please leave comments below

Portrait of John Barr published in Otago Punch, 9 February 1867
taken from top link

last updated 22-9-12

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on 2012-09-22 04:13:01

ngairedith has been a Family Tree Circles member since Feb 2008.

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