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John Coleman, The Ardboe Poet 1856-1938

Transcribed, Compiled and Submitted by
Mary Jarvis

John Coleman was born in Ardboe, Tyrone, Ireland, on the western shore of Lough Neagh, in 1856. He married, fathered fourteen children, and made his living as a farmer in Mullinahoe, Tyrone. He died in 1938 and is buried in St. Colman’s churchyard at the Old Cross of Ardboe.

John Coleman’s poetry, first published in the weekly Mid-Ulster Mail between 1927 and 1938, has been recovered from the paper’s archives and is available in one book, The Ardboe Poet – the poetry of John Coleman – 1855-1938, available from and at Sheehy’s bookstore in Cookstown, Tyrone, Northern Ireland. In the tradition of Celtic storytellers, his poetry covers a wide range of subjects, including life on the shores of Lough Neagh and emigration of friends and family to the United States and elsewhere. Excerpts from three of his poems follow.


Those who are lying on the banks of Lough Neagh, by John Coleman

May the spirit of those who are turned to clay

Have rest who lie on the banks of Lough Neagh;

Their voices are hushed and the turf on their breast,

And their spirits gone hence, let us hope to the blest.

They are old here and young, there are friends here and foes,

They are all lying together in the same clay repose,

No noise to disturb save the noise from the lake,

Of the waves coming shoreward on the rock when they break….

Lough Neagh from Old Cross Graveyard, Ardboe, Tyrone with the Mountains of Mourne beyond. Photo courtesy of Mary Jarvis.


Bewailing the Exiles, by John Coleman

We are sitting here in silence, but our thoughts are far away,

We are musing o’er the exiles on this lonely Christmas Day;

No joyous work to cheer us, we are sitting here alone,

They are far away from us today and the dear old Irish home….


And the letters come to cheer us but instead they make us mourn;

We read between the lines and see they mean to ne’er return;

And the years keep speeding past us and still we hope and pray

They’ll cross the main to us again to spend a Christmas Day.


The Lover’s Parting, by John Coleman


They have met tonight, in the pale moonlight,

At the close of a summer day,

Those youthful pair, in the balmy air,

Of a lovely month of May.

‘Neath a thorn they stand on her father’s land,

That fragrance scents the air;

With its mantle of white, on that lovely night,

The moon shines down on them there....