On a soggy December Antrim day, we found ourselves trudging around near Larne, up a soggy hill, with a biting wind gnawing our knuckles. We were at the grave of James Orr. Not by design, it has to be said – that’s just where the wind blew us.
James Orr was one of the Ulster “Weaver Poets”. He wrote about local themes, local landscapes, and local folk in local lingo. Which isn’t in any way a slight – as another great Ulster poet once remarked, “all great civilisations are founded upon the parish”.
He took part in the United Irishmen’s rebellion in 1798, and fought in the Battle of Antrim. After that defeat, he went into hiding in the Antrim hills, before escaping to America. His commander, Henry Joy McCracken, was captured and executed before he got that far. A lot of his poems draw on his experience of the rebellion and flight to America.
After he died his grave was unmarked for fifteen years, until this monument was erected by the Masonic lodge Orr had belonged to.
The grave is in Templecorran churchyard, which is also the site of an interesting old ruined church. But we’re up a hill being pelted by wind and rain, so that’s a story for another day.