Thursday, 5 August 2010


In 1865 Henry Baird, under the pen name Nathan Hogg, published a second book of poems in the Devon dialect. Henry Baird was born in Starcross in 1829 and for much of his life he worked in Exeter as a lawyer’s clerk. He often travelled the line between Starcross and Exeter. In one of the poems published in ‘Poetical Letters tu es brither Jan, 1865’ Nathan Hogg’ in a poem called ‘A Turrabul ride bee Rayl’ thus records seeing Captain Peacock’s ‘Swan of the Exe’ sailing up the Estuary beside the railway:

Wul, then ess luk’d owt pin tha zay,
(Zich thing wiz niver yer’d,)
Vur bigger thin a rick a hay
Thare zwim’d a wackin burd,
And ez ess raud, ha turn’d es bayk,
Thort I “now hang on varm,
Vur ef he com’th and vind’th thur wayk,
He’ll ait thur like a warm.

No, you don’t need a translation! You do? Well okay then:

Well, then we looked out upon the sea/ (Such a thing was never heard,)/ For bigger than a rick of hay/ A very large bird was swimming there./And as we rode, he turned his beak. / I thought, “Now, hang on firmly,/ For should he come and find you weak/ He’ll eat you as though you were a worm.

The funnest thing about Henry Baird aka Nathan Hogg is that through the dialect poems that he started writing as a teenager he attracted the friendship of His Highness Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte, a man sixteen years his senior who was passionate in his study of English dialects. The Prince came to Exeter to spend time with Henry Baird and ‘Nathan Hogg’ wrote a poem about it. The ‘Poetical Letters’ is dedicated to Prince Louis.


  1. By the way, Google Books has the full scan of Nathan Hogg's A new series of poems in the Devonshire dialect. The poem A Turrabul ride bee Rayl starts on page 16.

  2. Starcross History is recreating the wackin burd for Trail Recycled Art in the Landscape