New book and exhibition celebrating local poet James McKowen (1814-89), Bard of Lambeg

November 25, 2021

As part of Ulster-Scots Language Week the council was pleased to host the launch of a new book ‘History into Poetry, the Works of James McKowen (1814-89), the Bard of Lambeg’.   It was a well-attended evening reception at the Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum.

The book, by local historian Gilbert Watson, is the first edited collection of the Lambeg poet’s work, and brings together a large number of previously unpublished poems and songs.  

Mayor of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, Alderman Stephen Martin, praised Gilbert Watson for “his dedication to researching, writing and editing the book, and his tireless effort in ensuring the collected works of James McKowen’s were finally published 130 years after his death is commendable.

“James McKowen, a Lisburn native, would be delighted his poetry and legacy lives on in this excellent book.”

Councillor Sharon Skillen, Chair of the Leisure & Community Development Committee added: “I am delighted the council and Ulster-Scots Agency co-funded this important book.  It really is a fantastic compilation of the works of a former Lisburn resident.”

At the launch, Gillian McMaster, Director of Development at the Ulster-Scots Agency, added: “We are delighted to partner with Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council to take forward this important project. It is local partnerships like this which enable us to inspire people to engage with the rich tradition of Ulster-Scots language, heritage and culture which is all around us.  We are indebted to Gilbert Watson for his passion and commitment without which this work would not have been possible.”

To accompany the book the museum has a temporary new companion exhibition, ‘The Bard of Lambeg, James McKowen (1814-89), Poet of Lisburn’, on display in its historic Assembly Room.  The exhibition features objects from the museum’s collections, and a selection of McKowen’s handwritten manuscripts, on loan from Libraries NI.  Notable is the inclusion of correspondence between McKowen and the world famous art collector, philanthropist and landlord of Lisburn, Sir Richard Wallace (1818-90), of the Wallace Collection Fame. 

Copies of the book can be purchased from the Museum for £10, from 1st December 2021.