The Bessbrook Lament
Tommy Sands - © Elm Grove Music

I wrote this song about ten Protestant workmen from Bessbrook shot dead by Republicans near Kingsmills in Co Armagh. The massacre was said to be in retaliation for an earlier one by Loyalists of six Catholic men, The O’Dowds from Gilford and the Reavey Brothers from Newtownhamilton.

A friend of mine, Alan Black, left for dead at Kingsmills with 19 bullets in his body told me about meeting and becoming friends in Daisy Hill Hospital, Newry with the youngest of the Reaveys, Anthony, who had also been left for dead. Alan was heartbroken when Anthony died a few weeks later.

Cold blows the wind round the cold stone spring
And gently falls the rain
Down by the brook where young Bess did sing
There's sorrow and sadness and pain

It's sad and it's bad it's the ten working lads
Who'll never get up in the morning
And there's hardly a sound round Bessbrook town
But the young girls lamenting and mourning

There's been many's a happy song sung by manys a happy lass
Down in the village Linen Mill
But everything’s wrong now the music has gone
Even the river stands still

Old John Grub the Quaker he made his model town
No pubs nor police nor pawn
But there is no law that can mend a broken heart
No drink that can ease their pain

And who is to blame and where is the shame
Somebody tell me why
The spiral of vengeance it turns and it turns
And so do the Innocent die