Rev. Herman A. Clark wrote this poem to honor Barbara Duncan Cumming and her husband James “Jim” Morrison Cumming on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary. They were married November 17, 1882 at the home of her parents, “Carron Brae,” in Kincardine, Victoria County, New Brunswick. Rev. Clark married Barbara’s sister, Florence. Barbara’s grand niece Kristin Chapman Headley transcribed the poem that follows.
Herman and Florence
THE ROMANCE OF JIM AND BARBARA
As we reckon by time as told by the clock
Many days go to make up life,
While every day brings us something new,
Few are outstanding to a man and wife.
Hard work, and plenty of it, is the average lot,
Life runs on about the same.
Most of us ask for our “daily bread”,
Few ever win riches and fame.
Our program is made up just about right
A chance to sweat, some joy, some sorrow.
No use to kick, it’s all planned out,
‘Twas here today, ’twill be here tomorrow.
Some things pass away with time, thank God,
Some things time cannot efface;
Pleasant memories, few which we also thank God,
Many of them enter the human race.
Poems have been written about Golden Wedding days
And it will be a great privilege if I may intrude
To help celebrate by this poem
Though it may be rather crude.
During a period of fifty years or more
Some things are certain to stand out clear.
Shall we peep into the secrets of bygone days
Of a couple who are with us, whom we all hold dear?
What wonderful blessings old age does give;
How wonderful to those who are allowed to come,
Blessed with abundant health and strength,
To the years near the set of the sun?
Can gold take the place of memories
In a life lived for things sublime,
When they pass their three score years and ten,
And are now on “borrowed time”?
A Golden Wedding Day, half a century gone?
Fifty years full of joy and bliss;
Birthday, christening, first wedding day,
Few days ever can compare with this.
Many start, but few win out,
Pitfalls and snares all along the way.
All hail to those who reach the mark,
Who reach this, their festal day!
We have as our honored guest today
Two dear ones we invite you to meet.
In this sketch we will try the story to tell
Of a romance dear and complete.
Although honored citizens of this commonwealth,
They were born in the land of the heather;
Just a wee lad and lass they came to these shores
Where, at school, they played together.
Soon they grew up to girlhood and youth
Toiling with parents, mid woods and hills
Learning the lessons from the school of Experience,
Studying Mother Nature in her changing frills.
They knew not advantages we have today;
Each learned well the lesson of thrift;
You didn’t need money where they grew up,
Everyone gave his neighbor a lift.
Large families were raised in these rugged homes,
Children play in and out the door;
Made no odds how many they had,
There was always room for one more.
Whether it was a Cumming or Duncan
Yea, throughout this Colony fair,
The young people scattered early for work,
Some found it here, some there.
You could search the house of Duncan,
Or look through the Cumming Clan,
There was no class or distinction,
All that counted was the man.
If, in the old Country from whence they came,
Had once been this feeling of class,
It would be wiped out in this Colony grant,
Buried deed in the forest so fast.
Like all the lassies of that Colony Clan
Brown-eyed Barbara, a lass of fifteen,
Bid farewell to her forest home
And came out to the stream.
She was not the only one to follow down the river.
An old Scot named Frazier had travelled it before,
And a place called, River De Shute
Had settled near the shore.
To this Scottish home of Frazier
And his thrifty crafty wife,
Barbara came to work one day
As she started out in life.
She had been reared mid scenes of hardship
Could manage housework very well.
Had she not been young and charming—-
There would have been no more to tell.
She could sing so many Scotch songs
Was graceful on her feet at the dance.
If a young may should come her way,
It would certainly be his chance.
Her disposition was shown in her smile
Like a gift sent from above
She was made to be a blessing;
Worthy of some good man’s love.
Now to this Canadian clearing
On the side of the river bank
Came Jim Cumming, a tall Scotch laddie.
He was honest, courageous and frank.
Old Donald gave him a job at once,
Working for him out of doors,
Sometimes in the mill, handy man ’round the house
Doing all sorts of chores.
I can’t feel any one was to blame,
‘Tis the way all of us are made,
Tall Jim and charming Barbara,
Sweet glances oft did trade.
The good wife of old Donald
Thought it would never do
To allow Jim to court Barbara,
For he loved her now so true.
The young couple had started in,
Each knew what they were about,
They had truly started a romance
Which no Frazier could put out.
Whether back in Upper Kintore
Where the Cumming Clan did light,
Or across in old Kincardine,
Made no odds what sort of a night.
Through miles and miles of Forest
O’er a trail now deep and wide,
Rain or shine, on the darkest night
Jim would travel to Barbara’s side.
What he did say while he was there,
Well, no one will ever know;
But a wedding was soon forth coming,
Things always work out so.
Yes, a path cut through the forest
From one road to the other did go,
It was blazed by the early fathers
As a short cut to and fro.
Strange thing, —-that path, a little later,
Should be used by Jim’s brother, Bill
As he courted Barbara’s sister, Annie
At her house on the side of the hill.
A little house was soon set up,
Out of boards, it was mostly made;
Jim’s father sawed the lumber for him,
‘Twas from him Jim learned his trade.
It wasn’t large—-didn’t have to be,
It resembled a butt and bin,
Hardly had the chimney been given a start
Before it begun to cave in.
Jim had engaged a stone mason
To come and lend a hand.
‘Twas Bill Duncan, Barbara’s brother,
The only mason near at hand.
The chimney went up, brick by brick,
Three feet up, then, consternation!
“What’s the matter?” “It jiggles,” Bill said
To Jim, “Let’s look at the foundation.”
Well, Jim had done the best he could,
We all did about the same
Soon after the girl we’d wooed and won
Had agreed to take our name.
Bill and Jim, they both did laugh,
They laughed till they were hoarse,
For in the excitement of those busy days
Jim forgot to nail the horse.
The chimney was made up through the roof,
It stood up straight and tall.
Bill, the mason, was now engaged
To spread the mortar upon the wall.
Summer was passing, the nights were cold
And in order for the plaster to dry,
‘Twas needful to keep a fire in the house;
Bill and his helpers, they all stood by.
One night as they were sleeping
After their work was done,
After an evening of joking
With the usual frolic and fun,
One of the boys rolled near to the plaster—-
It was soft enough to fall—-
Next morning, when each one rubbed his eyes
There were foot prints on the wall.
On the night of the wedding (can we ever forget)
There was Jim with his precious load,
They were hurrying from the Kirk, back home
When, look! What’s that across the road?
A tree, lately fell, no use to ask
What’s this nonsense, and then get mad;
Just a wedding prank, Jim’s chums had played,
They made use of such things as they had.
‘Twas a wedding party, all happy and gay,
The bride looking charming and sweet;
No gayer scene was in Plymouth town
When Priscilla did ride down the street
On a pure white bull, garland with flowers,
Carefully led by the hand
Of John Alden, the youthful lover,
Not Miles Standish, the fighting man.
What would Jim do, not an axe at hand?
No one man could lift that tree.
It was lucky for him, the boys that night
Carried jack-knives, two or three
They hacked and haggled, twisted and bent
At the limbs which gave only with time;
Now, lift the wagon over the tree
And everything would go on fine.
One night was cold and dreary,
The snow was on the ground
Bedded down full five feet deep
For miles and miles around.
Bill Duncan, the mason, was called upon
To harness his horse to the sleigh
And drive down to MacNichols’ house,
A full five miles away.
‘Tis well that you all remember,
No doctor was in all that land,
The auld wifie of MacNichols
Was a mid-wife, skilled of hand.
All that dreary, snow-bound night
Bill did drive ’till morn.
Urging his horse to Jim Cumming’s house
Eer Barbara’s child was born.
Only a wee light shown across the snow
To show where they should drive;
Jim, the proud father, was not at home
But both mother and child did survive.
A messenger was sent to fetch Jim home,
The snow was waist high deep,
He came, and there beside the bed,
The nurse her watch did keep.
It was a girl, a wee small lass,
She looked so cute and sweet.
Yet one girl more, and then two lads
Eer Jim’s family was complete.
He took his wife and family,
Across the line he came,
And started work with Clausen
‘Way down in Fairfield, Maine
He got a job in a saw mill,
He was an expert rotary man.
He started right in sawing logs
As only a Scotchman can.
To pay out rent to a landlord each week
Seemed to Jim an awful sin,
So he built a house, a good one,
And moved his family in.
Whether Jim liked to travel or not,
Or he did it in order to gain,
We find him in Bartlett, New Hampshire
Outside the borders of Maine.
In a little town called Woodstock
Old man Henry owned a mill.
He drove a trade and hired Jim
A filers job to fill.
He worked hard for Old Man Henry,
Then he got the fever to go out West;
‘Way out in Portland, Oregon
Where there’s plenty of room for the best.
Old Man Henry chased Jim with letters,
He hated to lose this breed;
Every time Jim called at an office,
One from Old Henry, he’d read.
The only saws Jim filed back home
As well as ever run,
Were midgets compared to the ones out there
In the land of setting sun.
He had sawed many a log on the Kennebec,
Had ripped many a fir and pine,
But such logs as they had in Oregon
He had never seen in his time.
Jim had a cough, and he hoped the West
Of his trouble would set him free,
But every man in that big mill
Was coughing more than he.
Old Man Henry sent a letter one day
Begging Jim to come back East,
The terms he made, the cash he gave,
Seemed like a mill-man’s feast.
Jim accepted the terms, came back East,
Began work for Old Henry once more;
A short time after, a letter came
Which certainly made Jim sore;
Old Man Henry, a second offer had made
And sent it soon after the first.
If the first was good (the one Jim took)
The second would have filled his purse.
For all the old man heard or knew,
The last offer had gone astray,
Jim kept his work, stuck to his job,
And worked on, day by day.
In Jim flowed the blood of the Highlands,
He simply had to roam,
So, soon after, he left for New Hampshire
And in Nashua made his home.
Both Barbara and Jim are full of fun,
At a picnic he’s spry as a cat,
He can pitch horseshoe, yes, dance a step,
But his greatness isn’t known by that;
Beanhole beans, mean beanhole beans,
The old faithfuls cooked deep in the ground,
The Clan knows the sort they’ll have to eat
When Jim Cumming is on the ground.
After the Clan has gathered at the call
And counted number of faces,
The dinner call comes, tables are spread,
All hurry to take their places.
They stand in silence, look to their chief,
Each an appetite possessing,
No true Scot could eat a thing
Eer it received a Bobby Burn’s Blessing.
In days of old, when knights were bold,
And the Highlander wore his kilt,
When the Fiery Cross passed the mountain peaks,
Felling Clanish blood must be spilt,
Whole families sipped their brouse at night,
Ate oat cakes baked on the hearth,
gathered sea gull eggs high on the cliff,
Feasted on the haggas. Well! now you laugh.
Few American Scotchmen know that word,
It’s a dish no Scot can ignore.
Now while Jim cooks his beanhole beans,
Barbara makes haggas by the score.
If you ask her how she makes them
She’ll say, “Oh, it isn’t hard,
Just onion and tilt, oatmeal and tilt,
And finish off with—-tilt and lard.
Now Jim and Barbara are getting along,
Sixty years of American weather.
Today they look back on the trail,
Fifty years they have lived it together;
A half a century, a pleasant dream,
Though some days have been dark and dreary.
Here, near the sun set of a useful life
Both are well and cheery.
No doubt Jim, like any old man,
Thinks he’s “just as fit as a fiddle”,
Can tackle a days work at both ends
Then grab it ’round the middle.
I don’t think he voted for Hoover last fall,
Convert him to Roosevelt, if you can.
If you read “The Appeal to Reason”
I guess, you could find his man.
They were both reared Presbyterians
In all its Orthodox ways,
But in nary a church could they find that creed
Though they searched and searched for days;
So at last they joined the Methodist
And each set in to work,
While others have tired of the harness,
These two will never shirk.
Now with children and grandchildren
Like branches on the family tree,
Barbara smiles that same sweet way
She did at twenty-three.
Jim, he jokes about the same,
He can talk on any theme,
“By Ginges,” is his one pet word
When he must let off steam.
I see my time is nearly up
The time is come to part;
If mistakes are found within this sketch
They came from the head, not the heart.
May the years that are yet before you
With all the blessings they hold
Give you health, and a Christian’s blessing
As silver threads crown the gold.
So here’s from your brothers and sisters,
From both Cumming and Duncan Clan,
The world respects noble women,
There’s nothing like a real man.
Here’s from nephews and nieces,
You have cheered us many a time;
Now let’s all stand up and sing a song
For the sake of Auld Lang Syne.