The following lines have been lately published in an Oldham paper. They were written by Mr. J. O’Neil, now of this town, in 1847, when great distress prevailed, and given by him at that time to an old and valued friend, who thinking they were applicable to the present times, has had them published.

Men! Christians! Britons! hearken
To the poor man’s plaintive cry;
See what clouds his prospects darken,
Hovering round his social sky.
Home once blest with sweet attractions
Cankering cares of earth beguiled;
Blighted now by trade re-actions,
Want and misery riot wild.
Men! whom kindly feelings influence,
Pity when the poor implore;
Men! whom God has blest with affluence,
Be not niggards of your store.
Shall our kindred round us perish
When there’s plenty in our Islee?
No! ye wealthy, ye will cherish
Sons of labour, heirs of toil.
Christians! honour’d glorious name,
Peculiar care of Providence,
(Tarnish not your brightest fame),
As He’s blest you so dispense.
Feed the hungry, clothe the naked,
Was this not your Lord’s command?
Starving thousands bread have asked,
Give them with a liberal hand.
Britons! famed in former story
For your great and liberal deeds,
Prove you worthy of the glory
When your hapless country bleeds.
Oh, remember what your fathers
Did for you in days of yore;
By their noble acts be guided,
Do not less – do something more.
Men! Christians! Britons! hearken,
Give, oh! give the timely aid,
Children’s, mothers’, fathers’ tears
Must be shed if ‘tis delayed.
Winter’s rigours are before us,
Shall we perish lacking food,
Throw your shields ye powerful o’er us,
Be ye noble! be ye good!

Title:'Men! Christians! Britons!'


Publication:Bury Guardian

Published in:Bury


Keywords:charity, nationalism, religion


This poem by a Mr J. O’Neill of Oldham was written in the ‘Hungry Forties’, when a severe economic downturn had combined with the Europe-wide potato blight and Britain’s punitive Corn Laws to create widespread poverty and hunger for millions of Britons (and even more tragically the Great Hunger in Ireland). The title concisely appeals in gender, religious, and patriotic terms and it is striking and poignant that the poem’s call for charity republished nearly twenty years later should be so relevant again during the Cotton Famine. – SR