Herbison, David (DNB00)

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HERBISON, DAVID (1800–1880), poet, was born on 14 Oct. 1800 in Ballymena, co. Antrim, where his father was an innkeeper. When three years old he lost his sight through an infantile malady, and for four years was totally blind. Through skilful medical treatment he regained the use of one eye, but his health continued delicate, and in consequence he received a very scanty education. At fourteen he was put to learn linen-weaving on one of the old hand looms. In April 1827, his father having died, he and an elder brother sailed from Belfast for Canada. Their vessel was wrecked in the St. Lawrence, and many of the passengers drowned. The two brothers escaped with difficulty and made their way to Quebec. The climate of Canada, however, did not suit David, and in 1830 he returned to Ireland, and settling down again beside Ballymena, resumed his old occupation of weaving. Before emigrating he had begun to write poetry, and shortly after his return he commenced to send contributions to Belfast newspapers, and to the 'Dublin Penny Journal.' Encouraged by the success of these ventures, he published, in 1841, a volume entitled 'The Fate of McQuillan and O'Neill's Daughter, a Legend of Dunluce, with other Poems,' Belfast, 12mo, which was well received. In 1848 he collected a number of other effusions into a work entitled 'Midnight Musings.' In 1858 his 'Woodland Wanderings' appeared, and in 1869 'The Snow-Wreath,' followed in 1876 by 'The Children of the Year.' He continued to publish fugitive pieces in the Belfast and other newspapers. On 26 May 1880 he died in his cottage at Dunclug, near Ballymena, from which he derived the title 'The Bard of Dunclug.' A monument to his memory was erected beside Ballymena by public subscription.

[Autobiog. Preface to the Snow-Wreath; Memoir by the Rev. D. McMeekin, Ballymena, prefixed to the collected edition of his works, Belfast, 1883; obituary notices.]

T. H.