The Ballad of Richard Murray

 Lorcan Otway
© 2003 Lorcan Otway

In eighteen hundred and fifty six, I was in my eleventh year
There came a pounding at the door, which seized my heart with fear
For I knew we Quakers were hated, for our love of liberty
For my parents were abolitionists, and foes of slavery

My father, John Murray, cracked the door and peered outside
When a burly man forced the door open, and pushed him to one side
He glanced around the room then said, I see you're all at home
He then went out to his men, leaving us, for a time, alone

My father knew they would search the barn, and find our horses gone
So he told me to go up to my room, and 'tis that, that I would have done
But I paused a moment on the stair, and I know I was not to have seen
My mother leading a Black man, to the room where I had been

Then my father called me down again, and he sat me by the fire
And he told me to pop some corn, and fear not what ere may transpire
For there came a hammering at the door, “Break it in” the men did call
So my father threw the door open wide, and three men fell into our hall

When they regained their feet again, their anger cause me alarm
“We’e after a nigger slave this night, who ran off from his master’s farm”
“Thee will find no slaves in this house, my friend, only folks as free as thee
But, welcome to look as hard as thee may, thou wilt not be stopped by me”

I tried to look calm as I wondered where on earth our guest might hide
In so plain and small a room as this, and I glanced from side to side
My mother handed a candle, to the men to give them light
“Take care that thee should not curse the dark,” she said with some delight

Our home was then filled with sounds of men searching everywhere
Every room and closet was opened but they found no escapee there
At last they left, and even said, they were sorry for the harm
Having broken a chair, when they tumbled in, it was that which they fell upon

What did thee do with that man Father, I asked, once the men were gone
So thee saw, my father said to me, it is time thee learned my son
He motioned me up from the hearthstone, then moved it to one side
And there I saw a room below, where several might safely hide

“Can I come up now?” came a voice from the dark,
“Yes I think it is safe for thee now”
And, I was introduced to Samuel then, I was proud I do allow
For I was now a conductor on  our railroad underground
And I’d do my part for justice, until freedom’s bell would sound



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