Belfast Telegraph

Tributes to Hattie Campbell, 'the Pam Ayres of the north west'

By Laurence White

A Strabane woman described by friends as the Pam Ayres of the north west has died aged 90.

Hattie Campbell wrote many poems - and even a few plays - which she often performed herself at concerts in the town.

Her poetry, written in her local dialect, was usually composed at the request of friends to mark a special occasion in their lives, or as entertainment for functions staged by one of the many groups to which she devoted her life.

Many of her friends urged her to publish her work, which usually took as their theme simple country life and everyday events.

Born on November 1, 1926, she was an unexpected twin - her sister Betty, who died last year, was delivered just a few hours earlier.

Their mum Eva had no idea that she was carrying two babies.

She and Betty were the eldest of six children - one of whom died from meningitis.

Her son John believes she gained her life-long sense of duty from the fact her father died when she was only seven and she helped her mother rear the rest of the family.

Hattie's love of English was apparent from an early age, and she achieved the highest mark in Northern Ireland in English in her senior certificate.

She later trained to be a nurse and midwife at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, but transferred to the ENT Hospital in Londonderry to be nearer the man she fell in love with - Strabane jeweller Billy Campbell - at a firework display at Ramore Head in Portrush.

They were married on October 9, 1952 at Second Presbyterian Church on Patrick Street, and John said he and his siblings can only ever remember the couple exchanging cross words on two occasions - "and even then they were fairly inconsequential".

According to John, Hattie was distraught that she had to give up her career as a nurse - as was then required - when she got married.

"She told me once that she broke down in tears while scrubbing the floor in her new home at the thought she could no longer perform the work for which she was trained," he said.

The Troubles were later to impinge on the couple's life.

In the late 1970s a bomb exploded outside Billy's shop, destroying the premises, and he had to work from home until the business was rebuilt.

"We as children never realised how hard life was for them at that time," John said.

"We just thought dad was working from a room in our house, but didn't think that, actually, he had very little income."

Even worse was to follow a few years later after the new shop opened.

Every day Billy and his right-hand man Adrian Moore locked up the business at lunchtime and walked to a nearby car park to go home for their lunch.

One day an IRA gunman on a motorbike blasted Adrian - who was in the UDR - in the stomach with a shotgun, seriously wounding him.

Fortunately, he recovered and was among the mourners at Hattie's funeral on Monday this week.

John said: "The shooting had a terrible effect on dad. I suppose now we would call it post-traumatic stress, but at the time mum was the only help he had."

Hattie packed a lot of other activities into her life, being a Brownie leader and working with the St John Ambulance organisation until she was 70.

She also held senior positions in the Women's Institute locally, was a member of the Mothers' Union for almost 60 years, and served on the PTA of Strabane Primary School, as well as working with the Meals On Wheels and Talking Newspapers For The Blind organisations.

Indeed, her sense of duty prevented her and Billy taking up an invitation to a royal garden party at Buckingham Palace during the 1990s. The event coincided with their Meals On Wheels duty in Strabane and they felt they could not let anyone down.

She is survived by six children, 14 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

The Farmer’s Boy by Hattie Campbell

Willie! Eat up your meat, lad

For the hens have till be fed

And then bring me in some turf, boy

Till I bake me soda bread

The yard will do until later

After the byer's been cleaned

And you can take the cows to the meadow, boy

After they've been machined


You can go and sort out the potatoes then

Ock, they're not goin' a very good price now

And when you have graded them well, boy

Will you have a look at the sow

I think she's due to farrow

And the mollye's near her time

Oh! Did ye mind till mend that barrow

For when you go to spread the lime


You can give me a hand way the eggs, then

There's a powerful lot to be cleaned

Separate the brown from the white, lad

For the brown is more refined

You can take a wee walk up the mountain, then

And look at that sick ewe

You can bring her down if she's nae improved

And we'll give her some iron brew


Take a gleek as you go at the slap, lad

And see if the wire's still holdin'

For the sheep have all been wandering

And your Dad, he keeps on scolding


What! You want till go to a dance boy?

Over at Drumgorty?

You want to go till a dance, lad

And you just rising forty?

Ock well! I suppose you can go for an hour or so

After your work is done

You could take this setting of eggs as you go

Over till Mrs McCrum


And don't forget your bicycle clips

And be careful how you go

For that back road is very rough

So ride now, nice and slow

And don't be coming home too late

For the milking will not wait

And have NOTHING to do with those young women

For they'll run you off your feet

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