John Lyall was born in Paisley in 1836 , the son of a weaver. His father was also a poet of some distinction and a passionate Scot – hence, John’s middle name, – and although he died when John was a baby, he seems to have passed on to his son a love of poetry and verse. Over the years many of John Lyall’s poems were published and several anthologies were also put in to print, including “The Sun Gleams Through the Mist of Toil” in 1885 and “Jack Bentley’s First and Last Glass” in 1888. He is also featured in Paisley Poets volume 2. He was regarded as the working man’s poet as his poems gave dignity and worth to the experiences of ordinary men and women.
John spent his early working years at sea and on one occasion was shipwrecked off the coast of Canada (1853). He put this and many of his experiences of work and life into verse. He was an iron plater to trade. When the firm Blackwood and Gordon was set up in Port Glasgow in the 1860s John and his family moved to the Port and he spent the rest of his working life there. John had married Mary McDermid in Paisley in 1858 and they had 4 children, Mary, Margaret, Annie and John.
In the obituary in the Greenock Telegraph (where so many of his poems were printed) he was described as a working man and a gentleman and who lived a life of true and silent nobility. Some of his poems had local connections, like Broadstone Hall.
‘Twas on a bonnie August day,
The birds were on the wing,
The lads and maids, both young and fair,
Were dancing in a ring.
The merry band was ‘playing airs,
Responsive to their call,
And happy were the hearts that day,
Of those at Broadstone Hall.
To see them run would do you good,
For some in sacks were tied,
And many slips and falls they had
And to the goal they hied;
And some were busy drinking tea,
While others eating bun,
While some did at the football kick
And thus kept up the fun.
And when the games were over,
And quiet again restored,
They straightway to the mansion went,
And sang praises to the Lord.
With voices sweet a pretty hymn
Was sung by one and all,
The Word of God was heard resound
All over Broadstone Hall.
I hope our noble “Master John”,
And his dear lady, too,
May still abound in mutual love,
And sorrows have but few;
And the Giver of all blessings
Be still within their call,
And send the messenger of peace
To dwell in Broadstone Hall.