gemma bradley - Amazing Grace
West Virginia McCallister House (location 40)
The words to Amazing Grace were written in 1772 by John Newton (1725-1807), an English poet and clergyman. Prior to his ordination, Newton was involved in the slave trade and during a fierce storm off the coast of Donegal that mercilessly battered his ship and almost cost himself, his crew and cargo their lives, Newton cried out to God, asking for mercy. Thus began the conversion that lead to his being ordained in 1764. With its beautifully crafted message of redemption and assured forgiveness, the hymn has become not alone one of the world’s uncontested “standards” but has also had a strong global bearing on folk music, including ironically as a symbol of freedom from slavery.
Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.
'Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear,
And Grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come.
'Tis Grace hath brought me safe thus far
And Grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His Word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.
When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we'd first begun.
In Cabell County, West Virginia in 1827, Richard and Sarah McCallister built this house.
Richard’s ancestors were from Ulster. ‘McCallister’ is an Ulster name, mostly found in County Antrim, but Richard himself was born in Bath County, Virginia. His family moved to Cabell County in 1805-1806.
Richard married Sarah Nickell and built this house in the hills along Tyler Creek near the town of Salt Rock, close to the Ohio border. The house is made from local materials - pine trees from the forested hills around the house and sandstone. Pockets of cleared, cultivated land provided food for the family and their livestock. They tended cattle, sheep and hogs and may have grown corn and flax.
Their first child who survived to adulthood was Isaac Preston McCallister, born 1816. By 1830 the house was doubled in size to accommodate eight children - three under five, two aged between five and ten, and three between ten and fifteen.
In 1853, Cabell County authorities purchased the McCallister property to use as Cabell County Poor Farm. According to family stories, Richard and several of his grown up children and their families moved to Arkansas. Richard returned to Tyler Creek later in his life and died in June 1867 aged 75. He is buried in Enon Cemetery, a quarter of a mile from the house he built in 1827.
The poor farm house was extended in the early 1900s. One section of Richard’s house was removed. The other part, now rebuilt at the Ulster American Folk Park, was merged into the north end of the new structure and preserved. Cabell County Poor Farm remained open at Tyler Creek until 1929.
West Virginia historian Fred B Lambert described the people of the Tyler Creek area, ‘It is not necessary to lock smokehouses there. Honesty, fearlessness and godliness reign supreme. Few communities in this whole country can boast of so many men and women of strong outstanding character’.
Look out for the t-shaped wooden object called a ‘bed key’ hanging on the wall in the McCallister bedroom. The ropes of the bed needed to be tight for a good night’s sleep. We still say ‘sleep tight’.
Pop – RnB artist Gemma Bradley’s talent has developed at break-neck-speed since childhood growing up in the Sperrin Mountains. At the age of fifteen, Gemma’s talents caught the eye of promoter Paddy Glasgow who then booked the young singer for her first major festival slot. She has featured on the Glastonbury 2020 Emerging Talent list and is a songstress leading the way for the next generation of strong authentic female pop stars. As an artist, her unique, eclectic sound thrills fans and critics alike. She embraces her favourite aspects of pop music and meshes them with the finest, hand-picked sounds from RnB and Soul. Taking inspiration from artists such as Corinne Bailey Rae, Izzy Bizu, Amy Winehouse and Mahahlia, she has created her own distinctive brand of sweet, delicious music. Gemma has been featured on Other Voices in Dingle and Derry and played festivals such as Electric Picnic, Stendhal and Vantastival. She was crowned as the 2018 winner of the Christie Hennessy Prize. Her music is regularly featured on BBC Introducing, BBC 6 Music, RTE Radio 1 and BBC Radio Ulster. Her single ‘Obsessed’ was released in August 2020 to critical acclaim.