[chapter 7][p. 179]
“Earth, of man the bounteous mother,
Feeds him still with corn and vine:
He who best would aid a brother,
Shares with him these gifts divine.”
NEWPORT and its vicinity presented a variety of exciting scenes: here in this pretty town, families of tolerable comfort declined step by step, till many who would have outlived the common changes of life could not maintain their standing in this hour of trial. A former rector, by the name of Wilson, died in the summer of 1847, leaving a widow and four children on a pretty spot, where they had resided for years, and gathered the comforts of life about them. Here I was invited to spend a few weeks, and would with gratitude record the many favors shown me there; and with deep sorrow would add, that I saw step by step all taken for taxes and rent; everything that had life out of doors that could be sold at auction, was sold; then everything of furniture, till beds and tables left the little cottage, and the mother was put in jail, and is now looking through its grates, while her children are struggling for bread. Sir Richard O’Donnell is the landlord in possession of most of the land there, and his “driver,” like others akin to him, does strange [p. 180] things to the tenants, quite unknown to the landlord, who has been called humane.
But this fearless “driver” throws, or causes to be thrown down, cabin after cabin, and sometimes whole villages, of which it is said the landlord was entirely ignorant, but the pitiless storm heeded not that, and the poor starved exiles pleading that the cabin might be left a little longer, have no pity, their pot and even the cloak, which is the peasant woman’s all by night and by day, has often been torn from her emaciated limbs, and sold at auction. Perhaps in no instance does the oppression of the poor, and the sighing of the needy come before the mind so vividly, as when going over the places made desolate by the famine, to see the tumbled cabins, with the poor hapless inmates, who had for years sat around their turf fire, and ate their potato together, now lingering and ofttimes wailing in despair, their ragged barefooted little ones clinging about them, one on the back of the weeping mother, and the father looking in silent despair, while a part of them are scraping among the rubbish to gather some little relic of mutual attachment — (for the poor, reader, have their tender remembrances) — then, in a flock, take their solitary, their pathless way to seek some rock or ditch, to encamp supperless for the night, without either covering for the head or the feet, with not the remnant of a blanket to spread over them in the ditch, where they must crawl. Are these solitary cases? Happy would it be were it so; but village upon village, and company after company have I seen; and one magistrate who [p. 181] was traveling informed me that at nightfall the preceding day, he found a company who had gathered a few sticks and fastened them into the ditch, and spread over what miserable rags they could collect (for the rain was fast pouring); and under these more than two hundred men, women, and children, were to crawl for the night. He alighted from his car, and counted more than two hundred; they had all that day been driven out, and not one pound of any kind of food was in the whole encampment!”
When I went over desolate Erris, and saw the demolished cabins belonging to J. Walshe, I begged to know if all had died from that hamlet — “Worse than died,” was the answer; for if they are alive, they are in sandbanks on the bleak sea-shore, or crowded into some miserable cabin for a night or two, waiting for death; they are lingering out the last hours of suffering. Oh! ye poor, ye miserable oppressors! what will ye do, when the day of God’s wrath shall come? Have ye ever thought what “rock and mountain” ye can call upon to screen your naked heads, who would not here give the poor and hungry a shelter? When “the elements shall melt with fervent heat;” then shall the blaze of these ruins scorch and scathe you; yea, burn you up, if you do not now make haste to repent. Ye lords, when the Lord of lords, and God of gods, shall gird on his sword; then shall these poor be a swift witness against you. The widow and the fatherless ye have delighted to oppress, because they could not resist you, and yet you dare to call yourselves by [p. 182] the name of Him, whose mission was mercy, and who marks diligently the ways of him who delights in unjust gain, and is deaf to the cries of the widow and fatherless. Often, when. looking at these wandering exiles, woful as is their case, yet my heart has said how much more woful is the case of him who drove you into the storm. Well might James say, “Go to, ye rich men, weep and howl;” and well did Christ pray — “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Contrasted with these were a few of better stamp, whose hearts had not become entirely seared by the love of gain. Mr. Pounding and his wife, who died by their excessive labors among the poor; he was rector in Westport, and his money and time were faithfully employed in saving, and not destroying the poor. His name is now in sweet remembrance by those whom he succored in their time of need. It was pleasant, too, to see the laborers, whom Sir Richard employed in the cultivation of flax in the summer and autumn of 1847. Among the thousands which were happily at work, were many women, and their cheerful responses testified how they prized the boon to be allowed to labor, when they could earn but a few pence a-day. This work ended, and with it many of the poor were left hopeless, and probably before another spring opened they were sent out into the storm, by the “driver” of this same Sir, who saw them work so willingly.
Mr. Gildea, too, had a fine establishment for spinning and weaving. Here are employed about seven [p. 183] hundred, mostly women, spinning and hand-skutching, and their earnings were three shillings and three shillings and sixpence per week. The yarn was spun by hand, and the weaving by a spring shuttle. The table-linen and sheeting would compete with any manufactory in any country. Yet this valuable establishment was doing its last work for want of encouragement — want of funds; and machinery is doing the work faster and selling cheaper, though the material is not so durable. What can the poor laborer do; willing to work at any price, and begging to do so, yet cannot be allowed the privilege. Mr. Gildea kept a number employed, and employed to a good purpose, many of whom may at last starve for food.
The state of the famine here might be illustrated by a few facts which came under my observation. The chapel bell tolled one morning early, when a respectable young woman was brought into the yard for interment. No bells tolled for the starving, they must have the “burial of an ass,” or none at all. A young lad improved this opportunity while the gate was open, and carried in a large sack on his back, which contained two brothers, one seventeen, the other a little boy, who had died by starvation. In one corner he dug, with his own emaciated feeble hands, a grave, and put them in, uncoffined, and covered them, While the clods were falling upon the coffin of the respectable young woman. I never witnessed a more stirring striking contrast between civilized and savage life — Christianity and heathenism — wealth and poverty, than in this instance; it [p. 184] said so much for the mockery of death, with all its trappings and ceremonies — the mockery of pompous funerals, and their black retinue. This poor boy unheeded had staid in the dark cabin with those dead brothers, not even getting admittance into the gate, till some respectable one should want a burial; then he might follow this procession at a suitable distance, with two dead brothers upon his back, and put them in with his own hands, with none to compassionate him!
A cabin was seen closed one day a little out of the town, when a man had the curiosity to open it, and in a dark corner he found a family of the father, mother, and two children, lying in close compact. The father was considerably decomposed; the mother, it appeared, had died last, and probably fastened the door, which was always the custom when all hope was extinguished, to get into the darkest corner and die, where passersby could not see them. Such family scenes were quite common, and the cabin was generally pulled down upon them for a grave. The man called, begging me to look in. I did not, and could not endure, as the famine progressed, such sights, as well as at the first, they were too real, and these realities became a dread. In all my former walks over the island, by day or night, no shrinking or fear of danger ever retarded in the least my progress? but now, the horror of meeting living walking ghosts, or stumbling upon the dead in my path at night, inclined me to keep within when necessity did not call. The entire face of the country was changed, for though poverty always was brooding her dismal [p. 185] wings over that island, yet now she had sharpened her teeth, and in many parts desperation was driving the people to deeds which had long slept, or which never before had been transacted. A class of persons, driven to madness by idleness and hunger, were prowling at night through some parts of the country, calling themselves “Molly Maguires.” These go from house to house, in disguise, demanding money, and if denied., they card the refuser till the skin becomes lacerated; this scratching is performed sometimes with a card and sometimes with the whin-bush, which is full of small thorns, but these thorns, when applied to the skin, take leave of the bush, and remain there, so that the sufferer must often continue days before he can rid himself of these troublesome comrades. Many of these marauders have been apprehended, yet the practice did not cease, because they were encouraged by the country people, who had cattle in the pounds which had been seized for taxes, and these expert gentry, for a small reward, liberated and restored the animals to the original owners. A good supper of the best bread, butter, milk, and fowls, which the farmer could supply, ended the evening’s jollity. White-boys, Peep-o’-day boys, Lady Clares, and Molly Maguires, are hereditary entailments, having existed ever since parceling out the land so unjustly, as a reward of plunder, was done to a few. Uncultivated as the mind of the Irish peasantry may be, it is not inactive — the pool is not stagnant — life of some kind will sparkle up; and truly, if ever oppression was justifiable in making wise men “mad,” it is [p. 186] in Ireland. When the cup is full it will flow over; and the saying, that Ireland “must have a rebellion every forty or fifty years,” has a law of nature for its foundation. The grand river that supplies the mighty “Niagara,” flows quietly on for many a mile, till it reaches a certain point, when it takes a rapidity, gathering force as it proceeds, till it meets the fearful precipice down which it has roared and tumbled for ages, and down which it will roar and tumble till nature herself shall be dissolved.
The so-called “Rebellion” of 1848, which sadly sealed the fate of Mitchell and O’Brien, was precisely this law. They had waited and suffered, suffered and waited, till they reached the awful chasm — the famine. They had seen it swallow its thousands, and they saw and felt that this chasm might have been closed; they looked on, they agitated, till their philanthropic love of country and deep sense of justice rushed into a temporary madness, rashness, and an insanity which hurled them headlong into their present abyss. The Tipperary men, who congregated on that hill, with their flocks and herds, gave a rational reply to the priest, who exhorted them to disperse, rational — for uncultivated barbarians, as their enemies call them.
The priest pointed them to the absurdity, the rashness of rising against so formidable an enemy as England and her soldiers stationed in the country. “Better suffer than fight, and fight for nothing, too.” They added, “It isn’t the likes of us, yer riverence, that looks for the right, or the Repale, but the long winter [p. 187] of the famine will be on us, and we shall die with hunger; the blackguard taxes will take all the cattle, and we took ’em here, plaise your riverence, to ate, and let the soldiers shoot us, and that will be the quick death for us; better than the long hunger, your riverence — better than the hunger.” Now, that was certainly, for “barbarians,” quite a civilized, if not philosophical answer, and quite in keeping with Irish coolness in difficulty and danger. It was something like a company from a district in the south of Ireland, in the time of the first winter of the famine. They had given up all hope of life, and consulted to go in company to the poorhouse, and die there, that they might be buried in coffins. Such a haggard array of misery had never been seen before in one body, and the soldiers were ordered to be on the spot at the workhouse to keep all in safety. These despairing creatures paused before the red coats and guns, and implored them to shoot them down, and end their long misery at once. This was no false bravado. They were sincere, and not one among them, it is believed, would have shrunk in the face of that death.
This rebellion, it should be told, was not that ungrateful affair as has been represented. It was not agitated, or scarcely known, among the thousands who had been charitably fed in the famine. It originated among the higher classes of well-fed politicians, who were too enlightened not to know the causes of their country’s sufferings, and too humane to look on with indifference. They were seconded by a lower class of [p. 188] men, who had not as yet felt the whole force of the famine in their own stomachs, but knew it must speedily come upon them. “Give us death by the bullet,” they said, “and not the starvation.” All this should be taken into consideration; and beside, this rebellion had nothing to do with the sectarian spirit of the country. Protestants were at the head of it, and many of the Catholics chimed in, but the priests, as a body, stood aloof, and expostulated with their people to do the same. The O’Connells were loud against it, in word and action; and had the Catholics as a body united their forces, Ireland would have been one vast field of blood.
CROY LODGE AND BALLINA.
Through the romantic snow-topped mountains of Doughhill, a son of Mrs. Wilson conducted me on her car to Ballycroy, or Croy Lodge, the cottage on a most wild coast, where Maxwell wrote his “Wild Sports of the West.” We wound among mountains of the most lofty kind; and hanging over the sea, reflecting their snowy sides from its molten surface, with a bright morning sun shining upon them, they were strangely beautiful. The panorama was exceedingly interesting, and the more so that the peasants appeared better fed than any I had met in the country. The relief-officers here might be more attentive, seeing that this destitute spot so inclosed could yield no possible relief.
Stopping to feed the pony, a woman entered, whom we had passed an hour before, with a little girl peeping [p. 189] out from under a cloak upon her back. She told us she had been at Mulrone the day before, in hopes of getting a little meal, and was disappointed; it was not the day that the relief was given out. They were penniless, and had not eaten since the day before, and the walk was nine miles. Having in my reticule a sweet biscuit, it was given to the pretty and clean hungry child. She took it, and gave me a “God bless ye, lady,” but could not be prevailed to eat it; she wrapped it in her pinafore most carefully, looked up to her mother and smiled, but would not break it. “How is this?” I asked the mother; “she cannot be hungry.” “She is indeed hungry, but she never saw such a thing before, and she cannot think of parting with it, hungry as she must be.” Such self-denial in a child was quite beyond my comprehension, but so inured are these people to want, that their endurance and self-control are almost beyond belief. Giving her a piece of bread, she ate it with the greatest zest — she had seen bread before.
We took her upon the car, and for three miles she rode under my cloak, with her biscuit snugly wrapped in her apron, holding it most carefully between her hands; and when we set her down, at the turn of the road and I saw her little bare feet running away, and heard her last word of “bless ye, lady,” with the precious treasure safely secured, I prayed the Savior that he would take that little lamb of his flock, and shelter her in his bosom from the bleak winds of adversity, that are so keenly blowing and withering the cheek of many [p. 190] a fair blossom in that stricken country. Some days after the mother found me, and said the biscuit was preserved, “to remember the nice lady!” How little does it take to make such poor happy! The country was bleak and barren, and a cordial welcome to Croy Lodge after dark was a pleasant salutation. Here, shut in from wind and cold by a bright turf fire, clean cloth, and good dinner, had there been none starving without, the evening would have been a pleasant one. Ballacroy had suffered much, but it was not Belmullet. That ghastly look and frightful stare had not eaten out all the appearance of life and hope which many manifested. A visit to the national school gave not a very favorable impression of the state of the children; nearly a hundred pale-faced and bare-footed little ones were crowded into a cold room, squatting upon their feet, cowering closely together, waiting for ten ounces of bread, which was all their support, but now and then a straggling turnip-top. The teacher, with a salary of £12 a year, could not be expected to be of the nicer sort, nor of the highest attainments in education. The improvement of the children would not in some time fit them for a class in college.
From this university I went to a hunting-lodge kept by Mr. Wilson, accompanied by the kind teacher, who insisted that a watch-dog, kept by the gentleman for the purpose of guarding the premises, would “ate me” if I went alone. Assuring him that the dogs in Ireland had always treated me with great urbanity, and that I feared no harm, he would not allow it; the [p. 191] “blackguard,” he added, “will rend ye;” and he kindly conducted me to the door. The dog growled; speaking kindly to him, he led me through the hall, and when I was, seated, doglike, he put his amicable nose upon my lap. The master approvingly said, “That dog, madam, is very cross and even dangerous to any ragged person or beggar that approaches the premises; but when one decently clothed enters, he welcomes them as he has done you.” So much for the training of dogs, and their aptness in acquiring the spirit of their masters.
Never before, in Ireland, had so good an opportunity been presented me of becoming acquainted with the trade of a real sportsman, its merits and demerits, as now; and knowing that the occupation had been in the country quite a celebrated one, I hoped here to learn its real advantages.
Mr. Wilson was keeping the lodge for Mr. Vernon, of Clontorf Castle, near Dublin, to hunt and fowl as he best could. “I am dying,” he said, “with rheumatic pains, brought on by wading through the bogs in pursuit of the hare and wild fowl.” He had a noble company of dogs, terriers and pointers, and was surrounded with all the respectable insignia of a hunter of olden time. “It is a frivolous employment,” he observed, “and I have long been sick of gaming.” The room was hung round with all sorts of game which is taken by these gentry; and his little daughter of four years of age brought me a book containing pictures of hares, foxes, fowls and dogs, and quite scientifically [p. 192] explained the manner of taking them, the tact of the scenters, and the duty of the pointers, so that I was initiated into the first principles of this fashionable trade; she could read intelligibly, and when I committed an error in the pronunciation or understanding of the maneuvers of leaping ditches and following dogs, she set me right, wondering at my dullness, and sometimes rebuking it. This child had superior talents, and had the mother who cultivated them the spirit of Timothy’s mother and grandmother, she might and would be capable of much use in her age. Her father said she had a great taste for the tactics of hunting and fowling, and had acquired her knowledge of reading so young by the fondness of studying the pictures and spelling out the names of the games. Perverted knowledge! and when carried to the extent that some who call themselves ladies in Ireland have done, and practiced with that zest that many have manifested, it becomes a romantic mania, quite in keeping with the mountain squaw of the American forest, whose undaunted prowess and athletic exercises give her a manliness of look and manner which would not disgrace a Spartan.
An opportunity of improving upon the lessons my young teacher had given me, afterward offered itself in the person of a lady, whose talents at this pursuit had been cultivated to a high extent. She would on a cold morning jump upon her favorite hunting-horse, caparisoned in true hunter’s style, her ready attendants, hounds, pointers and terriers in advance or pursuit, [p. 193] and gallop at full speed, till some scenter should get upon the track; then hedge and ditch, valley and hill, were scarcely heeded. The sure-footed horse knew his duty, and no circuitous route was taken; if a hedge intervened, it was leaped or broken through; if bog or slough sunk him mid-deep, her cap and feather were soon seen tossing “high and dry” above all mire and danger, pursuing still faster as excitement grew warmer, till the lucky dogs gave signal that the object was secured; then the delight, the ecstasy, of seeing the palpitating victim in its agonies, in the power of her faithful pets; and thus the live-long day the sport continued. At night she returned, with the dogs, game, and companion of her chase, who was sometimes her father, who had delighted from her childhood to cultivate this fondness in his daughter; sometimes it might be a brother, and sometimes a generous party would compose the company. But the coming home, the sit-down for the recital of the pleasures of the day, if the victim were a hare, this was a valuable equivalent; the manner of its flight, its narrow escapes, its terror, was so delightful to witness, when the dogs were close upon it, and then the dying, all would be minutely described, the dogs would be gathered and caressed, each by his pet name. A good dinner around the family table was served to each, and two or three of the largest always slept in a bed with some members of the family. The most exquisite tenderness was manifested lest the dear creatures should suffer cold or hunger. Yet this tender-hearted Miss, who could not [p. 194] suffer an unkind word to fall upon the ear of her favorite pointer, would go into raptures of delight at the agonies of the timid hare. Her features seemed to have acquired a sharpness, her expression a wildness, her skin a brownness, and her whole appearance was like a true hunter, living and enjoying the constant pursuit.
There is a kind of enchantment, a witchery, hung round an open air exercise like this, which the more it is practiced the more it is loved, till all that tends to elevate the mind, and cultivate the best principles of the heart are effaced; and it is quite doubtful whether the subject of this false pursuit can ever become truly and substantially a valuable member of society.
But Croy Lodge must not be forgotten. In and around it, upon the exciting sea-shore, was much that would have given delight, had all been as plentiful about every hearth and table as was around the one at which I was sitting. The first Sabbath after my arrival, a written invitation from an officer of the coast-guard was sent us to attend church service across the strand in his watchhouse. An open boat conveyed the family and myself to the thatched station-house, where in tasteful array were arranged officers, and all the instruments for killing, hanging in glistening order upon the walls, while in the midst of this embryo battle-field the young curate from Belmullet read his prayers and sermon in a most becoming manner; and we returned in company with Mr. Hamilton, the coast-guard officer, who closed the evening by reading and prayer. A [p. 195] Sabbath of singular mixture — boating, prayers, and warlike paraphernalia, all in the same breath; by ministers, officers, and hunters, all believing and practicing these different professions. Religion is strangely stirred up in Ireland, it makes a kind of hodge-podge in everything, and is marked with little or no distinction in anything.
Monday, a visit to Doona across the strand, introduced me to some curiosities. The tide was ebbing, and for a quarter of a mile before reaching the castle we were to visit, we saw stumps of large trees, which centuries ago must have been a rich grove, though not a tree at present is anywhere on the coast, and the sea now occupies the entire lawn, where these once stood. The family residing near the castle are of respectable lineage, by the name of Daly, and in true Irish ancient style set before us meat, bread, and potatoes, the last the greatest compliment that could be paid to a guest. The castle, Maxwell says, was built by Granauile; but not so, its whole structure is so different, its walls so much thicker than any in the days of Grana’s reign, that its date must have been centuries before. Its history has an incident which will render it a lasting name.
Not a century ago, the christening of a farmer’s child was in progress one night in a house near by — the waiting-boy was sent to get a fresh supply of turf — he dropped his torch of bogwood among the dry heap, which was piled in the castle, which so heated the walls that they crackled and tumbled, and in their fall [p. 196] set fire to a multitude of casks of contraband spirits. The explosion so frightened the jolly inmates, that they fled in dreadful terror from the ruins, and they now stand as that night’s festival left them, giving the solitary advantage of showing the thickness of the walls, and the curious construction of a building, whose true origin has not been certainly defined. Once, it was a spot of proud grandeur; now a heap of desolation marks the whole for many a mile, where gardens and groves once were planted.
Wednesday morning, at five, I took a car for Bangor, met the mail-coach, and went through a cold, dreary country for twenty miles, to Crossmolina. A little cultivation and a few trees tell the traveler that the town is near. Six miles further we reached the hospitable house of Peter Kelly, mentioned in these pages — and surely no character is better deserved than is his for that excellent trait; and the kindness I received under his roof never can be forgotten. Such families should live in the records of history as pleasant mementoes for the grateful, and examples for the parsimonious, that if such can be taught, they may have the benefit of using hospitality without grudging. The cheerful sacrifices made in the house, that I might not only stay, but be made comfortable, were so in contrast with the pinching and squeezing which often is met in families of the “would-be-thought hospitable,” that surely it might be said, that he descended from a generous stock, as instinct not cultivation seemed entirely the spring of action in him.[p. 197]
The remembrance of Ballina is “sweet and pleasant to the soul.” That “Codnach of gentle flood,” the sweet river Moyne, that flows quietly and richly through the green meadows there, must leave pleasant associations in the minds of all lovers of nature who have wandered upon its banks. Though it was in the dark days of the famine, in the dreary month of February, that I entered Ballina, yet everything looked as if men and women of good taste and good feeling dwelt there. It was here that the indefatigable Kincaid labored and died, in the year 1847. His simple tablet hangs in the church where he preached; but he needed no marble monument, for his name will be held in everlasting remembrance. “He was eyes to the blind, and the cause he knew not he sought out.” Free from sectarianism, he relieved all in his power, and spoke kindly to the bowed down; he wiped the tear from the eye of the widow and fatherless, and brought joy and gladness into the abodes of those who were “forgotten by their neighbors.” He had a co-worker in his labors of love, who died a little before the famine, in the person of Captain Short. He had been a naval officer; but by the grace of God had become a follower of the meek and lowly Jesus, and devoted his time, talents, and wealth, to the cause of God and his fellow-creatures. In their lives, these two, like Jonathan and David, were united; and in their deaths they were not long divided. Mr. Kincaid, who was but thirty-five, left a widow, and son and daughter. The widow is worthy to bear his name. She too, like him, is found [p. 198] among the poor, promoting their temporal and spiritual good in every possible way. In her are united much that makes woman appear in that dignified light, that tells for what she is intended, and what she might be, if kept from the trammels of a false education, and early brought into the covenant of grace.
I met the widow of Captain Short in the wilds of Erris, and her name and remembrance were pleasant to my heart. In her house in Ballina I passed happy hours. She entered feelingly into my object in visiting Ireland, and it is but just to say, that though not one pound was then at my command to give in charity, yet had thousands been in my possession to bestow, I could not have wished more kindness than was manifested to me then. Their courtesy seemed to be of the genuine kind flowing from the heart. The town has a population of ten thousand inhabitants, Episcopalians, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Roman Catholics; the latter claiming the majority. The ladies here were much interested for the poor; a society for spinning and knitting was in operation, and the eagerness of the women to procure work was affectingly manifested on the day of meeting, when crowds would be waiting in the hall, some falling upon their knees, begging for spinning to be given them, when the most that spinners could earn would be eightpence a week. Those who prepared the flax by hackeling could earn from eighteen-pence to two shillings a week. So far have manufactures cheapened this work, that the ladies who give it lose at that low price. The distress of Ballina was increasing, [p. 199] the poor-law system is impoverishing all the middle classes, who must become paupers, if not beggars, unless their taxes are reduced. No complaint was made in this place of the partiality or neglect of relieving officers, all seemed to bless the hand that fed them; and however rebellious the Connaught people may be, no indications were here given of insurrection.
The Baptist minister, who is a missionary, stationed there, with his praiseworthy wife and children, has been an instrument of doing much good. Without being a proselyter, he had gathered a church counting nearly a hundred, chiefly from the Romish population; his humble chapel stands open, the seats free; and passers-by often step in from curiosity, and stay from inclination, till their hearts become impressed with the truth, and they are finally led to unite in building up a church which they once supposed was heresy. The character of this missionary may be told in a few words which a lady in the Protestant church uttered, in answer to — “Who is the most active laborer in town among the poor?” “Mr. Hamilton does the most good with the least noise, of any man among us.”
A respectable banking-house is established in the town, at the head of which is an Englishman; his active wife is an Irish lady. They are friends to Ireland, and not blind to the causes of its evils.
It has been remarked, that most of the English who reside in Ireland become quite attached to both country and people, prejudices being blunted by nearer acquaintance. The six weeks of pleasant acquaintance [p. 200] there cultivated, must be exchanged for different scenes. This old seat of kings, with its raths, stones of memorial, green meadows, gentle flowing Moyne, and abbeys, but above all the people, courteous in manner, and kind in action, must be left forever.
The last day of February, 1848, will be remembered as one that took me reluctantly away from a town and people peculiarly endeared to my heart. I was not coldly hurried away to a coach alone, leaving the family in bed who had taken their farewell the evening before; Miss O’Dowda, Miss Fox, and two little daughters of Peter Kelly accompanied me, and as the high-mettled horse galloped and hurried us away, I looked a sad and tearful adieu. The sun was bright, the meadows on the banks of the Moyne were green, and the ride full of interest. The same sun was shining, the same river flowing — but where were the proud kings with their shields of gold and warlike bearing that once held their sway over this pretty landscape? Dead, dead some moss-covered stone in a crumbling castle or abbey tells their demise, and the children of the mountains heedlessly trample on the monument. The children, yes, the children of Ireland, cling to my heart beyond and over all else, and when fond remembrance turns to Ballina, the courteous, well-disciplined, affectionate children of Peter Kelly, sometimes make me regret that I ever had seen them, because I shall see them no more. The Irish, both in high life and low, are a pattern to all Christian nations in the early training of their children. No visitor has cause to dread the clamor, [p. 201] in a house, or the confusion and breaking up of all that is comfortable and quiet at table in an Irish family. They are not first at table — first and best served — monopolizing all attention to their own pampered palates — selecting the most palatable food, &c., but seldom are they present with guests, and if so, their demeanor in most cases is an honor to the governess and mother who has disciplined them. We soon found ourselves on the borders of the celebrated Ponton Lakes; but who shall describe them? “Why,” said one in Ballina, “among all the tourists who have visited Ireland, have none more particularly described these lakes, and the whole scenery?” For this plain reason, description must here fail. There is so much in such varied confusion and beauty, that nothing is particularly marked; the eye is lost in the view as a whole. Before the famine, I was whirled one cold day over the one-arched bridge by a surly coachman, who, in answer to my inquiries of the picturesque scenery, said, “That it was a divil of a starved rocky place, and he was glad when he saw the end on’t.” The lakes on this sunny day had the finest opportunity to set off their transparency; and for many miles they glistened, widening and narrowing, bordered by all manner of fantastic rocks and heath, till we reached the Ponton Bridge, which passes over a narrow neck, connecting the two lakes. These lakes are called Cullen and Coma. The current flows different ways in the course of the day, as Lough Cullen has no vent but to discharge its overflowing waters into the larger lake. [p. 202] Lord Lucan has built an hotel, police barracks, and a few cottages, under the wooded rocks which overlook Lough Cullen; but all seem quite deserted under Cummer mountain, having only a care-taker to tell its pedigree. The rocks are thrown together upon one side, in masses, as if ready to fall asunder; some lying at the foot of cliffs, as if precipitated from them, and one of immense weight is poised upon a summit, by a small point, which to the passer-by appears as if jostling ready to fall; and we were told that a skein of silk could be drawn between the two rocks. We took the road from the lower lake to the left, and followed the tortuous ravine till we reached a small one-arched bridge, opposite which is a most picturesque barren island, covered with heath, and a black rock, which contrast beautifully with the blue water of the lake; the wooded hillocks, bordering the lakes with varied foot-paths, give the visitor all the advantages of pleasant views from their elevation upon the bold expanse, and the rocky shore upon the other side.
In its moss-covered rocks, and richly wooded hills, Ponton resembles Glengariffe, but it wants the curling smoke between the rocks, and the tree-tops, ascending from turf cabins, and here and there a flaxen-headed urchin upon the top of the thatch to make the whole picture. We wound along, meeting now and then a sudden peep, through trees, on the path which leads three miles farther to the once tasteful domain of Mr. Anderson, which afterward I visited with Mrs. Bourke, and found the mansion desolate, the walks grown up [p. 203] with weeds; and all the ancient grandeur, which once was here displayed, reminds one of the old blasted fortunes of a hunter, who had exhausted his wine-casks, drunk the last health, and sounded the last horn over these broad lakes, and now tattered and slip-shod, was recounting his hunting valor in some shebeen house, where whisky, pipes, and song enliven the present, and put out all light of the past. The declining sun warned my friends that they must return; leaving me to walk, or sit upon a stone, while waiting for the coach that was to take me to Castlebar. I saw the last wave of the hands of the kind young ladies and flirting of the handkerchiefs of the little Kellys, as they whirled around the point which took me from their sight. It was not a mawkish sentimentality that made me feel like giving up the coming lonely hour’s to an indulgence of weeping. I was alone, in a land of strangers, amid famine, pestilence, and death, going I scarcely knew where, and could not expect to find another Ballina before me; and the last few weeks served to heighten the contrast of what had been suffered, and what must rationally be expected to await me. The coach came, and shut me in, and no more was seen till Castlebar was reached. Here was a town that had tasted deeply the cup of woe; she had a splendid poorhouse, and it lacked no inmates, yet the streets were filled with beggars. Many beautiful seats of respectable families are about the town, some in tolerable vigor, and some giving the last look upon former grandeur. Some interesting facts are recorded of this old assize town. [p. 204] Many trees have borne on their limbs the bodies of miserable culprits; and now the more genteel drop effects the same work in a different way.
MARCH 14th. — Criminal cases were going forward now in court, and the attorneys, Dublin-like, had come prepared with wigs and gowns, for the first time, a practice heretofore not in vogue in Connaught. The ladies in Castlebar were curious to behold this novel sight, but custom had prohibited them hitherto from appearing in these places. Two prisoners were to be tried for murder; and wishing to know how Ireland, which has been somewhat celebrated for trials of this kind, managed such cases, in company with a young lady of the family, I went; we found a favorable position in the gallery, where we could see the court and prisoners. The case was this:— A publican had become offended with a neighbor, and determined to be revenged, by giving him a good beating. Not wishing to do it himself, he called in two men, gave them an abundance of whisky, and for a few shillings they agreed to do it well. The man was waylaid at nightfall, and the beating went on; many joined in the affray, some to rescue, and some to assist. The man was killed. The evidence went to prove that one of the two gave a heavier blow, and he must have finished the work, consequently he was guilty. The attorney, Bourke, made a most able defence, and though a Roman Catholic, he dwelt most solemnly on the last grand Assize, when that court, as well as the prisoners at the bar, must be judged by an impartial Judge, and con- [p. 205] demned or acquitted, as their real state should be found. The judge was celebrated for clemency, and gave a plain impressive charge, that if the least doubt remained on their minds, they must lean to the side of mercy.
What must have been the conflicting emotions of the miserable men, when that jury retired! They both stood coolly, as is the peculiar habit of that impetuous, hasty people, in the face of danger or death; and the jury soon returned with a verdict of guilty for one. What a fallible tribunal is man! How could a jury decide, in a riot like that, who was the murderer, and how could they decide that either intended murder? It appeared a haphazard jump to get rid of the case. In the evening, I was in the company of three of the jury, and spoke of the responsibility of being a juror, where life and death are concerned. One most exultingly responded, that he “liked the responsibility well, and should be glad to have it in his power to hang every murderer he could catch; they deserved no mercy, and he would never show any.” A second one confirmed it, and all manifested that lightness that was horrid for men who had just condemned a fellow-creature to the gallows. It is hoped these jurymen were not a common specimen of the class in Ireland; if so, life must hang more on the prejudices and retaliating propensities of a jury, than on the evidence or merits of the case. The poor man was reprieved, and transported for life. The inhabitants had strenuously exerted themselves in his behalf, knowing that the publican [p. 206] was the instigator, and whisky the instrument, of the murders. This “good creature” certainly has some marks in his forehead that look like the “beast.”
Patrick’s-day was opened with a little apprehension on the part of the people throughout the country. “Conciliation Hall” had given an invitation to all parts, for the people to assemble that day, and send a united and earnest appeal to government for a redress of grievances and Repeal of the Union, holding up France as an encouragement for action. The deplorable state of the country, the loss of confidence in landlords, and the abatement of the influence of the priests, left something to fear, that when so many should be assembled, the irascible temper of the nation would be stirred up to dangerous acts. In Castlebar, the people collected had mass; the priests exhorted them to be quiet; and in the evening the principal houses were illuminated. Boys assembled, lit up a tar-barrel, drew it through the streets, shouting, “Hurra for the Republic,” while men walked soberly on, more as if following a hearse than if stimulating their countrymen to deeds of valor, or rejoicing at conquest. The mirth of the land has emphatically ceased, the spirit is broken; every effort at conviviality appears as if making a last struggle for life. The shamrock was sprinkled here and there upon a hat, but, like its wearer, seemed drooping, as being conscious that its bloom was scathed and its beauty dying forever. The deep disease in this body politic has never been thoroughly probed, and the evil lies where probably it has been least sus- [p. 207] pected. The habits of the higher classes for centuries have had little tendency to enlighten or moralize the lower order, and yet, when all is taken into consideration, drinking habits included, the scale must preponderate in favor of the latter.
Some respectable families in and about Castlebar were doing to their utmost for the poor. Mr. Stoney, the rector, was employing many of them, in spinning, but so isolated were these efforts, that little could be done to stay the plague. Two miles from Castlebar I spent a Sabbath in the family of the widow Fitzgerald, relict of a British officer, who was an English lady from the Isle of Wight, much attached to Ireland. Though the mother of a numerous family, she draws, paints, and plays on the piano, as in the days of her youth. Her spacious drawing-rooms are hung around with elegant specimens of her taste in painting; and then seventy-three years of age she appeared to have lost none of the vigor of intellect which she must have possessed in her youth. A son-in-law, a meek believer, the Protestant curate of the parish, was residing with her, and the whole constituted a family of love and peace, and of the kindest feeling toward the poor.
An unexpected invitation to visit the parish of Partra, by the active Catholic curate, who resided there, was accepted. “You will find him,” a Protestant gentleman remarked, “an active, honorable man among the poor, and one who has done much good.” The country about him scarcely had a parallel, even in [p. 208] Skibbereen. Eleven miles from Castlebar opened a bright spot of taste — a glebe-house and tidy new chapel, which this indefatigable curate had built, in spite of all poverty. In the chapel were a few half-dead children huddled upon the floor, some around the altar, with their writing-books upon the steps for desks, without table or benches. These the curate had gathered among the starving, for the sake of the black bread, which kept them barely alive. The neighborhood abounds in novelties, strange and romantic, but most of them must be passed over, to leave room for details of the people. This indefatigable man had caused a fever shed to be erected, on a bog bordering upon the Lake of Musk, where pure air is circulating, and a snug cottage stands near, in which the matron who keeps the hospital resides. Thirty invalids were here, mostly sick from the effects of hunger, with swollen legs, many of them past all hope. Far away from any inhabitant, this hospital, cottage, and their inmates stood, struggling to keep up the dying flame of life, only to suffer fresh and hopeless troubles. Solitary as this region everywhere is, it was once celebrated ground. That day’s excursion to me was full of strange scenes and strange anecdotes. Here stood the stone raised in memory of the death of John, the “priest killer;” here is the site of an ancient abbey, but twelve feet wide; here, on the borders of the lake, is an anvil belonging to a forge, which is of such weight that it has never been raised from the bed into which it has sunk, and where it is supposed to have lain for centuries. [p. 209] An iron ore-bed is near the spot, as useless as all materials for improvement are in Ireland.
This parish borders on the famous Joyce country, and is replete with interest, where in days of yore robbers and murderers sported at will. A noted robber, by the name of Mitchell, was taken in a house pointed out, now in a crumbling state, but then occupied by a landlord who entertained the mountain robber, and had even bargained away his daughter to this desperado. A handsome reward was offered to secure this fearful prowler, and the landlord, in spite of family relation or treaty, determined to make sure the prize. One night, when Mitchell, overcome with a mountain excursion of plunder, had gone to sleep with his pistols near him, the landlord wetted the pans, went out and took in the magistrates to Mitchell’s bed, who was still asleep, but soon awaked — seized his pistols — they refused to act. He was secured, bound, and finally executed.
On the route this day, among all the rarities, was the christening of an infant in a miserable dark cabin by this priest, which he assured me was the only birth he had known for months. May I never see the like again! The dark mud cabin — the straw on which the mother lay — the haggard countenances of the starving group — the wooden bowl of “holy water” the plate of salt — the mummery of the priest, while he was putting the salt of grace to its lips, the blowing with his breath to infuse the regenerating spirit into the soul, were such a trifling, fearful combination of [p. 210] nonsense and profanity to my dark mind, that it was quite difficult to keep a usual degree of sobriety, but the priest escaped with no other lecture than an exclamation of nonsense, when we were out of the cabin. To do these poor priests justice, they have labored long and hard since the famine, and have suffered intensely. They have the most trying difficulties to encounter, without the least remuneration. In the best of times, their stipulated sum is but ten pounds a year, the remainder must be made up by “hook and by crook.” Weddings and christenings formerly gave what the generosity of guests could bestow, which was always so small, that a Protestant lady once, from pure benevolence, attended one of these cabin-weddings in the poor parts of the country, and put four pounds into the plate as it was passed round. She said the priest was a peaceable citizen, very poor and very kind, and why should she not give this, which she could spare, and he needed. In the famine, night and day, their services were requisite, no fevers nor loathsome dens, nor even caves could exonerate them, they must go whenever called, and this without any remuneration. One day’s excursion will better illustrate this fact, than general remarks can. I went to a spot on purpose to see for myself, and that day asked the priest to show me the most that he could of the realities of the famine, and soon I was gratified: the sight was too much, and in a few hours my way was made back in the rain over the fearful waste alone to the globe-house. We were soon met by applicants of all description begging on their knees, [p. 211] clinging fast to the poor man, begging for God’s sake that he would give them letters to the relieving officer for the pound of meal, asking advice how and what to do, when they had pulled down their cabins and had no shelter; the rain was falling, the roads bad, and the multitude so increased as we proceeded that it was very difficult to make our way. He told them, they must let me pass decently as a stranger, who had come out to see them through pity, and kindly added, “You know I would relieve you, but cannot.” Not one impatient word ever escaped him through the whole, although their unreasonable importunities were dreadfully tormenting. I had heard so many relieving officers and distributors scold and threaten, and had struggled so hard myself to keep patient without always succeeding, that I inquired how he kept without scolding. His answer was, “Sure, as I can give them no money, I should give them kind words.” Here were cabins torn down in heaps, and here were the poor wretched starving women and children, crawling together by the side of ditches, or in some cabin still standing, to get shelter from the rain, scattered too, over a wide extent of country. “What shall I do?” said the despairing priest; “let me die rather than witness daily such scenes as I cannot relieve.” I left him to go farther into the mountains, where some of the dying had sent for him, and ascended a little eminence alone, and saw the smoke of the humble abode of the parish priest, by the name of Ward, and all without and within gave proof, that if he had lived for gain, he had missed the [p. 212] road thither. He was a simple-minded priest of the old school of Ireland, and had added no new-fangled notions of modern style, and welcomed me to his house like an old patriarch of four thousand years ago; the poor found in him a friend whose warm heart and open hand always were ready to give, so long as he had anything to bestow. Thirteen hundred of his parishioners had died in Partra of the famine in twelve months, out of a population of six thousand. I returned home with benediction added to blessing upon my head, for having come to visit so poor and so neglected a people as his in those desolate mountains. The curate did not reach home till late in the evening drenched with rain; he had left without shelter a dying man, with his wife and daughter standing by, and giving them the last six-pence, he had returned, for he could do nothing more. At the dawning of day the daughter stood at his window, saying her father was dead, and begged that he would go and do something to assist in putting him away from the dogs!
THURSDAY, APRIL 13th. — A drive to Balinrobe presented a beautiful variety of scenery. Lake Carra is spread out, dotted with islands, and indented by peninsulas, with a long bridge across it, called Keel, inferior to none but Ponton, three miles from the glebe, and we were in sight of the tall steeple of the chapel, towering presumptuously for so unpopular a religion; for time was when the Romish church was not allowed steeples of any dimensions, and they now make no great pretensions in the steeple way.[p. 213]
The town of Balinrobe is somewhat picturesque, and was once the assize town of Mayo; but the judges saw fit to remove it to Castlebar; and report says, that some trifling complaint concerning bakers and cooks was the cause; but the town still boasts a famous poorhouse, well filled, a proud barrack, with a noble supply of the fighting gentry, placed there, as we are told, to make up for the removal of the assizes. A beautiful river, bordered with trees, winds through the town, occasionally a pretty cottage peeping between them, with two ivy-covered ancient ruins, among tombstones and naked skulls, with inscriptions of such ancient date, that time had worn them so that they were almost entirely defaced.
An invitation to dine at Dr. Rafe’s, introduced me to a lady, in Mrs. Rafe, who might justly be classed among intellects and attainments of the highest order; I had seen many well-bred ladies in Connaught, but not one who was better acquainted with books, and who could converse on something beyond small talk with greater facility and understanding than Mrs. Rafe.
From Balinrobe, the famous Cong was visited, known as containing so many natural curiosities and ancient historical events. The abbey here is one of great interest, large, and designed with exquisite carvings, and beautiful arches of doors and windows. The niches are entirely filled with bones. Here is interred the famous Roderic O’Connor, among the neglected rubbish; and priests and people in one confused mass, [p. 214] mingling their dust among peasants and beggars. But the beauty of Cong is, that ordained by nature; the river, and green meadow, and hillock, where stands a most enchanting lodge, backed with wood, which is seen with great advantage from the top of a hill upon the opposite side, which every tourist should be mindful to ascend.
The lake, the town, the church standing in the walls of the old abbey, the river, lodge, and wood in front, a promonotory of the brightest green; and, as a finish, the pier, containing some of the choicest stones of the abbey carved with hieroglyphics, give to the whole picture a view beautiful and novel in the extreme. The “Horse Discovery,” is a chasm into which a horse plunged when plowing. The chasm is now descended by artificial stone steps, and standing upon the bottom, the water is seen sparkling far back and murmuring at your feet in darkness. Spars are hanging from the roof, and the aperture above is fringed with vines and ivy, giving a somber look to the whole.
The “Pigeon Hole” is the lion of Cong; it is so called because pigeons are wont to make nests in the dome. This hole is descended by forty-two stone steps, quite steep, and at the bottom is the river that runs through the “Buttery,” flowing most cheerfully here, and forming a little eddy in which fish are sporting. [p. 215] These caused great excitement among the troop that had followed us, a legend being told, that the fish in this pool had lived there ever since its discovery, without multiplying or decreasing; these patriarchs consequently are of very ancient date; and a young lad told us that one of these fathers had been caught, and put upon a gridiron to broil, but made his escape into the water, and has now the marks upon his ribs, so that from age to age he has been traced; but he can never be caught, nor can any of his comrades be induced to nibble a bait. The fish had not been seen for a long time, and the company and curate were highly rejoiced that these black gentlemen should come out to salute us. The river after passing this eddy flows rapidly through a fearful cavern, arched over with black stones, many of which seem to have tumbled down, and lay piled along through the dark chamber; an old woman, for many a year, had been the keeper of this cavern, and with a bundle of dried rushes lighted, she led the visitors on, showing a lofty ceiling of stone, cut in the most fantastical shapes. The fearful slippery passage, over slimy and uneven rocks tumbled and piled together, the music of the water hastening away to hide itself under the earth again, the grand dome of black stone, and the graceful curtains of the ivy hanging and swinging at ease, all lighted up by the glaring torch, made an underground picture sublime, terrific, and beautiful in the extreme. This profitable estate is now in possession of the granddaughter of the lately deceased inheritor; and the elasticity of the young [p. 216] damsel testified to her full confidence in her own powers, as well as hopes of a fortune in the end. The environs of Cong contain a quantity of black stone which is much used in building, covering the ground in layers, through the fields about the town.
A dinner was in waiting at Dr. Rafe’s, and no one could have thought, when looking upon the table, that famine was raging without. On a beautiful site at Balinrobe, this indefatigable priest has leased a piece of thirty acres of land, at one shilling per acre, where he intends building a monastery for nuns and children of the poor. A curious stone stands upon the spot, and no manuscript has yet told its pedigree; but its lofty upright bearing says it is of noble origin.
The industry of this curate appears, if not supernatural, urged on by an irresistible impulse, almost unparalleled. Shall it be credited, that in thirteen weeks he converted a barren spot into a fine site for a chapel and glebe-house. After demolishing the old chapel, he built and finished them both in excellent taste. The wall, which surrounds a large handsome lawn before the house, is built of stone, which was quarried in one day, and the whole completed in three hours. The entire parish were invited to the chapel to hear mass at nine o’clock; then all were encouraged with having music and amusement to their hearts’ content when the work should be finished. Eight hundred assembled. The curate assigned a certain portion to be erected by so many, and thus confusion was prevented — the work went orderly on. And this three hours’ labor completed [p. 217] a wall inclosing the chapel and glebe-house, fringed upon the top in front with a peculiar kind of stone from the lake, which is jagged, porous, and black, and when struck, gives a sound like iron. The wall is whitewashed, the stones upon the top left black, adding an air of ornament to the whole. A young shrubbery is already looking up in the door-yard, giving to the lately barren waste bog an appearance “like a young garden, fresh and green.”
These people, called Roman Catholics, certainly must astonish the Orthodox world by their untiring zeal for the good of the church in Ireland. With everything to oppose, they urge on their way; a government church forcing upon them restrictive laws very severe, and a laboring class of real paupers; with these drawbacks they build chapels, finish them well, and “through evil and through good report,” nakedness and famine, they urge their way, erecting chapels in the midst almost of hetacombs of the slain! The curate was asked where he got money for all this; “Money was not wanted,” was the answer. Seventy carts were in train drawing the stone when cut from the quarry. The stone was free — labor was free — and every parishioner performed his part cheerfully. The little money that was required for the trimmings the bishop supplied. The coarse trite saying of John Bunyan’s imprisonment may be fitly applied to the government church in Ireland. A writer remarks, that “the devil run himself out in his own shoes when he put John Bunyan in jail.”[p. 218]
The curate shall be dismissed after one more allusion to his ever-awake zeal in all and everything. The poorhouse in Balinrobe did not exactly suit his notions of justice to the inmates. He called upon the guardians and apprised them that a fearless scrutinizing friend to the poor, from the United States, was visiting all the “soup-shops” and “workhouses” in Ireland, and was “showing up” the dishonesty practiced among them, by taking notes, which were printed for the information of government. Not suspecting that my name had gone before, in the innocence of my heart my way was made thither, and I was happily disappointed at finding the house in such excellent order, officers and servants were all at their posts, and everything done to make the visit most agreeable, yet there was such an appearance of affectation in the whole that thoughts did arise whether in reality all was so. The purloining of the public benefactions since the famine, has given so much cause for suspicion, that all whose hands are not thoroughly clean, shrink from observation.
The guardians of the poor in Ireland will have a sad account to render at the last, in many cases, it is greatly to be feared. Feeding the poor on two scanty meals of miserable food, when there are funds sufficient, has been the accusation which has proved too true in many parts, and has operated so powerfully upon the inmates, that when once out they have chosen death out-of-doors rather than going in again.
I found some few hungry men on my way putting a few potatoes in a field, and inquired why they should [p. 219] lose their potatoes and their time in this hopeless undertaking? The answer was, “Plaise God we’ll have the potato again.” The “potato again,” is the last wreck to which they are still clinging.
APRIL 17th. — With a sister of Peter Kelly, I went to “Old Head,” and was first introduced into one of the dreadful pauper schools, where ninety children received a piece of black bread once a-day. It was a sad sight, most of them were in a state of rags, barefooted, and squatted on the floor, waiting for a few ounces of bread, with but here and there a fragment of a book. The clean schoolmaster, on a cold day, was clad in a white vest and linen pantaloons, making the last effort to appear respectable, laboring for the remuneration of a penny a week from each family, if by chance the family could furnish it. These ninety all belonged to Mrs. Garvey’s tenantry, and there were others looking on who had come in likewise, not belonging to her lands, who wishfully stood by, without receiving one morsel. I looked till my satiated eyes turned away at a pitiful sight like this. Neither the neat cottage, the old sea, nor my favorite Croagh Patrick, could give satisfaction in a wilderness of woe like this. When will these dreadful scenes find an end?
Naught but desolation and death reigned; and the voice of nature, which was always so pleasant on the sea-coast, now, united with the whistling of the wind, seemed only to be howling in sad response to the moans and entreaties of the starving around me. The “holy well,” where the inimitable drawing of the blind girl [p. 220] was taken, is near this place. In years gone by this well was a frequented spot, where invalids went to be healed. It is now surrounded by stone, covered with earth, and a path about gives the trodden impress of many a knee, where the postulant goes round seven times, repeating a “Paternoster” at every revolution, and drops a stone, which tells that the duty is performed. A hole is shown in a stone, where the holy St. Patrick knelt till he wore the stone away. A poor peasant girl, in the simplicity of her heart, explained all the ceremonies of the devotees and virtues of the well, regretting that the priests had forbidden the practice now. A company soon entered the church-yard and set down a white coffin, waiting till the widow of the deceased should bring a spade to open the grave; and while the dirt was being taken away she sat down, leaning upon the coffin, setting up the Irish wail in the most pathetic manner; she, by snatches, rehearsed his good qualities, then burst into a gush of tears, then commenced in Irish, as the meager English has no words to express the height of grief, madness, or joy. The ground was opened but a few inches when the coffin of another was touched. The grave-yards are everywhere filled so near the surface that dogs have access, and some parts of the body are often exposed.
A debate was now in progress respecting good works and the importance of being baptized into the true church. Mrs. G., who professed to be a papist, disputed the ground with them, till the contest became so sharp that I retired, for their darkness was painful; it [p. 221] seemed like the valley and shadow of death, temporally and spiritually.
The little town of Louisburgh, two miles from “Old Head,” had suffered extremely. An active priest and faithful Protestant curate were doing their utmost to mitigate the suffering, which was like throwing dust in the wind; lost, lost forever — the work of death goes on, and what is repaired to-day is broken down tomorrow. Many have fallen under their labors. The graves of the Protestant curate and his wife were pointed out to me in the church-yard, who had fallen since the famine, in the excess of their labor; and the present curate and his praiseworthy wife, unless they have supernatural strength, cannot long keep up the dreadful struggle. He employed as many laborers as he could pay, at fourpence a-day, and at four o’clock, these “lazy” ones would often be waiting at his gate to go to their work. He was one day found dining with the priest, and the thing was so novel, that I expressed a pleasant surprise, when he answered, “I have consulted no one’s opinion respecting the propriety of my doing so; I found,” he added, “on coming here, this man a warm-hearted friend to the poor, doing all the good in his power, without any regard to party, and determined to treat him as a neighbor and friend, and have as yet seen no cause to regret it.” This same priest was not able to walk, having been sick, but he was conveyed in a carriage to Mrs. Garvey’s, and most courteously thanked me for coming into that miserable neighborhood, and offered to provide some one, at his [p. 222] own expense, to convey me into the Killery mountains, to see the inimitable scenery, and the wretched inhabitants that dwell there. In company with the wife of the curate, and the physician, I went there. The morning was unusually sunny, but the horrors of that day were inferior to none ever witnessed. The road was rough, and we constantly were meeting pale, meager-looking men, who were on their way from the mountains to break stones, and pile them mountain-high, for the paltry compensation of a pound of meal a-day; these men had put all their seed into the ground, and if they gave up their cabins, they must leave the crop for the landlord to reap, while they must be in a poorhouse or in the open air. This appeared to be the last bitter drug in Ireland’s cup of woe! “Why,” a poor man was asked, whom we met dragging sea-weed to put upon his potato field, “do you do this, when you tell us you expect to go into the poorhouse, and leave your crop to another?” “I put it on, hoping that God Almighty will send me the work to get a bit.”
We met flocks of wretched children going to school for the “bit of bread,” some crying with hunger, and some begging to get in without the penny which was required for their tuition. The poor little emaciated creatures went weeping away, one saying he had been “looking for the penny all day yesterday, and could not get it.” The doctor who accompanied us returned to report to the priest the cruelty of the relieving officer and teacher, but this neither frightened or softened these hard hearts. These people are shut in by mountains [p. 223] and the sea on one side, and roads passable only on foot by the other, having no bridges, and the paths entirely lost in some places among the stones. We left our carriage, and walked as we could; and though we met multitudes in the last stages of suffering, yet not one through that day asked charity, and in one case the common hospitality showed itself, by offering us milk when we asked for water. This day I saw enough, and my heart was sick — sick. The next morning, the Protestant curate wished me to go early to the field, and see the willing laborers in his employ. He called one to the hedge, and asked if he had the potatoes in his pocket which he had gathered some days ago. The man took out a handful of small ones. “These,” said the curate (the tear starting to his eye), “are what this man found in spading up the ground here; and so little have his family to eat at home, that he has carried them in his pocket, till he can find some little spot where he may plant them, lest if he should leave them in the cabin, they would be eaten.” This man had a family of four to support on the fourpence earned in that field.
One interesting and last excursion ended my painful visit in this romantic desolate region. The company was made up of Mrs. Garvey, a cousin of hers of the same name, a widow who possessed land in these vales and mountains for four miles, and her two sons. The distance was eight miles, the road narrow, winding, rocky, and in some places entirely lost, excepting the foot-path of the shepherds. Our vehicle was a cart [p. 224] with a bed in it for the accommodation of the two ladies, who had never like me been jolted on this wise, and were now submitting to all this hardship for my amusement. With much fixing and re-fixing, ordering and re-ordering, bed, baskets of lunch, extra cloaks, and so on, all adjusted, we were “well under way” for these “Alps on Alps.” We had not made more than two miles of this journey, when stones, brooks, and no road said “Ye can go no further.” We did, by getting out and lifting the cart, and at length found ourselves in a flat vale with a pretty river flowing through it. Scattered here and there were the once comfortable cabins of the tenants of the last-named Mrs. G., now every cabin either deserted or suffering in silent hopelessness, and all the land lying waste.
The poor cabiners would meet us, and say to their landlady, “God bless ye, and once ye didn’t see us so, but now we are all destrawed.” “And how, Mary or Bridget, do you get on? — have you any meal? — and I am sorry that I couldn’t send you any more,” &c., were the salutations of this kind landlady, who had not received one pound of rent since the famine. I thanked her most gratefully for the favor she bestowed on me in keeping from my ears those heart-scathing words to the starving poor I had heard so much from landlords and relieving officers during the famine. “I could not upbraid them,” she answered, “for until the famine, scarcely a pound of rent has been lost by them all; and my only sorrow is, that I can do nothing to keep them alive, and not lose them from the land.” [p. 225] Four miles took us to the foot of a pile of “Alps,” at the bottom of which was sleeping a sweet lake, cradling in its bosom a little green shrubbery island, the habitation of wild fowl entirely. The precipitous rocky path made it impossible to use the cart, and our crushed clumsy feet were now put in requisition. Though our walk was a rugged one, yet we were not losers; for Ireland, above all other countries probably, should be visited in this way, having two superior advantages. First, there is so much of the romantic reality to be seen everywhere, both in antiquities and nature; and second, the courtesy of the peasants, which makes every rough place easy; and if they have not milk to offer you, the purest water that ever sparkled in fountain or well is springing up everywhere to refresh the traveler. We had nature to-day in her full dress, and besides the pleasure of seeing that heartfelt welcome which was manifested toward the “blessed landlady,” I contrasted it with a walk taken one sunny day with a rich landlord, a few months before, whose tenants were all “lazy dogs;” he had tried them twenty-five years and could make nothing out of them, and now they were starving they were all looking to him, &c. These tenants, when they saw us approaching, walked away without any recognition; or if in close contact, they gave a slight touch of the hat, with no welcome, nor “blessed landlord.” “Your tenants, sir,” I observed, “do not appear so hearty and courteous as is customary for the mountain peasants in many places.” “I told you I could never [p. 226] make anything out of them, and intend clearing the whole land another year and get a better set.” The landlady this day was pointing me from cabin to cabin, where lived an industrious man or tidy woman, and “I must lose them all.” Proud mountain rose, in conical form upon mountain, as if by some volcano they had been shot up perpendicularly; streamlets were trickling from their sides, and the rich heath and sedge covered their surface. These lofty piles give pasturage to cattle, sheep, and goats, and we saw the faithful shepherd’s dog leaping from rock to rock, gathering the flock to drive them to better forage, and the little shepherd-girl sitting upon a crag to watch the little charge; and under the mountain was nestled the cabin of the herder, who for twenty years, he told us, had guarded the flocks upon the tops and sides of these lofty mountains. By the wayside was a large fold, into which all the sheep are gathered when the different owners wish to ascertain if any are missing, or when any are wanted for use. The owner and not the shepherd sustains the loss, if the number be wanting. The sheep live and thrive upon these rich mountains, summer and winter. The mountain-goat, so peculiarly adapted for climbing the crags, we saw here; his shaggy mane waving in the breeze, as he nibbled the sedge and heath upon the highest peaks. Our road was upon a fearfully precipitous side of a hill, hanging over the lake. We had reascended the cart, and were obliged again to leave it, and the chubby Mrs. Garvey, in doing so, like a sack of wool, made a summerset and [p. 227] rolled upon rough stones; her justifiable shrieks were echoed by our hearty O dears! for we expected to see her mangled arms, body and legs, making their fearful tumble into the lake below. When we saw her peep out from under her mutilated bonnet, and found that life was still in her, though she insisted that she was dead, quite dead! my uncourteous laughing powers had no alternative but to drop into a dead, grave silence, which was more uncourteous still; for united with that natural abstractedness into which my mind always drops when in the midst of nature’s grand scenery, my appearance amounted to a state of sullenness. We hobbled down the hill, leading our unfortunate tumbler, right glad that she was not actually broken in pieces by the fall, though certainly she was not benefited by it for the day. We reached a little flat lawn by the side of the lake, took our “pic nic,” and commenced new difficulties: a stream must be crossed — there was neither bridge nor stepping-stone, nor could the cart assist us. We wandered to and fro — at last, taking the clothing from our feet, we waded over slippery stones and gained the shore, not far from the Adelphi Lodge. Its whereabouts we knew by the evergreens that adorned the mountains. We wound round a path which showed us on the right a conical heath mountain, lost in the skies; and no sooner had we passed that than one on the left, as though broken from its side, rose in view. Thus we proceeded, threading our way by the side of a pretty stream, till we saw the cottage, built by Lord [p. 228] Sligo, now in possession of the Plunkets, three brothers, who named it Adelphi.
A river winds round the domain, which connects the sea on the left with the lake on the right, a mountain of the grandest and boldest stands in front of the cottage, without a tree, presenting a most beautiful picture of light and shade; the sides being spotted with a yellow appearance mixed with the heath and sedge, reconciling the eye to the absence of the tree. At the back of the lodge stands another like mountain; forming, in unison, with everything around, a scenery distinct from any other in Ireland. It was once the resort of the gay, where resounded the bugle and hunter’s horn: its lakes, its rivers, its mountains, gardens, cascades, and walks, now appear as if the struggling gardener was trimming here and there a festoon, and fastening a decaying plant anew to some supporting stalk, that he might keep alive a relic or two of its former loveliness; but alas! the beauty of Ireland is departing, her gay ones are becoming sad; the cruel sport of the hunter which once was the delight of the fashionable has ceased, and the timid hare may now trip and leap among the brakes and ferns, without starting at the bark of the fearful packhound in pursuit. The setting sun, as it warned us to depart, gave such an enchanting look to the dark mountains hanging over the lake and pretty river, that I could not but
“Cast a longing, lingering look behind.”
There was a fearful eight miles in advance; the stream [p. 229] must be waded, the precipitous footpath hanging over the lake at nightfall was before us; but so completely abstracted had I become, that if no company had been there to have urged me forward, the moonlight, if not the morning, might have found me sitting, looking alternately at the mountains and lakes. We made our way through the defile, and reaching a little hamlet, a solitary man came to meet us, and welcomed me in true Irish style to his country, adding, “in a twelvemonth I hope to be in your country.” A young son had gone two years before, and sent him back £19 for the voyage. “I am leaving,” said he, “praise God, a good landlady, who can do no more for us, and we can do nothing for her.” “This man,” said Mrs. Garvey, “is one of my best tenants, and I am lost by parting with him, but cannot ask him to stop.”
This romantic tour ended in the evening, and I stopped with the “good landlady” over the night, and arose while all were asleep in the morning, and scoured through the pretty wood that fringed the river, and back of the house, and selected the choicest moss-dotted stones, both great and small, for a rockery; and when the laborers had arisen, they assisted in carrying and wheeling them upon the lawn which fronted the cottage and bordered the stream, and around a solitary young fir standing there, we placed these stones. The daisy and primrose were in bloom — these were dug and planted in the niches, while the landlady added her skill in setting the young plants, when, in three hours — the same time that the wall of the Partra Priest was [p. 230] in building — there was a rockery of firm finish, blooming with the young flowers of spring. This was my last work in the county of Mayo, and frivolous as it might be, it was so in accordance with the ancient customs of Ireland, and my own feelings too, that when I turned from it forever, I said, “Stand there, when the hand that raised you shall be among the dead; and say to the inquiring traveler who may visit this spot, that Asenath Nicholson, of New York, raised these stones, as a memento of the suffering country she so much pitied and loved, and as a monument of gratitude to the God who had conducted her safely through all the dangerous scenes encountered while passing over it.”
A branch of the Garvey family lives near Murrisk Abbey, situated on Clew Bay, at the foot of the Croagh Patrick. The house stands near the sea, embosomed in wood, a garden of three acres, with useful horticultural productions, at the back of it, and the abbey at a little distance. The walls of the abbey are of smooth stone in small blocks; the building contains numerous apartments. A place is reserved for the burying of priests, and a pile of their leg and arm-bones are now in a window to leave room for fresh inmates.
The Irish appear to have no regard for their dead when the flesh is consumed, but leave the bones to bleach in the sun, and the skulls. to be kicked about as foot-balls in any place. A return through Westport to Castlebar gave a sight of suffering and degradation which could not be heightened. A coach is always [p. 231] the rallying point for beggars; and this morning the Roman Catholic Dean was upon the top, and I went out to take my seat, but was happy to retreat into a shop, for I supposed that all the inmates of the workhouse were poured out for want of food, and were sent to prey upon the inhabitants. In this dreadful flock there was not one redeeming quality — not one countenance that smiled, nor one voice that uttered a sally of Irish wit — all was piteous entreaty, without deceit; for no proof was needed of sincerity, but the look they gave us. I was urged to my seat through the crowd, and no sight like that had ever met my eyes as when that coach whirled from that haggard assemblage.
It is well known that among the many devices for the cure of Ireland’s famine, the soup-shops and “stir-about” establishments, ranked among the foremost, and the most effectual for some time. These were got up in many places at a great expense, so much so, that had they expected to have fed the nation on beef-bones and yellow Indian for centuries to come, they could not have been more durably made and fixed. There was quite a competition to excel in some places, to make not only durable boilers, but something that looked a little tasty, and he that “got up” the best was quite a hero. But the soup-shop of soup-shops, and the boiler of boilers, the one that sung the requiem to all that had gone before, was the immortalized one of Soyer, the French soup-maker and savory inventer [p. 232] for the “West End” of London. It would seem that the Government, on whose shoulders hung this mighty “potato-famine,” had exhausted all its resources of invention “to stay the plague” but the one last mentioned, and, driven to their “wits’ end,” they happily hit upon this panacea.
Every minutia cannot be given, either of the “getting up,” or the “recipe” itself; but the “sum and substance” was simply this, that a French cook from London was sent to Dublin with a recipe of his own concocting, made out of “drippings,” whether of “shinbones” or “ox-tails” was not specified; but this “dripping” was to be so savory, and withal so nourishing, that with a trifling sum, Paddy could be fed, and fed too so that he could dig drains, cut turf, and spade gardens, on an advanced strength, which flung both the potato and “yellow Indian” entirely in the “back-ground.” The work commenced a new and splendid soup-shop in French and West End fashion soon gladdened the eyes of the expecting Irish. “By dad,” exclaimed one as he passed it, “and there’s the cratur that’ll du the heart good; not a ha’porth of the blackguards will be fightin’ for the ‘yaller Indian’ when that’s in the stomach.”
So great was this work, that the city was moved when the sound went forth that the boiler was ready, and the soup actually “under way.” A great and general invitation was given to the lords and nobles, with wives, sons and daughters, to be there, and test this never-equaled sustainer of life and zest of palate — [p. 233] carriages, horsemen, and footmen, lords in velvet and broadcloth, ladies in poplins, satins, flounces and feathers, bedizened the train. Nor was this all: when anything great or good is afloat, the patriotism of Paddy, in high life and low, is aroused, and he waits not for cloak, shoe, or hat — if cloak, shoe and hat be lacking — but is ready on the spot. And here every beggar, from Liberty to Cook street, from way-side, hedge and ditch, whose strength was adequate, swelled this living, moving panorama. Wherever a feather waved in the breeze, there a rag fluttered in thrilling harmony. The procession entered the hail, where soup-ladles, plates and spoons, were in bright array. Lords and dukes, duchesses, baronesses, and “ladies of honor,” walked round this fresh-steaming beverage, each taking a sip, and pronouncing it the finest and best. The hungry ones heard the verdict, and though some doubting ones might scoff, yet the multitude went away declaring they believed that the “blessed soup would put the life in ’em.”
The celebrated patentee received his sovereigns, and returned to his sauce pots and dripping-pans in the metropolis of John Bull. The recipe was made over to safe hands, the fire extinguished under the boiler, the soup-shop closed, and poor Paddy waited long, and in vain, for the expected draught; nor did he awake from his hopeful anticipations till the streets of Dublin resounded, by night and by day, with
“Sup it up, sup it up, ’twill cure you of the gout,”&c.
The poetry in refinement of style, in orthography or [p. 234] punctuation, did not equal Cowper’s “John Gilpin,” but in aptnesss of invention, and clearness of description, it was not a whit behind; and when the echo was beginning to swell on the breeze,
of many a dwelling, whose inmates would shrink from the gaze of the vulgar, and blush to be found reading by daylight, wit so coarsely expressed. The soup recipe was not entirely a thing of naught; it brought to the ballad-maker and ballad-singers ready cash for many a week; and the host of disappointed hungry ones who followed in the train, found in the poetic excitement a momentary pause of pain, which said,
I soon left for Cork. A visit to the house of Mr. Murry, who, in union with his fellow-laborer, Jordan, had established a church of the Independent order, under the auspices of the Irish Evangelical Society.
Their labors are blessed; the Roman Catholics appear to feel that in that little organization good is doing, and often when mention was made of it the answer would be, “they are a blessed people.” Many expressed a desire that they might build a chapel, and some few had actually contributed a little for that purpose. These men had preached Christ and treated the people kindly, and they met with no serious opposition. They had been impartial in their distributions [p. 235] through the famine, and had never attempted to proselyte either by a pound of Indian meal, or “ten ounces” of black bread.
A rainy morning took me from Castlebar, and in a few hours I reached Tume, and first visited the workhouse. Eighteen hundred were here doing the same thing — nothing; but one improvement, which is worth naming, distinguished this house. All the cast-off bedclothes and ticking were converted into garments for the poor, and given them when they left the house. Their rags which they wore in, were all flung aside, and they went decently out. Next I visited the convent, and here found half a dozen nuns hiding from the world, and yet completely overwhelmed with it. They had a company of four hundred children, most of them who were starving in the beginning of famine, and have instructed and fed them daily. This was the first school I had visited during the famine, where the children retained that ruddiness of look and buoyancy of manner, so prevalent in the Irish peasantry. “We have tested,” said a nun, “the strength of the Indian meal. These children, through last winter, were fed but once a day on stirabout and treacle, and had as much as they would take; they were from among the most feeble, but soon became strong and active as you now see.” They assembled for dinner, and as had been their custom, they clasped their hands and silently stood, while one repeated these words: “We thank thee, O God, for giving us benefactors, and pray that they may be blessed with long life and a happy death.” [p. 236] “The good Quakers,” said a nun, “have kept them alive; and the clothes you see on them are sent through that channel, all but the caps, which we provide.” These children were taken from filth and poverty, never knowing the use of the needle, or value of a stocking, and now could produce the finest specimens of knitting, both ornamental and useful. And looking upon these happy faces one might feel that Ireland is not wholly lost. My next visit was in the workhouse at the old town of Galway. The distress here had been dreadful, and most of them seemed waiting in silent despair for the last finishing stroke of their misery. One cleanly-clad fisherman of whom I made inquiries, invited me to visit the fishermen’s cottages, which before the famine were kept tidy, and had the “comfortable bit” at all times; “now, the fisheries are lost, we are too poor to keep up the tackle, and are all starving.” I followed him to a row of neat cottages, where the discouraged housekeepers appeared as if they had swept their cottage floors, put on the last piece of turf and had actually sat down to die. “Here we are,” said one, (as she rose from her stool to salute us,) “sitting in these naked walls, without a mouthful of bread, and don’t know what the good God will do for us.” This fisherman then showed me into the monks’ school-rooms, who were teaching and feeding a number of boys, and showed me some new fishing nets which the kind Quakers had sent, and he hoped, if they did not all die, that the “net might sairve ’em.”[p. 237]
The workhouse here was on the best plan of any I had seen; the master and matron had been indefatigable in placing everything in its true position, and appeared to feel that their station was a responsible one, and that the poor were a sacred trust, belonging still to the order of human beings. The food was abundant and good, and the parents and children allowed to see and converse together oftener than in other like establishments; and now, in March, 1850, the same report is current, that good order and comfort abound there, beyond any other. Everlasting peace rest on the heads of those who do not make merchandise of the poor for gain.
From Galway, Limerick was the next stopping-place, and the poorhouse in that place was so crowded, the morning so rainy, and the keepers so busy in gathering the inmates to the “stirabout,” that but little that was satisfactory could be obtained.
Cork was reached in the evening, with the loss of a trunk by the inattention of the coachman, but in a few days it was restored by the honesty of a passenger. As the comfort of the traveling public depends so much on coachmen, and as passengers beside have a heavy fare to pay, it would be unjust to the public, as an individual, not to give a second testimony to the celebrated Bianconi’s cars and carmen. I should have been happy to have found that my complaints in the first volume respecting this establishment were not realized as habits, but merely accidental, and that further acquaintance might insure greater esteem; but a [p. 238] second trial told me that thus far severity had not exaggerated. I paid my passage at Limerick for Cork, went to Fermoy without any serious difficulty; here vehicles and horses were changed, my trunk placed beyond my care, new passengers seated till the car was quite overcharged, when the carman said with insolence, as he saw me waiting for a seat, “Get on and stand up, or else stop till to-morrow, I’ll not wait for ye.” “My passage is paid to Cork, my trunk is beyond my reach, or I would wait,” was the answer. “Get on quick and stand there, or you’re left.” I ascended the seat, and holding by the luggage, rode ten miles standing in much peril, while the carman occasionally looked around, and made some waggish joke, much to the amusement of decently-clad gentlemen, not one of whom offered me a seat. The reader may justly inquire — Is this the Irish politeness, of which so much has been said in these pages? It is not instinctive Irish politeness — this is always pure and always abundant; but it is the habit put on and cultivated, by such as having no claim to family or rank, have, mushroom-like, started suddenly from a manure-heap into a little higher business, and having no education that has in the least disciplined the mind, they at once assume the airs of imperious landlords, and keepers of “whisky-shops,” as the best means of establishing their advanced standing.
The county of Cork is the largest county in Ireland, and once had four walled towns:— Cork, Youghal, Kinsale, and Bandon. It has an extensive sea-coast, [p. 239] and ten good harbors. It is everywhere well watered, and was once supplied with all kinds of game and cattle, wool, and woolen and linen yarn. It, like all Ireland, has been sifted and shaken, divided among septs and kings, and is now resting under the gracious shadow of the Queen Victoria. The population numbered in the year 1841 about 107,682. The beautiful River Lee, where vessels from the Cove of Cork enter, flows through the city, giving from the hill top and side to the neat trellised cottages that hang there a cheerful aspect of life and commerce which few towns can claim. A sail from Cove Harbor up the Lee, to the city, cannot be surpassed in beauty, on a pleasant evening. The Venetian boatman might here find material enough to add a new stanza to his Gondolier song; and if angels retain any wish for the sin-scathed scenery of earth, they might strike here their golden harps, and sing anew the sweet song
“Peace on earth, and good will to men.”
The whole distance is so variedly enchanting that the overcharged eye, as it drops its lingering curtain upon one fairy spot, pauses, in doubt whether its next opening can greet beauties like the last. Cove, now a town containing a population of about 7000, is built upon the sloping side of a hill, in Terraces; and at the foot of the hill is a line of houses called the Beach and Crescent.
This beautiful town, now named Queenstown, in honor of the landing of Victoria, in the summer of [p. 240] 1849, when Her Majesty placed her foot for the first time on that green isle, and honored that spot with its first impression, was, half a century ago, but a miserable fishing hamlet, the remains of which are most hideously and squalidly looking out, on the north side, called “Old Cove.” However squalid the old houses may look, there are more redeeming qualities here than any town in Ireland. It is snugly sheltered from winds by the hill; and this hill is so continually washed with fresh showers from the buckets of heaven, that it needs no police regulations to keep the declivity in a condition for the most delicate foot and olfactory nerves to walk without difficulty or offense. Then the broad old river spreading out beneath its foot, presenting a harbor of six miles in length and three in breadth, dotted with four islands, Spike, Hawlbouline, Rocky, and Coney, with two rivers, Ballinacurra and Awnbree, beside many pretty streamlets emptying into it. The harbor is backed by hills of the greenest and richest, and ornamented with five Martello towers, so called from a tower in the Bay of Martello, in the island of Corsica. As nearly all the present names of places in Ireland had an Irish root, and this root has a signification, a knowledge of these, places the history in many cases in a clear and useful light. The village and glen of Monkston stretched along, with the church and old castle, with spire and towers overlooking the whole, first meet the view; then a mile further, Passage, a village extending nearly a mile, with a quay and bathing houses, and taken as a whole is interesting, as a [p. 241] busy thoroughfare. Blackrock Castle soon catches the eye, and its situation and happy construction can hardly be improved by imagination. It looks out upon Lake Mahon and the picturesque islands which dot it; and further on upon the right is Mount Patrick, where stands the tower dedicated to Theobald Mathew; and before reaching Cork, embosomed in trees, is the seat of Mr. Penrose, called Woodhill, and possesses the undying honor of the spot where the daughter of Curran was married to Captain Henry Sturgeon. It is long since Moore sung in sweet strains the never-to-be-forgotten melody of
“She is far from the land where her young hero sleeps,
And lovers are round her sighing;
But coldly she turns from their gaze and weeps.
For her heart in his grave is lying.“O! make her a grave where the sunbeams rest,
When they promise a glorious morrow,
They’ll shine o’er her sleep like a smile from the West,
From her own lov’d island of sorrow.”
Cork stands on a marshy spot; its name in Irish is Corcaig, signifying a moor or marsh, and the city owes its origin to St. Fin Bar, who first founded a cathedral, in the seventh century, near the south branch of the Lee, and from this beginning Corcaig-more, or the great Cork, arose; and though this city has passed through changes and great sufferings, yet it has for a long time maintained a respectable, if not high standing, for intelligence. Schools are numerous, and some of them of a high order, and the laboring classes are mostly well educated in a plain way. The Roman [p. 242] Catholics give nine thousand children gratuitous instruction in the various schools, and the Protestants have done much, their schools being liberally endowed, and probably it would not be exaggeration to say, that in no city in the kingdom of like population would more people among the poorer classes be found who could read, than in Cork. The convents, too, have done nobly in this respect, educating a multitude of children of the poor without any compensation. J. Windell has justly said, that “the great majority of the working class are all literate, and generally acquainted with the elements of knowledge; the middle classes, in intelligence, and in the acquisition of solid as well as graceful information, are entitled to a very distinguished place.” The Royal Cork Institution has a library of from five to six thousand volumes, the Cork Library has nine thousand volumes, and the Cork Mechanics’ Institute has a small one, beside private libraries of considerable note. It may be doubtful whether it can be said that, as in the one in Belfast, there are in it no works of fiction. The summer of 1848 found the city rallying a little from the fearful effects of the famine; for in a county so large, embracing so much sea-coast, marshy ground, &c., there must be found many poor in the best times in Ireland. The Friends’ Society, connected with the Dublin Central Committee, acted with untiring efliciency; and Theobald Mathew labored for months in giving out American donations which were intrusted to him. The nuns, too, had children to a great amount, whom they daily [p. 243] fed. The British Association, likewise, were there, but death fearfully went on. Let the walls of that workhouse tell the story of the hundreds carried out upon “sliding coffins,” and buried in pits. Let the cemetery of Theobald Mathew show its ten thousand, which he buried there in huge graves, opening a yawning gulf, and throwing in lime, then adding coffinless bodies daily, till the pit was filled; then opening another, till ten thousand were numbered! The rain had washed the loose dirt away in some spots, and parts of the bodies were exposed in a few places. A painful sight!
The Cork Committee acted most efficiently, and the name of Abraham Beale has left there a sweet and lasting remembrance. Beside the city of Cork, the rural districts were in the greatest distress, and this benevolent, indefatigable laborer turned his energies unceasingly to those districts, faithfully discharging his duty, till his health failed; and his biographer states, that “His last act of public duty was the attendance of the Relief Committee, in which he had so assiduously labored.” Typhus fever took him in a few days to the “mansion” which, doubtless, was prepared for him; for though he said, “I have been but an unprofitable servant,” yet the living testify that his profiting appeared unto all. He died in August, 1847, while the scourge was still raging; and in 1848 his name was fresh on the lips of many in that city, who, with his two bereaved sisters, say, they have lost in him a friend and a father. “The memory of the just is truly blessed.”[p. 244]
Though in the summer of 1848 many were suffering, yet the workhouse was not filled with the dying as before, and the “sliding coffin” never met my eye. The indefatigable nuns still were overwhelmed with children, many of whom were placed there by Father Mathew, and in one contiguous to his chapel were about thirteen hundred, who were fed when food could be obtained. One of the most affecting items of the famine, if item it may be called, is the multitude of orphans left in that afflicted country, and the saying was becoming quite a common one, when a hungry child was asked where he lived, or where his father and mother were, to answer, “They died sir (or ma’am), in the stirabout times.” This alluded to the year 1847 particularly, when the “stirabout” was most in vogue. The “black bread times” now have an imperishable name in the west of Ireland, and “Soyer’s soup” will not die in the memory of the wags of Dublin, till wars, pestilence, and famine shall cease to the ends of the earth.
The environs of Cork had not lost any of their charms by the scourge, and Blarney seemed to have put on new beauties; her old castle and Blarney stone, now supported with two iron grasps, are still looking forth from the shrubbery and trees, which wildly surround it, for the good taste of the owner keeps the pruning knife confined to his enchanting gardens and walks, and allows nature here to frolic according to her own vagaries. The sycamore, oak, arbutus, elm, ash, holly, copper-beech, and ivy, were mingling and commingling, [p. 245] without any aristocratic airs of family descent or caste.
A stranger here would wonder what famine could have to do in these pleasant grounds; and while rambling among its moss-covered stones, wild flowers, and creeping ivy, its shady seats, alcoves, and grottos, we felt that an Italian gardener could scarcely make a spot more enchanting, even though an Italian sky should mingle its blandness.
The company, too, in such places, has much to do in heightening or diminishing the pleasure, and even beauty of such scenes. Mine was a happy lot this day. The young Beales, who were the party, with a London acquaintance, had a natural and cultivated relish for treats like these, and while we were taking our pic-nic in that grove of delights, gladly would I have forgotten the sorrows of the past and avoided a dread of the future, but could not; for notwithstanding Blarney pleasure grounds, we were in woe-stricken Ireland still, and we knew that desponding hearts and hungry stomachs were not far distant. A cheerful walk home led us through Blarney Lane, in the suburbs of Cork, where the neatness of the cottages, with a flower-pot in many a window, had an interest beyond what had been presented in any suburb of Ireland’s large towns, since the famine. We took welcome liberties to look occasionally into one, and found all invariably tidy, and what was still more creditable, the women were busy at work. This said that Cork had still a living germ within her, that might and would be resuscitated; for [p. 246] if woman’s hands are well employed, however unnoticed her little inventions and doings may be, they at last work out, and bring forth untold comforts, which are more valuable because diffused insensibly where most needed.
“The little foxes spoil the vines,” and little things are the foundation of all great ones, and had Ireland, as well as the whole world beside, looked better to this, better effects would have been produced. Cork may boast as many efficient men, and active useful women, probably, as any town in Ireland. It has a Father Mathew and a William Martin, to urge by precept and example the importance and benefits of sobriety and industry; it has a Society of Friends, whose religion and discipline encourage no drones, and its intelligence has broken down that caste which so much exists in many parts of the country, and rendered the people of all classes more accessible than in any other city in Ireland. Fifteen weeks’ stopping there heightened my admiration of the true hospitality and capabilities of the inhabitants; and those flowery hill-sides and rose-covered gateways and windows that hung over the Lee, will be held ever in the sweetest remembrance. “The little room,” where one week of the pleasantest was spent, deserves an acknowledgment which I am not able to give. May that cottage and its inmates long be united as happily and sweetly as their industry and beauty so richly merit.
A short excursion to Castlemartyr, fifteen miles from Cork, took me through a richly cultivated country, [p. 247] where fields of wheat, barley, and oats are ripening for the harvest; but five fields of blasted potatoes that we passed, said that they had not yet recovered courage and strength to look out again upon the world, as in days gone by.
The feelings of the people are so sensitive, that they are not willing to speak of the subject when the fields begin to droop, and when mention is made of the appearance of a new failure, everything favorable is brought to bear on the subject; and often one member of a family has been known to keep all knowledge from the others, that might have reached him. Castlemartyr was once a parliamentary borough; the castle has long been famous for battles and plunders, and King William’s forces, after the Battle of the Boyne, charged a body of three hundred Irish, who fled to the castle, were driven out, the fortress surrendered, with the loss of sixty men, and sixteen prisoners taken. The Irish, in 1671, got possession of the town, but were driven out, and the castle since has laid in ivy-covered ruins, being used as a wine-cellar by Lord Shannon. It is surrounded with the loftiest trees, and a lawn of emerald green runs down to a lake upon one side of it. A thousand acres of the most richly cultivated land belong to this domain; a canal, three lakes, an extensive deer park, walks and rides, a flower garden of rare beauty, and kitchen garden of great size. Near the castle stands his lordship’s house, containing a center and two wings.
The apparatus for hunting is a great curiosity. [p. 248] Forty-two pleasure-horses for this sport were stabled here in apartments much better than the dwellings of the laboring class, and the richly tipped harness, with their bright stirrups and saddles, were still hanging, as mementoes of former greatness, and ready for use, should the absentee find it for his benefit to return to his pleasure grounds. The famine and other embarrassments have compelled him to suspend his hunting pleasures at present; his hounds were dismissed, his horses sold, and his carriages remain in silent waiting.
The town had suffered like all others, in the famine, and the rich widow where I stopped told sad tales of what had passed; but so engrossed was she with the loss of her husband, that she could find little space for the woes of others in her heart. She took me upon a desolate sea-coast some ten miles distant and there was misery ever fresh and ever young. The strange leap from a domain in Ireland to a hut or village of the poor, is nowhere so vivid in any county as here. I was glad to leave this spot and return to Cork; but a few short excursions more must finish all. A flower-show was a treat which always brings out all that is beautiful to the eye, so far as fashion is concerned. Here lords and ladies are found, and though they would not like a vulgar stare, yet they would not disapprove of a little admiration given to style and beauty. The show was a splendid one, and gave great credit to the skill of gardeners, who are certainly not inferior in taste in Ireland to any in the kingdom. The [p. 249] ladies too, were the ladies of Ireland — “fair to look upon.”
Strangers were not permitted, in the year 1848, to visit the convicts on Spike Island, but fortunately being a few days in the family of Doctor Maurice Power, M.P., he was, in consequence of his standing, allowed a peep among them, and had the privilege of taking all who belonged to his family; — his wife, daughter, and myself were his company. This island is rough in its appearance, containing some one hundred and eighty acres, and has been a fortified island from about 1791-2. Here we found convicts from every part of Ireland, who were deemed worthy of an exile from home for the space of seven years. The number of these victims was about eight hundred and forty; some employed in digging out rocks and leveling rough places, some in making mats of cocoa-nut bark, some knitting, and some marching round a circle made up on the pavement, for exercise and punishment. A school is kept where for two hours in rotation all who are of suitable age, and cannot read and write, are taught these branches. The teacher remarked, when pointing to three hundred pupils, “these persons are docile, and I believe honest; their only crime being taking food when starving.” Some of these young men and boys had thrown a stone into a bread shop, some had stolen a turnip, and some a sheep; but every one was induced by extreme hunger to do the deed. But we are gravely [p. 250] told in Ireland that property must be protected, though life should be squandered. The teacher added, “I cannot look on these men and boys as criminals.” A few others had been guilty of manslaughter; and one gentlemanly appearing man had been guilty of embezzling public money — he was overseeing the making of mats. A dexterous pickpocket, not yet fifteen, was present, from Dublin, who had, when there, fifty men under pay; and in the presence of us all he showed his propensity, by keeping one hand upon his work and the other apparently carelessly upon the skirt of Doctor Power’s coat near the pocket. This sad boy will not be cured by forced abstinence; the keepers informed us that he steals for the pleasure of it — taking what he does not want, such as handkerchiefs and stockings, which he can neither wear nor dispose of. The lodging-rooms were large, and well ventilated; and numbers sleep in the same apartment, without any guard. The solitary cells were very cold, — the walls reeking with wet; but as these are only for the incorrigibles — if none behave unseemly, none need to inhabit them. The room where the unfortunate Mitchell was confined, when on his way to Bermuda, was shown us; it was larger than any other single room, and had the luxury of a board floor, and would, if nicely fitted up, make a tolerable farm kitchen. But report fell far short of the reality, when she said that this traitor was treated more like a gentleman than a felon, occupying a drawing-room, well furnished. The bread was good, made of unbolted wheat meal, and the quantity quite sufficient. [p. 251] Cocoa is given every Sabbath morning, and meat for dinner. Much better in any way were these convicts than any inmates of a workhouse in Ireland. We sailed from Spike up the beautiful Corigaline, and its winding course presented us rich beauties of foliage, gentlemen’s seats, and rose-covered cottages. A clear sun, like that of my native home, shone upon this landscape; and in sight of the river, mid the song of birds, with children sporting about us, in this wooded spot we took a pleasant “pic nic,” which was greatly valued by me, because the carmen were sitting too, at a little distance, partaking of the same repast, when one sent a civil inquiry to Mrs. P. to know if the pudding had whisky in it, as he was a teetotaler, and could not take it if anything of the kind were in it. He was assured it was pure.
The whole to me was quite American, Dr. P. having graduated in a college there, his wife being a native, and his daughter born there, and had he not been an M.P. we might have talked republican things. Why is this partiality for country and home so deeply fixed in the human heart? Is it not selfish, and does it not tend to contract, and even sour the mind against what often is more valuable than home produce?
THE MATHEW TOWER.
Among the many interesting subjects of people and things in the city of Cork, may be included as preeminent this beautiful tower, standing upon Mount Patrick, overlooking the pleasant waters of the Lee. It [p. 252] is three miles from Cork, on an elevation of eight hundred feet, and was erected by William O’Connor, entirely at his own expense. Theobald Mathew visited London in the year 1843, and his generous reception suggested the idea to O’Connor, who was present, to erect a monument in commemoration of the event, and as an honorable memento to future generations of the indefatigable labors of the great Apostle of Temperance. The history of this spot gives to the visitor a double interest, especially so, when he is told that the founder was a tailor, who, through his shears, was enabled to give three thousand guineas for the tower alone.
A few years since, this now blooming garden of trees, shrubs, and flowers, was a wilderness of woods, and the soil the most unpromising. O’Connor purchased twenty acres, cut down the trees, leaving a few for ornament, dug up the roots, and made an entirely new soil, by materials taken from the mud and gravel of the Lee, at Cork, and planted this new-made land with potatoes, giving employment to a great number of men; and when the harvest was gathered he made the whole of it as an offering of the first fruits to the poor. The Sisters of Mercy shared largely in this donation, as almoners of the gift. He then built a neat cottage, which he inhabited with a sister, who has since deceased. A fine gravelly walk conducts the visitor from the gate leading to the cottage through a rich thicket of laurel, arbutus, and firs, opening upon a tasteful flower ground, descending from the cottage, which is ascended [p. 253] by fourteen stone steps with iron railings. On the right and left from the hill, two rooms are fitted up in good modern taste for the reception of visitors. In the center of each stands a table, one containing the periodicals of the day, the other only a large ancient Bible. The walls are adorned with a variety of pictures, some of which are the best specimens of drawing. Two, which are dedicated to the Queen and Prince Albert, and executed entirely with a pen, by McDonnell of Cork, are almost without a parallel. They contain an address by the Mayor, Aldermen, and Council of the city of Cork, on the birth of the Prince of Wales, in 1841. They are both executed in a manner that entitles them to a standing among the highest ornamental works. A portrait of O’Connor hangs in the same room, with one of Edim Forest, and a few others, of the best model. The left-hand room represents the Queen, with an infant on her lap, and another child standing by her side; another of the Virgin and Child of peculiar beauty. A frame-work containing the baptismal cake of one of the Queen’s children, and a vial of caudle. The frame is lined on the back with a piece of satin, embroidered with the crown of the King of Prussia, and is a piece from the vest he wore the sides are of embroidered satin, like that worn by the Queen, with her crown wrought upon it, and which is worn on the baptismal occasions of her children. A fourth is Louis Philippe receiving the visit of Victoria, in France, beside two other pictures not named. In the hall hangs the picture of the “testimonial” [p. 254] or tower, and opposite is the monument of Scott.
In a little opening at the back of the hall, is a glass case, containing a choice collection of shells, and on each side from this are two nicely-furnished bed-rooms; these rooms with a kitchen include all the dwelling part. Two wings, with artificial windows, are attached to the cottage; the glass, frame and blind, are such a finished imitation of the reality, that one must touch them to be convinced of their mockery. Two winding paths from the cottage lead up the ascent to the monument. A circular stone-wall containing a small fountain is the first object, in the center of this is a curiously-wrought pedestal, surmounted by a large basin, in which is seated a boy, whose business is to spirt water from his mouth through a small tube, when any one is so kind as to open a pipe underground, by a key, which pipe communicates with one from the top of the tower, which conveys the water from a cistern fixed near the top; near this fountain stands a boy, grasping in his hands a snake, which is wound about one leg; but the boy holds him fast in defiance: this is the serpent alcohol. On the right of the boy stands an angel to strengthen him. Theobald Mathew is standing back, and over this group, in a figure larger than life, with his right hand pointing to the fountain, while his left arm rests upon a pedestal. Above all this stands the testimonial, the door facing the west. Two dogs are resting upon a pedestal at the entrance; both are portraits of one dog, who saved the lives of [p. 255] eight men who fell into the Thames. He was elected a member of the Humane Society of London, and now wears a gold collar. Next the door stand two warriors, one a Roman, the other a British officer, representing the two religions.
Peeping over the wall is the head of a gray horse, and around the tower are various statues; the first is Fidelity, represented by a female with a dog looking up to her face; Faith, with a cross; Hope, with an anchor; Charity, with a child in her arms; and Plenty, with a bunch of wheat in her hand.
The tower is circular, though all in one massive pillar, yet it has the appearance of two, one smaller and taller, with the union jack waving from the top. There are two apartments in this tower, the window cases and frames are of fluted oak, surmounted by carved heads, stucco-work is over these, and continued along the ceiling. Inclosed in a glass shade, on a rosewood pedestal, is a model bust of the apostle Mathew, and over this, one of the Right Rev. Dr. Murphy, Bishop of the Catholic church. A massive chimney-piece has upon it a basso-relievo figure of Father Mathew, holding in one hand Britannia, in the other Erin, the emblems of both countries surrounding them. A large chandelier is suspended from the ceiling, and the upper portions of the windows are of stained glass. This circular room is sixteen feet in diameter.
This description is minutely given because there are pleasant and painful reminiscences of my visit to that spot. Theobald Mathew was there, he is now in the [p. 256] land of my fathers; friends were there that will meet me no more; and the generous heart was there who fitted this enchanting elysium for the man he so much honored, and for the happy resort of friends who might honor him too. The cottage, the garden, and testimonial are there. The hyacinth, the rose, the holly, and fir, are still blooming in fragrance and verdure; but, alas! the heart that designed and the hand that completed them are cold in the dust. That relentless scourge the cholera, which has spared neither age nor station, has laid him low; and who will trim afresh that hill-side, and brighten the neat cottage and pretty summer-house, for the happy eye and sweet resting spot of the visitor and stranger? Who will keep open the welcome gate that introduces to shrubbery walks of arbutus and flower-beds; and to the chaste testimonial, which has been and must be the admiration of every eye that has rested upon it? Will it fall into hands that will add fresh garlands to honor the memory of him who erected it? Who will still say to every lover of temperance and beauty, “Come in freely and banquet on these delights of nature and of art?” Or will contracted minds and penurious hearts close its gates to all but aristocratic passports and shilling fees? Let sacred respect for the honor of the generous departed forbid it; and let love for the benevolent apostle to whom it was dedicated, forbid it.
While penning these pages, intelligence of the death of O’Connor was forwarded me by the pen of one who first introduced me to that spot, and this circumstance [p. 257] prompts to the insertion of the following documents, as a tribute of respect due to the deceased, and which to me are doubly valued, because this tribute did not wait till he to whom it was owing should be no more. What a comment on good sense and justice, what a mockery of the dead, to write eulogiums and build costly monuments to him who, while living, was carelessly neglected, or willfully despised! O’Connor’s history, as was related by a friend, was simply this: He was the son of a poor widow, belonging to a rural district, and was early sent to Cork, where he acquired the trade of a tailor, and by persevering industry, good conduct, and economy, he became first in the profession of a merchant tailor, and through his shears he amassed a handsome fortune, before reaching the meridian of life. With this fortune, let the Mathew Testimonial tell part of the honorable use he made of his money. He had no family, but his attachment to friends was deeply manifest in the love he bore toward the sister, who lived with him in the cottage on Mount Patrick. He left it when she was buried, and said he could never tarry in it another night, and observed that it was purely out of respect to strangers that he ever visited it.
The origin of the letters which follow was simply this: When going over these grounds, through the cottage, and through the tower, but one item seemed to be wanting to make the whole complete, that was, a few choice literary books to grace the center-table of that otherwise well-fitted drawing-room. It was proposed [p. 258] to a few friends, and was done without any intention of display, or wish to have it thus memorialized. A letter was sent me the following day, and an answer returned the next. They both unexpectedly appeared in print, in the Cork Examiner, a few days after, where they doubtless would have slept forever, had not the death of O’Connor revived so painfully the visit to that beautiful spot.
If ever vanity, ambition, or pride, have stimulated me to seek notice or applause from men, these propensities have been so subdued, that when contempt has been added to privation, I have felt an inward gratitude, that since in Ireland so few comparatively hindered my labors by false attentions and fulsome flatteries, which travelers too much seek in foreign lands; and never should any of the neglects or rudeness which have been received been recorded; were it not that the character of the people was the object to find out and show, rather than to draw pity or favor to myself: —
THE MATHEW TOWER — MRS. NICHOLSON.
Last week, Mrs. Nicholson, now well known by her tour on foot through Ireland, and the very interesting book which she has written descriptive of her wanderings, paid a visit to Mount Patrick. She was accompanied by some friends. She was met by the Very Rev. Mr. Mathew, Mr. O’Connor, the hospitable proprietor, and some other gentlemen. After visiting the Tower, which is now superbly finished, and promises to [p. 259] stand in firmness and durability, for the next five hundred years, and perambulating the grounds which are laid out in a highly ornamental style, the parties partook of lunch, which consisted principally of fruits and coffee. Mrs. Nicholson, and the friend who accompanied her, are, besides being strict total abstainers, also vegetarians, disciples of a strict dietetic school, in which no animal food is permitted. The object of her visit was then announced; it was to present to Mr. O’Connor, a small but beautiful select library, in testimony of her ardent respect for the cause and the Apostle of Temperance, and in kindly appreciation of the services and worth of Mr. O’Connor, who not only built a testimonial unexampled in the history of such memorials erected by private individuals, but with a hospitality that cannot be over-estimated, throws open his grounds daily to the public. Mrs. Nicholson presented the following short address:—
“These volumes are presented by a few friends of temperance, in grateful acknowledgment of his generosity in throwing open his tasteful and beautiful place to the public, and for the purpose of affording a profitable recreation to its numerous visitors; with a desire that the lovely spot may be ever sacred to that glorious cause, to whose most successful and untiring advocate it has been dedicated, and to the advancement of universal philanthropy.
“Cork, August 28th, 1848.”
The reply was as follows: —
MADAM, — I receive the books with pride and pleasure. The subject of each volume, and the names of the authors remarkable in our literature for their genius or scientific knowledge, are the best tests of your own pure taste and judgment.
Ten years have elapsed since I found this spot a wilderness — four since a monument, I hope an enduring one, has been erected, to perpetuate, in a small degree, the true greatness and glory of the Christian benefactor of Ireland. As that monument belongs to him and the public and as those grounds, which you and others have been pleased to eulogize, are but the abiding place of the Tower of Temperance, so my gates have never been closed, and never shall be, against visitors, whether they be residents of our own favored but unfortunate land, or citizens of Europe, or of your own great country.
It is a singular spectacle to witness — a lady gently nurtured and brought up, giving up, for a time, home and country and kindred — visiting a land stricken with famine — traversing on foot that land from boundary to boundary — making her way over solitary mountains and treading through remote glens, where scarcely the steps of civilization have reached, sharing the scanty potato of the poor but hospitable people, and lying down after a day of toil, in the miserable but secure cabin of a Kerry or Connaught peasant. All this is unusual. But above it shines, with a steady light, your sympathy, your benevolence, your gentleness of [p. 261] heart, and your warm appreciation of the virtues, rude but sincere, of a people whose condition it is necessary to improve, in order to make them contented and happy.
The first step to raise them socially, to create in them self-respect, and elevate their shrewdness into the wisdom of morality, has been taken by the MAN whom you revered so much, and to whom and not to me, you have this day paid a grateful and graceful tribute. May he live forever in the memories of his country!
You are about to depart for your own great country, because you could not witness again the desolation of another famine. But you will carry back from Ireland the heartfelt sense of her people for past kindness, to your Christian countrymen. To them, to the generous people of England, and to the Society of Friends in England, Ireland and America, we are indebted, but utterly unable to discharge the debt.
Again, Madam, expressing my deep sense of your kindness and personal worth, and wishing you many happy years in your beloved America,
Your grateful servant,
Mount Patrick, August 31st, 1848.
TO WILLIAM O’CONNOR.
SIR, — The unmerited compliment you publicly bestowed on a stranger, in the last week’s Examiner, deserves [p. 262] a public acknowledgment, and the more cheerfully given, because it affords an opportunity of saying, that not to me alone is the honor due of the small bestowment of books upon your table. It says, “there are hearts in Cork that do appreciate the Mathew Testimonial, as well as the noble generosity of the man who designed it, and though small the offering, it may be the prelude to more liberal demonstrations of a people’s gratitude.”
These few volumes, it is hoped, are but the alphabet to a well chosen library that shall one day grace a room in the Tower, affording the citizen and the stranger a profitable, as well as a pleasant recreation.
And now, sir, allow me to say, that in a four years’ tour through this beautiful isle, from the Donegal sea to Cape Clear — from the mountains of Wicklow to the Killery Peaks, I have never seen from the top of mansion or castle a flag so gracefully waving — a flag on which is inscribed so much love of country — so much just appreciation of worth — and so much that deserves the appellation of “Well done,” as that which is flying in the breeze from the tower of Mount Patrick, and should my eyes ever again look out upon the proud mountains and waters of my own native land, when memory shall revert to the summer of 1848, the brightest and happiest associations will be — the hours passed in the cottage and tower, the garden and walks dedicated to the man who lives for humanity. And though I return to my people with a sorrowing heart, that the tear is still on the long wasted cheek of Erin, yet this [p. 263] shall be my joy, that there live among her country-loving sons, hearts that can feel and hands that can act, when worth and virtue make the demand, and to the proud monument of Mount Patrick will I point as a witness, to all who may sail up the green banks of the sweet-flowing Lee.
When the hand of Theobald Mathew shall cease to rest on the head of the pledge-taking postulant, and when he shall have been gathered to the dust of his fathers — when the generous heart that devised the lasting memorial shall have stopped its pulsation forever — on every health-blowing breeze that fans the flag of Mount Patrick, shall be whispered — “Peace to the Apostle of Temperance, who said to the wine-maddened brain of the maniac, Peace be still, who wiped the tear from the face of heart-stricken woman, and who ‘lifted up him that was ready to fall.’”
And when from heaven’s high battlement his gentle spirit shall look down on this Tower, future generations shall rise in succession and call him “blessed.”
And let their long-sounding echo reverberate over mountain and glen, “honor and gratitude to WILLIAM O’CONNOR.”
Ireland “I love thee still.”
September 4th, 1848.
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