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.
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