Category Archives: Life and Places

Daniel O’Connell and the Cow

Taken from Folktales of the Irish Countryside
By Kevin Danaher

Stories from Dick Denihan


It was always said that there was no fear of you in the court of law if you could get Daniel O’Connell to defend you. There was a story about a man that was brought up for stealing a cow, and at that time you could be hanged for stealing, or if you weren’t hanged you’d be transport ed for the rest of your natural life. And the man that was bringing the case against the poor man was Counsellor Goold, the same man who was the landlord of this parish And he was good friends with Daniel O’Connell, but they were always trying to get the better of each other in the court.

Well, the case came up, and Goold led off, accusing the poor man of the theft of the cow. ‘What age was the cow?’ says O’Connell. ‘It was a three year old,’ says Goold. ‘How would you know the like of that?’ says O’Connell. ‘Aren’t you just after buying a big estate of land of the Earl of Devon, and isn’t it land so bad that if you put a three year old beast on it, the poor creature would come out of it after a year only the size of a yearling, but with horns on her like a deer from the hills of Kerry! ‘Tis all nonsense, my lord,’ says he to the judge. ‘My friend, Mr Goold is a good and honest man, but he knows nothing about cattle. The case should be dismissed!’ And Goold got so flustered with all the fun and laughing in the court that he got all mixed up, and the judge dismissed the case.

They were going out of the court, and the poor man came up to O’Connell. And Goold was there, too, talking to O’Connell. And the poor man was full of thanks and praise for the man that saved him, and all excuses that he was so poor that he had nothing to offer O’Connell for getting him off free. ‘Of course you are innocent, you haven’t even the cow?’ says O’ConnelL He swore by this and by that that he hadn’t the cow and that he didn’t know anything about it. ‘Well,’ says O’Connell, ‘I’ll forgive you the costs of the case this time, for I can well understand how poor and how honest you are. But tell me this, now, especially when my good friend Mr Goold here knows so little about cattle. Suppose that myself or my friend Mr Goold wanted to steal a good cow, and we saw a big herd of them in a field on a winter’s night like last night. How would we know the best one?’ ‘Easy enough, sir,’ says the man, ‘all you have to do is to pick out the one that is the farthest out in the field from the hedge. Because that is the one that is the fattest and with the best condition. There’s no bother to it at all, then, only to drive her away, but of course you’ll have to have the arrangements made to sell her to a butcher before the daylight,’ says he. He was so delighted at the Counsellors talking to him that he gave himself away completely. But O’Connell and Goold only laughed. ‘There now, Thomas, my friend,’ says O’Connell, ‘is a man that could teach us both about cattle.’ ‘Every man to his trade,’ s

Matchmaking in Ireland

This article was written about West Cork, but, we can take it that ‘Matchmaking’ was similar the country over.


The tradition of matchmaking reaches back a long way into the history of West Cork and its people. At a time when love matches were not the fashion and compulsory marriages – locally referred to with a fine turn of accuracy as ‘must marriages’ – unknown, the made match was generally in vogue. It was the belief of the people that matches were made in heaven even if some of them later produced a semblance of hell on earth.

There was in every locality a professional matchmaker or go-between who brought news of a match from a farmer’s daughter, marriageable by the standards Of the generation, half on the shelf by the standards of today. The news was brought with great tact and secrecy to some farmer’s son, who, usually at forty or more, was looking for.a wife. It made no difference that the two ‘young’ people might never have seen each other in their lives, and it made even less difference whether they liked or disliked each other when they eventually met.

What mattered was that the parents of both should agree about those weighty things on which the match must be based, the fortune to be paid to the prospective bride and the number of cows which the prospective bridegroom’s farm could feed. Negotiations were set afoot, and the matchmaking wrangle was normally carried out in a special room in one of the pubs in town with only the go-between in attendance to put forward split-the-difference suggestions at the right times and in the correct places.

Full agreement was never reached in the first session, but if, between generous applications of whiskey, some progress was made, then the next step was to fix a day ‘to walk the land’. That is, of course, that certain male relatives of the lady in question should visit the gentleman’s farm, taking stock of everything it contained, sometimes of things it did not contain, for it was not unknown that an obliging neighbour might lend a cow or two, even a field or two, for the occasion, to add an air of extra well-being to the place.

The farm duly walked, further negotiations began, and if the fortune was finally fixed and the transfer of the place from the father to the son, agreed, then the match was made. Many a match was not made, however, because twenty pounds, sometimes less than that, was between the bargainers and neither side would give way in an era when matchmaking differed only in species from a purchase or sale at the local fair. Both were based on bargaining and both depended on whether or not the bargain -makers reached a final agreement.

The match made and duly wet in the local pub, a date was set for the wedding, which by tradition took place in the bride’s local parish church and was carried out by her parish priest. The marriage ceremony was, in the eyes of the neighbours, the least important part of the occasion. Of much greater importance was the night that was to follow in the bridegroom’s home, an all-night affair at which nua gacha bidh abounded and seana gacha dighe overflowed. If everything was lavish it was a dacent wedding. If anything was less than lavish, it was a mane wedding, and a couple whose wedding was mane took years to live down the disgrace of it, as the couple at the Wedding Feast at Cana would have done if they lived in West Cork in our fathers’ time and their wine ran short.

A honeymoon-was unknown in the country at that time. The wedding night was spent at home, and so, late in the night when ‘joy was unconfined’ and good-will became uproarious, what wonder if the newly-weds stole quietly away, but not unobserved, in pursuit of their lawful occasions.

Gone is the matchmaking, gone the matchmaker. Gone, too,is the country wedding as we used to know it. Whatever reservations one might have about the matchmaking only fond memories can remain of the country wedding. With its full and plenty, its dancing and songs and general merriment, a dacent country wedding was an event to remember for the rest of your life. Perhaps it was not refined by more modern standards of refinement. Perhaps it was a little vulgar in its excess of eating and drinking; Perhaps it was rough and noisy and boisterous, frequently crude when men, and women, too, were ‘well·drunk’ as the Bible puts it. But it was’ always a happy occasion for people whose ideas of happiness did not exclude elements of over-eating or over-drinking, noise and a little touch of horse-playing now and then. Such people had few opportunities in their drab lives to eat, drink and make merry. When an opportunity like a dacent wedding presented itself, at least they were able to avail of it to the full, part of their enjoyment being that they could talk about it for months to come.

Weddings brought out in men and women a side that was normally hidden deeply away. Inarticulate by nature, that day, they became great conversationalists. Shy to sing, to recite or to dance, at the wedding each man sang or recited his party piece, and every man took the floor with more vigour, perhaps, than rhythm. At a wedding it in made no difference, for everybody was a singer, a reciter, a dancer on that great occasion.

Extracted from “In West Cork long ago” written by Flor Crowley, reprinted 1980.

ISBN 0 85342 600 7

Irish Folk Medicine: Introduction

Published in Teathbha, The Journal of the Longford Historical Society.
Vol II. No. 1. July 1980



In the summer of 1939, I came home, radiating the glory of a newly acquired M.B. One Sunday afternoon, I was alone, a man called to see my mother. He was looking for a burn plaster, which she made, and clearly was not interested in my skill or lack of it. The plaster consisted of four parts by weight of mutton suet, and one part of bees wax. The fat was melted in a double saucepan and all the fibrous tissue removed. The bees’ wax was then added and blended smoothly with the fat. Strong linen bandages were then soaked in the liquid mixture, removed and allowed to harden. When required, one, two, or three thicknesses of the bandage are used to cover the bUrn, bandaged in position and must not be removed for the usual nine days. This is an excellent method of treating a burn. It provides a closed dressing and the high melting point of the mutton fat will ensure that the dressing will not be messy.

During the same summer, I heard of a young man who was suffering from sciatica.
He had consulted a lady who lived near where counties Louth, Meath, and Monaghan meet – some of her power was due to the place she lived – and was advised that the best treatment was bleeding. I was ignorant and proud and refused to bleed the lad, and I never got another chance. Later I learned that bleeding was advised as a treatment for sciatica in a famous medieval text book the Rosa Anglim, which was written by John of Gaddesden in the fourteenth century, and was very popular in mediaeval Irelande. (Rosa Anglica: Irish version Ed. W. Wulf. I.T.S.)

But my most enlightened case was that of a stout lady about 65 years old, a close friend of my family who complained of a severe pain in her right arm radiating down from her shoulder. I made the correct diagnosis – the pain was caused by pressure on the nerve roots as they came out of the spinal canal – and prescribed an analgesic. Unfortunately for the patient, and for me, the pain was not relieved, so her husband consulted a lady who made the cure. She applied a poultice, made of the leaves of Ranuculus Falamula. which had been macerated to the painful area. This is a powerful counter irritant and gave the patient considerable relief. Great blisters formed on the skin, and this was seen as removing water from the arm: the water was believed to be the cause of the pain. When the blisters began to dry up, the raw surface was treated with a preparation of “the healing ‘erb”. I was able to identify it as the slán lus, probable ribwort, and it soothed the tender surface of the arm. I must add that the lady’s husband was a gentleman, he gave me a Wedgwood vase and never again mentioned the case.

These few experiences taught me that Folk Medicine was a suitable subject for investigation, and I have been collecting and studying it ever since.

Folk medicine is a strange mixture. It can only be collected piecemeal, and in any collection cures will be found which are thousands of years old and others which are of the twentieth century. I propose to duscuss some of my own collection and show you some forms of treatment which are thousands of years old and go back to the Indo-European origin of the race. These practices include such things as transferring the disease, to the earth, to water, to a lower animal, or to another person. Some forms of treatment are recently derived from official medicine. Examples of these are the use of Carbon-tetra-chloride to treat liver fluke in sheep and the use of mercury ointment to treat some skin diseases.

Let me begin with a pilgrimage which I have made to a holy well in my native parish. The well is dedicated to St. Brigid, and the most popular day was of course the first of February, but it could be made on other days and was believed to cure toothache, headache, or sore eyes. Also the pilgrimage might be made on behalf of someone else. As one approached an old graveyard the rosary was said. The pilgrim then walked righthand three times around three ancient trees, saying some prayers. He then knelt before what was believed to be the face
of St. Brigid carved on a stone, where he prayed, and might leave some money or a few eggs.
When the stone was cleaned some years ago, it was found to be a corbel and the face had a beard.
It was, presumably from the medieval church. The pilgrim then walked along a lane, and across
three fields, to St. Brigid’s well where he again prayed, walked around the well three times,
righthand and drank some of the water.

These practices of walking righthand, around trees and wells, as well as the offering of eggs – the first fruits of the year – are all derived from the pre-christian religion of the Irish. I understand that similar practices around trees and wells can be seen in many parts of India as well as in some European countries. This is not to condemn such practices, which I would not presume to do, but to point out their origin.

Another very ancient practice is the use of clay to treat diseases. The earth was thought to be the great healer and the great source of life. In Connemara there is a striking cure for a disease called fiolun. Fiolun in the annals probably means the enlarged suppurating glands seen in bubonic plague and at present means any chronic ulcer. A synonym given for fiolun was lot. The sufferer was put into a hole and covered completely with clay – this was stressed.

More usually the clay was collected from special places and used as treatment. In the Parish of Templeport, in Co. Cavan, pilgrims visit St. Mogue’s Island and bring back some of the Saint’s clay. The clay has wonderful powers – it protects against fire and wind, and also cures sore eyes.

In the parish of Kilronan, pilgrims visit the well dedicated to St. Lassair. They drink the water from the well and some prayers are said. The clay is collected and taken home to be used to heal all sorts of diseases. Some pilgrims may crawl under the Saint’s flagstone, in order to be cured of back ache. A late life (or a late copy- of St. Lassair, written by an O’Duignan, a local scribe, describes the healing miracles of the Saint and the wonderful powers of the water of her well.(Eriu Volume V., p.73 et ff).

Two other more modern versions of the power of clay, may be given, also from the diocese of Ardagh. In the ruins of the Friary at Drumahaire, the grave of a Father Peter MacGovern is visited, and clay from his grave is used to heal diseases. Similarly the grave of Fr. John MacKeon, in the old graveyard at Kiltoghert, is visited and clay is taken to cure diseases. Cures similar to these, burying, passing under, or through holes in stones, and the use of clay, are found in the folk medicine of all the countries of western Europe.

Part II: Irish Folk Medicine: Transference Cures

An Rí (The King): Example of Traditional Social Organisation

Written by Caoimhín Ó Danachair.

In the 18th and 19th centuries in Ireland, local leaders were selected and given definite powers and functions by their communities. The leader was usually known as An Rí.

Among the deprivations caused by the English conquest, occupation and spoliation of Ireland, one which has attracted small attention but has had great consequences was the destruction of nearly all forms of indigenous social organisation. The more vigorous and warlike gentry were driven into exile by the wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, while the subsequent seizure of their lands robbed most of those who remained of the power and possessions which had given them command. Thus the people at large were deprived of their natural hereditary leaders and of the structure of society which had produced them.

The expropriators, whether Cromwellian or Williamite, as well as being alien in language and in religion were also generally recognised by the people as persons without lineage or culture, and their exactions were all the more resented when the hatred with which they were regarded was tinged with contempt. On the other hand the few survivors of the “old gentry” whether “old Irish” or “old English” still commanded some respect and loyalty. Of O’Connor of Clonalis, direct descendant of the last High King, Arthur Young says, ‘The common people pay him the greatest respect, and send him presents of cattle, etc. upon various occasions. They consider him as the Prince of a people involved in one common ruin’. (Hutton 1892, I,219). On the same page Young refers to Mac Dermot, Prince of Coolavin, who, although his line was reduced almost to poverty ,was still so haughty that his children dared not sit down in his presence.

O’Connell of Derrynane could ensure the safe passage even of an exciseman through his territory by the “crooked knife”, an old pruning hook which was known as the sign of his authority, (O’Connell 1892, I, 304-505):’A tenant would walk out and give up his holding at the bidding of the bearer of the crooked knife’.
O’Donoghue of Glenflesk boasted that he could call up five hundred men, and threatened to “pull out the throat” of a magistrate who crossed him (Dineen and O’Donoghue 1909, xxv). Robert Martin of Ballinahinch could ‘bring to the town of Galway in twenty-four hours, eight hundred villains as desperate and as absolutely at his devotion as Cameron of Lochiel’. (Froude 1872, I, 598). This Robert’s son, Richard Martin, M.P. (“Humanity Dick”), when asked if the King’s writ ran in Connemara could answer: ‘Egad it does! As fast as any greyhound when any of my good fellows are after it!’ (Callwell, 1912, 211). Richard Lovell Edgeworth found him ‘. ..ruling over his people with almost absolute power, with laws of his own, and setting all other laws at defiance’. (Edgeworth 1950, 3-4). Any of his tenants found ill-treating an animal was imprisoned, on Humanity Dick’s command, in an old ruined tower in an island in Ballinahinch Lake. Even after the collapse of the family fortunes Dick’s grand-daughter Mary, child of his son and heir Thomas, was still affectionately known to the people as “the Princess of Connemara “, while her father Thomas, who died of fever after visiting some of his tenants struck down by the Great Famine, spoke as his last dying words, ‘My God! What will become of my people?’ (Lynam 1975, 279,282). It is no wonder that the ordinary people turned to such men and women for protection, advice and leadership, well into the nineteenth century, indeed until the curtailment of the landed gentry’s possessions and power and the extension of franchise and representation to the common people entirely changed the pattern of local social organisation.

There seem, however, to have been some smaller units of society, such as village or townland, which chose from among their own number a leader to guide and represent them. Such a chosen leader appears, generally, to have been known as An Ri, the King. Lewis, in his Topographical Dictionary, thus describes the head man of the Claddagh, the large fishing village outside the walls of Galway:

“The fishermen elect from among themselves, annually on St. John’s day, officers whom they call a mayor and sheriffs, when they march in procession through the town of Galway, preceded by men carrying bundles of reeds fastened to the ends of poles, to which at night they set fire from numerous bonfires kindled in various parts of the town. To these officers they pay implicit obedience, and in all things submit to their authority; the only official distinction used by the mayor is the white sail of his boat and a flag at the mast head. The time of fishing is indicated by the approach of sea fowl and other unfailing signs; the fleet then assemble and stand out to sea by signal from the mayor, who also regulates the time for setting the nets, which at first is done simultaneously, after which each boat is allowed to fish at pleasure. The fishermen claim and exercise an exclusive right to fish in the bay, according to their own laws, any infringement of which is punished by the destruction of the nets, or even the boats, of the offending party. (Lewis 1836, I, 327, apparently derived from Hardiman)

Hardiman reports:
A number of gentlemen, convinced of the great advantages to be derived from cultivating this valuable fishery, lately formed themselves into a company; and, having at considerable expense fitted out several boats, provided with legal nets and other necessary materials, their exertions were crowned with success. The undertaking while it continued proved highly beneficial to the proprietors, and promised to be much more so; but the Claddagh fishermen, jealous of an infringement on what they called their rights, resolved to suppress this spirit of enterprise by violent means. They accordingly attacked the company’s boats, destroyed their nets, cut their sails and cables, threw their anchors overboard, and ill-treated the crews. The gentlemen, however, with whom the undertaking had principally originated, and whose property to a considerable amount had been thus wantonly destroyed, represented these daring outrages to Government, who gave every possible and prompt assistance on the occasion. The commissioners of customs at the same time directed that the measurement of the meshes of drag or other sea-nets should be three and a half inches from knot to knot, to be taken diagonally. It is therefore hoped that those disgraceful scenes, the effects of which have been so injurious to the entire community (but to none, if properly considered, more than to the infatuated perpetrators themselves) will never again be repeated. (Hardiman 1820, 302-06)

However according to Lewis, the Claddagh regained control of the fishing:

“For the protection of those who attempted to fish against the regulations of the Claddagh fishermen, a gun-brig was stationed in the bay some few years since, during which time the object was obtained; but on its removal, the fishermen again enforced their authority, and now exercise an uncontrolled power of preventing others from fishing in the bay in opposition to their peculiar regulations.” (Lewis 1836, I, 327)

Fifty years later, all this is described in the past tense:
“The fishermen elected from amongst themselves on St. John’s Day officers whom they called a mayor and sheriffs, on which annual occasion they marched through the town of Galway, preceded by men carrying bundles of reeds fastened to the ends of poles, to which at night they set fire from numerous bonfires lit in various parts of the town. ……….Offences or disputes among the Claddagh folk were submitted to the decision of their own mayor or sheriffs, even in the present century, and it was a long time before they would submit to the control of any other jurisdiction. (Anon. 1883, 14)

This is confirmed by Jeremiah Curtin in a note made in 1887:
“After a few days (in Dublin) I went to Galway. The interesting part of the town for me was the Claddagh. Till recent times the Claddagh fishermen governed themselves. In the old times they had their own king. (Curtin 1943, xii)

Apparently, the last “King” was still alive in 1898:
Chuartaigheas an Cladach at fad agus na paisdí lem’ thaoibh no im’ dhiaidh.
“ca bhfuil an Rí?” arsa mise.
“I dteach na mbocht,” arsa duine aca.
“I dteach na mbocht! An mar sin bhíos sibh ag tabhairt onóra do’n righ?” arsa mise.
“Ni beadh,” adubhairt gearrchaile beag bhíodhgach “acht, ta go bhfuilimid ró-bhocht chum a chongbháil suas. Mar sin fhéin bimid ag déanamh ár ndífchill. Cuireadh mise chuige, an Domhnach seo ghabh tharainn le ceathramha puinnt tobac agus gráinnin tae, agus an Domhnach seo chugainn, cuirfear duine eile chuige le ruidín blasta éigin dá leithéid sin”. (Ni Fhearcheallaigh 1901, 652)

(I visited the Claddagh throughout, with the children beside or behind me. “Where is the King?” said I.
“In the poorhouse” said one of them.
“In the poorhouse! Is that how you honour the King?” said I.
“It is not, ” said a lively little girl, “but because we are too poor to support him. All the same, we do our best. I was sent to him on Sunday last with a quarter pound of tobacco and a little tea, and next Sunday somebody else will be sent to him with some little tasty thing like that”)

But forty years later, the King of Claddagh was a very vague memory: Bhíos thair ar an gCladach an la cheana agus casadh Marcus Ó Curaidhin dhom, sean-fhear as an mbaile sin. Iasgaire ab eadh Marcus, ach tá sé ro-shean anois agus níl tada le deanadh aige ach suidhe ar an gceibh agus breathnú amach ar na cúpla báid atá sa gCladach a’ teacht isteach is amach. Thosuigh muid a’ cainnt le n-a chéile agus bhí Marcus ag innseacht dom faoi an Rí ar an gCladach fadó. “Ni fhaca mise aon Rí ann,” adeir sé. “Ach,” adeir se, “chonnaic m’athair e. Bhí lá amhain sa mbliadhain a dtugadh muinntear an Chladaigh lá Croidhe Dílis air, ‘sé sin Luan Cásga. Ar an lá sin shuidheadh an Rí taobh amuigh da dhoras fhéin agus shiubhaladh muinntear an bhaile agus a gclann thairis, agus dá mbeadh difridheacht ar bith le socrú acab, ‘sé an Rí a dheanadh é. Bhí na daoine an-dílis dhon Rí, agus badh é a chomhairle seisean a thóigidís ar fad. ” “Céarbh é an Rí deireannach a bhi sa gCladach?” adeirim sé. “Bhoil,” adeir se, “nil mé cinnte, ach tá mé a’ ceapadh gur Con Ríogh a bhi air.” (“Taisgeoir” 1939, 1 )

(I was west in the Claddagh one day recently and met Marcus Ó Curaidhin, an old man of that place. Marcus was a fisherman, but is now too old and has nothing to do but sit on the quay and observe the few boats in the Claddagh coming and going. We began to talk, and Marcus told me of the King who was in the Claddagh long ago. “I never saw a King there, ..he said, “but my father saw him. There was one day of the year called Loyal Heart Day by the Claddagh people, that is Easter Monday. On that day the King sat outside his own door, and the people of the place and their children walked past him, and if there was any difference to settle, it was the King who did it.

The people were very loyal to the King and entirely took his counsel. ,. “Who was the last King who was on the Claddagh?” said I. “Well,” he said, “I am not sure but I think he was a Conroy”)

An engineer, prospecting for possible railway routes to an Atlantic port, describes the village “Kings” of North-west county Mayo in the 1830s:
There was a headman, or king, appointed in each village, who is deputed to cast lots every third year, and to arrange with the community what work is to be done during the year in fencing, or probably reclaiming a new piece, (though, for obvious reasons, this is rare,) or for setting the “bin”, as it is called; that is, the number of heads of cattle of each kind, and for each man, that is to put on the farm for the ensuing year, according to its stock of grass or pasture; -the appointment of a herdsman also for the whole village cattle, if each person does not take the office on himself by rotation, -a thing not unfrequent. The king takes care generally to have the rent collected, applots the proportion of taxes with the other elders of the village; for all is done in a patriarchal way, coram populo. He is generally the adviser of consulter of the villagers, their spokesman on any matters connected with the village. He finds his way to the “kingly station” by imperceptible degrees, and by increasing mutual assent, as the old king dies off. (Knight 1836, 47-48) and adds a pedantic footnote which indicates that the title An Rí­ was usual both here and in the Claddagh, and that “mayor” in the latter case is Hardiman’s term:
“Raigh, I had understood to be “king” until Mr Hardiman, the celebrated antiquarian and author of the History of Galway, told me that it meant Kanfinne, or “Head of the local tribe,” according to the Brehon administration. I am happy to have it corrected under such authority.

Knight’s information is so precisely repeated, point for point, in the Ordnance Survey Letters, TS pp 201-202, that one of them must be derived from the other or both from a common source.

A tradition recorded in 1940 tells of a King in Port Urlainn:
Ní fhios amsa anois ar bhé a athair mór héin na a athair sin andearnadh Rí ar Port Urlainn de. Ach cé bi fear acu rinneadh Rí dé. Sé chaoi ar cruinnigh muinntir a bhaile uilig agus rinne Rí dé. Annsin bhí chuile chumacht aige. Ní raibh aon ordú dá n-ordaigh sé nach gcaithidh a dheanamh. Thuig a chuile duine acu bronntanais dó an lá a ndéanadh Rí dé, cuid acu a thug ba dó agus cuid a thug caoirigh dó agus tuilleadh a thug cearca agus rud don tseort sin dó. Ach baidh é cic a sgéil é go mbuidh é an fear ba shaibhre ins an áit é ní shé
‘mháin ar a mbaile. B ‘ait an rud duine bhe na rí tá fhios agat. Bhí triúr mac ag a rí agus iad múinte togidh mar bheith do chlann Rí ar bith. Séard a bhí anntu prionnsa agus bhí onóir agus onóir dófa. Bhí go maith agus ní raibh go dona, bhí chuile sheort ag ‘a rí annsin ach fios. Ní raibh fios aige, níor tháinig leis uamann céard a bhí len eirigh agus ba mhór an drawback air. Nar bhréagh an rud da mbe’is aige céard abhí agoil ag eirigh! (Archive, unpublished, p. 211)

(I do not know whether it was this man’s grandfather or his father who was made King of Port Urlainn,(there is a Porturlan in Cavan and one in Mayo)but one of them was made King. All the people of the town land gathered together and made him King. Then he had every power; everything he ordered had to be done. Everyone of them gave him a present on the day he was made King; some gave him cows, others sheep, others fowl and things of that kind. The result was that he was the richest man in the place, and not only in the townland. It is nice to be a King, you know. He had three sons, as well reared and taught as any King’s children. They were princes and were honoured. This was good, not bad – the King had everything except prophecy. He did not know what was about to happen, and this was a great drawback. How fine it would be to foretell the future!)

From Gweedore (Donegal) we hear of a less popular method of selecting a ruler:
Tribal wars were waged between the tenants of neighbouring estates, whose cattle mutually trespassed upon their extensive unfenced tracts of mountain pasture. Civil discord never ceased among the joint occupiers in rundale, whose various skibberlins of tillage land it was physically impossible to preserve distinct and intact. Lawful authority was not at hand to compose these broils. Resident magistrate or gentlemen there was none; and so, as the Anglo-Saxon tendency to self-government did not exist, to suggest the expedient of a vigilance committee, the Celts of the parish of West Tulloghbegley even followed out their instinct, and, like their kindred of la Grande Nation, when under a similar emergency, they succumbed to a strong-handed president, and the law of the bludgeon. “The country was ruled by a few bullies, lawless distillers, who acknowledged neither landlord nor agent;” and Mickey More, a giant of the lineage of Gallagher, still survives to awaken recollections of the time when he maintained an absolute sovereignty over the entire district, when all disputes on field or mountain, all quarrels at his autocratic judgement, and the decisions of his will, now said to have been generally just, were promptly executed by his own powerful hand. Mickey More has long since surrendered his sceptre into the hands of Lord George Hill. (Anon. 1853a, 12-13)

Otway mentions a Queen in Erris, but whether in mockery or not is hard to say: One or two dwellings were of a better sort, and one was shown as the habitation of the Queen of Erris; or, in other words, a Miss M’Donnell, who, having some education, some property, and much good sense, has been dubbed by Priest Lyons (as a Hildebrand crowned an emperor), her Majesty of Mullet. I certainly had a desire to enter into the presence of this western Victoria -but the honour was denied me, inasmuch as she was making a royal progress amongst her lieges in the mountains. (Otway 1841,57)
The custom of having a King seems to have been fairly general in the islands of the west coast, possibly because of their isolation. About Cape Clear Island, Lewis wrote (1836):
Till about the year 1710, the islanders had a resident king chosen by and from among themselves, and an ancient code of laws handed down by tradition, which it was his duty to administer; and though the king had neither funds for the maintenance of his dignity, nor officers to enforce his authority, the people generally submitted voluntarily to these laws, and were always ready to carry his judgements into execution. The greater number of the laws are become obsolete, but some still remain and are enforced with rigour. The island was formerly remarkable for a race of men of extraordinary stature and strength, whose feats are the subject of many interesting narratives. The O’Driscolls, several of whom were kings of the island, were the most celebrated. (Lewis 1837, I, 250)

The custom seems to have continued long after 1710. In 1906 Peadar Ó hAnnrachcáin wrote in An Claidheamh Soluis:
Nuair do baineadh a gcomhacht de Mhuinntir Driscéoil sa tir amuigh do ceapadh amach rí ar an oileán so, agus do baisteadh Rí Cléire air. Fuair a mhac soin agus mac a mhic agus a mhac soin arís an tiodal agus an gradam agus an chomhacht a bhí ag an gcéad rígh …Seanchaidhe maith iseadh Rí Cléire atá indiu ann. Is géar-chúisighe é ‘na an Rí atá ar an Oileán Thair i gCiarraidhe, dar liom, ach níl sé ‘na fhear chomh trom leis, ámhthaigh. ‘Sé an tÁrd Bhreitheamh atá aca leis é agus ní raibh éinne riamh fós mí-shásta le n-a bhreitheamhnas. (Ó hAnnracháin 1906,4)

(When the O’Driscolls were deprived of their power on the mainland a King was appointed on this island and he was christened the King of Clear. His son and his son’s son and his son again got the title and the rank and the power which the first King had. ..The present King of Clear is a good traditional storyteller. He is, in my opinion, more astute than the King of the Blasket in Kerry , but is not, however, as heavy a man. He is also their chief judge, and nobody yet has been dissatisfied with his judgement. )

As regards the King of the Great Blasket:
Seo dhibh faisnéis ar fheabhas a phearsan agus a mhéin: Fear groidhe cumasach glan-bhearrtha is eadh é, idir a dhachad is caogad bliadhain d’aois. Ní dócha gur gábhadh a luadh annso gur’b é an fear is mó, is calma, agus is lugha smál ar an oileán é, toisg nach le dúthchas a ghabhann an choróin in n-ao’ chor, acht le togha a dhéanamh ar an té is tréine, is deaghchúmtha, is is fearr léigheann is inntleacht; agus fós is lugha masla is máchail. Tá sé os cionn sé troighthe ar aoirde agus coruidheacht is trí troighthe ‘dir a dhá shlinneán. Fear teann téagartha go maith is eadh é, acht mar sin féin tá se anamamhail seolta. (“DonnMacMilidh” 1908,7)

(Here is a report on the excellence of his person and his disposition. He is a stalwart, powerful, cleanshaven man, between forty and fifty years old. It does not seem necessary to state here that he is the greatest, bravest and most unblemished man on the island, for the crown does not go by heredity but by making choice of the strongest, most handsome and most intelligent and well-read person, and also of least blemish and reproach. He is over six feet tall and more than a yard wide across the shoulders. He is a firm strong man, but lively and trim. )

Tomás Ó Criomthain (Tomás Ó Crohan) frequently mentions the King, but gives little detail. Of their school days he writes:
B’in nua ag an Rí é; níor mhaith leis na radhairc thuathalacha shalacha a fheiscint ar scoil i dtúis a óige agus a laghad suime a chuireadh an chuid eile go léir iontu. Níorbh ionadh, mar sin, nuair a ghabh na húdair timpeall agus gur mhaith leo ainm an Rí a bheith sa Bhlascaed gur dheineadar amach an té a bhí ábalta chun an ainm sin a ghlacadh agus a iompar. (Ó Criomhthain 1973, 23)

(Thus it was with the King; he did not like to see rude dirty sights at school in his early childhood, however little the others cared about them. No wonder, then, when the authorities went about wishing to name a King in the Blasket, they found the one who was able to receive and to carry that name. )

There is only a hint of former Kings :
Le linn mise a bheith beag b’iad Pádraig Ó Gaoithín agus roimhe sin go maith Padraig Ó Gaoithín, an dá thaoiseach ba mhó a bhí san oileán. Pádraig Ó Catháin seo -athair críonna an rí ata anois againn -chonac féin a ceathair no a cúig de bha bainne aige sin. Ni fhaca-sa an fear eile, an Gaoithíneach; clann a chlainne a bhí le mo linnse ann. Is minic a chuala go raibh óna hocht go deich de bha bainne aige siúd, lair chapaill agus céachta adhmaid. (Ó Criomhthain 1973, 36)

(When I was small, the two greatest chiefs, in the Island where Pádraig Ó Cathain and, well before him, Pádraig Ó Gaoithín. This Pádraig Ó Cathain, grandfather of our present King, I saw himwith four or five milch cows. I did not seethe other Ó Gaoithín – his grandchildren were there in my time. I often heard that he had eight or ten milch cows, a mare and a wooden plough.)

As regards Aran, a letter of Philip Lyster, R.M. , dated 26th September 1886 reads, in part:
In the last century justice used to be administered by one of the O’F1aherty family, the father of the late James O ‘F1aherty , of Kilmurvy House, Esq. , J .P . He was the only magistrate in the islands, but ruled as a king. He issued his summon for ‘the first fine day,’ and presided at a table in the open air. If any case deserved punishment, he would say to the defendant, speaking in Irish: “I must transport you to Galway jail for a month”. The defendant would beg hard not to be transported to Galway, promising good behaviour in future. If, however, his worship thought the case serious, he would draw his committal warrant, hand it to the defendant, who would, without the intervention of police or anyone else, take the warrant, travel at his own expense to Galway, and deliver himself up, warrant in hand, at the county jail. I am afraid things are very much changed since those days. (Burke 1887, 59-60)

And in 1938 Pat Mullen wrote, “My father, who called himself King of Aran because of his being the oldest man on the island. ..” (Mullen 1938,8)

The King of Inishark is mentioned in a description of sun-fish hunting:
The primitive method which he found in use on his visit to the islands he describes in full as it was explained by Michael Halloran, the ‘king’ of Inishshark, a veteran harpooner, who had just killed his nineteenth fish a few days before. (Browne 1894,2)

and a footnote is added:

In answer to an inquiry of mine, relative to the position of King, Mr Myles Joyce, National Teacher of Bofin, writes: “The title of king is not hereditary in the island. There is at present a man removed something beyond his neighbours in the way of education and position, who is par excellence, the king; and to whom all persons who want any information about the island or its history must apply”. (Browne 1894,2)

John O’Donovan remarks in the Ordnance Survey Letters: ‘One of the name of Ó Catháin is at present King of Iniskea’. (O.S. Letters 1838,380)

while a government official visiting the island in 1881 wrote:

The Iniskea Islands have a hereditary king, and he came on board to speak on behalf of his subjects. I see him now in my mind, a tall, rugged, dignified old man. He came down to the ward-room, and while he was sitting there with a glass of whisky before him I noticed that the ship’s doctor was looking very hard at him. Finally he told him that he had what looked like an incipient cancer on the lip, but that if he would allow a very trifling operation it could be completely extirpated in a quarter of an hour; it could be done in the surgery on board. The king set up a fearful outcry and would not hear of it. The cancer spread very rapidly, and when I next visited the island some months later he was beyond all hope. (Robinson 1924,131)

Off the Sligo coast Inishmurray had its King, as reported in 1885 :

Until very recently the government of the island might have been described as monarchical in character, one of the O’Heraghtys usually occupying the position of Righ. Upon the demise of the last chief of that dynasty his widow succeeded. This lady re-married, and dying, left two sons, one being an O’Heraghty, and the other (by the second husband) a Waters. Between these two worthy individuals remains a rivalry still unsettled, so that it might be said a kind of interregnum at present exists. Formerly persons who had compromised themselves by quarrelling unnecessarily with their neighbours, or by the commission of any act contrary to the unwritten law of the community, were, by command of the Righ, banished to Ireland for a period lengthy in proportion to the character of the charge made and proved against them. Such sentences, however, were very rare. (Wakeman 1886,179-180)

The following, published in 1908, seems to show that Mr Waters succeeded (noting that O Muirisg is a local form of Waters):
Go dtí le cúpla lá ó shoin bhi rí annsin. Rí ag a raibh dalladh Gaedhilge freisin agus fear a raibh .tuisgint agus stuaim cinn ann. Acht an duine bocht tháinic Fear na Coise Caoile .i. an bás ar cuairt chuige agus chuir sé draoidheacht ar an rígh águs sguab sé leis é o’n oileán a raibh sé mar cheannaire agus comhairleóir le bliadhantaibh móra fada! Mícheál Ó Muirisg a b’ainm dó. 35 bliadhna ó shoin cailleadh a mháthair agus d’fhág sé aige-sean cúram a daoine. Is maith d’freastal sé an impidhe sin. Bhí sochraid mhór gheanamhail aige agus tasbánadh go raibh fíor-mheas agus gean air. Bhí sé breagh acfuinneach rith a shaoghail. Ní raibh easbadh bídh nó díghe air. Bhí sé go maith agus go carthannach ní hé amháin leis an treibh a bhí faoi, acht le gach
éan daoine ar buaileadh air; ba cuma cé’r b’as é. (Ó Domhnalláin 1908, 4)

(Up to a couple of days ago there was a king there. A king with dazzling Gaelic, a man of sense and mental ability. But the thin-legged man – Death – visited and cast his spell on the King and swept him away from the island in which he was leader and counsellor for long years. His name was Michael Ó Muirisg. Thirty five years ago his mother died and left the care of her people to him. Well he fulfilled that request. There was a large respectable funeral, showing that he was truly esteemed and loved. He was a man of means all his life, he never lacked food or drink. He was good and charitable, not only to those who were subject to him, but also to everyone whom he met, no matter whence they came. )

In a recent publication, Robin Fox sets out the position on Tory Island:
Under the old rundale system, the land was divided higgledy-piggledy into small lots, and everyone had bits and pieces here and there. In any case, it was periodically redistributed to ensure a fair allotment of the better land among the households. Clusters of households -containing persons related by blood -owned various portions of the fields around each town, and held them in common. But relationships and holdings got confused over the generations, and then an appeal would be made to the “king” (An Rí) to sort them out.

The king of Tory (Ri Thoraí) was probably a true descendant of the old Brehons -the lawgivers: those who knew the customary laws and usages particularly with reference to inheritance. Whether or not his position was hereditary or elective, no one remembers. In the old days, they say, he would have had to have been of a “royal” (Brehon) family, and been literate. The last king of Tory was Paddy Heggarty, a dwarf. Heggarty is not one of the old Tory names like, for example, Duggan. But perhaps the requirement that the king be literate meant that an outsider -one had married in -had to be appointed. The “eldest Duggan” was already the ritual leader of the island. He was in charge of the sacred clay from the Church of the Seven, and the pilgrimage sites. He recited the prayers on Sunday mornings in front of Saint John ‘s Altar, when there was no priest on the island. The king -as on other islands- was primarily an arbiter of land and shore disputes; the shore being as meticulously divided as the land itself, and like the land periodically redistributed: Common opinion has it that this was annual. It was understood that, for example, deposits of valuable driftwood landed at random as did other bits of wreckage -all usable. (The only iron on the island came from wreckage and was used for making plough blades). The king therefore divided up the shore in secret and then assigned an object -a rag, a bone, etc. – to each portion. To the assembled islanders he called out “who’s for the rag; who’s for the bone?” and the first to respond received the object, the portion of shore that went with it, and his chances with the flotsam and jetsam.
The succession is now in dispute. There is one pretender whose claim is his exceptional literacy in both languages. He does write many letters for the islanders, but because he has abused his literacy by using his pen for illegal purposes and has done a spell in prison, his claim is suspect. The services of a king in any case are not so much needed now, for no one bothers with the shore and the land is falling into disuse. (Fox 1978,16-17)

As regards the succession of Kingship on Tory, T.H. Mason says: “In former years they elected a King”. (1938,14)

Edward Mc Carron mentions a King of Inishtrahull, but only to say that he was “a most excitable and eccentric character when he got drink”. (McCarron 1981, 105)

It appears from the examples given above that the position of Rí was usually selective, that is to say the community chose an individual from among their own number. In the Claddagh “the fishermen elect from among themselves. ..a mayor”.

In Erris he becomes King “by increasing mutual consent”. In Port Urlainn “all the people of the townland gathered together and made him King”.

In Cape Clear Island “the islanders had a resident King chosen by and from among themselves” . In
Inishark “the title is not hereditary”.

In Tory “in the old days, they say, he would have been ‘appointed’ when necessary, but he would have to be of a ‘royal’ (Brehon) family”. Here we seem to have a type of qualified heredity similar to the selection of leaders according to ancient Irish law, where the ruler was elected or selected from among those who were eligible because of family connections. (MacNeill, 1920, passim). This selection from a certain family or certain families seems to have been the procedure in Inishmurray and Tory.

In Cape Clear Island we are told that son succeeded father, but we are not told if it was always the eldest or by selection from a number of sons; neither are we told for how long the father to son descent held, or if it ever varied. In Inishmurray there was rivalry between two step-brothers, and the man who did not have the family name of O’Heraghty became king. Indeed direct descent by primogeniture is nowhere to be found in the evidence.

The description from Gweedore indicates usurpation by force, but also hints that there was popular consent to the seizure of power .

As to the qualities desired in the King we are not left in doubt. Stature, strength, comeliness of person are mentioned, as are justice, wisdom and knowledge. Literary attainment is desirable; a good talker, a good storyteller, knowledge of two languages, the ability to read and write, all of these were laudable in the King. A degree of economic well-being or independence was also thought fitting. He had very positive and definite functions. The regulation, division and apportioning of fishing and shore rights and the allotment of tillage and pasture land was left to him, and in some cases he appointed subsidiary officers such as herdsmen.

He was expected to maintain traditional laws, to adjudicate in disputes and quarrels, to receive complaints and to advise in time of trouble, and it appears that there was willing submission to his decisions and rulings, while, in some instances, we are specifically told that he punished wrongdoers. He was expected to speak for his community in their relations with outside authority.

It is clear, then, that in the 18th and 19th centuries some small communities, entirely independently of the central government of the country, selected local leaders -usually known as An Rí who had very definite and very necessary powers and functions.

Whether this selection of local leaders is a survival of ancient custom or an expedient to fill the vacuum left by the exile of the old gentry is a matter of speculation. It is probable that remoteness of location was a factor in the emergence of the method of selection as well as of the functions of the leader, for it is evident that in most parts of Ireland local leadership was provided by the ruling gentry, the landowners, and, indeed, that where the old gentry were dispossessed, the incomers were expected to assume leadership, as Sir Henry Piers, writing of Westmeath in 1682, tells us with regard to disputes over the sharing of work on the common tillage land:

“But in case of disagreement, their customs hath provided for them, that with confidence thay may come before their landlord and demand from him their coar, or equal man, or helper to plough which they count the landlord bound to provide for them, and if he cannot, he is obliged to assist him himself. (Vallancey 1786, 118)

And again, with regard to turbary disputes:
In towns set to farmers, every house hath appropriated to itself a share or portion of the bog for turf cutting, by known measures and bounds, which whoever comes to that house is to enjoy so long as he lives in it, as well as the garden thereof. This must lie waste and untouched, until the owner be at leisure to cut his turf, nor may his neighbour, if more early at his work, lay one sod on his portion of the bog. If he does, immediately the complaint comes before the landlord, or his steward, who supplies his place in all these toils, who is holden to do right, by causing the turf thus injuriously laid on, to be thrown into the pit again. If the landlord refuses or delays his justice herein, most usually they will fall to loggerheads, and oftentimes they do so before the matter comes before the landlord, and then likely the strongest hand carries all. Hence they have a saying usual on these or the like occasions sounding much to this purpose; a town without a landlord and a bull is a town turned topsy turvey. (Vallancey 1786,119-120)

Indeed, dependence upon the landlord seems, in some places at least, to have been almost absolute. In Westmeath in 1682 we are told ‘So mean ( common) a matter it is with an Irishman to be protected by his landlord from the injuries of others, that it is a common saying in the mouths of most of them, What boots it me to have a landlord, if he defend me not, in just and unjust causes; and another saying they have as rife as this- Defend me and spend me, insomuch that it seems they give themselves up to their landlord’s pleasure, as to what he willeth for himself, in case he will suffer none else to do the like’. (Vallancey 1786,114)

It may be remarked here that, although the selection or election by the members of a community of the Ri from among their own number was in effect a primitive exercise in democracy, the community, having selected the leader, went no further than this in the process of self-government and accepted his word as their law. It is also true, however, that most modern societies are content to do the very same, to select leaders and take little or no further part in government. The extensive curtailment of local authority autonomy and responsibility in recent years might be regarded as another aspect of the same contest between localised and centralised rule and government.

The matter of traditional local community organisation and leadership calls for further investigation, and poses many questions -survival or invention of expediency? Where, and to what extent? What, if any, connection either positively or negatively with the emergence of local or sectional vigilante groups such as Whiteboys and Molly Maguires? And so on. There is, we may be sure, much further evidence to be found in printed sources and in the hidden riches of the archive of the Department of Irish Folklore, University College Dublin, now at last being gradually laid bare.


1853 Gweedore, Dublin University Magazine, 41(1853),pp.12-13.
1883 The Irish Builder, 1 Jan. 1883,14.
Department of Irish Folklore Archive, University College Dublin, MS 714.
Browne, C. R.
1894 The Ethnography of Inishbofin and Inishark, PRIA 3rd Ser., 2(1894).
Burke, A. J.
1887 The South Isles of Aran. London 1887.
Callwell, J. M.
1912 Old Irish Life. Edinburgh and London 1912.
Curtin, J .
1943 Irish Folk Tales. Dublin 1943.
Dinneen, P. S. and O’Donoghue, T.
1909 The Poems of Egan O’Rahilly. Irish Texts Society, London 1909.
“Donn Mac Milidh”
1908 An Claidheamh Soluis, 23 Nov. 1908,7.
Edgeworth, Maria .
1950 Tour in Connemara. London 1950.
1978 The Tory Islanders. Cambridge 1978.
Froude, J. A. .
1872 The English in Ireland in the Eighteenth Century. 3 vols. , London 1872.
Hardiman, J. A.
1820 History of Galway. Dublin 1820.
Hut ton, A. W.
1892 Young’s Tour in Ireland 1776-1779. 2 vols., London and New York 1892.
Knight, p .
1836 Erris in the “Irish Highlands” and the “Atlantic Railway”. Dublin 1836.
Lewis, S.
1836 A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland. 2 vols. , 1836.
Lynam, S.
1975 Humanity Dick. London 1975.
MacNeill, E.
1920 Phases of Irish History. Dublin 1920.
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1938 The Islands of Ireland. 2nd edition, London 1938.
McCarron, E.
1981 Life in Donegal. Dublin and Cork, 1981.
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1901 An Claidheamh Soluis, 21 Dec. 1901,652.
O’Connell, Mrs Morgan John
1892 The Last Colonel of the Irish Brigade. 2 vols. , London 1892.
O Criomhthain, T.
1973 An tOiletinach. Dublin 1973.
Ó Domhnalláin, P.
1908 An Claidheamh Soluis, 31 Oct. 1908,4.
6 hAnnrach::iin, P.
1906 An Claidheamh Soluis, 1 Sept. 1906,4.
1838 Ordnance Survey Letters County Mayo, 1838.
Otway, C.
1841 Sketches in Erris and Tirawley. Dublin 1841.
Robinson, H. A.
1924 Further Memories of Irish Life. London 1924.
1939 Ar Aghaidh, Feb. 1939, 1.
Vallancey, C.
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1886 Inis Muiredaich, now Inismurray and its Antiquities, JRSAI 17 (1885-86),

Memorandums Made in Ireland, 1852


On Saturday, August the 7th, 1852, we landed at Kingstown Harbour, and about 11pm, found ourselves on Irish ground for the first time.

Kingstown is now a large an fine town, though as recently, I believe as 30 years since, it consisted of nothing but a cluster of fishermen’s cabins with a harbour, if it may be so called, only fit for fishing craft. In 1817, the present magnificent harbour was commenced, and although for years in a state of efficiency, it is scarcely yet completed. It is said that £800,000 have been expended on this admirable work. Dunleary was the old name of this place, ill-exchanged, I think, for its present name in the year 1821, on the occasion of the visit of George VI to Dublin. Since the foundation of the harbour the town has increased wonderfully, and now contains a population of more than 10,000. The actual population according to the census of 1851, is 10,453, being an increase of 3224 since 1841. Many of the streets and terraces are handsome, and the vicinity is sprinkled over with many pretty villas; the whole commanding a charming view of Dublin Bay and its northern boundary, the Hill of Howth.

We took up our abode at Rathbone’s Hotel, a large and on the whole, an excellent establishment, – yet, constantly reminding us, by sundry little intimations that we had got into a less nice and more careless country than we had left on the eastern side of the Irish Channel. In a very good bedroom, for example, the bell-rope had been broken and was not yet repaired; the window blind was crippled and would not work; the swing mirror could not be steadied for want of a fitting screw; and the sole resource against being stifled on a hot night, was to keep the window up by the poker, there being no pullies to the large and handsome sashes. Water was occasionally found wanting where it was most wanted; and there seemed, every now and then, to be a lingering doubt among the servants, ‘whose’ special duty it was to attend to the particular bell that happened to be ringing. Yet, for all this, the hotel was by no means a bad one, as to accommodation, attendance, or living; and it is but doing justice to it individually to say, that its defects as well as excellencies were more or less shared with it by all the hotels we visited in Ireland. And it certainly would be unjust not to add, that their excellencies, speaking generally, greatly preponderated over their defects.

When leaving this Kingstown hotel on the following day, a little incident occurred which was also somewhat characteristic of the new people we had come among. I was in a great hurry to get a parcel tied up, fearing that I might be too late for the inexorable rail. Some twine was needed to complete the job, and as none could be immediately found in the room, the maid who was the operator, after a moment’s delay, coolly went to the sideboard drawer, and taking thence the cord of a window blind, complete with all its brass pullies, (perhaps the very one wanting in my bedroom,) cut off as much as was needed, and therewith did up my parcel in a trice.

Being uncertain whether we should return to Kingstown, we thought it best, before proceeding to Dublin, to ascend some greater height, in order that we might have a still more complete view of the bay. Accordingly, we went to Dalkey by the athmospheric railway, and there took a car to the top of Killiney Hill. From this height Dublin Bay is conspicuous in all its extent and beauty; and a charming scene it is, well deserving this slight trouble to command it. This short railway (only one mile and ¾ in length) is remarkable for its great deviation from the level line, rising no less that one foot in 115 to within a few hundred yards of Dalkey, and from thence to the terminus, as much as one in 57. With so great a declination, it will readily be understood that the trains return to Kingstown without any aid from steam or other power but their own gravity.


We reached Dublin (a distance of about 5 miles) by the railway, in time to visit the Phoenix Park and see – exteriorly at least, – it’s principal objects, the Military Hospital, the Constabulary Barracks, the Zoological Gardens, the Wellington Testimonial, the Phoenix Pillar and the Vice-regal Lodge. None of these except the Zoological Gardens claim particular attention. The collection of animals is very good and of considerable extent. The space is, however, too much filled up by thick shrubberies. This being Sunday afternoon, we were admitted to view the collection for one penny, an arrangement made for the convenience of the poorer classes, and which we would recommend to the consideration of the directors of our own gardens in the Regents Park. The Phoenix Park itself is a splendid expanse of ground, containing, it is said, between 1700 and 1800 statute acres and being about 7 miles in circumference. It is, however, greatly inferior in general beauty to our smaller London parks, and is not to be compared with our Richmond Park,, and still less with the truly royal domain of Windsor, in point of variety, extent and beauty of the views.

We took up our abode at the Imperial Hotel, Sackville street, a capital establishment in every respect; with excellent attendance, although the servants are paid by the house; and with moderate charges – everything supplied being of the best kind. All that I have to say of Dublin I will say in this place, although we paid it a second visit, as will be seen in the sequel.

I own myself to have been a good deal disappointed with Dublin as a city. To say nothing of its extent, it is greatly inferior, in many other respects, not only to London, but to several towns in England and some in Scotland. Its site is flat and monotonous, and its streets and squares possess no architectural beauty………..”

St. Patrick’s (Cathedral) is now undergoing repair; and it is to be hoped that, when completed, greater pains will be taken to keep it decently clean than it is at present. I never saw a church in so discreditable a state. One part of it may be literally said to be converted into a dove-cot, as its roof is filled with pigeons, and its floor in a state not to be described.”

“I did not make any attempt to visit the abodes of the poor in the obscure recesses of Dublin, preferring to see the condition of this class of persons in the smaller towns and in the country, where – the degrading influences that prevail in all large cities, in all countries being absent – they might be seen under circumstances more characteristic of the individual nation. Such of the common people as we had yet seen and conversed with impressed us as favourably by their civility and shrewdness; but we were rather startled by the intensity of the brogue. Some of the speakers were actually unintelligible to us. The novelty, however, soon ceased to be a novelty; and after a week or two, the peculiarity of the intonation, as well as of the phraseology, was found to be rather agreeable than otherwise.

As yet, we had seen no signs of misery and hardly any beggars, though we could not fail to be struck by the general inferiority of the dress of the labouring classes, when compared to that of their English brethren. Ill-fitting coats, with disproportionate length of tail, were common; and holes in the outer garment, showing the white within, were not rare. This struck up the more remarkably as this day was Sunday, and many of the clothes were obviously Sunday clothes. I shall, hereafter, have something more to say on this general untidiness of the Irish as to dress; and will only further remark here, that it prevails, in a greater or less degree, even among those of whom better things might be expected. In one of the waiters at our excellent hotel, I observed a little of the white within, even when he was in attendance in the coffee-room; and, in another part of the island, the landlord of a respectable country inn once presented himself in a like dishabille.

County Wicklow

Having seen as much of Dublin as we thought necessary at present, we set about the first object of our country journey, – a visit to the county of Wicklow, of whose beauties we’d heard so much. We left the city early in the afternoon for Bray, taking advantage of the Kingstown and Dalkey railways as far as they went, and completing our journey in an Irish car. In this short distance we had an opportunity of witnessing one of the disadvantages of this mode of conveyance, as we should have got thoroughly drenched by a sudden and very heavy shower, had it not fortunately overtaken us close to a roadside-blacksmith’s forge, into whose open door we drove bodily, without licence or ceremony, yet evidently not unwelcome. Here we waited till the rain was over, the time being well beguiled by the conversation of two or three stalwart forgemen, who seemed nothing loath to postpone their work for the sake of a traveller’s gossip.

Among other subjects of talk with these good people, an incidental remark brought up the subject of fairs and drinking, with the comment that the ancient glories of both had vanished since the advent of Father Matthew. While evidently half regretting this, my informant readily admitted that the change was for the better. He mentioned, however, a recent anecdote of himself and a friend, which proved that there still lived in the embers some of the old fire. His friend after a successful campaign in England as a railway labourer, returned home with £25 in his pocket. A fair happening to fall in his way immediately after his return, he went to it, of course, taking my friend of the forge with him, and as many of his other friends as he could lay hands on. The result was, that my informant ‘got kilt’, as he said, at the end of the second day by the strength of the potheen, while his friend and treater held on for a day or two more, – that is to say, as long as his cash lasted.”

Descriptions of glen of the Dargle, and the waterfall on the Powerscourt estate follow.

“Bray is a small scattered town, nearly a mile in length, and finely situated on both sides of the river Bray, which is the boundary between the counties of Dublin and Wicklow, the town consequently being in both counties. The population has remained stationary during the last ten years, being, according to the census, 3169 in 1841, and 3152 in 1851: it is chiefly catholic. Bray is much frequented by the people of Dublin as a summer residence and bathing place. The hotel is a large establishment, and well conducted by its very intelligent landlord, Mr. Quinn; we had however, some difficulty in obtaining accommodation in it owing to the unusual number of strangers then in Ireland. This house has the most extensive pleasure grounds I ever saw attached to an inn. The flower garden is a full quarter of a mile in length, extending, in the form of a narrow slip, down to the sea-shore.

Both on our arrival and departure from this place, we had the first specimen of what we saw much of afterwards, the active and most obtrusive beggary which disfigures most of the public haunts in the South of Ireland. Our carriage was followed – hunted I may say – by a crowd of children, some of whom were, in the most literal sense of the words, half-clad.

On leaving Bray in the morning, following the instructions of our landlord, we first visited the demesnes of Lord Meath (Kilruddery), and Sir George Hudson, (Hollybrook)”

Description and opinion of houses and glen of the Downs.

“A short distance beyond the glen we left the carriage, and ascended a small hill, in order to improve our view. The view thus obtained was indeed very fine, comprehending the wide slope of richly cultivated tract, terminated by the open sea and the bay of Wicklow, with its beautiful headland. In our ramble we came upon a secluded hamlet, called the Downs, containing eight or ten cottages, and one gentleman’s house uninhabited. These being the first abodes of the rural poor we had come in contact with, I was curious to enter their interior. I found them all very wretched. They consisted respectively of one small apartment without any partition, with rough mud floors, and with either no window or with an opening so small as hardly to deserve the name. There was no furniture but a broken chair and small wooden box, and a small filthy settle bed in one corner. This bed, we were told in one cottage, was occupied by the poor woman’s two sons, while she herself slept on the floor. For these wretched cabins they paid from 3d., to 6d., and even 10d., per week. A larger double cottage paid a rent of £3 per year. This was divided into two apartments. In one end, besides two beds, there was a loom for weaving a strong composite cloth of wool and cotton yarn which was spun by the daughter. Some of the cottages were occupied by families whose fathers or brothers had recently emigrated, and from whom they were looking for means to enable them to follow. In the poorest of the cabins, occupied by a helpless old woman, I found a dog which belonged to one of these emigrants, with which the poor creature divided her scanty meals out of affection for his absent master.”

A description of the Devil’s Glen follows and
“One side of the ravine (the right) belongs to Mr. Synge, of Glenmore, whose beautiful house, called Glenmore Castle, is seen among the trees at its entrance. The other side belongs to Mr. Tottenham of Ballycarry, who has constructed an excellent footpath along the river side to within a short distance of the cascade.”

From Devil’s Glen to Newrath-bridge……..
“The hotel at Newrath-bridge, besides excellent accommodations and a most civil landlord, has the additional charm of being a solitary house among beautiful scenery. Like the inn at Bray, it overlooks an extensive garden and combines all the comforts of an inn with the quiet of a private house in the country. It adjoins the classic grounds of Rosanna, the residence of the celebrated authoress of ‘Psyche;’ and it is said to be a favourite resort with those whom Psyche’s lord has just delivered into the hands of Hymen.”

Description of Glendalough and the Seven Churches.

“At the upper end of the glen, about three miles from the Seven Churches, the lead mines of Luggamore are situated. We did not visit them. Our guide told us that the Cormishmen employed in these mines had tended to improve the cottages in the neighbourhood, by exhibiting in their own, a better arrangement, greater cleanliness, and a more comfortable mode of living generally. There is assuredly much room for improvement. I found the cabins in this place of the same wretched character as those visited the day before. In one, occupied by a widow, there could hardly be said to be any furniture. She paid for it a rent of one pound per annum, which was chiefly obtained by the exertions of her son, a lad of some fourteen years of age.

On the banks of the lake, I visited a cottage of the better order, and found that it was intended as a lodging-house for stray anglers as come to fish in the lough. The cottage contained a decent bedroom, with a wooden floor, with two good beds for visitors. The board and lodging together amounted to a pound a week. The mistress of this cottage was still a very good looking woman, although she was forty six years of age, and had had fourteen children. In the course of a short conversation with her and her husband, I became the depository of a small piece of family history, which, as it was not confided to me as a secret, I cannot refrain from recording here, as a sample of that simplicity and candour, which have struck me as such conspicuous features in the Irish character.

The good wife having told me that she was married at fifteen, I was curious to know what had led to so early a union. Without a moment’s hesitation, and evidently without the consciousness of telling anything extraordinary, she gave me the following explanation in the presence of her husband. She said, being n only child, and the sole support of her mother, who was a widow, she felt that, as her mothers health was beginning to fail, she must do something more effectual for her future maintenance. Two ways were open to her, – one, service with a farmer, the other matrimony ; the latter being in her option, through an offer to her by her present husband, who by the bye, was obviously much older than his partner. After much deliberation, she decided on marriage, “although” (she added, pointing to her husband) “I did not then like him at all, at all!” I of course, rallied to her good man on a confession so little flattering to him; but he confirmed its truth, adding, however, that she came soon to like him well enough – “almost as well as he liked her;” and, what seemed to him still more remarkable, – “that she made as good a manager as if she had been thirty instead of fifteen.” The good couple’s married life had evidently been a happy one; and the current smoothness of its current seemed to receive no ripple from the present candid recurrence to what must have been a grievance in its day.

My guide was obviously a kind-hearted fellow, and spoke well of his neighbours. Every one had a good word from him, and he was evidently anxious that the poorer members of his hamlet should participate, with himself, in the traveller’s bounty. He was forty-five years of age, and, for a wonder, was not yet married, owing, he says, to having to support his old mother. He pays £3 for his cottage, but lets off part of it to a lodger, who pays half the rent. Among the people pointed out to me by the guide, was a nice, cleanly dressed young woman, who, he said, worked hard to support herself and a baby, left in her charge by a sister gone to America. Her sisters husband died almost immediately after his arrival, and his widow had not yet been able to send for her child, or to send much money for her support. The young nurse, had, however, received from her sister one remittance of a pound, a sum which, she regrettingly said, had been diminished by eighteen pence for postage, and eighteen pence as discount! There was something deeply pathetic in this regret. I fear we too often forget how great such ‘little things are to little men,’ The young woman spoke cheerfully and confidently of soon receiving a fresh supply from her sister.”

A description of the journey from ‘Larach’ through the valley of Clara to Arklow follows.

Ovoca (or Avoca)
“There are two Meetings of the Waters, the upper, already mentioned, formed by the junction of the greater and lesser Avon (for this is the meaning of the terminations ‘more’ and ‘beg’ (placenames), and the lower, about four mile down, formed by the union of the Aughrim with this double stream now termed the Ovoca. It is close by this last meeting that the Wooden Bridge Inn is situated, the comfortable resort of all explorers of the beauties of the vale.”……………

“There are mines on both sides of the river. That which we visited lies on the right bank, and is called Ballymurtagh. Those on the other side are called the Cronbane mines. The ore of the Ballymurtagh mine is a sulphured of copper, but the sulphur is in places so predominant, that the produce in sulphur is more productive than in metal. The ore is exported to England for reduction, being conveyed to the pier at Arklow by a tramroad running down the valley. The ore, at the period of our visit, was yielding only about three per cent., of copper, while the less metalliferous portion was said to give a return of sulphur amounting to one-third. There were about 200 men employed on the mine, all Irish except the manager, who is a Cornish man. He told me that nothing could exceed the attention, industry and soberness of the men. He said they were much more manageable than his own country men and worked contently for much smaller wages. Many of them are strict ‘Teetotallers’, though of late years a considerable portion of them had broken their pledges, and again indulged in strong drinks, but not so as to interfere materially with their work, or seriously affect the general sobriety of the mass.”

Descriptions of Castle Howard, Ballyarthur and Shelton Abbey.

“Next morning I paid a visit to a small farm in the neighbourhood, tenanted by an old man of seventy-five, an Orangeman or Protestant, who had been ‘out in the ’98.’ He paid £20 for about nineteen acres of good land, and some wild pasturage along the shore. His house is not much better or cleaner than that of a mere cottier, only larger. He keeps a good many cows, and sends the produce, in the shape of butter slightly salted, to Dublin, once a fortnight. His grandfather and father occupied the farm before him, and he has still a lease of it, for his own and his son’s life. He has three sons and one daughter. One son is a gardener, and out in the world, gaining a living; another has gone to America and obtains a good livelihood as a servant on a railway in New York. His eldest son and heir lives with him on the farm, as does also his daughter, who seemed to be the only woman on the establishment. His land was not in good order, through he seemed to have had a tolerable crop, both of corn and hay. The potato crop had suffered, as indeed throughout the whole country – one third, at least, being destroyed. He spoke doubtfully of being able to pay his rent, and grumbled, because some time back it had been raised. He said he and his predecessors had built all the houses on the farm at their own expense, and he thought it hard that they should now be charged in the rent. This was the first distinct intimation we had of Tenant-Right.

I was amused to find that, like many of his betters of the orange school, the farmer regarded the temperance proceedings of Father Matthew as a political, that is, a rebellious movement, originating with the priests and repealers. He readily admitted, however, that the system of teetotalism had been productive, while it lasted, of great social benefits, and had left behind it much more of general sobriety than existed before its introduction.

Our sensibility to natural beauty, if not our gallantry, might, we feel, be justly called in question, if, after what we had seen of it in the places commemorated in this chapter, we did not say one word of the most animated of all the forms of beauty that we had seen – that, namely, of the women and children. We shall have another opportunity of referring to this matter; but we must allude here to the fact of our being struck, on the very threshold of Ireland, with the unusual attractions presented to us by many of its women, and even by many of its children, though seen in all the disadvantages of dirt and rags. In one of our country hotels (I carefully withhold the name, mindful of the fate of Mary of Buttermere, betrayed through the printed encomiums of a tourist,) we were waited on by a young damsel, who might, I think, be regarded as a ‘perfect’ beauty, especially by the admirers of the Ruben’s school. Her features and expressions were faultless.”



“Arklow is a moderate sized bustling country town, with a population, according to the last census, of 3300, making a difference of only 46 persons between this and the enumeration of 1841. The upper and better portion contains some good houses and a fine church and chapel. The lower portion of it, on the flat shore, by the harbour, is chiefly inhabited by fishermen, and is very squalid and filthy. There is a pretty good trade here, the exports being principally mineral ores and fish; but the entrance to the small harbour is very shallow and unsafe. According to the Parliamentary returns, the proportion of Catholics to Protestants in 1834, was more than double, the number of Catholics in the whole parish, being 4347, and of Protestants only 2037. I believe the same proportion (nearly) still holds good. There is a fine National School here. At the time of my visit there were 150 boys in attendance, and a considerably larger proportion of girls. There was one master and two mistresses, all Catholics. There were no Protestants in the school, the Protestant clergymen discountenancing the attendance of the children of their flocks, although it would appear that no interference in regard to religious instruction takes place on the part of the teachers. It is part of the system of these schools, that all religious instruction (confined mostly to learning the Catechism) is prohibited during ordinary school-hours. According to the Report of the Commissioners of National Education, the number on the books of this school, in September 1850, was 214 boys and 224 girls; and in September 1851, was 210 boys and 247 girls. The boys at this school are permitted to remain as long as they please, the education being such as to fit them for the office of clerk or tradesman. I found the head boys working in vulgar fractions, and their writing was good. There is also a Protestant school in connection with the Church Education Society. According to the last Report, there were in the preceding year (1851) 37 children on the roll, and an average attendance of 27.

I visited a (so-called) Protestant school, a little distance from the town, supported by a benevolent lady in the neighbourhood. The number of children on the books was from 50 to 60, and of these about 30 were present. Only about one seventh or one eighth of the children were Protestants. In this school, the scriptures are read daily, and the liturgy of the Church of England used. In these, all the children are expected to take part; but the mistress (a Protestant) told me that she believed some of the Catholics said their own prayers mentally, while professing to join in the Protestant formula.

I had not an opportunity of inquiring minutely into the state of temperance in Arklow; but I learned that a number of the pledged children of Father Matthew had marvellously decreased, there being now perhaps hardly more than fifty in the town, where there had once been a thousand.

We left Arklow in the forenoon, intending to sleep at Carlow, and proceeding thence by the railway to Kildare, to join the Dublin train on its way to Cork. Advancing for a short way along the banks of the Aughrim river, we turned to the left through a rather wild country, chiefly the property of Lord Fitzwilliam. This property extends for many miles over a series of long and low valleys, mostly boggy in the centre, but partially cultivated on the slopes. The district possesses no feature of beauty, but it is fairly peopled.

In the hamlet of Killaveny, in the centre of this district, I passed some time in a peat-cutter’s cabin, discoursing on various local matters. Lord Fitzwilliam was represented as a good landlord in his ordinary dealings with his tenantry. He had, also, at his own expense, sent out a large portion of the population to America, and more were preparing to follow. My informant indicated the extent of this emigration, by stating that the chapel of Killaveny, a large building, was not now one half so full on Sundays as formerly. Many of the emigrants had already sent home a good deal of money to their relations. One girl who had gone to Australia, and was there employed as a servant, had sent home no less than £20 to her mother, though she had only been from home for four years ; and she expressed her intention of assisting all the members of her family to join her in the new country. This turf-cutter’s cottage was superior, both in size and accommodation, to many I had seen in Wicklow. It had two apartments – a ‘but’ and a ‘ben’ as the Scottish cotter names them, – and could boast of both chairs and a table, besides beds in the inner room. As there was no ground attached to it, the rent was only £1 per annum. The man had no pigs, and I may here observe, that I had scarcely seen any pigs since my arrival in Ireland – a blank which was proved to be almost general by my subsequent experience. Since the failure of the potato crop, and consequent famine in 1847, when the whole race was devoured, the cottagers have not been able to buy or maintain pigs, there having been a considerable destruction of the potato crop every season since.

It is customary here, as elsewhere, for neighbouring farmers to grant the cotters ground for planting their potatoes, on their finding manure for the soil. But with their pigs went their manure, and if they obtained land for their potatoes, they had to pay for it; and so they went from bad to worse.

There is a National School in the parish, and the turf-cutter lamented greatly that there was at the time no mistress, as he was anxious to send some of his children to it.

In coming along the valley, we had been struck with one farm in a very superior order to the others, and saw several boggy fields under the process of deep draining. The farmer, we were told, was a rich enterprising miller, who was expending on his land the gains he made by his mill. A curious fact connected with this draining – if it is a fact, and I see no reason to doubt it – was mentioned to me by my intelligent friend as he sat by my side on his wife’s table, with his huge bare legs besmeared with dark peat-earth up to his knees. He said that the millers draining operations had been going on for years, and that the men employed in them had been brought from England. Most of the men he said, had domesticated themselves in the place; several had married, and none of them intended to return to England again. My informant added that the chief cause of this settlement of the strangers was, that they preferred some of this country’s customs to their own. The Irish, the Englishmen said, were friendlier and kindlier to one another, went more to the houses of each other, and so had more pleasure than their countrymen in England. “I tell the tale as ‘twas told to me;” and when I compare what I afterwards saw of the cordiality, jollity, and fun of the Irish peasantry, even under the pressure of extreme poverty, with the cold, dull, matter of fact and business habits of the English labourers, I felt no great surprise that, by a certain class of men, the Irish hovel should be preferred to the Saxon cottage.”

“We arrived at the village of Coolattin between two and three o’clock, and were not a little disappointed that, owing to a mistake of the Arklow job-master, we could obtain no fresh horses to take us on to Carlow. We were therefore obliged to wait till our horses rested. Fortunately there is a very tolerable inn at the place and we were enabled both to dine comfortably and see the neighbourhood. Coolattin is one of those artificial villages that we see spring up at great men’s gates, brand-new, stiff and staring, with no traces of the olden time, and with none of that softened and varied look that always characterises hamlets that have grown up and decayed and been renovated insensibly. It, in fast, contains few other houses than the inn, the schools, the blacksmith’s shop, and the establishment of Paddy “the Merchant,” which designation in Ireland means a retail dealer in all things. The houses are all bright and fresh as a new pin, having been only recently erected or restored by the great lord of the land, Earl Fitzwilliam, whose Irish residence is close at hand.

Coolattin Park, is of small extent, but contains some timber and is watered by a small river, the Derry, one of the feeders of the Slaney. The house is a plain building, but of considerable extent, and is at this moment receiving a large addition. Adjoining the park is Lord Fitzwilliam’s own farm, which looks, amid the wild and half-cultivated region around it, like a garden in the wilderness. This farm is of great extent, the fields large and symmetrical, well fenced, and covered with the finest crops, – the turnips and even the potato fields looking green and without a weed. The friend who travelled with me, and who is learned in matters agricultural, exclaimed as soon as he saw it, – “There’s a farm at last, and I’ll wager the farmer is a Scotchman.” We found on enquiry that this was a fact; and we could not help lamenting that such a scene as this was so rare in Ireland. It is very probable that Lord Fitzwilliam may have been hitherto a loser, instead of a gainer, by this magnificent farm, as the outlay must have been great to bring it to its present condition. It must, however, eventually not only repay the cost, but bring a good return for the capital invested. In another, and still more important point of view, it must even now repay its benevolent and spirited possessor a hundred-fold, by the pregnant and enduring example afforded by it, to all his tenantry and the country generally. As in matters of morality, one can hardly live with very good men without insensibly profiting by their examples; so it would seem hardly possible that the rude and slovenly and unproductive culture handed down unchanged from their fathers to the present generation of farmers in the barony of Shillelagh, should long resist the contagion of the bright example set them at Coolattin.

I was informed that the estates of Lord Fitzwilliam, in the county of Wicklow, produced a rental of about £40,000; and that he derived about £2,000 more from some other property in the county of Kildare.


There is nothing note-worthy on the road from Coolattin to Tullow. The country, however, is richer and better cultivated, and this improved state was observable over the whole of that part of the county of Carlow through which we passed. Tullow is a reasonably neat country town, with a population of about 3000. It has remained nearly stationary since the previous census, having only decreased by 134; the population in 1841 being 3097, and in 1851, 2963. It is divided by the river Slaney, here a large stream, with a handsome bridge over it. The principal inn is built close to the bridge, the wall of its best sitting room being washed by the stream. Tullow is conspicuous by its lofty church tower and spire, which are visible at a great distance.

The country around is well cultivated and agreeably varied in surface; the mountains of Wicklow forming a conspicuous feature in the distant landscape.

John Forbes, M.D., F.R.S.
Vol. I
Smith, Elder & Co., Cornhill

Glimpses of Ireland From Old Books

Extract from My Ireland, written by Kate O’Brien, first published 1962. Out of print. From Antrim and Belfast.

“When I walked into the hotel in Cushendall on a bright, cold Wednesday afternoon, the first Wednesday in March, I was puzzled to find on each open, welcoming brow that turned towards, me a central smudge of black. Schooldays, Mother Philomena, Sister Bernard -I remembered. Ah yes – Ash Wednesday! But this is Antrim! I am in the north! And so I learnt to my surprise that the population of the Glens of Antrim is almost ninety per cent Roman Catholic. A point of no relevance, save that it was dramatically, amusingly, presented to me by the admonition, “Remember man that thou art dust”, written on every forehead in a remote, lovely village to which I came a stranger with misconceptions.

I can hardly have had misconceptions about the look of this region, however, for the coast and glens of Antrim are renowned, as Kerry is. Placed diagonally to each other, north and south, the two counties have long been clich?s for scenic beauty in Ireland. And undeniably they are superb; endearing also, their lovers tell us. But in neither case am I in that secret, but only an acquaintance standing about in admiration, presuming nothing and keeping the word love under cover.

I had what old-fashioned people call ‘great crack’ in Cushendall. I wonder does Mrs Stone remember me? She has a pleasant, low- ceilinged shop – stationery, postcards, rosary beads – and she lives alone in a deep old house behind it.

She is old herself; she says she is over ninety, and her memories justify her claim, but she suggests an ascetic and very handsome seventy. Her eyes shine starrily in a pale, aristocratic face and grey-white hair sweeps off her temples poet-fashion; she is lean and moves quickly, and she looks at and listens to everything alive with an open interest which is at once benevolent and critical. She was born into poverty and hard work in Belfast; and, without any hyperbole, she must have been one of the most beautiful and thoroughbred-looking girls that ever stepped anywhere in Ireland. Marriage brought her at twenty years of age to Cushendall and the little shop. And ever since she has watched and loved the Glens, their glamour, their legends, their people and their history. She has read all her life, eclectically and impatiently; and she has kept informed of the world and events. She has talked with high and low, loves to talk with all sorts. She was born an intellectual, every experience and observation filters through her analytic brain. She is, indeed, an original – one does not meet her like. And that not merely because now, over ninety, she is so handsome, so gracious and witty and, unwillingly, so clear a reproach to us all – but always she must have stood alone, I think.

Mrs Stone is a woman who speaks of the past lightly, and with no pause or drag for sentiment. She remembers neatly – and if she does not she tosses the attempt behind her. So, nothing of a bore!

Our first conversation settled it that we were to get acquainted. I was in her dark shop looking at postcards – and a poor selection they were. I had just come up the Antrim West Road and entered the Glens for the first time in my life; I was under the impression of the noble sights of the day, and I babbled, I suppose, and asked ignorant questions. These were answered with humour and charm so I dawdled about the shop. There were old Penguins* and Magazines; turning them over I talked of some writer or other who had known the Glens, and we went on a bit about books. It came out that I wrote, and I was amused at the care and light courtesy with which that fact was received. None of your “Oh, indeed! Isn’t that wonderful? Imagine it!” technique. In fact, Mrs Stone was almost too calm in getting past the dangerous boredom of ‘writer’ talk. But, a few sentences later, Limerick and surnames coming up she suddenly paused and smiled very accentedly. “Ah! I see! Ah – You do really write.”

She had got my name, and it happened that she had read and liked my novels, or some of them. So now, since I truly was a published professional, and in her opinion a good one, she could talk about books and writers without discomfort.
It was refreshing – this non-conformity.
“Why were you so cool at first when I said I was a writer?”
“Ah – it’s often difficult! So many ladies, and gentlemen, tell you that they write, you know – and then, there’s nothing more to be said!”

But we found between us much to say. Mrs Stone, though at case with local legends, ghosts and ‘tall’ stories, and with the passions of history and event – all crowded and pressed up and down the Glens – preferred to talk of living people, or of events and people within her ninety years. Good and true enough Finn MacCool’s palatial caverns up along Glenariff, and Ossian’s grave too, and tales of history and invention all about, but Mrs Stone referred one to Professor De Largy for all such. And was he not the best reference, being child and son of this very Cushendall? Herself however liked in our evening talks to argue about the art of writing and about modern writers-poets and novelists her chief targets. She is a severe critic, sometimes severe, as I thought and said, irrelevantly to literature. I had to fight hard for some twentieth-century novelists whom I know to be good, whatever Mrs Stone may say. But pleasure of our talk lay in its being more accurate than its kind often is, because we confined it to works we really knew. And she had much to tell me of writers and others of Irish fame who in her time had lived in or frequented the Glens and who had known her shop and her fireside.

She remembered Standish O’Grady, for instance, and laughed softly, sixty-five or more years beyond it, over some exaggerated impatience of his one day about a bicycle. She re-created the kind of angry charm he may have had -and we agreed as to our happy past delight in The Bog of Stars. She had known Alice Milligan, and ‘Eithne Carbery’; and the poet of Songs of the Glens of Antrim had been a life-neighbour of Cushendall. Mrs Stone knew many younger poets and folklorists too, and some of the uncompromising Ulster patriots of before 1916 – Bulmer Hobson, for instance, and Denis McCullough, and Roger Casement.

Of the last she spoke with some poignancy. “When he was only a lad I used to argue with him, here in this shop. He was a beautiful young boy, God bless him. Do you think they’ll ever let us bring him home? His place is ready for him, you know, just on the shore up there, under Tor Head. He should be at home in Antrim – instead of where he is, the child!” She looked at me shrewdly. “There was nothing bad in Roger Casement,” she said. “I’d have known, I think, if he was bad. Oh, he was foolish. He had wild ideas, and often I told him they were impossible – nonsensical. The way he’d laugh at that! I can see him now, sitting up there on that counter, swinging his legs, and talking nonsense!”

The last night I was in Cushendall I talked over Mrs Stone’s fire until half-past one in the morning. And then she insisted on walking the length of the street with me to my hotel. It was a clear, cold night, very still; we could bear the gentle voice of the sea off to the left. At the hotel door I wanted to walk her home again – after all, she is over ninety. But she wouldn’t hear of it. She thrust a great roll of paper into my hands. “It’s foolscap,” she said, “hard to get now. Do you write on it?”
I told her that indeed I always did, when I could get it, but that I could not take that great roll from her.
“You must,” she said. “It’s a present. Cover it with good words.” And off she turned, over the bridge and down the moonlit street as quick as a boy, in her grey tweed coat.

Extract from ‘Irish Miles’ : Author Frank O’Connor, published 1947. Out of print.
Roscrea, Monaincha, sayings and a bit on the Birch family:

“When I asked the boots in Roscrea the way to Monaincha, pronouncing it as it is spelled, he said he had never heard of it. “Would it be Monaheensha ? ” he asked, and of course, Monaheensha it was, and already it began to assume an existence outside the pages of a guide-book.

Roscrea is one of the most charming of Irish towns – potentially at least. It is tossed about in choppy country of little hills which you find looking at you from the end of every street; streets of pleasant little houses with sculped-in doorways ; a fine castle on the hilly main street with a magnificent Queen Anne house in stone built in the courtyard, and a Franciscan abbey with a sentimental little tower behind.

But the best thing in it is the fragment of a parish church which was abandoned at the beginning of the last century merely because the Protestant Church Sustentation Fund would advance money only for new buildings, not for the restoration of old ones. It now consists of nothing but a west wall, and it is remarkable that even this has survived, for a main road was driven clean through the monastery enclosure, isolating the belfry in a garage at the opposite side of the road.

It had poured steadily all the evening, and the wet, woodbine-coloured light was bringing out all the gold in the spongy yellow sandstone while the churchyard sulked behind in a cold, cavernous, sea-green light. It was a recollection of Cormac’s Chapel; a porch set in an arcade of four arches, each with a pediment that echoed the pediment of the porch and what (before they lowered the level of the roof and tacked on the little bell-cote) must have been a high gable. It was fearfully worn, for the chalky stone laps up the rain like blotting-paper, and the saint in the pediment and the heads on the capitals had almost crumbled away; but it still had some of the elegance of Cashel, the same sense of a civilised life directing it. The exterior arches were ornamented, the inner ones plain : the variation was Irish, the symmetry European.

We arrived in the heel of the evening at Roscrea, and, suddenly turning a right-angled bend, found ourselves passing this plain little Romanesque front. …………I returned to the little church just as the shadow had worked up to the level of the roof, and the little bell-cote seemed to float on the air, and stood there looking at it till darkness fell. I could barely remember a time when I didn’t understand what people meant when they talked in poetry and music, and before I could read or write I understood the music of ‘How Dear to Me the Hour when Daylight Dies’ and the poetry of
“Though lost to Momonia and cold in the grave
He returns to Kincora no more.”

……. it wasn’t until I found myself delighting in a row of little eighteenth-century houses by a river that I realised the art with which a builder erects a house so that to the memory it spells ‘home’.
We left the main road and turned along a bumpy bog road with a disused distillery at the top of it, and there came to us over the ridges of it a long procession of high blue-and-orange creels, laden with turf the heads of the little asses forced level with the shafts. It was drawing on to dusk; the fields were filled with brown rushes, and where the ground rose out of the bog to right and left there were groves of beeches, black with rain and bronzed with mast. The smell of burning turf clung like mist to the ground.

And then where the narrow road made a sudden bend over-hung with beeches we came to a wicket gate in a demesne wall. It was a gate I shan’t forget in a hurry because the sagging wall had pulled it awry ’till it looked like a mouth in a paralysed face; and quite suddenly there flashed before my mind a picture of a winter night glittering with frost and a cart with a little candle lamp, rattling home from Roscrea. There was a child sitting at the back of the cart, and as it passed the gate he drew a bit of sacking over his head because he was afraid of the ghosts.

I saw it quite plainly because I was the child on the cart, and I was terrified of the ghosts. I pulled up and said to “This is a place they see ghosts in”…….Now, I had no idea that the fields where the rushes were growing was once a wide lake, or that the church we were going to see stood on a one-time island called in all mediaeval documents Insula Viventium because nobody was supposed to be able to die on it, and when they got really ill, had to be sent across to the mainland. I found that out weeks after.

The only one of the island churches that remains stood on a hillock in the middle of the boglands with a wall of beeches about it; three bare cottage gables, the one that faced us touched by the woodbine-coloured light till it was one tone with the trees. A muddy lane led to the little Protestant cemetery where the graves were marked with small flat slabs of sandstone from the church roof or tiny ornaments from the Early English windows. The doorway had been restored by somebody with no eye for the tapering. I didn’t realise until I started looking at English churches, which all seemed for some reason to be standing to attention, how much of the character of Irish ones depends on the diminishing perspective of windows, doors, gables and towers that makes them all seem to be standing easy, legs spread, firmly based on the landscape.

Yet it still gave the church its atmosphere; a touch of -Egypt, of the hooded falcon in the high-shouldered pilasters gripped as in a steel band by the frieze of capitals, it certainly wasn’t the charming little chancel arch, woman-curved, with smooth columns, scalloped capitals and a web of smoothly flowing superficial ornament, the colour of red bronze in the evening light, nor the thirteenth-century cast window which opened on to a clump of sunlit beeches. There was a family called Birch buried inside; one was described as a native of London.

The cold drove us away at last, the penetrating cold that comes out of half-reclaimed land. We had disturbed the haunt of some yokels who were having the time of their lives, trying to scare us by popping up over walls and through window openings. When we came out it was just as if the church were islanded again because all round us was a lake of white mist, with the lamps twitching in the little cottages upon its banks.

We came back next morning when the sun was shining brightly and the gaily-coloured carts were clattering back to the bog, but the little church seemed to cling to its secret. One of the minor pleasures of architecture is the way in which buildings which haven’t been too much looked at seem to secrete some- thing of what they have experienced. Monaincha somehow suggested remoteness. It wasn’t a place you could ever grow fond of Perhaps it has seen too much. In the Middle Ages it had been a place of mystery. In the Penal Days it had been a place of refuge, and Catholics put off in boats at dawn from the shores around to hear Mass said by some hunted priest. Then the Birches came, drained the lake, buried their dead in the chancel and removed the church of the nuns to make decorations for their new garden. But the old church waited in its remoteness.

“The family”, said the old cattle dealer with whom we cycled on to Borris-in-Ossory, “is now extinct.” I guessed his business from the switch tied to the lady’s bicycle he was riding in the place where the cross-bar would normally be He was going to Borris to complete a deal, and it would not be binding without the traditional touch of ‘the rod’.

He was a chirpy, light-hearted old man and a great repository of traditional topographical lore like “wracked and wrecked like Mitchelstown”; “wherever the devil is by day, he’s in Cappawhite by night”; Carlow, “poor but proud”; and Leix, “poor, proud and beggarly; kiss you and cut your throat”. (The woman in the pub in Rathdowney solemnly assured us of the exactness of the last statement, and added the further information that while the most respectable Tipperary man would appear on Sundays with an open neck, a Leix man wouldn’t even go to the workhouse without a collar and tie on.) When we asked what he thought of Clare men he merely groaned. In fact, the only foreigners he had a good word to say for were Kerry men. “A good Kerry man is as good a man as you’ll meet.”
“And what part are ye coming from ?” he asked. “Monaincha,” said I.
“Monaincha?” he exclaimed in surprise. “What were ye doing in Monaincha?”
“Looking at the old church,” said I. “Ye didn’t see any ghosts?” he asked. “No,” said I, but at the same time my heart gave a bit of a jump. “Are there ghosts ?”
“The place is full of them,” he said. “Ye didn’t happen to see a little gate in a wall by the bend of the road?”
“We did,” said I. “Is it there the ghosts are seen?” “The very place,” he said. “There’s people wouldn’t pass that place after dark.”

The little gate, it seemed, led to the Birches’ garden, and he told us about the Birches and their distillery…………”

Foreword (written by Eamonn Kelly) for the ‘Stone Mad for Music. The Sliabh Luachra Story’

Author: Donal Hickey. Published by Marino Books.
ISBN 1 86023 097 0

I often say to myself, ‘Is Sliabh Luachra a place or a state of mind?’ Something of both, I suppose. The exact borders of the territory are never very clear to me. Some say they form a triangle from Millstreet to Killarney with its apex in Castleisland. By the base of the triangle is Cathair Chrobhdhearg, known locally as the City, a place of pilgrimage going back to the time when Homer was a boy.

Rising to the south of the City are Na Cionna, the Paps. In Irish these twin mountains of great grandeur are called AnDá Chích Dannan, the Breasts of the Goddess Dana. From either summit, I am told, one gets the best view of Sliabh Luachra, a wild landscape of bog and farmland reclaimed from the moor. The Abhainn Uí Chriadha, which carried the famous moving bog of a century ago, makes its way to the Flesk, and the white straight-as-a-dye by-road runs from Bealnadeega to Guilane before it turns cast to the area’s capital, Gneeveguilla.

Donncha Ó Céilleachair in his biography (co-written with Pronsias Ó Conluain) of an tAthair Pádraig Ua Duinnín called the Paps the Olympus of Ireland, where the gods of the old Celts lived. From their front doors the poets Aodhagán Ó Rathaille and Eoghan Rua Ó Súilleabháin saw these mountains each morning as they rose to sniff the air, and they were ever their inspiration.

I heard an old man say that before the Elizabethan plantations Sliabh Luachra was a wilderness. Men who had been deprived of their rich Munster lands found shelter within the triangle and wrenched a place to live from the moorland.

All my people had their roots in Sliabh Luachra, and when my Auntie Bridgie sat down to trace relationships it seemed to us children that we were connected by blood to a great many people in that place.

Later when we lived at Carrigeen in Glenfiesk my mother would send me at the age of ten to walk all the way to Gullane with news of our well-being for my grandfather and grandmother. From our house to theirs was a tidy step, and even in the daylight I was fearful passing Béalnadeaga because of a story my mother told us about that crossroads. A spirit used to appear there at the dead of night and men out late were frightened to death by her. She had the power to drag a man from a galloping horse, and was said to blind her victim by squirting her breast-milk into his eyes.

Priests came to bless the place where she haunted, but the spirit remained until a holy friar in a brown habit read over the spot. His reading of Latin was effective. He banished the spirit to the Dead Sea and the sentence he pronounced on her was that she should drain its waters with a silver spoon for all eternity.

During these visits to Gullane I remember meeting Charlie O’Leary, the last Irish speaker of Sliabh Luachra. When I was older and able to understand Irish he said to me,’Duine de mhuintir Chíosain tusa.’

‘I am not,’ I said. ‘My name is Kelly.’

‘Then your mother was a Kissane,’ he persisted. ‘No,’ I told him, ‘her name was Cashman.’

‘Ah, that explains it,’ he said. ‘The first man of your mother’s name to come to these quarters to rent a bit of land was asked by Lord Kenmare’s agent, “What is your name?” “Tadhg Ó Cíosáin,” the man answered. “I am tired of unpronounceable and unwritable names,” said the agent. “From now on you are Cashman.” The new name went down in the book and my ancestor lost his Gaelic nomenclature.

Donncha Ó Céilleachair, who interviewed Charlie O’Leary when he was researching the book on Father Dineen, told me that Charlie could recite Eoghan Rua’s verse and, unusually, he had an air to each poem to which he sang the lines.

Though the neighbouring men sitting around my father’s fire when I was small knew no Irish they had a wealth of stories about Eogban Rua. It seems he was one day going to Cork and outside Millstreet a school-master picked up something from the road and said to Eoghan, “Look at that, I am in luck for the day – I found a horseshoe.”

“No doubt,” Eogban remarked, “education is a wonderful thing. I wouldn’t know whether that was a horseshoe or a mare’s shoe.”

The parish priest calling out the names of those who hadn’t paid their dues enquired, “Where is Eoghan Ó Súilleabháin?” Eoghan answered and the priest asked, “Are you Eoghan a’ Dirrín?” “Ní mé,” arsa Eoghan, “ach Eoghan a’ bhéil bhinn.””

Sweet, melodious and eloquent was Eoghan’s voice, and those characteristics are evident today when a Gneeveguilla man or woman gets up to sing. And men still follow Eoghan’s trade of making noise. When I was young we looked forward on Saturday to the Cork Weekly Examiner for the songs of my mother’s cousin, the Bard of Knocknagree, one Ned Owen Buckley.

Snatches of a ballad I recall which lamented the passing of an aged neighbour. After more than a modicum of praise for the departed soul, each verse ended with the line, ‘But he wasn’t long going in the end.’
Nowadays at the mention of Sliabhh Luachra we think of music and song, storytelling and dancing. The music of Denis Murphy – that divine fiddler – is in the archives of RTÉ, and every time I hear it my feet itch for the flagged kitchen floor from which we knocked sparks when I was growing up. My friend and relative Johnny O’Leary played the button accordeon and accompanied Denis Murphy’s fiddle. Johnny is among those who carry on the tradition.
Sliabh Luachra features in the stories of Fionn Mac Cumhail’s time that tradition has handed down to us. It was from there that Bodach an Chóta Lachtna, that great big ugly laughing clown, set out to race the Greek hero Caol an larainn, all the way to the Hill of Howth.
Sliabh Luachra is as vital today as it ever was. Long may it be so, whether it is a state of mind or a mystic moorland defined by an isosceles triangle.

Extract from RAMBLES IN EIRINN – William Bulfin.

1907 Out Of print: Chapter II

Around Lough Gill – Knockarea – Sligo – The Lake – The Hills – The Valley of O’Rourke – Drumahaire – O’Rourke’s Table

“Had I hearkened to the oracular guidance of a road book, edited by a West Briton, which had cost me a shilling, I would have gone to Sligo by train, for, according to the book, the road from Dublin to Sligo is “is an uninteresting route and road in-different.” But a month’s experience had taught me that the most I could expect from this book was an occasional piece of unconscious humour.

The “uninteresting route” alluded to above is really one of the most interesting in all Ireland. It crosses the magnificent plain of Meath, passing close to Tara. It takes you past scores of historic and beautiful places in fair Westmeath of the lakes. It leads you over the most picturesque of the Longford uplands; and whether you decide to cross the Shannon at Lanesborough or at Carrick, it shows you the hills of Annaly of the O’Ferralls, and gives you the choice of a look at beautiful Lough Ree, or a ramble through the delightful country between Newtownforbes and Drumsna.

When You Cross the Shannon the Sligo road takes you over the Connacht plains and brings you within sight of royal Cruachain, It leads you into Boyle, and thence through the Pass of the Curlews, or you have an alternative road to Sligo round the northern spur of the Curlews by the rock of Doon, and the shore of Lough Key and to Sligo by Knocknarea.

“An uninteresting route?” Not if you are Irish and know some of the history of your land, and feel some pleasure in standing beside the graves of heroes and on ground made sacred by their heroism. Not if you delight to see the hay-making, and the turf cutting, and in observing the simple, beautiful life of rural Ireland. Not if you are at home among the boys and girls at the crossroads in the evening time, or if you know how to enjoy a drink of milk and a chat with the old people across the half door, or on a stool beside the hearth. Not if you love the woods and the mantling glory of waving corn ripening in the sun, and the white, winding roads made cool on the hottest day by the shade of flower-laden hedges.

But if you are one of those tired and tiresome souls desirous only of treading in the footsteps of the cheap trippers who follow one another like sheep, if you have no eye of your own for the beautiful, and if you think it your duty to go out of your way to put money into the pockets of vampire railways, then in the name of all the Philistines and seoinini take the train, or stay away out of the country altogether, or go to some peepshow and surfeit your narrow photographic soul on “views.”

The road over the Curlew Mountains from Boyle is a grand one. If you are an average roadster you can pedal up the greater part of the gradient. They tell a story in Boyle of a man who negotiated the mountains in night time without becoming aware of it. He said, when asked how he had found the roads that they were all right, but that he thought he had met a sort of a long hill somewhere. He was either a champion rider or a humorist.

Anyhow the ordinary tourist will have to get off his machine for a few steep zigzags. The rest is nothing more formidable than a good tough climb. You can rest now and then and admire the spreading plains behind you to the eastward. You can see into Mayo and Galway to your right, and Boyle is just below you, the old abbey lifting its twelfth century gables over the trees. To your left is beautiful Lough Key.

A little higher up you come to the verge of the battlefield of the Curlews. They call it Deerpark or some such history-concealing name now. Ballaghboy is what the annalists call it. You can see the stone erected on the spot where Clifford, the English general, fell. You can see where the uncaged Eagle of the North prepared for his swoop, and the heart within you leaps as your eye follows adown the slope the line of his victorious onset. God’s rest and peace be with your soul, Red Hugh! You were a sensible, practical patriot, although there is no big tower one hundred and goodness knows how many feet high erected to your memory on Ireland’s ground. And although you had no blatant press to give you high-sounding names and sing your praises to the world, you believed that liberty was worth the best blood in your veins, and you did not waste breath on windy resolutions. And when you raised your hand, a bouchal, it was not the everlasting hat that you held out in it to the gaze of the nations, for it had that in it which was worthy of Ireland and of you. ‘Twas something that gleamed and reddened and blazed and that flashed the light of wisdom and duty into the souls of manly men. After passing Ballaghboy the road leads upward into the fastnesses of the Curlews, where for a while the world is shut off. The heath-clad summits of the peaks hem you in. For about a mile you ride in this solitude and then suddenly there is a turn and the world comes back again. Below you the valleys and woods are alternating in the near distance. In front of you is a green hillside dotted with farm houses. There, too, is Lough Arrough, and beyond it, away in the hazy distance, is the purple bulk of Slieveanierin and the gray masses of Knocknarea and Benbulben. Ten minutes will bring you to the town of Ballinafad. The road from here to Sligo is a grand one for the cyclist. It is smooth and level nearly all the way. After a few miles of this pleasant road you come to an ancient-looking demesne. The timber is old and lofty, the wall along the roadside is moss-grown, the undergrowth beneath the oaks and pines is thick and tangled. This is the Folliat or Folliard estate. It is where the scene of “Willie Reilly” is laid. Here lived the “great Squire Folliard” and his lovely daughter – the heroine of one of the most popular of Anglo-Irish love tales, and the subject of a ballad that has been sung in many lands:

“Oh! rise up, Willie Reilly, and come along with me!”

The suggestion of the metre must have come to the balladist in the lilt of some old traditional air of Connacht. I have nearly always heard it sung in the Irish traditional style – the style which lived on even after the Irish language had fallen into disuse. I, have heard it sung in two hemispheres – by the Winter firesides of Leinster and under the paraiso trees around the homes of the Pampas. I had followed it around the world, through the turf smoke and bone smoke – through the midges and mosquitoes and fire-flies. I was glad to find that I had run it to earth at last, so to speak.

There is a gloom over the Folliat demesne now. The shadow of a great sorrow is on it. A few years ago a daughter of the house went out on the lake in a boat to gather water lilies for her affianced lover, who was returning that evening to her after a long absence. She was drowned. They were to have been married in a day or two. The place has never been the same since then.

Collooney was meant by nature for great things. The river flowing by the town supplies it with immense water power. Under the rule of a free people, Collooney would be an important manufacturing centre. At present it is a mere village, struggling to keep the rooftrees standing. There are various mills beside the river, some of them, I fear, silenced forever. There is a woollen factory which is evidently trying conclusions with the shoddy from foreign mills. It is engaged in an uphill fight, but I hope it is winning. After passing the woollen factory you cross the bridge, and, skirting a big hill, you drop down on the Sligo road, which takes you through one of the battlefields of ’98.

The battle was fought close to the town. On the 5th of September, 1798, the advance guard of Hum- bert’s little army arrived at Collooney from Castlebar. Colonel Vereker, of the Limerick militia, was there from Sligo with some infantry, cavalry and artillery. He was beaten back to Sligo, and he lost his artillery. Humbert then marched to Drumahaire and thence towards Manorhamilton, but suddenly wheeling he made for Longford to join the Granard men. Ballinamuck followed. , Bartholomew Teeling and Matthew Tone (brother of Theobald Wolfe Tone) were among the Irish prisoners who surrendered with Humbert to Lord Cornwallis. They were executed a few days afterward in Dublin.”

“Close beside the road on a rocky hill they have erected a monument to Teeling. The statue, which is heroic in its expression, looks toward the “Races of Castlebar” and reminds one of that splendid day. One uplifted hand grasps a battle-flag. The face is a poem, grandly eloquent in its chiselling. You think you can catch the thought that was in the sculptor’s mind. You can feel that his aim was to represent his hero looking out in fiery appeal and reproach over the sleeping West!

Sligo should by right be a great Irish seaport town, but if it had to live by its shipping interests it would starve in a week. Like Galway, it has had such a dose of British fostering and legislation that it seems to be afraid of ships and the ships seem to be afraid of it. The city lives independently of its harbour, which it holds in reserve for brighter and greater days. There are, as far as one can judge, three Sligos – the Irish Sligo, the ascendancy Sligo and the Sligo which straddles between ascendancy and nationalism. The Gaelic League is strong in the city, and one of the hardest workers in the West when I was there was Father Hynes.

Sligo is very picturesquely situated. Knocknarea guards it on one side and Benbulbin on the other. The hills which face the city to the northward are very beautiful, and beyond and above their fresh verdure are the rocky heights that beat off the keen and angry winds from the Atlantic. You ride down into the streets from a hill which overtops the steeples, and it is only when you come into the suburbs that you can see the bay. Clear and calm it looks from the Ballysodar’s road, but, alas! not a smoke cloud on the whole of it, not a sail in view, not a masthead over the roofs along the water front. The harbour is not, of course, entirely deserted. A steamer or a long boat comes in now and then. The same thing happens in Galway.

But I am not comparing the two cities, because there is no comparison between them. Galway drags on an existence. Sligo is very much alive. Galway went to the bad when its ocean trade was killed. Sligo is able to maintain itself by doing business with the district in which it is situated. Behind Galway there was no populous and fertile land near enough to be a support to business. Behind Sligo are the valleys which support a relatively thriving rural population.”

This section of this website will give with extracts from books and journals which in one way or another give some glimpse of the character of a person or a place, or the Irish in general. The extracts will change from time to time, new ones added and old ones taken away. The title and the name of the place however, will remain in the Name and Surname indices section of this web site and can be shown in the future to anyone who has an interest in either.

Funeral Entries of Waterford Families, 1600s

In a large folio MS. in the British Museum, press marked, “Additional 4820” are contained copies of several hundred Irish funeral entries. This MS, was apparently transcribed sometime early in the last (18th) century.

On the left margin of each page a space of about 2 ¼ inches is allowed on which a sketch is frequently given of the arms of the person whose burial is recorded. The entries are principally confined to the first half of the seventeenth century, but towards the end of the volume there are a few written in a different, a slovenly, and a later hand, that extend into the early years of the following century. In all instances they give the names of at least two generations, more frequently of three or four, and sometimes no less than five or even more generations. They are consequently such useful and fruitful sources of information to the genealogist and the antiquary that those relating to Waterford families may be deemed of sufficient importance to merit a place in the Journal,

BARON, JUAN, daughter of …… Brwer of Waterford, Gent., Relict of William Baron of Stradbally in the County of Waterford Gent., by whom she had issue, 3 sons and 3 daughters, viz,. Laurence married to Katherin, daughter of ….. White of Waterford aforesaid, Gent. Stephen, 2d son, married to Margrett, daughter of James Sherlock of Waterford, Esq””, Peter third sonn, married to Joan, daughter of Bartholomew, of Waterford, Gent. Katherin, eldest daughtr., was married to Thomas White of Waterford, Alderman, by whom she had issue sons and daughters and died ; Ellice, 2d daughtr, married to Nicholas Wise of Waterford, Merchant; Margarett, 3d daughter married to William Stritch of Waterford, Mercht. The said first mentioned Juan departed this mortall life at Stradbally aforesaid the 27th of March 1640, and was interred in St Frances Abby in Waterford aforesaid. The truth of the premises is testified by the subscripn of Michal devenish, Merchant, who hath returned this Certifficate unto my Office to be there recorded. Taken by me Thomas Preston, Esqr Ulvester King of Armes, the 5th of May 1640.

FITZGERALD, JOHN, of Drumany in the county of Waterford, Esq., died the 1st of March 1626. He married Ellinor, daughtr. of the Lord Duboyne, by whom he had issue, Gerrald, Morrish and John, and 3 daughrs; Ellen married to McBrien o Guonough his eldt. son ; Margarett, Katherin, died young and Mary not married.

GERALDIN, RICHARD, of Waterford, Merchant, 7th son of Nicholas Geraldin of the Gurtines in the County of Kilkenny, Gent. son and heir of Thomas Geraldine of the same Gent. The said Richard took wife Katherin daughtr. of Peter Sherlock of Waterford aforesaid, Mercht. by whom he had issue 9 sons and 4 daughters, vizt. Nicholas, eldest son married to Beale, daughter of John Porter of Waterford, Gent.; Peter, 2d son; Thomas, 3d. ; Andrew, 4th. ; Theobald, 5th. died both ; Augustaine, 6th son died young; James, 7th; and Patrick, 8; and Marcus, 9th, son, also young and not married. Mary, eldest daughter, died not married; Ellen, 2d daughtr, married to Thomas Porter of Waterford, Councellor at Law; Katherin, 3 daughter was married to James Levett of Waterford, Gent., which James died by whom she had issue 1 daughtr, viz, Mary Levett; Anstice, 4th daughter, of the said Richd. not married. The said Richard died at Waterford aforesaid, March the 25th. 1638 and was interr’d in the Abby of the Holy Ghost in Waterford aforsd. The truith of the premises is testd. by the subscripn. of the sd. Katherin and Relict and Executx. of the Deft. who hath returned this certifft, into my Off. to be there record’d. Taken by me Thomas Preston, Esq. Ulvester King of Armes, June the 8th 1638.

GREATRAKS, WILLIAM, of Aughmoin in the County of Waterford Esq. died the 2d. of June 1628. He first married Ann, daugher of Richd. Croker, of Kill in the sd. county, by whom he had issue, William. He 2dly. mard. Elizabeth, dr. of John Smith, of Kent, by whom he had issue, Allen. Riched., Susan & Elisabeth. He was buried in St. John’s Church, Dublin.

HARRIS, SIR. EDWARD, of Dromany, in the Kingdome of Ireland, Knt., and one of the Justices of his Majesties Court of Chief Pleas in the said Kingdome, son and heir of Sr, Thomas Harris, of Corworthee in the County of Devon in the Kingm. of England, Knt His firt wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Arthur Fowel of Fowellcomule, in Devonshire, afforsaid, in the sd. Kingm. of England aford. Esq., by whom he had issue, 4 sons and 4 daughters; viz., Sr. Thomas Harris, eldest son, married to Elizabeth, daughter of Myles Forrest, of Marborne, in the County of Huntingdon, in. the aford. Kingm. of England Esq. and Relict of Arthur Denny, of Creyley, in Ireland Esq.; .Edward, 2d. son, & Arthur, 3d. son, died young without issue ; and Edmond, 4th, now living ; Phillep, eldt. daughter, mard. to Robert Cynt, of Ballycrane, in the County of Cork, Esq. ; Elizabeth, 2d daughter, marrd to John Lancaster, of Waterford, Esq. ; Mary, 3d daughr married to William Gratrix, of Affane, in the Co. of Waterford, Esq., and Ann, 4th, daughter, died young. The sd Edwd. 2dly was mard. to Jone, daughter of — Bushe, of Hether House, in the County of Lincoln in Engld. by whom he had no issue. The sd. Edwd. died at Cahermony, in the County of Cork, April ye 4th 1636, an was interred in the Church of Killcredan in the County of Cork. and all is testd. by the subn. of Sr. Thom., his eldt. son, who hath returned this certifft. to be recordd. in the office of Ulvester King of Armes. Taken Apll. ye 2d. 1637.

HOARE, MICHAELL, of Dongarvan in the Co. of Waterford, Gent., deceased, son to James Hore, son to Michaell Hore, son to Edmond Hore, son to Nicholas Hore, son to Thomas Hore. The said first mentioned Michaell took to wife, Anistace, daughter of Robert Walsh of Waterford, Alderman by whom she had issue 2 sons and 8 daughters; viz John eldt. son and heir, married to Mary daughter of James Woodlock of the city of Waterford, Alderman; James Hoare, 2nd son, married to Dorothy, daughter of the said James Woodlock. Trixtes, eldest daughter, married to Peter Butler, Gent; Jovan, married to William White, Mercht:, and afterwards to Nicholas Lee, Mercht ; Katherin married to Peter Linch; Isma married to Edward Hore, Mercht ; Ninlen died unmard. Ellen marryed to Thomas Realy, Mercht ; Marrgarett married to Nicholas Power, Mercht. The truith of the premises is testified by the subscripn of the said John Hore, son and heir of the Defunct, who hath returned this certifft. into my office to be there recordd Taken by me Thomas Preston Esq, Ulvester King of Armes the 23d of November 1639.

HORE, THOMAS, of Dungarvan in the Co. of Waterford, 3d son of Mathew Hore, son of John Hare of the same, departed this mortall life at Dungarvan aforesaid the 13th. of March 1634, and was interred in the church of the said towne. The said defunct took to wife, Annistace, daughter of Thomas White of Waterford, by whom she had issue 4 sons and 4 daughters; viz, John, eldt; Anthony, 2d; Mathew, 3d; & James. Thomas and Edmond both died young. Margarett married to John Ronane of Yeoghell; EIizabth 2d ; Mary, 4th ; Katherin, 3d, not marrd. The truth of prem is tesfd by the subscripn of Annestice, Relict of the defunct, who hath return’d this Certife. into my office to be there recorded the 17th, of June 1636.

HORE, WALTER, 4th son of Edmond Hore of Harpersstowne, in the County of Wexford, Gent., who was Merchant or Waterford, departed this mortall life, My the 12th and was buried the same month. 1636. He had to wife Alson, daughter of Thomas Hore, of Waterford, Merchant, by whom he had issue 3 sons and 4 daughters; viz., Andrew Hore, Thomas and — Hore, Mary, Ann, Ellen, and -Hore. The truth of the premises is testified by the subscripn of William Hore of Harperstowne in the County of Waxford, Gent, Taken by me, Alban Leveret, Ath. off. to be recorded in the office of the King of Armes of Iteland.

LEONARD, STEPHEN, of the City of Waterford, Gent., 2d son, but by the death of his eldr brothr. heir of Alexander Leonard, Alderman of the same. The sd. Stephen mard. Cicely, datr. of James Levett, of the Citty afored., by whom he hath 4 sons and 3 datrs; viz., Alexander, eldt son; John, 2d.; James, 3d ; and Alexander, 4th, died an infant, and the rest as yett not mard. Anstace, eldt. datr.; Mary, 2d ; Ellen, 3d.; all young and not, mard. The first mentd. Stephen died in the sd. Citty the 14th of A– 1638 and was interred in ye Ladies Chappell the 16th of the same month. The truith of the pmss, is testd p. subscrptn of John Lee, brothr in Law of the Deft. who return’d this certift. into my office to be there recorded. Taken p. me Thomas Preston, Esq. Ulster King of Armes the 4th of December 1638.

MAYNE, THOMAS, of the Citty of Waterford, Sheriff, eldt. son of Henry Mayne, of the same, Merchant, died in May 1634 and was interet in St. Francis Abby in the said Citty, He mat’d. Ann, datr. of Thom~s N ele. of the said Citty, by whom he left issue, I son and 3 datrs.; viz., Henry, eldt son of the Deft.; Ellen, eldt. datr. ;’ mar’d to Geratt Lincolne of the same Citty ; Katherin, married to Laurence Denll ; and Beale as yett not marel. The truith 9£ the pmsti’s. is testd. p. subscripn, of Ann Mayne, relict o£-.1he said Thomas who returned this certificate into the office of Vlst’ King of Armes. Taken the 13th of June 1636.

SHERLOCK, JOHN, son and heir of Sr, George Sherlock of Letrim in the…County of Corke & Waterford, Knt. died the 19th of July 1629, He was burried in Christ Church in Waterford. Sir George (sic) had issue Anstace mard. to John Sherlock Fitz James, of Gracedue in Comm of ye Citty of Waterford, Gent. Jane mard. to Pierce Sherlock of Waterford Gent.

WALSH, HENRY, of Waterford, Mercht. died the 29th. of Decemr. 1603. He first mard. Elizabeth, datr. of …… by whom he had issue, Richd.- he died without issue. He 2dly mard. Anstace, datr of Roobert Walsh of Waterford, Esq. by whom he had issue, Patrick, Elizabeth and Mary. He 3dly. mard. Mary, daur. of Vincent –, by whom he had issue, Peter. He was burried in the Cathedll. Church of Christ Church in Waterford.

NATHANIEL FOY Alias De Foix by Divine Providence Late Lord Bishop of Waterford. He departed this life in Dublin January the 1st 1707 and was interred in Waterford with scocheons.”

Published in:
Journal of the Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society
Vol VI, Year 1900
Anon J.B., pp. 165-170

The Little Green, St. Michan’s Parish

Written by Thos. King Moylan.

This paper is concerned with the story of one of the lesser-known Greens of Dublin. We are all fairly familiar with the more notable ones, such as Oxmantown Green, College Green and St. Stephen’s Green, of which the latter alone retains its verdant claim. There was another Green, small, it is true, and aptly called the Little Green, of which no trace now remains except the perpetuation of its name in two unpretentious city streets.

It is difficult to commence with a precise date, so the use of the old introduction, “Once upon a Time,”” may be pardoned. Well, once upon a time, and the time was in the l0th century, there lived at Clonliffe a man named Gillemoholmoc, and his wife, Rosia or Dervorgil. Both were wealthy, but both were blind. One day, as the good man was seated on a dead log outside his door, he became aware of a very sweet odour and, groping with his hands to trace its origin, he found, to his surprise, that the dead log had sprouted a branch. Following the branch with his fingers he discovered that there was an apple growing on it from which the sweet smell came. Plucking the fruit, he ate it, and immediately his sight was restored. Looking at the branch from which the cure had so miraculously come, he saw two more apples and, calling his wife, gave her one of them to eat, and she too, was able to see. Now Gillemoholmoc was a very kindly and considerate man, so he immediately thought of his kinsman, Malachi, King of Meath, who also suffered from blindness, and, hastening to him, presented the third apple, with similar results. In thanksgiving Malachi purchased his kinsman’s land and thereon built a monastery, under the invocation of St. Mary, which he handed over to the disciples of St. Benedict. And so began St. Mary’s Abbey, with a portion of whose Green this paper is concerned.

There are, of course, more prosaic accounts of the origin of this Abbey, such as that it was built by the Christian Danes of Dublin in the year 948, or that it was founded through the liberality of the Ardrigh, Malachi II, whose death is stated to have taken place in 862. However, as the facts about the Abbey’s origin are immaterial to my story, I prefer to begin with the legend of the sweet-smelling apples, because by the time this paper is finished there will remain few pleasant odours, few acts of kindliness, consideration and charity, about the Little Green of Dublin.

The monastic buildings of St. Mary’s occupied an area bounded by Capel Street on the east, by East Arran Street on the west, by Little Mary Street on the north and the street called Mary’s Abbey on the south. The Abbey manor land, however, was of great extent, comprising the whole stretch of ground from the river Tolka to the river Liffey Bank, bounded on the west by Constitution Hill, King’s Inns and Anne Street to the Abbey Green. I have not been able to trace the precise outlines of the Green, but it seems to have extended from Capel Street to North Anne Street and St. Michan’s Street. I propose to deal only with that portion of it bounded by the present Halston Street, North King Street, Green Street and the roadway which forms the link between Little Britain Street and Cuckoo Lane.

The Abbey was originally a Benedictine monastery, but in 1139 the monks adopted the Observance of Savigny, a newly-formed congregation under the guidance of St. Bernard; this congregation became better known as the Cistercians. St. Bernard’s establishment at Clairvaux, France, was surrounded by a strong wall with watch towers. The wall was nearly encircled by a stream of water, artificially diverted from or into small rivulets, which flowed through the precincts to supply the fishponds, gardens and general needs of the establishment. At Citeaux, the original home of the Cistercians, a cross, erected on the highway, indicated the way to the monastery. Speed’s plan of Dublin, 1610, shows that St. Mary’s followed generally the same principles as at Clairvaux, the river in this case being the Bradoge on the west side, from which a branch appears to have entered the grounds on the north, about the present North King Street. The main entrance was apparently in the south-west corner of the grounds, but Speed’s plan shows a gate-like structure on the north and above it a cross. That cross may have served the same purpose as at Citeaux. – Soon after its foundation many benefactions were bestowed on the Abbey, amongst them several in the 12th and 13th centuries from the family of Gillemoholmoc. The city was never behind-hand in furthering pious objects and, by an agreement concluded in the year 1213, the citizens granted “”in free alms for ever to the monks all the land between the Ostmants town and the water styled Tulkan, and as far as Crohuroric, where the gallows formerly stood, and to the Avenlif, with the ground called Crinan. The monks are to maintain the green place which is opposite their outside gate, as a common pasture, according to the crosses placed there and without any obstruction.” For this agreement the monks gave the citizens one hundred marks and an assignment of a perpetual rent in Dublin of one hundred marks annually. The interesting thing about this grant is that it refers. specifically to the “”green place. ..opposite their outside gate” and to the crosses which, according to Speed’s plan, would fix the location at approximately the site of the Little Green, to-day (1946) identified by the names of Green Street and Little Green Street. The Abbey Green, as it was known about 1568, and as the Little Green from about 1727, seems obviously to have been part of the land granted by the city in 1213.

The Act, passed in 1537, suppressing the abbeys, did not affect St. Mary’s ; but the writing was on the wall, and on 29th October, 1539, the Abbey, with all its possessions, passed into the greedy hands of Henry VIII. The lands he parcelled out to his hungry followers, Irish as well as English, but the cash, plate and jewels vanished into his own private treasury. Thus ended this great house after five hundred years, and with it passed the land given by the citizens of Dublin “”in free alms for ever.”” In 1568-9, Elizabeth granted in fee-farm to the Mayor, Sheriffs and citizens of Dublin, the “”houses and mills, in and near the city, which were portions of the lately dissolved monasteries of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Thomas,”” at a rent of £40 per annum, with a payment of £80 at the end of every period of 21 years. It is not clear that this grant included lands, but it is the first mention I can trace in the Calendar of Ancient Records of Dublin of the Abbey after the suppression. It was about this time the name of Abbey Green emerged and its first appearance in the Calendar is under the date “”fourth Friday after 29th September, 1603.” At the assembly on that date, on a complaint against unfree persons pasturing their cattle on the city’s commons, it was ordered that no unfree man should pasture Oxmantown Green or the Abbey Green, without payment of a rent to the city. After this the Records are silent for a further period of 72 years, during which, presumably, the Green was a commonage.

In April, 1675, the City Assembly had before them a petition from Sir Charles Hartstonge (or Hartstronge as it is given in the Calendar), praying that arrears due by him to the city for a period of eight years past, in respect of his holding at St. Mary’s Abbey Green, might be remitted. In his petition he recites that he had long since obtained the interest, for a long term of years yet to come, granted by the city to Sir George Gilbert and Alderman Ridgley Hatfield, of a waste plot of ground at the Abbey Green, before the house of the late Sir Thomas Bromhalls, which interest the petitioner had also purchased. The explanation offered for having allowed the arrears to accumulate was that the Earl of Drogheda, by laying claim to more than half the ground, had prevented Hartstonge from using it. Hartstonge claimed that in some recent trials between the city and others against the Earl, he, Hartstonge, had defended the city’s title to the ground, being determined to build upon it and to improve it. The land originally granted to the Earl lay to the east of the junction between Mary Street and Henry Street, but as was not unusual in all periods, claims were made to lands adjoining those named in the grant. Hartstonge made a further application for land in January, 1681. He stated he was surrounding the ground formerly held by Bromhall, by a wall, with a view to improvements, the principal one being to draw the Bradoge and the other waters in other parts of the Green into one channel. By some mistake there had been left out of the original lease “a sharp angle of ten yards and a halfe at one end, but nothing at the other,”” and he declared, in a most concerned way, that “”consequently the whole streete would be built wholly awry or out of order, and would be a greater disornament to the citty than inconvenience to the petitioner””

The premises having been surveyed by a committee, it was found that the complaint was well grounded, and that the addition sought lay only at the south-east corner and ran northward at an acute angle which would “”bring the ground regular to answer a range with the street leading to St Maries Abby.”” A new lease, to include the small triangle, was granted for 99 years, at a rent of £6 per annum and a couple of fat capons, or five shillings in lieu thereof, to the Lord Mayor each year.

These details of Hartstonge’s holdings have been given in detail because they help to show the formation of the streets about the Little Green, the way to St. Mary’s Abbey, above referred to, being evidently Mary’s Lane. This appears more clearly in 1727, when on 14th April the Assembly had under consideration the report of a committee appointed to deal with a letter from Dr . William King, Protestant Archbishop of Dublin, in which he set forth that the number of inhabitants of the parish of the new St. Michan’s had so much increased that no one church was capacious enough to receive them all, and therefore he prayed for “”such a quantity of the Little Green as will be sufficient to build a church on.”” what he did not tell the assembly was that, in his Visitation Report, he had described the future congregation of the proposed church as “”lewd and unruly people “”who had no place of worship.” His Lordship seems to have been unduly burdened with lewd and unruly people in his diocese, because he characterised the people of Glasnevin as the last word in wickedness. and as for the people of Ringsend, before a church was built there, they were the lewdest folk in all Dublin! The Committee’s report on his request said : “”We……….have viewed and surveyed part of the Little Green, adjoining Sir Standish Hartstong’s holding and. have laid out as much ground as will be convenient and necessary to build a church on; and as the building a church there will tend to the service of God and the public good, we are of opinion that a piece of ground, part of the said Green on the north end there-of, be granted in fee-farm by the city to the memorialist to build a church on, at 2s. 6d. per annum rent, the same containing in the front to King’s street 130 feet, in depth from King’s street to the south on the east side 144 feet, from thence to the west 120 feet to Hartstong street, and from thence to the north to King’s street 80 feet, leaving Hartstong street on the west side 25 feet wide.”

The Committee’s report was adopted and leases were to be drawn by the Recorder and “”in regard the Bradoge runs through part of said ground designed for a church, that the same be turned, covered and arched by those who may be appointed overseers for building said church, so that the same be no expense to the city, and that a covenant be inserted in the deed to that purpose, and that a proper seat be reserved in said church for the use of the Lord Mayor and citizens.” It was also, apparently, a condition that the ground should be fenced in.

Rev. Mr. McCready, in his book on Dublin Street Names, hazards a suggestion that Halston is a corruption of Halfstone, but Rev. Dillon Cosgrave in North Dublin: City and Environs, apparently holds that the former Phrapper Lane, later Beresford Street, was originally called Halfstone street. From the exact location of Sir Standish Hartstonge’s holding it is obvious that the original name of Halston Street was Hartstonge Street, a name not too easy to pronounce. The same street has also been called Bradoge Street, from the river running under it. In Rocquets map of 1765 Green Street is called the Little Green, and the portion granted for the church is shown walled in. In the 1773 edition of the same map, with Bernard Scalets additions, the present Green Street emerges. About 1864 the former Petticoat Lane assumed the more respectable title of Little Green Street.

The personage whose name is perpetuated in a corrupt form by Halston Street, was the eldest son of Francis Hartstonge of Catton and Southrepps in Norfolk, and of Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of Sir Thomas Standish of Bruff, Co. Limerick.

He entered the Middle Temple in 1657 and came to Ireland where he was admitted a member of the King’s Inns in 1659. He became Recorder of Limerick and a Member for that city in 1661, became Third Baron of the Exchequer in 1680, was created baronet in 1681, and in the same year was made one of the Governors of the Blue Coat School. After various ups and downs he was superseded finally in 1695 and died sometime about 1702, apparently in Herefordshire. He was married three times and in the Registers of St. Michan’s, Church Streett there is an entry of the baptism of his son Gwynt his son by his third wife, Jane (or Johanna) and also of the burials of three of his servants in 1681 and 1684. It is evident. Therefore. that he was more or less constantly resident on his holding beside the Little Green from 1675 to 1686, sufficiently long and of sufficient importance to have his name identified with the street in front of his holding.

From the regulations laid down for the Watch in 1730, it would appear that the patrol of the watchmen from the Watch-house at Young’s Castle, was round the Little Green, to the Bradogue bridge. One of the Directors of the Watch of St. Michan’s was Oliver Bond up to 1784, when he left the parish. He was to see the Little Green in grimmer circumstances fourteen years later.

In 1771 the Watch house was removed from Young’s Castle to the Little Green. The project visualised by Archbishop King did not come to fruition. Indeed, the Little Green appears to have been the home of lost causes. When Essex Bridge collapsed it was popularly believed the reason was that the stones of St. Mary’s Abbey had been used in its construction. A similar ill-luck would seem to have followed attempts to use the Little Green. In 1682 certain of the Commons petitioned the City Assembly that there was “”a parcell of groundt mentioned in the survey of the land taken for the Lord Lanesborough on the Abbey Green,””which would be convenient for a church for the inhabitants thereof. A plot was accordingly set aside for a church and churchyard, subject to a rental of “”ten groats per annum”” to the city treasurer, and to a proviso that a place be reserved, in the best part of the church (which, by the way, was to be built by the parish) for the Lord Mayor and citizens to sit in. The parish had other ideas,- however, and in November, 1699, the same ground was appropriated for the use of a hospital for the reception of aged sick and other diseased persons, as “”there are severall well-disposed persons who now would contribute largely to such a work, if the same was set forwards, and a piece of ground appropriated to the same, which opportunity, if lost; may not be again met with.””The opportunity was not lost, the ground was allocated, but this project also disappeared-another lost cause. In this entry in the Records the ground is described as lying at “the north end of the Lady Reeves’ garden.”” On a map in the City Rental Book, compiled by Arthur Neville, City Surveyor, in 1829, and now in the Muniment Room, City Hall, there is pencilled-in the site of two holdings, that of Lord Lanesborough and Sir Richard Ryves, the Ryves’ holding being towards the north to King Street.

In March, 1665, Charles II granted an annuity of £500 to the City. In July, 1682, certain of the Commons petitioned the City Assembly that Viscount Lord Lanesborough had been very serviceable to the city, particularly in obtaining this grant, but that he had received no token of the city’s gratitude; they proposed that he be granted a portion of the Abbey Green, adjacent to Sir Standish Hartstonge’s holding there. It was agreed to give his lordship a fee farm, he paying a pair of gloves to the Lord Mayor each Easter. In addition he was, within seven years, to build a good house “”fitt for a nobleman of his lordship’s quality to live in, “”failing which the grant would be void or else liable to a rent of £50 per annum. Lord Lanesborough, looking the gift horse in the mouth, decided it had too many covenants, so he reminded the city that the fee farm had been given as a gratuity for services rendered, and that, while he was minded to build a house there for his own use and not for tenements, he prayed the restrictions might be deleted, which was done. About seventeen months later-May, 1685-his widow; Frances, Dowager Lady Lanesborough, reported that his lordship had walled in the ground, intending to build a dwelling house for himself, but that he did not live to finish the work. She asked that she might be at liberty to build as she wished, as the covenant was a “”seeming discouragement to undertakers in building.”” And, of course, she got perfect freedom to do what she liked.

Lord Lanesborough’s neighbour on the Little Green was Sir Richard Ryves, Recorder of Dublin. On the surrender by Sir William Davys of the office of Recorder, Richard Ryves applied for the “”post on the ground that he was a “towne born child “” and freeman of the city, which had been the place of his education and would also be his constant place of residence. In 1682 he was given a piece of waste ground on the Green, near Baron Hartstonge’s holding and lying between Lord Lanesborough’s ground and the ground intended for a church and a churchyard. The holdings of both Lanesborough and Ryves stretched from Capel street to Green street, according to plans in the City Rental Book of 1829.

Sir Richard Ryves was born in Dublin in 1643, was Recorder of Kilkenny in 1671, Recorder of Dublin in 1680, was knighted in 1681, his residence then being in St. Michael’s Lane. He became Second Commissioner of the Great Seal after the Battle of the Boyne. He was appointed Second Baron of the Exchequer in 1692. He then resided in Capel Street. Ten years before he had obtained an addition to his original holding for the purpose of providing stabling to the house he intended to build for himself. This house would have been somewhere between Little Mary Street and North King Street. He died early in 1693.

His career as Recorder of Dublin seems to have been interrupted for a brief period, because in 1687 the city called on him to hand over the “”White Book “” and all other documents belonging to the city to Sir John Barnwall, then described as “”now Recorder of the City,”” but in 1690 he was still described as Recorder. In that year he was advanced to be one of the Lords Commissioners of the Great Seal and, because of his great infirmity he could no longer act as Recorder, the Lords Justices desired, Sir Richard being willing, that the Recordership should pass to Thomas Coote. If he was too infirm to continue as Recorder the same disability should have disqualified him from being a Commissioner, but any wish of the Lords Justices was not likely to be questioned in the year 1690. The direction about the White Book”” shows that the Corporation of that day had a watchful eye on their historic property, but unhappily that care did not continue, for the “”White Book “” passed out of their hands sometime in the 18th century. It turned up in an auction room in 1829 and was purchased by Sir. William Betham, Ulster King of Arms, for £64 1s.; he re-sold to the Municipal Council their own property for £150.

In Rocque’s map of 1765, the northern portion of the Little Green, apparently that leased to Archbishop King in 1727, is shown enclosed by a wall, and the rest of the ground appears to be a hummocky waste. This waste portion was set by the Corporation in 1761 to Columbine Lee Carre, in trust for James Dexter, at a rent of £60 per annum. A year later Dexter, who was Marshal of the Four Courts, admitted he had bitten off more than he could chew. He bought the site, intending to build a Marshalsea (prison) thereon, but, finding he had not enough money for the purpose, he decided to run a lottery, which was a failure. According to his own statement, he then made an appeal to Parliament to aid him in his task but without success. There was nothing for it but to ask the Corporation to cancel his lease. Another lost cause! The idea of running a lottery to finance the building of a gaol appears incongruous, but not more so than a private individual proposing to erect a prison for his own profit. However, as will be seen later, there were less profitable enterprises than running a Marshalsea. That name was derived from the prison at Southwark, belonging to the Marshal of the King’s Household which was in existence up to 1842. The county gaol at Roscommon, erected in 1818, is stated to have been built on the plan of the Southwark prison.

Sixty years after the Corporation had let the northern part of the Green to Archbishop King they began to think it was time to inquire into the intentions of the lessees, so they asked Dr. King’s successor, Dr. Fowler, if he had any objection to their taking back the ground. He replied that he had no objection, and released the ground, which was put up for auction three years later. The purchaser was Joseph Pemberton. According to tradition this portion of the Little Green was the former cemetery of the monks of St. Mary’s Abbey.

Perhaps it was due to Dexter’s idea that the Corporation eventually decided to use the Little Green as the site for a prison. In 1767, the old Newgate Gaol, possibly one of the oldest buildings then extant in Dublin, was in a ruinous condition and beyond repair. The selection of a site for a new prison was left to a Committee who reported that the Little Green was a suitable place, being the property of the Corporation and for a long time waste. They recommended that it would be highly commendable to grant to the public a part of the Little Green, provided a gaol was built there within a reasonable time. They further recommended that a plan and estimate should be adopted so as to have everything ready for the Grand Jury in the ensuing term. They also called the attention of the Corporation to another object, the need for a Sheriffs’ gaol and a Coroner’s gaol, pointing out that “”there is none of consequence, every person under the unhappy situation of an arrest, if not immediately able to pay his debt, is hurried into a Marshalsea.””

It was about this time that a young grocer, just around the corner from Little Green, had opened a “Bordeaux wine cellar,”” where he was prepared to sell wines, teas, coffee, spirits, etcetera. What commodities he proposed to sell under the designation “”etcetera “” was not then apparent; at a later date they evidently included men’s lives and liberties, for the young grocer of Mary’s Lane subsequently blossomed into the lawyer and Government agent- Leonard McNally.

The Corporation’s idea of a “”reasonable time, for building their gaol does not appear to have been a narrow one, because it was not until 28th October, 1773, that the foundation stone of the New Prison was laid, and a further eight years elapsed before the place was ready for the reception of prisoners in 1781. It was built to the plans of Thomas Cooley, an Englishman, who had been brought to Dublin in 1769, when his design for the Royal Exchange had been accepted. He also designed the Record Office, Inns Quay. Whatever Mr. Cooley’s qualifications may have been for keeping stockbrokers and records in order, he failed lamentably as a designer of gaols. It is true that the site rather restricted his plans, being only 170 feet by 127 feet and, being surrounded on three sides by public thoroughfares, was incapable of expansion, but there were some fundamental errors. Perhaps the worst of these, from the point of view of security, was that the back wall of each cell was the outside wall of the building, so that when a prisoner was locked up for the night he could spend his enforced leisure in boring his way through the wall to liberty. Nor would that have been difficult; the walls of such seeming solidity were really composed of an outer and an .inner wall, each12 inches thick; with a 12-inch cavity between, which was filled with loose rubble and rubbish. Yet no prisoner escaped by that method, though Major Swan, early in 1800, frustrated an attempt to get out that way. The defect of the cells facing the wrong way was corrected about 1817.

The cost of the prison was £18,000, of which £2,000 was contributed by the Government. Its official name was Newgate, after the original on Cornmarket, but it is very often alluded to as the New Prison. Its use as a prison was discontinued in 1863 when it was utilised as a fruit and vegetable market. It was demolished in 1893 and the site converted into a car park, called St. Michan’s Park. The walls were levelled down to about three feet above ground level, and the space enclosed built up to the same height. Thus the outlines of Newgate are quite visible to this day (1946) . It was the first building erected on the Little Green proper, and occupied the southern portion of the space.

Having completed the new Newgate, the Corporation turned their attention to replacing the old City Marshalsea, which was also in a state of decay. They selected the next vacant portion of the Little Green, adjoining the north wall of Newgate, and caused advertisements to be inserted in the Dublin Journal of June 10-12, 1788, for proposals and estimates for a prison to accommodate about 100 persons. They got only one proposal, from a Mr. Davis, so they recommended that a premium should be offered for the best plan and estimate.

About the same time the Grand Jury were treating for land on which to build a Sheriffs’ Prison, and it was arranged to set them a portion on the north of the Little Green, part of the ground leased to Archbishop King in 1727, and south of the building lot later sold to Pemberton in 1790. In addition to erecting a Sheriffs’ Prison the Grand Jury were also proposing to build a Sessions House, though the City Records are curiously silent about these negotiations. The first reference to the intended Sessions House is on 11th March, 1791, although the site had by that time been agreed upon and the only vacant spot left lay between it and the Sheriffs’ Prison. On this vacant spot it was decided to build the Marshalsea, instead of on the site selected in 1788, and now set aside for the Sessions House, which was to adjoin Newgate. In 1792 a Doctor Johnston petitioned the City Assembly to take over the Deanery House for a Marshalsea, but I have been unable to discover what Deanery, or who Dr. Johnston was. The petition was refused on the ground that it would take £3,000 to convert the Deanery and the yard was too small.

In 1794 the Corporation had before them two plans for the new Marshalsea, one by Mr. Byron (presumably Samuel Byron, City Surveyor) and one by Sir John Trail. Trail’s plan was accepted and the Committee in charge was authorised to spend up to £3,000 in carrying it into effect. Nevertheless, eight years later a report from the Committee on City Leases stated that the City Marshalsea had become so ruinous and insecure that a new one was absolutely necessary. Once more a sub-committee was appointed, and once more the same site was selected. Two months later the site was again proposed, the Committee urging the completion of the building on the ground that the Corporation was “”bound to keep such a prison by charter.”” Authority was given to advertise for plans and estimates and on 22nd April, 1803, the tender of William Pemberton was accepted at £2,174 14s, 6d:, being the lowest of five tenders received, it was completed in 1804, sixteen years after the project was first mooted. It was so badly built that it was out of repair by 1808.

In the meantime the Sheriffs’ Prison had been completed by about 1794. On 6th June, 1854, this prison and the Marshalsea adjoining were purchased from the Corporation by the Government for £1,000. They were utilised as prison stores for Newgate up to about 1863. In June, 1865, the Corporation sought to repurchase them for the purpose of connecting them to the late Newgate, then in their possession and used as a market. Before the sale could be concluded the buildings were, by direction of the Lord Lieutenant, lent to the Dublin Board of Guardians for use as a cholera hospital. In November, 1865, the; prisons were reported to be in a state of general decay, on account of having been untenanted for many years. The buildings were handed over to the Board of Guardians on 2nd June, 1866, and handed back by them to the Commissioners of Public Works in November, 1867, their condition being then stated to be clean and satisfactory. During the trial of the Fenian Prisoners, portion of the buildings was allocated to the use of the officers’ guard. The Sheriffs’ Prison was, in July, 1869, converted into a station for the Dublin Metropolitan Police and it, with the old Marshalsea, is now a station of the Garda Siochana.

Waterford Lazar or Leper House, 1661

[In the Franciscan Convent, Clonmel, is an interesting document bearing on the history of the Leper Hospital, Waterford. It is in manuscript-bound up in a volume of Archdalls “” Monasticon “”- and purports to be a copy of an inquisition taken at Waterford immediately after the Restoration, before the Sheriff of the County and the Mayor of the City (William Halsey), with whom were associated Richard Power, Member of Parliament for the County, and James Bryver. Halsey represented the City in Parliament at the same time that he filled its Mayoral Chair. Father Cooney, O.S.F., Clonmel, copied the manuscript for our Most Reverend President, and we are here enabled, through the courtesy of the latter, to present its contents to the readers of the Journal. The site of the old Leper House, it may be well to add, was in Stephen-street, close to St. Stephen’s Church, and partly on the site of the present brewery.

In St. Stephen’s graveyard a few tombstones of no great antiquity still remain, and a small piece of masonry, apparently a fragment-the only fragment traceable of the church. A chamfered lintel of limestone, forming a wide angle arch over one of the windows in the present brewery buildings, bears the date 1632. The figures are cut in high relief, two on either side of the arch. This lintel belonged to the old Leper Hospital. Portion of the building itself, over a window of which the inscribed lintel is inserted, constituted very probably a part of the ancient hospital, and is in fact the only remnant of the latter now remaining. St. Mary Magdalen’s Chapel was apparently situated somewhere in the direction or neighbourhood of John’s Hill or Ballytruckle, in which direction also most of the suburban landed property of the hospital lay. The names of the persons found in possession of the hospital lands and buildings have a decidedly Cromwellian ring.- signed EDITOR (JWAHS).]

An inquisition taken before the Sheriff of the Co. of Waterford, the Mayor of the City of Waterford, Richard Power and James Bryver, Esqs, the 25th of Sept., 1661, at Waterford aforesaid, upon the oaths of honest and good men, etc., who being sworn upon the Holy Evangelists doe finde as followeth in these words, viz. :–
“”We find that the Lazar or Leaper House in the suburbs of Waterford, in St. Stephen’s Parish, was erected and founded by King John, and hath given the said house immunities and a charter to a Master, Bretheren, and Sisters of the said House for the maintenance of the Leapers for ever, and of which immunities they had a liberty that if any assault, battery, or bloodshed was committed within the precincts of said Lazar House, the Baron or Master of said House were sole judges of any such fact. We doe also find that it is further part of the immunities of said House, that if any man or woman in the City or Country of Waterford be infected with the Leprosie, and not taking their licence and freedom of members of the house to live abroad, and soe dying, their estate is forfeited to the said Leaper House. And we also find that there appertains to the House aforesaid as part of the perquisites thereunto belonging, the oblation of St. Mary Maudlin’s Chapel and the oblation of St. Stephen’s Church, together with all the christnings, mariages, and burials within the said Parish of St. Stephen’s Church, the house allowing to the Vicar of said Parish a competent annuity in consideration thereof, and the Mayor of Waterford did appoint a trusty man to oversee and receive the revenues and part out leases, by the name of Senescall in these latter adges, by what authority we know not.We find that Leaperstoun, in the Barony of Galtier and Parish of Kilmacom, esteemed were plough lands, with the tythes thereof, great and small, to belong to the said House, valued in the year 1641 at £106 sterg. a year, and so yielded for two or three years, recd. then by Francis Bryver, being Senescal of the said House, to the use of said Master, Bretheren, and Sisters of the said House. And since sometimes wast by reason of the wars, and sometimes sett at £50 a year, and sometimes more or less, which was received by the said Bryver during his life, and after him succeeded Baltazar Woodlock, he died in the year of the plague 1650, as Senescall, at which time the city was surrendered to the usurped power, who settled and recd. the revenues of the estate of the said House, since which to Colonell Laurence for 3 years at £30 pel annum, after to Mr. Andrew Lynn for 3 years at £70 per annum, having the tythes of Kilmoyhabe and a garden in Colpeck belonging to the Hospital of the Holy Ghost, to help him in his rent, and after Mr. Thomas Watts, from Mr. Lynn’s times until May last, at £80 per an., and after Mr. Andrew Lynn, who enjoys it to this day, by commission from Dublin, upon what account we know not.

We find that in the year 1641 there was £10 per ann. out of several houses and gardens in St. Stephen’s Parish coming yearly to the said Leaper House, and since these times several of the said houses were ruined, we find that they had tythes of the said Parish of St. Stephen’s besides.
We find that the old House of the Leapers is ruined, and the timber and materials thereof were taken away by Ensign Smart, Robert Woods, and others, and the same with the new House, a thatch house and a garden were sett by the then Commissioners of Revenue to Col. William Leigh at forty shillings a year, who sett them all to Mr. Hall at £4 st. per ann. We find also that Roger Coats, Walter Cantwell and Edmond Leary, masons, took away the tomb stones and paving stones that covered the graves of dead bodies in St. Stephen’s Church, and brought to Lott Leigh’s house to floor his kitchen therewith, and also brought some of the said stones to John Morris’ house, and also some of the said stones to Leftenant-Coll. Leighs Wheeler’s house, where now liveth Coll. Mullor, and also that William Cooper took away the stones of the said church yard.

We find and present that Mr. John Williams had a parcell of hay in St. Stephen’s church, and the rooffe of the said church fell upon the said hay; and he converted the timber thereof in creating a barne near it to his own use. We find and present that the 2/3 of the tythes of Kilbeartane and Ballymoris, in the Parish of ………. and Barony of Middle Third, in the said County of Waterford, did belong to the said House.
We find and present that the whole tythes of Brittas, in the Parish of Drumcannon, doth belong to the said House. We find and present that the parcell of land called Ballycadelan, leading from the Bridge of St. John upon the right hand leading to the meare of Ballytruckle, containing…………acres in parcel of the said Lazar House, with all the houses upon the Hill, and the two parcells called Parckcarraghmore and Parckcarraghbeg, with all the tythes great and small belonging to the said Leaper House. Also that a chapel called St. Mary Maudlin’s Chapel, in possession of John Hevens, who yielded a considerable profit to the sd. Leaper House by the oblation thereof, and turned and converted by John Hevens to a house, which lands and houses were sett for long leases at small rents by the said Lazar House in ancient times, and after when the leases came to the usurped authority they disposed of all these estates as we find to Coll. Laurence, Capt. Warde, Thomas Watts, who held from the Commissioners of Reveuue, at what rents we know not, and how they converted the same we know not, but only this. Thereafter, at present we find Butler’s mill, with the small meadow thereto adjoining, in the possession of Samuel Browne, at the rent of 30/- per annum.

We find a house and garden next to the said mill in the possession of Nicholas McEdmond Cottner, tenant to Capt. Thomas Bolton, at the yearly rent of 50/-. We find a tan house, garden, and yard of tan pitts, late in the possession of John Davis, at the rent of 20/- per ann. A house of Richard Farrell at the rent of 30/-. We find that. John Hevens holds several tan pitts and several houses and 1/2 f acre of land at 20/- per ann. William Hevens, house and garden at £3. Thomas Sherlock, house and garden at £3. Several other cabins, valued at 30/- per ann., upon the hill. A close called Parckcurraghmore, set to Widow Reidy at £3 per ann. Nicholas Lea pays for Parckcurraghbegg and for the house thereon 40/- per ann. ; Walter …….?? for one cabin, 4/- per an. Llachernee Cuffe, for one cabin, 9/- per an. ; John Deimis, for one cabin 4/- per an. ; Nicholas Power, for one cabin, 20/- per an. ; Edmond Walsh FitzRichard, for one cabin, 4/- per an. ; Nicholas Murphy, for one cabin, 4/6 ; Richard Phelan, for one cabin, 4/- per an. ; Job McMorris, for one cabin, 4/- ; Bartolomy White, for one cabin, 20/. Per an. ; James Purcell, for one cabin, 10/- ; five pieces of land going down to the new mill, valued……… ..per an, £3. All the grounds between that and Ballytruck is set by Cart. Thomas Boulter at eleven pounds per an. Lazart Park, held by Mr. Watts, and Little Marsh beyond it southward of, we esteem to be worth £4 per an. Two small pieces of ground adjoining the new mill, with the small island adjoining, we esteem to be worth per an. 20/-. We find the Widow Ruddy pays for her cabin 6/- per an.
We also ……………….there are two Leapers in the Barony of Gallyen, one in Ballynvelly, named Juan McNicholas, and one Denby O’Flyne, of Ballyne Kill, who would not obey.We find and present that Juan Murphy, servt. unto the Widow Bennett, was enfected with the Leprosie, and in the time of the usurped power was presented to the then Commissioners of Revenue, who denyed to give her any releefe, wherefore she miscarried, and dyed a miserable condition. We have summoned Nicholas Walshe and Paul Aylwarde, who denyed to appear before us, as concerning they had most testimony ……………..concerning our charge.

We find and present that we have seen …………….past by the Master, Bretheren, and Sisters of the Lazar House unto John Butler and Nicholas Madden, in fee farm; bearing………………. 1477, of the mill, commonly called Butler’s Mill, with the ……………small meadow and all the land from the Bridge to Mary Maudlin’s Chapel, at 5/- per an., excepting a bean garden which was reserved for the use of the said Leapers’ House.

Published in the Journal of the Waterford & South East of Ireland Archaeological Society c. 1895. All spellings as are in the original document. Where there are dots thus in a sentence, the original script could not be read.