THE LETTERS OF "NORAH" ON HER TOUR THROUGH IRELAND,
BEING A SERIES OF LETTERS TO THE MONTREAL "WITNESS"
AS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT TO IRELAND
COMPLETE LIST OF SUBSCRIBERS TO THE PUBLICATION OF MRS. McDOUGAL'S LETTERS FROM IRELAND.
Monsignore Farrelly. Belleville, Ont. $ 5.00 Wm. Wilson, Montreal 10.00 Edward Murphy, Montreal 5.00 Joseph Cloran, " 5.00 Timothy Fogarty, " 5.00 Robert McCready, " 5.00 James Stewart, " 5.00 T.J. Potter, " 5.00 John Mahan, Paris (France) 5.00 Henry Hogan, Montreal 5.00 Bernard Tansey, " 2.00 B. Connaughton, " 2.00 F.G. Gormely, " 2.00 J.C. Fleming, Toronto 2.00 C.D. Hanson, Montreal 2.00 D. McEntyre Jr., " 2.00 Ald. D. Tansey, " 4.00 Wm. Farrell, " 2.00 M. Avahill, " 2.00 E.P. Ronavae " 2.00 Michael Sullivan," 1.00 James Guest " 2.00 M.P. Ryan " 5.00 Joseph Dunn, Cote St. Paul 4.00 Owen McGarvey, Montreal 5.00 Daniel Murphy, Carillon, P.Q. 5.00 John Kelly " " 5.00 C.J. Doherty, Montreal 5.00 James McCready " 5.00 Andrew Colquhoun, Winnepeg 5.00 P. Cuddy, Montreal 5.00 W.S. Walker " 5.00 M.J. Quinn " 5.00 Rev. M.J. Stanton, Priest, Westport, Ont. 5.00 E. Stanton, Ottawa 5.00 J. Fogarty, Montreal 5.00 P. McLaughlin, Montreal 3.00 P.J. Ronayne, " 5.00 William Redmond, " 2.00 J.J. Milloy, " 2.00 C. Egan, " 2.00 John Cox, " 2.00 P.J. Durack, " 2.00 John McElroy, " 2.00 Michael Fern, " 2.00 J.I. Hayes, " 2.00 James Maguire, " 2.00 J.J. Curran, M.P., " 2.00 Mrs. McCrank, " 2.00 Dr. W.H. Hingston, " 5.00 John B. Murphy, " 5.00 Tim. Kenna, " 2.00 Matthew Hicks, " 5.00 Patrick Wright, " 5.00 Wm. S. Harper, " 2.00 Richard Drake, " 1.00 James O'Brien, " 5.00 H. Hodgson, " 2.00 P.A. Egleson, Ottawa, Ont. 5.00 John Keane, " 2.00 B.J. Coghlin, Montreal 5.00 Henry Stafford, " 2.00 Mrs. P. McMahon " 2.00 P. Cadigan, Pembroke, Ont. 5.00 H. Heaton, Nebraska, U.S. .50 Thomas Simpson, Montreal 1.00 Alexander Seath, " 2.00 M.C. Mullarky, " 5.00 John Fahey, " 5.00 J.J. Arnton, " 5.00 Richard McShane, " 2.00 B. Emerson, " 2.00 J.D. Purcell, " 2.00 W. O'Brien " 5.00
Treasurer "Norah's Letters" Fund.
A TOUR THROUGH IRELAND
OFF—EXPERIENCES IN A PULLMAN CAR—HOARDING THE "ONTARIO"—THE CAPTAIN— THE SEA AND SEA-SICKNESS—IMAGININGS IN THE STORM—LANDING AT BIRKENHEAD.
On January 27th I bade good-bye to my friends and set my face resolutely towards the land whither I had desired to return. Knowing that sickness and unrest were before me, I formed an almost cast-iron resolution, as Samantha would say, to have one good night's rest on that Pulman car before setting out on the raging seas. Alas! a person would persist in floating about, coming occasionally to fumble in my belongings in the upper berth. Prepared to get nervous. Before it came to that, I sat up and enquired if the individual had lost anything, when he disappeared. Lay down and passed another resolution. Some who were sitting up began to smoke, and the fumes of tobacco floated in behind the curtains, clung there and filled all the space and murdered sleep. Watched the heavy dark shelf above, stared at the cool white snow outside, wished that all smokers were exiled to Virginia or Cuba, or that they were compelled to breathe up their own smoke, until the morning broke cold and foggy.
Emerged from behind the curtains, and blessed the man who invented cold water. Too much disturbed by the last night's dose of second-hand smoke for breakfast at Island Pond. The moist-looking colored gentleman who was porter, turned back to Montreal before we reached Portland. I strongly suspect that a friend had privately presented him with a fee to make him attentive to one of the passengers, for he came twice with the most minute directions for finding the Dominion Line office, at Portland. Still his conscience was unsatisfied, for finally he came with the offer of a tumbler full of something he called pure apple juice. There are some proud Caucasians who would not have found it so difficult to square a small matter like that with their consciences.
It was pleasant to look at the comfortable homes on the line as we passed along. Not one squalid looking homestead did we pass; every one such as a man might be proud to own. All honor to the State of Maine.
The train was three hours late—it was afternoon when we arrived in Portland. Following the directions of my colored friend, I went up an extremely dirty stair into a very dirty office, found an innocent young man smoking a cigar. He did not know anything, you know, so sat grimly down to wait for the arrival of some one who did. Such a one soon appeared and took a comprehensive glance of the passenger as he took off his overshoes.
"Passenger for the 'Ontario,'" explained the innocent young man.
"Take the passenger over to the ship," said the energetic one, decidedly. "We will send luggage after you. How much have you?"
Explained, handed him the checks, and meekly followed my innocent guide down the dirty stair, across a wide street, up some dirty-looking steps on to the wharf where the 'Ontario' lay, taking in her cargo. Large and strong-looking, dingy white was she, lying far below the wharf.
My guide enquired for the captain, who appeared suddenly from somewhere— a tall man with a resolute face and keen eye, gray as to hair and whiskers, every inch a captain. I knew that his face—once a handsome face, I am sure—had got that look of determination carved into it by doing his duty by his ship and facing many a storm on God Almighty's sea. I trusted him at once.
Did not sail through the night as I expected, but were still in Portland when morning came. We had fish for breakfast; found mine frozen beneath the crisp brown outside. After breakfast went up on deck. The sky was blue and bright, the air piercing cold. The town of Portland looked clean and beautiful in the fair sunlight. It is a place that goes climbing up hill. The floating ice and the liquid green water ruffled into white on the crest of the swells, are at play together. The ship moves out slowly, almost imperceptibly. Portland fades from a house- crowned hillside into a white line, darkness comes down. We are out at sea.
The glass has gone down; the storm has come up; the sea tyrant has got hold of the solitary passenger and dandles her very roughly, singing "The Wreck of the 'Hesperus'" in a loud bass to some grand deep tune, alternating with the one hundred and third Psalm in Gaelic. The passenger holds on for dear life and wonders why the winds sing those words over and over again.
Sabbath passes, day melts into night, night fades into day, the storm tosses the ship and sea-sickness tosses the passenger. The captain enquires, "Is that passenger no better yet?" Comes to see in his doctoral capacity, looks like a man not to be trifled with, feels the pulse, orders a mustard blister, brandy and ammonia, and scolds the patient for starving, like a wise captain and kind man as he is. All the ship stores are ransacked for something to tempt an appetite that is above temptation; but the captain is absolute, and we can testify that eating from a sense of duty is hard work. It was delightful to get rid of an occasional apple on the sly to one of the ship's boys and be rewarded with a surprised grin of delight.
It is grand to lie on cushions on the companion-way and watch long rollers as they heave up and look in at the door-way. They rise rank upon rank, looking over one another's shoulders, hustling one another in their boisterous play, like overgrown schoolboys, who will have fun at whoever's expense. Sometimes one is pushed right in by his fellows, and falls down the companion-way in a little cataract, and then the door is shut and they batter at it in vain. Then there is a great mopping up of a small Atlantic.
The storm roars without, and within the passenger lies day after day studying the poetry of motion. There is one motion that goes to the tune of "Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep," but this rocking is so violent that as one dashes from side to side, holding on to the bars above and the edge of the berth, one is led to pity a wakeful baby rocked wickedly by the big brother impatient to go to play. The tune changes, and it is "Ploughing the Raging Main," and the nose of the plough goes down too deep; then one is fastened to the walking beam of an engine and sways up and down with it. A gigantic churn is being churned by an ogre just under our head, and the awful dasher plunges and creaks. Above all the winds howl, and the waves roll, and sometimes slap the ship till she shivers and leaps, and then the "Wreck of the Hesperus" recommences. Things get gloomy, the variations of storm grow monotonous, nothing delights us, no wish arises for beef tea, nothing makes gruel palatable. Neither sun nor stars have been visible for some days; the only sunshine we see is the passing smile of the ship's boys, who are almost constantly employed baling out the Atlantic.
It was the ninth night of storm. They say every ninth wave is larger than the rest; the ninth night the wind roared louder than ever, the Almighty's great guns going off. The ship staggered and reeled, struggling gallantly, answering nobly to the human will that held her to her duty, but shivering and leaping after every mighty slap of the mad waves. I got one glimpse at the waves through a cautiously opened door. I never thought they could climb upon one another's shoulders and reach up to heaven, a dark green wall of water ready to fall and overwhelm us, until I looked and saw the mountains of water all around.
Land in sight on the 8th of February, the Fasnet rock, then the Irish coast; the great rollers drew back into the bosom of the Atlantic: the winged pilot boats appeared; the pilot climbed up the side out of the sea; we steamed over the harbor bar and stopped at Birkenhead on the Cheshire side to land our fellow-passengers the sheep and oxen.
I might have gone up to Liverpool but was advised to remain another night on board and go direct to the Belfast packet from the ship. I considered this advice, found it good and took it.
FROM LIVERPOOL TO BELFAST—IRELAND'S CONDITION DISCUSSED—EVICTIONS—A SUNDAY IN BELFAST.
From Liverpool to Belfast, including a cup of tea, cost in all four dollars and fifty cents. It seems ridiculous to a stranger that the cars and cabs always stop at a little distance from the steamers, so as to employ a porter to lift a trunk for a few yards at each end of the short journey by cab.
The kind steward of the "Ontario" came over to the packet to look after his passenger; had promised to see that passenger safely conveyed from one steamer to the other, but, detained at home by sickness in the family, came back to the ship a few minutes too late, and then came over to explain and say good-bye. There could not possibly be a more courteous set of men than the captain and officers of the steamship "Ontario."
On the Belfast packet two ladies, one a very young bride on her way from her home in South Wales to her new home in Belfast, were talking of the danger of going to Ireland or living in it at the present disturbed time. A gentleman in a grey ulster and blue Tam o'Shanter of portentous dimensions broke into the conversation by assuring the handsome young bride that she would be as safe in green Erin as in the arms of her mother. Looking at the young lady it was easy to see that this speech was involuntary Irish blarney, a compliment to her handsome face. "You will meet the greatest kindness here, you will have the heartiest welcome on the face of the earth," he continued.
"But there is a great deal of disturbance, is there not?" asked her companion.
"Oh, the newspapers exaggerate dreadfully—shamefully, to get up a sensation in the interest of their own flimsy sheets. There is some disturbance, but nothing like what people are made believe by the newspaper reports."
Old lady—"Why are Irish people so turbulent?"
Tam O'Shanter—"My dear lady, Ireland contains the best people and the worst in the world, the kindest and the cruelest. They are so emotional, so impulsive, so impressible that their warm hearts are easily swayed by demagogues who are making capital out of influencing them."
Old lady—"Making money by it, do you mean?"
Tam O'Shanter, with a decided set of his bonnet—"Making money of it! Yes, by all means. They have got up the whole thing to make money. But here in Belfast, where you are going," with a bow to the bride, "all is tranquil, all is prosperous. In fact all over the north there is the same tranquillity, the same prosperity."
Here, a new voice, that of an enthusiastic supporter of the Land League, joined in the conversation, and the controversy becoming personal the ladies disappeared into the ladies' cabin. There was an echo of drunken argument that was likely a continuation of the land question until the wind increased to a gale. The little boat tossed like a cork on the waves; there was such a rattle of glass, such a rolling and bumping of loose articles, such echoes of sickness, above all, the shock of waves and the shriek of winds, and the land question was for the time being swallowed up by the storm.
Belfast, with its mud and mist, was a welcome sight. The dirty-faced porters who lined the quay and beckoned to us, and pointed to our luggage silently, seemed to be a deputation of welcome to terra firma. At a little distance from the line of porters the jaunting cars were stationed to convey passengers to the hotel. It did look ridiculous to see full-grown people take the long way round in this fashion.
At noon Saturday, the 19th of February, I had the blissful feeling of rest connected with sitting in an easy chair before a coal fire, trying to wake up to the blissful fact of being off the sea and in Ireland.
On Sunday it was raining a steady and persistent rain; went through it to the Duncairn Presbyterian Church because it was near, and because I was told that the minister was one skilled to preach the gospel to the poor. Found myself half an hour too early, so watched the congregation assemble. The Scottish face everywhere, an utter absence of anything like even a modified copy of a Milesian face. Presbyterianism in Ulster must have kept itself severely aloof from the natives; there could have been no proselytizing or there would have been a mixture of faces typical of the absorption of one creed in another.
Judging from the sentiments I have heard expressed by the sturdy descendants of King Jamie's settlers, the sympathy that must precede any reasonably hopeful effort to win over the native population to an alien faith has never existed here. There is a great social gulf fixed between the two peoples, with prejudice guarding both sides. The history, the traditions of either side is guarded and nourished in secret by one, openly and triumphantly by the other, with a freshness of strength that is amazing to one who has been out of this atmosphere long enough to look kindly on and claim kindred with both sides. Still there is a perceptible difference between these Hiberno-Scotch and their cousins of Scotland. Their faces have lost some of the concentrated look of a really Scottish congregation. They are not so thoroughly "locked up;" the cead mille failte has been working into their blood imperceptibly. The look of curiosity is kindly, and seems ready to melt into hearty welcome on short notice.
It is not the minister of the Duncairn Church who preaches, but a returned missionary, who tells us by what logical hair-splitting in the regions of Irish metaphysics he confounds Hindoo enquirers after truth, and argues them into the Christian religion. Pity the poor Hindoos upon whom this man inflicts himself. In the afternoon I strayed into a small Sabbath-School where the Bible never was opened; heard a stirring Gospel sermon at night, and joined in a prayer-meeting and felt better.
BELFAST—TEMPERANCE—"THE EVE OF A GREAT REBELLION"—THE POOR HOUSE— THE POLICE—COUNTY DOWN—MAKING ENDS MEET—WAITING FOR SOMETHING TO TURN UP.
Belfast seems a busy town, bustle on her streets, merchandise on her quays. Did not meet one man on the streets with the hopeless look on his face of the poor fellow who carried my trunk in Liverpool. There must be distress however, for the mills are not running full time, and there are entertainments got up for the benefit of the deserving poor. I saw no signs of intoxication on the streets, yet the number of whiskey shops is appalling. Had a conversation with a prominent member of the Temperance League, who informed me that temperance was gaining ground in Belfast. "Half of the ministers are with us now; they used to, almost entirely, stand aloof." But where are the rest?
The land question is the absorbing topic. Every one seems to admit that there is room for vast improvement in the land laws, that there has been glaring injustice in the past. They acknowledge that rents are too high to be paid, and leave anything behind to support the farmer's family in any semblance of comfort. There is a very strong feeling against Mr. Parnell among the Protestants of the north. In fact they talk of him exactly as they did of Daniel O'Connell when in the height of his power. Many whisper to me that we are on the eve of a great rebellion. One strong-minded lady who informed me that she had come of a Huguenot stock talked of the Land Leaguers as if they were responsible for the revocation of the Edict of Nantes: but she acknowledged that the land laws were very unjust and needed reform.
Visited the Poor House, a very noble building in well-kept grounds. Went on purpose to see a sick person and did not go all over it. It was not the right day, or something. It was very distressing to see the number of able-bodied looking young men and rosy-cheeked women about the grounds who begged for a halfpenny, and so many loungers in hall and corridor—perhaps they were only visitors. If they were inmates there was plenty of cleaning to be done—the smell in some parts was dreadful. In the hospital part the floors were very clean, and the head nurse, a bright, cheery woman, seemed like sunshine among her patients. She showed us all her curiosities, the little baby born into an overcrowded world on the street, the little one, beautiful as an angel, found on the street in a basket. It was very touching to see the beggar mothers sparing from their own babies to nourish the little deserted waif. A poor house is a helpless, hopeless mass of human misery.
One thing that impresses a stranger here is the number of policemen; they are literally swarming everywhere. Very dandified as to dress and bearing, very vigilant and watchful about the eyes, with a double portion of importance pervading them all over as men on whom the peace and safety of the country depend. These very dignified conservators of the peace are most obliging. Ask them any question of locality, or for direction anywhere, and their faces open out into human kindness and interest at once.
Went out into County Down by rail about twenty miles. No words can do justice to the beauty of the country, the cleanness of the roads, the trimness of the hedges, and the garden-like appearance of the fields. The stations, as we passed along, looked so trim and neat. The houses of small farmers, or laborers I suppose they might be, were not very neat. Many of them stood out in great contrast as if here was the border over which any attempt at ornament should not pass.
On the train bound for Dublin was a little old woman travelling third class like myself, who scraped an acquaintance at once in order to tell me of the disturbed state of the country. She emphasized everything with a wave of her poor worn gloves and a decided nod of her bonnet.
"They are idle you know, they are lazy, they are improvident. They are not content in the station in which it has pleased God to place them. I know all about these people. They are turbulent, they are rebellious; they want to get their good, kind landlords out of the country, and to seize on their property. It is horrid you know, horrid!" and the little old lady waved her gloves in the air. "If they had a proper amount of religion they would be content to labor in their own station. I am content with mine, why not they with theirs? You understand that," appealing to me.
"Have you a small farm?" I enquired.
"Indeed I have not," said the little old lady with the greatest disgust, "I live on my money."
It was quite evident I had offended her, for she froze into silence. As I left the train at Tandragee she laid her faded glove on my arm and whispered, "It is their duty to be content in their own station, is it not?"
"If they cannot do any better," I whispered back.
"They cannot," said the little old lady sinking back on her seat triumphantly.
It is rather unhandy, that the names of the stations are called out by a person on the platform outside the cars, instead of by a conductor inside.
The manufacturing town of Gilford is a pretty, clean, neat, little place clustered round the mills and the big house, like the old feudal retainers round the castle. Here, as in Belfast, a certain amount of distress must exist, for the mills are not running full time.
The wages of a common operative here is twelve shillings (or three dollars) per week. If they have a family grown up until they are able to work at the mills, of course it adds materially to the income. Girls are more precious than boys, I have heard, as being more docile and easier kept in clothing. They can earn about half wages, or six shillings (one dollar and a half) per week. Rents are about two shillings (or half a dollar) per week. It takes one and sixpence for fuel. A young family would keep the parents busy to make ends meet in the best of times. In case of the mill running short time I should think they would persistently refuse to meet. No signs of distress, not the least were apparent anywhere. The mill hands trooping past looked clean, rosy and cheerful, and were decently clad. The grounds around the factory were beautiful and very nicely kept, and beautiful also were the grounds about the great house. I felt sorry that there were no little garden plots about the tenement houses occupied by the operatives; so when hard times come they will have no potatoes or vegetables of their own to help them to tide over the times of scant wages. How I do wish that the large-hearted and generous proprietors of these works could take this matter into consideration.
People waiting at the station talked among themselves of hard times, of farms that were run down, that would not yield the rent, not to speak of leaving anything for the tenants to live on. There was no complaint made of the landlords; the land was blamed for not producing enough. Of course, these people ought to know, but the fields everywhere looked like garden ground. The only symptoms of running down that I could see were in some of the houses, two-roomed, with leaky-looking roofs and a general air of neglect. I must own, however, that houses of this description were by far the fewest in number. At one station where we stopped, one respectable-looking man asked of another, "Have you got anything to do yet, Robert?" "Still waiting for something to turn up," was the answer. This man was not at all of the Micawber type, but a well-brushed, decent-looking person with a keen peremptory face, evidently of Scottish descent. A group of such men came on the train, whose only talk was of emigrating if they only had the means.
I have heard a great deal of talk of emigration among the people with whom I have travelled since I landed, but have not heard one mention of Canada as a desirable place to emigrate to. The Western States, the prairie lands, seem to be the promised land to everyone. One of these would-be emigrants took a flute out of his pocket and played the Exile of Erin. The talk of emigration stilled and a great silence fell on them all. There were some soldiers on the car, young men, boys in fact, who seemed by the heavy marching order of their get-up to be going to join their regiment. Some of them struggled mannishly with the tears they fain would hide. Truly the Irish are attached to the soil. I could not help wondering if these lads were ordered to foreign service, and on what soil they would lay down their heads to rest forever.
Two persons near by, conversing in low tones on the state of the country, drew my attention to them. One was a sonsie good-wife with any amount of bundles, the other a little old man with a face of almost superhuman wisdom.
"The country will be saved mem, now; when the Coercion Bill has passed the country will be saved," said the old man.
"There's a great deal too much fuss made about everything," remarked the good-wife. "Look at that boy ten years old taken up, bless us all! for whistling at a man."
"Did you take notice, mem, that the whistling was derisive, was derisive, it was derisive. That is where it is, you see," said the old man with a slow, sagacious roll of his head.
"I would not care what a wee boy could put into a whistle: it was awfully childish for a man and a gentleman to take up just a wean for a whistle."
"You see mem, they have to be strict and keep everything down. The Government have ways of finding out things; they know all though, they don't let on. There will be a bloody time, in my opinion."
Oh, the wisdom with which the old man shook his head as he said this, adding in a penetrating whisper, "The times of '98 over again or worse."
LOYALTY IN THE "BLACK NORTH"—GENTLEMEN'S RESIDENCES—A MODEL IRISH ESTATE—A GOOD MAN AND HIS WIFE—VISITING THE POOR.
Down in the North the loyalty is intense and loud. An opinion favorable to the principles of the Land League it would be hardly prudent to express. Any dissatisfaction with anything at all is seldom expressed for fear of being classed with these troublers of Ireland.
The weather is very inclement, and has been ever since I landed. Snow, rain, hail, sleet, hard frost, mud, have alternated. Some days have been one continuous storm of either snow or sleet.
The roads through Antrim are beautifully clean and neat, not only on the line of rail but along the country roads inland. The land is surely beautiful, exceedingly, and kept like a garden. The number of houses of some, nay of great, pretensions, is most astonishing. Houses set in spacious and well-kept grounds, with porter lodges, terraced lawns, conservatories, &c., abound. They succeed one another so constantly that one wonders how the land is able to bear them all, or by what means such universal grandeur is supported. There is an outcry of want, of very terrible hard times, but certainly the country shows no signs thereof. The great wonder to me is where the laborers who produce all this neatness and beauty live? Where are the small farmers on whom the high rent presses so heavily? Few houses, where such could by any possibility be housed, are to be seen from the roadside. There are so very few cottages and so very many gentlemen's houses that I am forced to believe that the peasantry have almost entirely disappeared. Yet I know there must be laborers somewhere to keep the place so beautiful,
Ballymena, always a bustling place, has spread itself from a thriving little inland town into a large place of some 8,000 inhabitants. Notwithstanding the depression in the linen trade, this town presents a thriving, bustling appearance as it has always done. The number of whiskey shops is something dreadful. The consumption of that article must be steady and enormous to support them. There is squalor enough to be seen in the small streets of this town, but that is in every town.
The public road from Ballymena to Grace Hill passes through the Galgorm estate which passed from the hands of its last lord, through the Encumbered Estates Court, into the hands of its present proprietor. On this estate a most wonderful change has been effected, and in a short space of time to effect so much. During the old regime, and the good old times of absentee landlordism, squalor and misery crept up to the castle gates. The wretchedness of the tenants could be seen by every passer-by. The peasantry tell of unspeakable orgies held at the castle even upon the Sabbath day. The change is something miraculous. The waste pasture-like demesne is reclaimed and planted. The worst cabins have entirely disappeared; the rest are improved till they hardly know themselves.
They match the new cottages for which the proprietor took a prize. These little homes with their climbing plants, their trim little gardens, look as if any one might snuggle down in any of them and be content. The castle itself looks altered; it has lost its grim Norman look, and stands patriarchal and fatherly among the beautiful homes it has created.
Not far from the castle gate is a pretty church and its companion, an equally pretty building for the National School. I enquired of several how this great improvement came about; the answer was always the same, "The estate passed into the hands of a good man who lived on it, and he had a godly wife." Passing the pretty little church I heard the sound of children's voices singing psalms, and was told that the daughter of the castle was teaching the children to sing; I noticed In Memoriam on a stone in the building, and found that this church was built in memory of the good lady of the castle, who has departed to a grander inheritance, leaving a name that lingers like a blessing in the country side. So the old landlord's loss of an estate has been great gain to this people.
It is in the country parts, more remote from the public eye, that one sees the destitution wrought by the depression in the linen trade. People there are struggling with all their might to live and keep out of the workhouses. Hand-loom weaving seems doomed to follow hand-spinning and become a thing of the past. Weavers some time ago had a plot of ground which brought potatoes and kale to supplement the loom, and on it could earn twelve shillings a week. But alas! while the webs grew longer the price grew less and they are in a sad case.
I called, with a friend, on some of these weavers: one, an intelligent man, with the prevailing Scotch type of face. We found him, accompanied by a sickly wife, sitting by a scanty fire, ragged enough. This man for his last web was paid at the rate of twopence a yard for weaving linen with twenty hundred threads to the inch, but out of this money he had to buy dressing and light, and have some one, the sickly wife I suppose, to wind the bobbins for him. He must then pay rent for the poor cabin he lived in, none too good for a stable, and supply all his wants on the remainder.
Another weaver told me that all this dreary winter they had no bed- clothes. They think by combining together they will be able to obtain better prices; but they are so poor, the depression in the trade is such a fearful reality that I am afraid they cannot combine or co-operate to any purpose. However, people in such desperate circumstances grasp at any hope.
It is wonderful with what disfavor some of these people receive a hint of emigration. It seems like transportation to them. Truly these Irish do cling to the soil.
The weavers seem to blame the manufacturers for the reduction of wages. They complain that the trade is concentrated into a few hands; that therefore they cannot sell where they can sell dearest, but are obliged to take yarn from a manufacturer and return it to him in cloth. They complain that he still further reduces the poor wage by fines. As many of these have only a hut but no garden ground, they have nothing to fall back on. There are many suffering great want, and with inherited Scotch reticence suffering in silence. There may be some injustice and some oppression, for that is human nature, but the hand-loom weaving is doomed to disappear, I am afraid.
There are some complaints of the high price of land here, and of the hard times for farmers, but there is no appearance of hard times. Laborers are cheap enough. One shilling a day and food, or ten shillings a week without food, seems to be the common wage. The people of Down and Antrim, as far as I have gone, are rampantly loyal to Queen and Government and to all in authority. If a few blame the manufacturers, or think the land is too dear, the large majority blame the improvidence of the poor. "They eat bacon and drink tea where potatoes and milk or porridge and milk used to be good enough for them." It is difficult to imagine the extravagance.
I went through part of the poor-house in Ballymena. It is beautifully clean and sweet, and in such perfect order out and in that one is glad to think of the sick or suffering poor having such a refuge. What fine, patient, intelligent faces were among the sufferers in the infirmary. The children in the school-room looked rosy and well-fed, and the babies were nursed by the old women. So many of them—it was a sad sight indeed.
ONE RESULT OF THE COERCION ACT—THE AGRICULTURAL LABORERS IN DOWN AND ANTRIM—WHISKEY—RAIN IN IRELAND—A DISCUSSION ON ORANGEISM.
It is the eighth of March. The weather remains frightfully inclement; the snow and sleet is succeeded by incessant rain storms. The Coercion bill has become law and even in the north there seems a difference in the people. There is a carefulness of expressing an opinion on any subject as if a reign of governmental terror had begun. The loyalty always so fervent is now intense and loud. The people here think that there is an epidemic of unreasonableness and causeless murmuring raging at the south and west.
In all that I have seen in Down and Antrim, the agricultural laborers seem to be never at any time much above starvation; any exceptionally hard times bring it home to them. In cases of accident, disease, or old age, they have no refuge but the workhouse. There is a constant struggle, as heroic in God's sight as any struggle of their Scottish ancestors, to escape this dreaded fate. When it does overtake them, however, the beggar nurses wait upon the sick beggars with a tenderness that is inexpressibly touching.
Emigration is impossible to the laborer or the hand-loom weaver. They have no money, they have nothing to sell to make money, and they are utterly unwilling to be torn from the places where they were born to be expatriated as beggars, and as beggars set down upon a foreign shore. I am literally giving utterance to the opinions expressed to me.
I have heard these people loudly accused of extravagance; on enquiry was told that they bought American bacon and drank tea, whereas, if thrifty, they would be content with potatoes and buttermilk, or ditto and stir- about. As the cow has disappeared, and potatoes have been known to fail, I did not see the extravagance so clearly as I saw the parsimony that would grudge the hard-worked laborer or the pale over-worked weaver any nourishment at all.
The charge of spending on whiskey seems more likely by the frightful amount of whiskey shops. Ireland's whiskey bill is going up into somewhere among the millions. It is a fearful pity that this tax on the industry and energy of the people could not be abolished. Truth compels me to add that faces liquor-painted abound most among the well-dressed and apparently well-to-do class whom one meets on the way.
The tenant-farmers, in some cases, complain of their rents, and would complain more loudly but for fear of being classed with the Land League, for they in the north are intensely loyal. As for the mere laborer, no one seems to consider him or think of him at all.
The weather has been so inclement, the days all so much alike, rain, hail, snow, sleet, high winds, and we were so busy coughing that the days slipped by almost unnoticed. Refusing the tempting offer of a free trip to see the beauties of Glengarriff, through the medium of a heavy rain we started for Derry by train. Ah! it does know how to rain in Ireland. Such a downpour, driven aslant by a fierce wind, so that, disregarding the thought of an umbrella, we held on to the rail of the jaunting car and were driven in the teeth of the tempest, smiling as if we enjoyed it, up to the station.
Both sides of the road at the station were crowded with men in all sorts of picturesque habiliments. If it had been near the poor-house we would have thought that the population was applying for admittance en masse. As it was, seeing the station likewise crowded, the platform beyond crammed, all eager, expectant, waiting on something, we thought it was some renowned field preacher going to give a sermon, or a millionaire going to give largess. Not a bit of it. It was some person, idle and cruel, who was bringing a couple of poor captive deer to be hunted, and the hounds to hunt them, and the immense crowd represented the idle and cruel who had assembled to get a glimpse of this noble and elevating diversion. If it were possible for the deer and the man to change places the crowd would be still more delighted.
Leaving Ballymena behind we panted through a completely sodden country. Everything was dripping. In many places the waters were out, and the low-lying lands were in a flood. Potatoes in pits linger in the fields, turnips and cabbages in the rows where they grew, bearing witness that even the last hard winter was many degrees behind the winters of Canada. The land on this road is not so good as what I left behind; therefore there were few gentlemen's houses, and the small farmhouses wore the usual poverty-stricken and neglected appearance. There were more waste hillsides devoted to whins, and flat fields tussocked with rushes as we swept on through the dripping country, under the sides of almost perpendicular rocks, down which little waterfalls, like spun silver, fell and broadened into bridal veils ere they reached the bottom. Then along the historical Foyle, "whose swelling waters," rather muddy at this season of the year, "roll northward to the main," and so following its windings and curvings we flashed into Derry.
THE HILLS OF LOUGH SWILLY—TENANTS' IMPROVEMENTS—A MAN-OF-WAR AND MEN OF LOVE—THE PIG—RAMELTON—INTELLIGENT ROOKS—FROM POTATOES AND MILK TO CORNMEAL STIRABOUT AND NOTHING—MILFORD—THE LATE LORD LEITRIM'S INJUSTICE AND INHUMANITY—ACCOUNT OF HIS DEATH.
On the 14th March we left Derry by train, crossing from the banks of the Foyle to Lough Swilly. Got on board a little steamer, marvellously like an American puffer, and panted and throbbed across the waters of the Lough. The sun shone pleasantly, the sky was blue, which deserves to be recorded, as this is the very first day since I arrived in Ireland on which the sun shone out in a vigorous and decided manner, determined to have his own way. We have had a few—a very few—watery blinks of sun before, but the rain and sleet always conquered. Sailed up among whin- covered mountains, with reclaimed patches creeping up their sides, and pretty spots here and there, with handsome houses, new and fresh looking, built upon them. It is an inducement to merchants and others to build their brand new houses here, that the air is fresh and pure, the scenery grand and beautiful and the salt water rolls up to the foot of the rocks.
It was pointed out to me by a friend, that these mountain-side farms were reclaimed, by great labor I'm sure, by the tenants, trusting to the Ulster custom, but the landlords, knowing that custom was not law, then raised the rents upon them. If they could not, or were not willing to pay the increased rent, increased because of their own labor, they could leave; others would rent the places at the increased figure. "As for you, ye shiftless, miserable tillers of the soil, ye can go where you like; emigrate if you can; get you to the workhouse or the grave if you cannot." It is hard to believe that this could be done, or has been done lawfully again and again. If it is true it spoils the comfort of looking at the pleasant homes built upon reclaimed spots. We look more kindly on the cottage homes nestled among nooks of the hills.
The sky did not cloud over again, it remained blue and bright and coaxed the waters of Lough Swilly to look blue and bright also. Flocks of white sea gulls dipped, darted and sailed about in an abandonment of enjoyment. Flights of ducks rose on the wing and whirled past.
We sailed between two forts that frown at one another in a grim and desolate manner at Rathmullen. Was informed that a man-of-war ordinarily lay at anchor in this Lough to keep half an eye on things in general, and poteen, I suppose, in particular. It was complained that the blue jackets, finding these mountain girls sweet and pretty, and easy to keep—for since cows are become such a price, a good one, not one of the bovine aristocracy, but a commonly good one, being value for L20, the damsels of the hills are accustomed to "small rations of tea and potatoes"—the sailors marry them, "and that," said my informant, "makes servant girls scarce about here."
I did not sympathize properly with this complaint. I was glad to hear that any form of humanity in this island is scarce. I hoped the blue jackets were happy with their Irish wives, for a Liverpool sailor lamented in my hearing that the girls of seaport towns did not often make good sailors' wives. Let us hope that they did better who chose among the wild hills of Lough Swilly.
I am told that another cherished institution of Ireland is passing away—
"The pig that we meant To drynurse in the parlor to pay off the rent."
The pig is becoming an institution of the past. I was told by a gentleman of the first respectability in Derry, that sucking pigs are sold in that market for thirty shillings. These would be precious to the peasant if he had them, but he has not, nor means to get them. This great resource for paying the rent is gone.
Up the Lough we sailed into beautiful Ramelton, an exceptionally pretty, clean little place, boasting of a very nicely kept hotel. The scenery all around is delightful. Across the Lannon River, on the banks of which is one of the principal streets, is a lofty ridge crowned with grand trees. The Lannon runs into Lough Swilly, and is affected by the ebb and flow of the tide. The trees on the ridge are tenanted by a thriving colony of rooks, very busy just now with their spring work. Two delightful roads, one above another, run along the brow of the hill under the shade of the trees.
I discovered that rooks know a great deal; that there is infinite variety of meaning in their caw. The young couples who are starting housekeeping have not only to provide materials and build their homes, but to defend their property at every stage from the rapacity of their neighbors. They have also to build in such a manner as to satisfy the artistic taste of the community. I saw an instance of this during a morning walk. Five rooks were sitting in judgment on the work of a young and thoughtless pair of rooks, I suppose. The work was condemned, the young couple were evicted without mercy and the nest pulled to pieces by the five censors with grave caws of disapprobation, while the evicted ones flew round and showed fight and used bad language. The Coercion Act was not in favor among the black coated gentry of the air.
It has fallen like a spell over Ireland though, and evictions are hurried through as if they thought their time was short. People are afraid to speak to a stranger.
I have succeeded in obtaining introductions, which I hope will give me an entrance into society in Donegal.
Was driven by my new friends over a part of Lord Leitrim's estate, and through his town of Milford. The murdered Earl has left a woeful memory of himself all over the country side. He must have had as many curses breathed against him as there are leaves on the trees, if what respectable people who dare speak of his doings say of him be true, which it undoubtedly is. Godly people of Scottish descent, Covenanters and Presbyterians, who would not have harmed a hair of his head for worlds, have again and again lifted their hands to heaven and cried. "How long, Lord, are we to endure the cruelty of this man?"
One case (which is a sample case) I will notice. In the plantation of Scottish settlers in the North it seems that either for company or mutual protection against the dispossessed children of the soil, the farmhouses are built together in clachans or little groups. After a lapse of years these clachans in some cases expanded into small towns. The people built houses and made improvements on their holdings, paying their rent punctually, but holding the right to their own money's worth, the result of years of toil and stern economy under the Ulster custom. In this way the greater part of the town of Milford sprung into existence.
One John Buchanan, a Presbyterian of Scottish descent, son of respectable people who had lived on this estate for generations, was employed in the land office of the Earl of Leitrim over twenty years. This man trusting to the Ulster custom, and the honest goodness of the old Earl, grandfather of the present Earl, a good landlord and a just man, by all accounts, invested his savings in building on the site of the old farmhouse in Milford a block of buildings—quarrying the stone for them—consisting of two large houses on Main street, and the rest tenement houses on Buchanan street. He improved his farm by reclaiming land, making nice fields out of bog.
When the good Earl died and the late Earl came into possession, he immediately raised the rent to nearly double what was paid before, making John Buchanan pay dearly for his improvements. John Buchanan died rather suddenly, leaving a widow and five children. The widow in her overwhelming grief was visited by Lord Leitrim personally. He told her with great abuse and outrageous language, that she had no claim whatever to a particle of the property, "she did not own a stone of it." The widow, worn and nervous with the great trouble she had passed through, was unable to bear this new trouble; his Lordship's violence gave her a shock from which she never recovered. He then sent his bailiffs and put her and her children out; put out the fires, as taking possession, and re-let the place to her, again doubling the rent. Her eldest son, a young lad, boiling with wrath over the wrong done and the language used to his mother, went to his aunt, living at some distance, and besought her to send him out of the country, lest he should be tempted to take vengeance in his own hand. His aunt seeing this danger, fitted him out from her own pocket, and the poor lad, his mother consenting, was expatriated out of harm's way to far Australia.
The widow never recovered the shock which Lord Leitrim had given her. It was aggravated by despair at seeing all the savings of her husband's lifetime appropriated by the strong hand, and her children left destitute. She was also in debt to the value of L600 for building material for an addition built to the house and some office houses, built later on, some time after the rest of the property. This debt of L600 wore on her. She had no means of payment; all her means were swallowed up in this property. The creditors could not collect it off the property, it was not held liable for the debt, neither was Lord Leitrim, who had seized the property. Her sense of honesty and the honor of her husband's name made her fret over this debt. The doctor had declared her illness heart disease brought on by a shock, and her death imminent. To soothe her mind her sister again came forward and out of her own pocket paid the money. The widow died and was buried. Their only relative tried what the law would do to redress the grievances of the orphans. The presiding judge, the chairman of the quarter sessions, lifted up his hands saying, "Must I issue a decree that will rob these helpless orphans." The decree was issued, and the children ejected without a farthing of compensation. To leave no stone unturned, the children went in a body to Lord Leitrim to ask, as justice had been powerless, for mercy from him. He ordered his servant to put them out. At the time these orphans were turned out of the house their father built, there was not a farthing of rent due, all had been paid up at the unjust Earl's own estimate.
This case had been heard by the Royal Commissioners sent to enquire into these things, but it appears that there is no law to redress a tenant's wrong. This occurred under the tenant custom of Ulster.
I drove round this fine property in Milford. It was pointed out to me that almost all the houses in the town were acquired by Lord Leitrim, by the strong hand, in the same way. Passed the house from which the Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Mr. White, was evicted. It was his own private property. It stands windowless and roofless, a monument to the dead earl. The priest of the parish had no house of his own; he was a boarder with one of his flock, who had built himself a house in the time of the good earl. When Lord Leitrim fancied that he had cause of quarrel with the priest he obliged his tenant to put him out, on pain of losing the house which he had built. After he had got rid of priest and minister, he built a little Episcopal Church, that the people might worship at his shrine. The little church stands empty now. The graveyard about this little church was a rocky corner with little soil. The minister ventured to request that the people might have leave to draw a little clay from a hill nearby, to cover the bodies interred there, as there was not soil enough. "I'll not give a spoonful; let their bones bleach there," said the earl.
During the life-time of the good earl, the people being encouraged to improve their lands, crept up the mountain side, reclaiming whatever land they could. I have seen some of these portions, and noticed how they had got up close to the rocks, by using the spade where the plough would not go. They cleared off the whins of the mountain; they drained the bogs. They made kilns and burned lime for top-dressing. When the wicked lord came into possession he not only raised the rent on the tenants' improvements, but built a kiln of his own, and burned lime, forbidding them to use theirs, compelling them to buy from him at his price. He would not even allow them to make manure of the floating sea- weed that drifted in from the sea.
Went to see the place where Lord Leitrim was done to death. Looked down on Milford Bay, dotted with little treeless and shrubless islands. Round it are round-shouldered hills, brown and bare now—purple with heather bells in summer time, I dare say. On a point stretching out into this bay stands his residence, Manor Vaughan. The road leading from Manor Vaughan to Milford is screened by a plantation of trees. On the opposite side of the bay the hills are really mountains. The murderers crossed the bay, tied their boat to a stone, and waited in the plantation. Lord Leitrim, with his clerk, was driven along on one car, followed by another containing his servants. His car, somewhat in advance, went slowly up a little hill. Those lying in wait fired; the driver fell dead. Lord Leitrim was wounded; he jumped off on one side, the clerk on the other. He had pistols but they were in the car; he retreated, trying to defend himself as they poured on him shot after shot. Those in the other car, instead of coming up, stopped in mortal terror. The clerk, only slightly wounded in the ear, ran to them, exclaiming, "They are killing Lord Leitrim, they have killed me," and dropped dead with nervous terror. The assassins had poured in all their shot, still the Earl was not dead. He might yet have been saved if there had been any one to help him. What must his thoughts have been in that supreme moment. They beat the life out of him, he defending himself to the last. They cut loose their boat, rowed across the bay, cast it adrift, took the mountains and escaped.
The Earl fell, his head in a little pool of water. The country people coming in to Milford town passed by with white faces on the other side; no one lifted his head, no one looked to see if life was extinct. At length the constabulary came, and the remains of the dreaded lord were carried in a cart into Milford. There was a post mortem examination; part of his poor remains was buried in the graveyard of the little church which he built, and a load of the clay he refused to his tenants brought to cover it. His name will long linger in evil fame among the mountains and deserts.
It is but just to the memory of this man to say, that some, who with good reason abhor his memory, do not believe that charges of gross immorality made against him were true. Others who think themselves equally well informed hold a contrary opinion. To think of mentioning all I have heard of his oppressive injustice would be impossible. I was told that when news of his death came into certain places, men clasped hands and drank one another's health as at a festival; that pious people thanked God for the deliverence, who abhorred the means by which it came about.
I saw among the hills three nice farms, which a well-to-do farmer bought and improved, and finally bequeathed to his three sons. One died and the Ahab-like Earl took possession. Wishing to evict another for the purpose of throwing two farms into one, he offered the farm to the remaining brother in addition to his own. The man refused to ruin his brother. The Earl, to punish him, raised his rent from L35 to L70. Griffith's valuation of this farm is L29 5s. Another eviction from Milford was so pitiful in its cruelty that the compassion of the country was aroused, and a home bought by subscription for the old people. I saw the property from which these people were evicted in Milford, a valuable row of houses.
The present Earl acknowledged the justice of the claim of John Buchanan's children, and spoke of restitution, but his agent, on whom the mantle of the late Earl had fallen, persuaded him against it, as nearly all the property in Milford town had been acquired in the same way. "Making restitution to one would open up the question of the others, and could not be afforded."
IRISH COLD AND CANADIAN COLD—EVIDENCES OF THE FAMINE—PREPARING FOR THE IRISH LAND BILL—THE BAD PEOPLE OF DONEGAL—INFLUENCE OF THE BALLOT ON LANDLORDS—A MOUNTAIN STORM—A "BETTER CLASS" FARMER'S HOME.
To make excursions to a short distance from this pretty town of Ramelton and to return again has been my occupation for the last week. It was arranged that on Monday, March 21st, I was to go with some kind friends to see life up among the mountains of Donegal, but down came another storm. Snow, hail, sleet, rain, hail, sleet and rain again. Storms rule and reign among these hills this March, destroying all prospect of March dust I am afraid. Nothing could be done but wait till the storm was over, going to the windows once in a while to watch the snow driving past, or to notice that it had changed to sleet or rain.
The mountain tops are white again, and look wild and wintry. To-day it rains with a will. The cold here at present is more chill and penetrating than Canadian cold. I have put on more, and yet more clothing, and I am cold. Many, very many, people during the past dreary winter have had no bed-clothes at all.
I am afraid from what I see and hear that the famine was more dreadful here in Donegal than we in Canada imagined. Plenty of people even now are living on Indian meal stirabout, without milk or anything else to take with it. This, three times a day, and thankful to have enough of it to satisfy hunger. It was pitiful to see little children and aged women, with but thin clothes on, walking barefoot through the snowy slush of yesterday.
My attention was drawn to a ballad singer, almost blind, "whose looped and windowed raggedness" was picturesque. His dreary attempts at singing with his teeth chattering, the rain and sleet searching out every corner of his rags, was pitiful. He was hardly able to stand against the cutting wind. I sent out and bought his ballad as an excuse to give him the Queen's picture. The songs were clever for local poetry. They were treasonous too, but then loyalty is the song of the well fed, well clad, well-to-do citizen. Treason and wretchedness fit well together, in a helpless, harmless way.
Your London correspondent of February 11th remarks, "Even Ireland has nothing left but to settle down and attend to putting in the crops." This is an English and comfortable view—the remark of a man who was not there to see. It is far otherwise here in County Donegal. Evictions are flying about as thick as "the leaves of the forest when autumn hath flown." This wild second winter is the time selected for these evictions. Every local paper has notices of evictions here and there.
They tell me that the reason of the great number of evictions at present is to prevent the wretched tenants from having any benefit under the promised Land Bill. If they are evicted now and readmitted as caretakers, they can be sent off again at a week's notice and have no claim under the Ulster custom for past improvements. I think any candid person can see that these people are not in a position to pay back rent, or even present rent at the high rate to which it is raised. In some instances they are not able to pay any rent at all. There had been some years of bad seasons ending in one of absolute famine.
The report of the Relief Committee for northern Donegal was published on 28th of October, 1880. I met with a member of that Committee, which was composed of sixteen Protestants and eleven Catholics, including the Catholic Bishop of Raphoe and the Presbyterian member of Parliament. This gentleman informed me that food was given in such quantities as to preserve life only. Seed was also given. Many people of respectable standing, whose need was urgent, applied for relief secretly, not wishing their want to be known. Helped in this careful way the amount given, exclusive of expenses, in North Donegal was L33,660.17.1, of which amount the New York Herald gave L2,000, besides L203 to an emigration fund enabling 115 persons to leave the country. Surely we must think that before these people applied for public charity—and every case was examined into by some of the Committee or their agents— they had exhausted all their means, and sold all they had to sell. How, then, could they possibly be able to pay back rent in March, 1881?
In the middle of my letter I got the long-waited-for opportunity to leave Ramelton behind and go up into the Donegal Hills.
The environs of Ramelton are wonderfully beautiful, sudden hills, green vales, lovely nooks in unexpected places, waters that sparkle and dash, or that flow softly like the waters of Shiloh, great aristocratic trees in clumps, standing singly, grouped by the water's edge, as if they had sauntered down to look about them, or drawn up on the hill-side many deep, stretching far away like the ranks of a grand army. All that these can do to make Ramelton a place of beauty has been done. It is hemmed in by hills that lie up against the sky, marked off into fields by whin hedges, till they look like sloping chequer-boards. Beyond them, in places, tower up the mountain-tops of dark Donegal, crusted over with black heather, seamed by rift and ravine, bare in places where these rocks, those bones of the mountains, have pushed themselves through the heather, till it looks like a ragged cloak. The sun shines, the rooks flap busily about, as noisy as a parliament, the air is keen, and so we drive out of Ramelton.
The sky was blue, although the wind was cold, and it was blowing quite a gale. We had not left the town far behind when the storm recommenced in all its fury. The hail beat in our faces until we were obliged to cover up our heads. Finally the pony refused to go a step farther, but turned his obstinate shoulder to the storm and stood there, where there was no shelter of any kind, and there he stood till the storm moderated a little, only to recommence again. Up one hill, down another, along a bleak road through a bog, past the waters of Lough Fern, up more hills, round other hills, across other bleak bogs, the little town of Kilmacrennan, up other hills, the storm meanwhile raging in all its fury until we drew up on the lee side of a little mountain chapel.
The clergyman, who happened to be there, received us most courteously, and conducted us to his house. We were offered refreshments, and treated with the greatest kindness. Owing to this priest's courtesy and kindness I was provided with a room in the house of one of his parishioners, a mountain side farmer.
I parted with my friends with great regret. They returned to Ramelton through the storm, which increased in fury every moment. I, in the safe shelter of the farmhouse, looked out of the window, hoping the storm would moderate, but it increased until every thing a few yards from the house, every mountain top and hill side were blotted out, and nothing could be seen but the flurrying snow driven past by the winds.
I have now left the Presbyterians of the rich, low-lying lands behind, and am up among the Catholic people of the hills. I have felt quite at home with these kindly folk. They remind me of the kindliness of the Celtic population of another and far-off land. I like the sound of the Irish tongue, which is spoken all around me. I feel quite at home by the peat fire piled up on the hearth. The house where I am staying is that of a farmer of the better class. A low thatched house divided into a but and a ben. The kitchen end has the bare rafters, black and shining with concentrated smoke. The parlor end is floored above and has a board floor. Among the colored prints of the Saviour which adorn the wall are two engravings, in gilt frames, of Bright and Gladstone, bought when the Land Bill of 1870 was passed.
This Bill, by the way, has been evaded with great ease, for the law breakers were the great who knew the law, and the wronged were the poor who were ignorant of it. The farmer's wife could not do enough to make me welcome. She had the kind and comely face and pleasant tongue that reminded me of Highland friends in the long ago. Their name of Murray, which is a prevalent name on these hills, had a Highland sound. Feeling welcome, and safe under the care that has led me thus far, I fell asleep in the best bed, with its ancient blue and white hangings, and slept soundly.
These people are very thrifty. The blankets of the bed were homespun; the fine linen towel was the same. The mistress's dress was home-made, and so was the cloth of her husband's clothes. In noticing this I was told that where they could keep a few sheep the people were better off, but it was harder now to keep sheep than formerly.
THE HILL COUNTRY OF DONEGAL—ON THE SQUARE—OFFICE RULES
Left up among my country people in this hill country of Donegal, I set myself to see and to hear what they had to say for themselves or against their landlords. In the pauses of storm I walked up the mountains to see the people in their homes. I seem to have lost the power of description. I will never think of scenes I saw there without tears. I never, in Canada, saw pigs housed as I saw human beings here. Sickness, old age, childhood penned up in such places that one shuddered to go into them. Now, mark me! every hovel paid rent, or was under eviction for failing to pay.
The landlord has no duties in the way of repairing a roof or making a house comfortable. Such a thing is utterly unknown here. To fix the rent, to collect the rent, to make office rules as whim or cupidity dictates, to enforce them, in many instances with great brutality, is the sole business of the landlord; and the whole power of the Executive of England is at his back. This is not a good school in which to learn loyalty. Submission to absolute decrees or eviction are the only alternative.
The tenant has no voice in the bargain. He has no power to be one party to a contract. This irresponsible power of an autocrat over serfs of the soil is bad for both parties. I will try to tell these people's side of the question as nearly in their own words as I can.
When the native population was driven off the good valley lands to the hills of Donegal during the confiscation times, they built their cabins in groups, like the Scotch clachans, for company, perhaps even for protection. Each man broke up, clearing off stones and rooting up whins, the best patch within his reach. He ditched and drained pieces of low-lying bog, and paid for what he cultivated, all the rest being common.
By what title the Clemens of Leitrim got lordship over the wild hills as well as the fat lowlands I cannot tell; but all the country here, for miles and miles, up hill and down vale, is his. The people have absolutely no rights, far as the land is concerned.
The first move towards this dreadful state of things was called "Squaring the farms." This was done to compel the people to pay for the wild as well as the cultivated lands. Under the old system a man might have a few goats or sheep, or a heifer, on the hills, and, if his crop was not good, or a hail storm threshed out his oats, he could sacrifice these to pay the rent. When the farms were squared each man drew lots for his new holding. I am speaking of Lord Leitrim's estate. This was a hard decree, but the tenant had no alternative but to submit. A man often found himself squared out of the best of his clearing, squared out of his cabin and all accommodation for his cow or horse, and squared on to a new place without any house on it at all.
I made particular enquiry if Lord Leitrim had ever made any allowance or compensation to a man deprived of the house, which he or his fathers had built, after this summary fashion. No compensation. Every fixture put upon the land belonged to the landlord absolutely.
"Was there ever any help allowed to a man in building a new house?"
"In a very few instances a man got a door and a couple of window-sashes as a charitable assistance, not by any means as a compensation."
After some time the wild mountains, where there was nothing but rocks and heather, were fenced off. Before this the goats and sheep grazed up there. A new office rule made the price for a sheep or goat picking a living among the heather. It was one shilling and sixpence for a sheep with a lamb at her foot, and other animals in proportion. Still the wretched men of the hills struggled to live on in the only homes they had, or had ever known. Then the rents were raised. In one instance from L3 11s 4d to L6 5s for 6 Irish acres, the increased value being the result of the man's own hard labor. In another instance from L1 9s 4d to L13. Another office rule charges five shillings for the privilege of cutting turf for fuel even if cut on the little holding for which he is paying rent.
Now, when every nerve was strained to pay this rack rent, and cattle were high in price, if the unfortunate tenant failed, why, he was evicted. He might go where he liked, to the workhouse or the asylum, or the roadside, his little clearing would make pasture, and this, at the price of beef cattle, would be still more profitable. For any landlord in this part of Donegal to speak of freedom of contract is a fallacy. It does not exist.
The oppression at present exercised by Captain Dopping on the Leitrim estate, which he can carry out safely under the protection of bayonets, would raise up Judge Lynch in America before three months. Lately, the people told me, he visited the farm-houses in person, pulled open the doors of the little room that the better class strive to have, without permission asked, and walked in to inspect if there were any signs of prosperity hidden from the eye that might warrant further extortion. This act was resented with a feeling that found no relief in words. I noticed that there was no word of complaint or denunciation anywhere. Facts were stated, and you understood by glance and tone that the time for mere complaint was past.
I was taken to see a paralytic schoolmaster who had dared to build a room next to the school-house out of which he was helped into school every morning, for he could teach, though he had lost the use of his limbs. No sooner did Lord Leitrim know this than he had the paralytic carried out and laid on the road, and the room which he had built with his earnings and the help of his neighbors, was pulled down—not one stone was left upon another. He then lost his situation which was his living. I can hardly bear to describe this man's dwelling in which I found himself, his wife, four children and the cow. The winds of the mountain and the rains of heaven equally found their way in. His wife teaches sewing in the school at a salary of L8 per annum. This, with other help from the Rev. Mr. Martin, formerly Episcopal Rector of Kilmacrennan, who got the wife the post of schoolmistress, has kept these people alive. The father has not seen the sky since he was evicted in 1870. At present there is a writ of ejectment on the house for L9 of back rent, and he is sued for seed, got in the time of scarcity.
The house is horrible—there are boards with some straw on them over the beds. The children are very pretty, and as hardy as mountain goats. The father was quite an educated man, to judge from his speech. I, who was well clothed, shivered at the hearth, but want and nakedness stayed there constantly. If this poor man were put in the poor-house, he would have to part from the faithful wife and sweet children; but that is the doom that stares him in the face.
The longer I stayed among the hills the more I became convinced that the people had strained every nerve to pay what they considered unjust and extortionate rents. They worked hard; they farmed hard; they wore poor clothing; they left their hill and went over to Scotland or England, at harvest time, to earn money to pay the rent. "And we were not considered as kindly, or as much respected, as their hogs or dogs," said a farmer to me. There was nothing left after the rent for comfort, or to use in case of sickness; they always lived on the brink of starvation.
"Why did you not refuse to pay these increased rents when they were put upon you first? You should have refused in a body, and stood out," I said to one man. "Some could do that, my lady, but most could not. At first I had the old people depending on me, and I could not see them on the hillside; now I have little children, and the wife is weakly. And there were many like me, or even worse."
Now consider some of the office rules. My lord had a pound of his own: for a stray beast, so much; for a beast caught up the mountain without leave, eviction; for burning the limestone on your own place instead of buying it at the lord's kiln, eviction; for burning some parings of the peat land, the ashes of which made the potatoes grow bigger and drier, eviction. Not only did the man who did not doff his hat to the landlord stand in danger, but the man who did not uncover to his lowest under- bailiff. One exaction after another, one tyranny after another has dug a gulf between landlord and tenant that will be hard to bridge. I saw a stone house used as a barn. Lord Leitrim made the man who built it, who had got permission to build from the good Earl, tear down the chimney and make an office-house of it, on pain of eviction. He must continue to live himself in the hovel. Another widow woman, evicted for not being able to pay her rent, had the roof torn off her house, but has a place like a goose pen among the ruins, and here she stays. Every day rides out Capt. Dopping with his escort of police, paid for by the county, and evicts without mercy. Since the eyes of the world have been drawn to Ireland by the proceedings of the Land League none have been left to die outside. The tenants are admitted as caretakers by the week, but the eviction, I am told, extinguishes any claim the poor people might have under the Ulster Custom.
I have seen nothing yet to make me think I was in a disturbed country except meeting Captain Dopping and his escort, and seeing white police barracks and dandy policemen, who literally overrun the country. It carries one's mind back to the days of bloody Claverhouse or wicked Judge Jeffries to hear and see the feelings which the country people— Catholic as well as Protestant—have towards the memory of the late Earl. "Dear, the cup of his iniquity was full, the day of vengeance was come, and the earth could hold him no longer," said a Protestant to me.
"It was bad for the people, whoever they were, that took vengeance out of the hands of the Almighty, but many a poor creature he had sent out of the world before he lay helpless at the mercy of his enemies," said many an orthodox person to me. One poor girl on that dreadful day thanked God that the oppressor was laid low. Her mother evicted, had died on the roadside exposed to the weather of the hills, her brother went mad at the sight of misery he would almost have died to relieve but could not, and is now in the asylum at Letterkenny. One can imagine with what feeling this desolate girl lifted her hands when she heard of the murder, and said, "I thank Thee, O Lord."
What kind of a system is it that produces such scenes, and such feelings? It is a noticeable fact how many there are in the asylum in Letterkenny whose madness they blame on the horrors of these evictions. Wise legislation may find a remedy for these evils, but the memory of them will never die out. It is graven on the mountains, it is stamped on the valleys, it is recorded on the rocks forever.
ALONG A MOUNTAIN ROAD—WHY THE RENT WAS RAISED—TURNING FARMS INTO PASTURES—ST. COLOMBKILL—IRISH HOSPITALITY—A NOTABLE BALLAD.
The twenty-sixth of March rose sunny and cold, and I decided to hire a horse and guide to go to Derryveigh, made memorable by Mr. John George Adair. The road lay through wild mountain scenery. Patches of cultivated fields lay on the slopes; hungry whin-covered hills rose all round them, steep mountains rank upon rank behind; deep bog lands, full of treacherous holes, lay along at the foot of the mountain here and there. The scenery is wild beyond description, not a tree for miles in all the landscape.
On some of the lower hills men were ploughing with wretched-looking horses. Men were delving with spades where horses could not keep their footing. The houses were wretched, some only partly roofed, some with the roof altogether gone and a shed erected inside, but for the most wretched of all the hovels rent is exacted.
Every bit of clearing was well and carefully labored. The high, broad stone fences round hillside fields were all gathered from the soil.
At one place, I was told that the brother of the occupant had sent him, from America, money to make the house a little more comfortable. He roofed it with slate. The rent was raised from L2 9s 4d to L13 10s. I may remark here that the tenants complain that the present Earl, through his agent, Capt. Dopping, is even more oppressive in a steady, cruel manner than the late Earl.
The late hard times—the cruel famine—has led to the sacrifice of all stock, so that some of these people have not a four-footed beast on their holding.
As we wound along among the hills my guide spoke of getting another man to accompany us, who was well acquainted with the way to Derryveigh, and we stopped at his place accordingly. He came to the car to explain that he was busy fanning up corn, or he would be only too glad to come. In a subdued whisper he told my guide of Capt. Dopping having been at his house, with his bailiffs and body-guard of police—threatening the wife, he said. He then told of the sacrifices he had made of one thing and another to gather up one year's rent. He had to pay five shillings for cutting turf on his own land, and one shilling for a notice served on him. Poor little man, he had a face that was cut for mirthfulness, and his woefulness was both touching and amusing. So we left him and went our way.
Along the road, winding up and down among the hills, by sudden bogs and rocky crags still more desolate and lonely looking, we came upon a cultured spot, now and then, where a solitary man would be digging round the edges of the rocks. Again we were among wild mountains heaving up their round heads to the sky and looking down at us over one another's shoulders. It brought to my mind the Atlantic billows during the last stormy February. It is as if the awful rolling billows mounting to the sky were turned into stone and fixed there, and the white foam changed into dark heather. After driving some time the landscape softened down into rolling hills beautifully cultivated, and sprinkled here and there with grazing cattle.
We are coming to Gartan Lake, and where there is a belt of trees by the lake shore stands the residence of Mr. Stewart, another landlord. He, when cattle became high-priced, thought that cattle were much preferable to human beings, so he evicted gradually the dwellers who had broken in the hills, and entered into possession, without compensation, of the fields, the produce of others' toil and sweat. His dwelling is in a lonely, lovely spot, and it stands alone, for no cottage home is at all near. He has wiped out from the hill sides every trace of the homes of those who labored on these pleasant fields and brought them under cultivation. Since the Land League agitation began he has given a reduction of rents, and the whole country side feel grateful and thankful.
There is no solitude so great that we do not meet bailiffs at their duty, or policemen on the prowl.
We are now nearing Derryveigh. There are two lakes lying along the valley connected with a small stream. My guide informed me that both lakes once abounded with salmon. The celebrated St. Colombkill was born on the shores of the Gartan Lake. Being along the lake one day he asked some fishermen on the lower lake to share with him of the salmon they had caught. They churlishly refused, and the saint laid a spell on the waters, and no salmon come there from that day to this. They are plentiful in Upper Gartan Lake, and come along the stream to the dividing line, where the stream is spanned by a little rustic bridge; here they meet an invisible barrier, which they cannot pass. I told my guide in return the story of the Well of St. Keyne, but he thought it unlikely. So there is a limit to belief.
Since Mr. Adair depopulated Derryveigh, and gave it over to silence, the roads have been neglected, and have become rather difficult for a car. The relief works in famine time have been mainly road-making, and there are smooth hard roads through the hills in all directions, so the people complain of roads that would not be counted so very bad in the Canadian backwoods. However, the difficulty being of a rocky nature, we left the car at the house of a dumb man, the only one of the inhabitants spared by Adair. He and his sister, also dumb, lived together on the mountain solitudes. She is dead, and a relative, the daughter of one of the evicted people, has come to keep house for him. He made us very welcome, seeing to it that the horse was put up and fed with sheaf oats. I and my guides, for we were now joined by the man who had had the oats to fan— he had got his brother to take his place and came a short cut across the hills to meet us—so we all three set out to walk over Derryveigh.
It was a trying walk, a walk to be measured by ups and downs, for the Derryveigh hamlets were widely scattered. There they were—roofless homes, levelled walls, desolation and silence. And it is a desolation, indeed. Broken down walls here and there, singly and in groups, mark the place where there was a contented population when Mr. Adair bought the estate. He had made plans for turning his purchase into a veritable El Dorado. The barren mountains are fenced off, surely at a great expense, that no sheep or lamb might bite a heather bell without pay. It was to be a great pasture for black-faced sheep. The sides of the mountains, which are bog in many places, are scored with drains to dry up the bog holes and give the sheep a sure footing. I did not see many sheep on the hill or many cattle on the deserted farms. It is an awfully lonesome place; desolation sits brooding among the broken-down walls. My guide, a lonesome-looking man, enlivened our way by remarks like these: "This was a widdy's house. She was a well-doin' body." "Here was a snug place. See, there's the remains of a stone porch that they built to break off the wind." "That was Jamie Doherty's, he that died on the road-side after he was evicted. You see, nobody dare lift the latch or open the door to any of the poor creatures that were put out."
And this has been done; human beings have died outside under the sky for no crime, and this under the protection of English law. Many of these people lost their reason, and are in the asylum at Letterkenny. Some are still coshering here and there among their charitable neighbors, while many are bitter hearted exiles across the sea. After walking up and down amid this pitiful desolation, and hearing many a heart-rending incident connected with the eviction, a sudden squall of hail came on, and we were obliged to take shelter on the lee side of a ruined wall till it blew over. To while away the time one of the guides told me of a local song made on the eviction, the refrain being, "Five hundred thousand curses on cruel John Adair."
Across the Gartan Lake we could see from our partial shelter the point to which Mr. Stewart wasted the people off his estate. Mr. Stewart's is a handsome lonely place, but when one hears all these tales of spoliation it prevents one from admiring a fine prospect. "He is dealing kindly with the people now," said my guides, "whatever changed his heart God knows."
The shower being over we returned to the house of the dummy. In our absence dinner had been prepared for us. She had no plates, but the table on which she laid oat cakes was as white as snow. She gave us a little butter, which, by the signs and tokens, I knew to be all she had, boiled eggs, made tea of fearful strength, and told us to eat. My guides enjoyed the mountain fare with mountain appetites. I tried to eat, but somehow my throat was full of feelings. I had great difficulty to make this mountain maid accept of a two shilling piece for her trouble. We returned by the way we came to a point where we had a view of a rectory which was pointed out to me as the abode of another good rector. These people do seem to feel kindness very much. Here we took another road to visit Glenveigh and see Adair's castle. On the way we were informed by a woman, speaking in Irish, that a process-server near Creeslach was fired at through the window of his house. He had been out serving processes, and was at home sitting with his head resting on his hand. Three shots were fired, two going over his head and one going through the hand on which his head was resting. Two men are taken up to-day.
* * * * *
I have secured a copy of the ballad referred to by our guide, which records the desolation of Derryveigh. All such actions are celebrated in local poetry; but this is one of the fiercest; you can publish it if you think best:—
"The cold snow rests on levelled walls, where was a happy home, The wintry sky looks down upon a desolate hearthstone. The hearth by which the cradle song has lulled our infant's sleep, Is open to the pitying skies that nightly o'er it weep. There is rippling in the waters, there is rustling through the air, Five hundred thousand curses upon cruel John Adair.
"It is not we that curse him, though in woe our sad heart bleeds, The curse that's on him is the curse that follows wicked deeds. He suspected and he punished, he judged, and then he drew The besom of destruction our quiet homesteads through; So it's rippling in the waters, it is rustling through the air, Five hundred thousand curses upon cruel John Adair.
"We little dreamed upon our hills destruction's hour was nigh, Woe! Woe the day our quiet glens first met his cruel eye! He coveted our mountains all in an evil hour, We have tasted of his mercy, and felt his grasp of power; Through years to come of summer sun, of wintry sleet and snow, His name shall live in Derryveigh as Campbell's in Glencoe.
"A tear is on each heather bell where heaven's dew distils, And weeping down the mountain side flows on a thousand rills; The winds rush down the empty glens with many a sigh and moan, Where little children played and sang is desolate and lone. The scattered stones of many homes have witnessed our despair, And every stone's a monument to cruel John Adair.
"Where are the hapless people, doomed by John Adair's decree? Some linger in the drear poor-house—some are beyond the sea; One died behind the cold ditch—back beneath the open sky, And every star in heaven was a witness from on high. None dared to ope a friendly door, or lift a neighbor's latch, Or shelter by a warm hearthstone beneath the homely thatch.
"Beside the lake in sweet Glenveigh, his tall white castle stands, With battlement and tower high, fresh from the mason's hands; It's built of ruined hearth stones, its cement is bitter tears, It's a monument of infamy to all the future years, He is written childless, for of his blood no heir Shall inherit land or lordship from cruel John Adair.
"His cognizance the bloody hand has a wild meaning now, It is pointing up for vengeance to Cain-like mark his brow, It speaks of frantic hands that clasped the side posts of the door; Pale lips that kissed the threshold they would cross, oh, never more. The scattered stones of many homes, the desolated farms, Shall mark with deeper red the hand upon his coat of arms. The silver birches of Glenveigh when stirred by summer air Shall whisper of the curse that hangs o'er cruel John Adair."