|Battle of the Factions
from Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry by William Carleton
First published in 1830 by George Routledge & Co, Farringdon Street
The Hedge School
Illustrations: Volume One
Illustrations: Volume Two
Fight between the O'Callaghans and O'Hallaghans at Knockimdowney.
Accordingly, the next evening
found them all present, when it was determined unanimously that Pat
“Very well,” said, Pat, “I am
quite simultaneous to the wishes of the company; but you will plaise to
“Very right, Mr Frayne,” replied
Andy Morrow; “so in ordher to avoid a dhry narrative,
“Thank you, Mr. Morrow – and in
requital for your kindness, I will elucidate for you such a sample
“My grandfather, Connor
O’Callaghan, though a tall, erect man, with white flowing hair, like snow,
“It pleased Providence to bring us through many hair-breadth escapes, with our craniums uncracked; and when we considher that he, on taking a retrogradation of his past life, can indulge in the plasin recollection of having broken two skulls in his fighting days, and myself one, without either of us getting a fracture in return, I think we have both rason to be thankful. He was a powerful bulliah battha in his day, and never met a man able to fight him, except big Mucklemurray, who stood before him the greater part of an hour and a half, in the fair of Knockimdowney, on the day that the first great fight took place – twenty years afther the hard frost – between the O’Callaghans and the O’Hallaghans. The two men fought single hands – for both factions were willing to let them try the engagement out, that they might see what side could boast of having the best man. They began where you enter the north side of Knockimdowney, and fought successively up to the other end, then back again to the spot where they commenced, and afterwards up to the middle of the town, right opposite to the market-place, where my grandfather, by the same a-token, lost a grinder; but he soon took satisfaction for that, by giving Mucklemurray a tip above the eye with the end of an oak stick, dacently loaded with lead, which made the poor man feel very quare entirely, for the few days that he survived it.
“Faith, if an Irishman happened to be born in Scotland, he would find it mighty inconvanient – afther losing two or three grinders in a row – to manage the hard oaten bread that they use there; for which rason, God be good to his sowl that first invented the phaties, anyhow, because a man can masticate them without a tooth, at all at all. I’ll engage, if larned books were consulted, it would be found out that he was an Irishman. I wonder that neither Pastorial nor Columbkill mentions anything about him in their prophecies consarning the church; for my own part, I’m strongly inclinated to believe that it must have been Saint Patrick himself; and I think that his driving all kinds of venomous reptiles out of the kingdom is, according to the Socrastic method of argument, an undeniable proof of it. The subject, to a dead certainty, is not touched upon in the Brehon Code, nor by any of the three Psalters, which is extremely odd, seeing that the earth never produced a root equal to it in the multiplying force of prolification. It is, indeed, the root of prosperity to a fighting people: and many a time my grandfather boasts to this day, that the first bit of bread he ever ett was a phatie.
“In mentioning my grandfather’s fight with Mucklemurray, I happened to name them blackguards, the O’Hallaghans: hard fortune to the same set, for they have no more discretion in their quarrels, than so many Egyptian mummies, African buffoons, or any other uncivilised animals. It was one of them, he that’s married to my own fourth cousin, Biddy O’Callaghan, that knocked two of my grinders out, for which piece of civility I had the satisfaction of breaking a splinter or two in his carcase, being always honestly disposed to pay my debts.
“With respect to the O’Hallaghans, they and our family have been next neighbours since before the Flood – and that’s as good as two hundred years; for I believe it’s 198, anyhow, since my great grandfather’s grand uncle’s ould mare was swept out of the ‘Island,’ in the dead of the night, about half an hour after the whole country had been ris out of their beds by the thunder and lightning. Many a field of oats and many a life, both of beast and Christian, was lost in it, especially of those that lived on the bottoms about the edge of the river: and it was true for them that said it came before something; for the next year was one of the hottest summers ever remembered in Ireland.
“These O’Hallaghans couldn’t be at peace with a saint. Before they and our faction began to quarrel, it’s said that the O’Donnells, or Donnells, and they had been at it, - and a blackguard set the same O’Donnells were, at all times – in fair and market, dance, wake, and berrin, setting the country on fire. Whenever they met, it was heads cracked and bones broken; till by degrees the O’Donnells feel away, one after another, from fighting, accidents, and hanging; so that at last there was hardly the name of one of them in the neighbourhood. The O’Hallaghans, after this, had the country to themselves – were the cocks of the walk entirely; - who but they? A man darn’t look crooked at them, or he was certain of getting his head in his fist. And when they’d get drunk in a fair, it was nothing but ‘Whoo! For the O’Hallaghans!’ and leaping yards high off the pavement, brandishing their cudgels over their heads, striking their heels against their hams, tossing up their hats; and when all would fail, they’d strip off their coats, and trail them up and down the street, shouting, ‘Who dare touch the coat of an O’Hallaghan? Where’s the blackguard Donnells now?’ – and so on, till flesh and blood couldn’t stand it.
“In the course of time, the whole country was turned against them; for no crowd could get together in which they didn’t kick up a row, nor a bit of stray fighting couldn’t be, but they’d pick it up first; and if a man would venture to give them a contrairy answer, he was sure to get the crame of a good welting for his pains. The very landlord was timourous of them; for when they’d get behind in their rint, hard fortune to the bailiff, or proctor, or steward, he could find, that would have anything to say to them. And the more wise they; for maybe, a month would hardly pass till all belonging to them in the world would be in a heap of ashes: and who could say who did it? for they were as cunning as foxes.
“If one of them wanted a wife, it was nothing but find out the purtiest and richest farmer’s daughter in the neighbourhood, and next march into her father’s house, at the dead hour of night, tie and gag every mortal in it, and off with her to some friend’s place in another part of the country. Then what could be done? If the girl’s parents didn’t like to give in, their daughter’s name was sure to be ruined; at all events, no other man would think of marrying her, and the only plan was, to make the best of a bad bargain; and God he knows, it was making a bad bargain for a girl to have any matrimonial concatenation with the same O’Hallaghans; for they always had the bad drop in them, from first to last, from big to little – the blackguards! But wait, it’s not over with them yet.
“The bone of contintion that got between them and our faction was this circumstance: their lands and ours were divided by a river that ran down from the high mountains of Slieve Boglish, and, after a coorse of eight or ten miles, disembogued itself, first into George Duffy’s mill-dam, and afterwards into that superb stream, the Blackwater, that might be well and appropriately appellated the Irish Niger. This river, which, though small at first, occasionally inflated itself to such a gigantic altitude, that it swept away cows, corn, and cottages, or whatever else happened to be in the way, was the march ditch, or merin between our farms. Perhaps it is worth while remarking, as a solution for natural philosophers, that these inundations were much more frequent in winter than in summer; though, when they did occur in summer, they were truly terrific.
“God be with the days, when I and half a dozen gorsoons used to go out, of a warm Sunday in summer, the bed of the river nothing but a line of white meandering stones, so hot that you could hardly stand upon them, with a small obscure thread of water creeping invisibly among them, hiding itself, as it were, from the scorching sun; except here and there, that you might find a small crystal pool where the streams had accumulated. Our plan was to bring a pocketful of roche lime with us, and put it in the pool, when all the fish used to rise on the instant to the surface, gasping with open mouth for fresh air, and we had only to lift them out of the water; a nate plan, which, perhaps, might be adopted successfully, on a more extensive scale, by the Irish fisheries. Indeed, I almost regret that I did not remain in that station of life, for I was much happier then than ever I was since I began to study and practice larning. But this is vagating from the subject.
“Well, then, I have said that them O’Hallaghans lived beside us, and that this stream divided our lands. About half a quarter – i.e. to accommodate myself to the vulgar phraseology – or, to speak more scientifically, one-eighth of a mile from our house, was as purty a hazel glen as you’d wish to see, near half a mile long – its developments and proportions were truly classical. In the bottom of this glen was a small green island, about twelve yards, diametrically, of Irish admeasurement, that is to say, be the same more or less; at all events, it lay in the way of the river, which, however, ran towards the O’Hallaghan side, and, consequently, the island was our property.
“Now, you’ll observe, that this river had been, for ages, the merin between the two farms, for they both belonged to separate landlords, and so long as it kept the O’Hallaghan side of the little peninsula in question there could be no dispute about it, for all was clear. One wet winter, however, it seemed to change its mind upon the subject; for it wrought and wore away a passage for itself on our side of the island, and by that means took part, as it were, with the O’Hallaghans, leaving the territory which had been our property for centhries, in their possession. This was a vexatious change to us, and, indeed, eventually produced very feudal consequences. No sooner had the stream changed sides, than the O’Hallaghans claimed the island as theirs, according to their tenement; and we, having had it for such length of time in our possession, could not break ourselves of the habitude of occupying it. They incarcerated our cattle, and we incarcerated theirs. They summoned us to their landlord, who was a magistrate; and we summoned them to ours, who was another. The verdicts were north and south. Their landlord gave in favour of them, and ours in favour of us. The one said he had law on his side; the other, that he had proscription and possession, length of time and usage.
“The two squires then fought a challenge upon the head of it, and what was more singular, upon the disputed spot itself; the one standing on their side, the other on ours; for it was just twelve paces every way. Their friend was a small, light man, with legs like drumsticks; the other was a large, able-bodied gentleman, with a red face and hooked nose. It pastured upon their landlord’s spindle leg, on which he held it out, exclaiming, that while he lived he would never fight another challenge with his antagonist, ‘because,’ said he, holding out his own spindle shank, ‘the man who would hit that could hit anything.’
“We then were advised, by an attorney, to go to law with them; and they were advised by another attorney to go to law with us: accordingly, we did so, and in the course of eight or nine years it might have been decided, but just as the legal term approximated in which the decision was to be announced, the river divided itself with mathematical exactitude on each side of the island. This altered the state and law of the question in toto; but, in the mean time, both we and the O’Hallaghans were nearly fractured by the expenses. Now during the law-suite we usually houghed and mutilated each other’s cattle, according as they trespassed the premises. This brought on the usual concomitants of various battles, fought and won by both sides, and occasioned the law-suit to be dropped; for we found it a mighty inconvanient matter to fight it out both ways; by the same a-token that I think it a proof of stultity to go to law at all at all, as long as a person is able to take it into his own management. For the only incongruity in the matter is this: that, in the one case, a set of lawyers have the law in their hands, and, in the other, that you have it in your own; that’s the only difference, and ‘tis easy knowing where the advantage lies.
“We, however, paid the most of the expenses, and would have ped them all with the greatest integrity, were it not that our attorney, when about to issue an execution against our property, happened somehow to be shot, one evening, as he returned home from a dinner which was given by him that was attorney for the O’Hallaghans. Many a boast the O’Hallaghans made, before the quarrelling between us and them commenced, that they’d sweep the streets with the fighting O’Callaghans, which was an epithet that was occasionally applied to our family. We differed, however, materially from them; for we were honourable, never starting out in dozens on a single man or two, and beating him into insignificance. A couple, or maybe, when irritated, three, were the most we ever set at a single enemy; and if we left him lying in a state of imperception, it was the most we ever did, except in a regular confliction, when a man is justified in saving his own skull by breaking one of the opposite faction. For the truth of the business is, that he who breaks the skull of him who endeavours to break his own is safest; and, surely, when a man is driven to such an alternative, the choice is unhesitating.
"O'Hallaghans' attorney, however, had better luck; they were, it is true, rather in the retrograde with
"After this, the lawyer went to reside in
"The occasion on which the first re-encounter between us and the O'Hallaghans took place, was a
"It is the great battle, however, which I am after going to describe: that in which we and the
"Poor Rose O'Hallaghan! - or, as she was designated- Rose Galh, or Fair Rose, and sometimes
"The chapel of Knockimdowny is a slated house, without any ornament, except a set of wooden
"In this mode, laired on the sunny side of the ditches and hedges, or collected in rings round that
"The amusements of the females are also nearly such as I have drafted out. Nosegays of the darlings
"One sunny Sabbath, the congregation of Knockimdowny were thus assimilated, amusing themselves
"'Peggy,' said Katy Carroll to her companion, Peggy Donohue, 'were you out last Sunday?'
"'No, in troth, Katty, I was disappointed in getting my shoes from Paddy Mellon, though I
"'Oh, nothing,' responded Katty, 'only that you missed a sight, anyway.'
"'What was it Kitty, a-hagur?' asked her companion with mighty great curiosity.
"'Why, nothing less, indeed, nor Rose Cullenan decked out in a white muslin gown, and a black
"'Arrah, how could I guess, woman alive? A silk handkerchy, maybe; for I wouldn't doubt the same
"'It's herself that had, as red as scarlet, about her neck; but that's not it.'
"'Arrah, Katty, tell it to us at wanst; out with it, a-hagur; sure there's no treason in it, anyhow.'
"'Why, thin, nothing less nor a crass-bar red-and-white pocket-handkerchy, to wipe her purty
"To this Peggy replied by a loud laugh, in which it was difficult to say whether there was more of
"'A pocket-handkerchy!' she exclaimed; 'musha, are we alive afther that, at all at all! Why, that
"'Molly M'Cullagh, indeed,' said Katty, 'why, they oughtn't to be mintioned in the one day, woman.
"'Sure she thinks she's a beauty, too, if you plase,' said Peggy, tossing her head with an air of disdain;
"'Why, for all the world like a shift on a Maypowl, or a stocking on a body's nose: only nothing killed
"'Hut!' said the other, 'what could we expect from a proud piece like her, that brings a Manwill to
"At this hit they both formed another risible junction, quite as sarcastic as the former - in the midst of
"'My gracious, Rose, but that's a purty thing you have got in your gown! - where did you buy it?'
"'Och, thin, not a one of myself likes it over much. I'm sorry I didn't buy a gingham: I could have got
"'Troth, it's nothing else but a great beauty; I didn't see anything on you this long time that becomes
"'Who made it, Rose?' inquired Katty; 'for it sits illegant'
"'Indeed,' replied Rose, 'for the differ of the price, I thought it better to bring it to Peggy Boyle, and
"'The sprush bonnet is exactly the fit for the gown,' observed Katty; 'the black and the white's jist
"'Jist ten and a half; but the half-yard was for the tucks.'
"'Ay, faix! and brave full tucks she left in it; ten would do me, Rose?'
"'Ten! - no, nor ten and a half; you're a size bigger nor me at the laste, Peggy; but you'd be asy fitted,
"'Rose, darling,' said Peggy, 'that's a great beauty, and shows off your complexion all to pieces; you
"In a few minutes after this her namesake, Rose Galh O'Hallaghan, came towards the chapel, in
"'There's the O'Hallaghans,' says Rose.
"'Ay,' replied Katty; 'you may talk of beauty, now; did you ever lay your two eyes on the likes
"Kind reader, without a single disrespectful insinuation against any portion of the fair sex, you may
"'I'll warrant,' observed Katty, 'we'll soon be after seeing John O'Callaghan' - (he was my own
"'Why,' asked Rose, 'what makes you say that?'
"'Bekase,' replied the other, I've a rason for it.'
"'Sure John O'Callaghan wouldn't be thinking of her,' observed Rose, 'and their families would
"'Well,' said Peggy, 'it's the thousand pities that the same two couldn't go together; for fair and
"'Didn't I tell yez?' cried Katty; 'look at him now staling afther her: and it'll be the same thing going
"'Between ourselves’, observed Peggy, ‘it would be no wondher the darling young crathur would
"'There's Father Ned,' remarked Katty; 'we had betther get into the chapel before the scroodgin
"They now proceeded to the chapel, and those who had been amusing themselves after the same
"The chapel of Knockimdowny was situated at the foot of a range of lofty mountains; a bye-road
"Shortly after the priest had entered the chapel, it was observed that the hemisphere became, of
"From this moment the storm became progressive in dreadful magnitude, and the thunder, in
"The rain now condescended in even-down torrents, and thunder succeeded thunder in deep
"This lasted for an hour, when the thunder slackened: but the rain still continued. As soon as
"When the three young women, whom we have already introduced to our respectable readers, had
"A crowd was now assembled, consulting as to the safest method of crossing the planks, under
"When this expedient had been hit upon, several young men volunteered themselves to put it in
"The first of the O'Hallaghans that ventured over it was the youngest, who, being captured by the hand,
"The wild and fearful cry of horror that succeeded this cannot be laid on paper. The eldest sister fell
"'For God's sake, Paddy, don't attimpt it,' they exclaimed, 'except you wish to lose your own life,
"Their arguments, however, were lost upon him; for, in fact, he was insensible to everything but his
"'Let me alone, will yez,' said he - 'let me alone! I'll either save my child, Rose, or die along with
"'Just as these words were uttered, a plunge was heard a few yards below the bridge, and a man
"When O'Callaghan saw that she went down, he raised himself up in the water, and cast his eye
"An awful silence succeeded the last shrill exclamation, broken only by the hoarse rushing of the
"'Bring her to the other side, John, ma bouchal; it's the safest,' said Larry Carty.
"'Will you let him alone, Carty?' said Simon Tracy, who was the other, 'you'll only put him in a
"But Carty should order in spite of every thing. He kept bawling out, however, so loud, that John
"The father, during this, stood breathless, his hands clasped, and his eyes turned to heaven, praying
"When John brought her to the surface, he paused for a moment to recover breath and collectedness;
"Hitherto, therefore, all was still doubtful, whilst strength was fast failing him. In this trying and
"Hitherto her father took no notice of John, for how could he? seeing that he was entirely
"For years before this no two of these opposite factions had spoken, nor up to this minute had
"When Rose recovered, she seemed as if striving to recordate what had happened; and, after
"''Twas John O'Callaghan, Rose darling,' replied the sister, in tears, 'that ventured his own life
"Rose's eye glanced at John - and I only wish, as I am a bachelor not further than my forty-fourth,
"It is not necessary to detail the circumstances of this day farther; let it be sufficient to say, that a
"There were, it is true, many among both factions who saw the matter in this reasonable light,
"For three months after the accident which befel Rose Galh O'Hallaghan, both factions had
"It might be, indeed, that there were those on both sides who thought that, if the marriage was
"I believe I may as well take this opportunity of saying that real Irish cudgels must be
"I remember the fair-day of Knockimdowny well; it has kept me from griddle-bread and tough
"There had not been a larger fair in the town of
"The blood of every prolific nation is naturally hot; but when that hot blood is inflamed by ardent
"Up till that day, the factions were quiet. Several relations on both sides had been
"I have often had occasion to remark - and few men, let me tell you, had finer opportunities of
"In a party fight, a prophetic sense of danger hangs, as it were, over the crowd - the very air is
"Now a faction fight doesn't resemble this, at all, at all. Paddy's at home here; all song, dance,
"When the evening became more advanced, maybe, considering the poor look up there was
“The impulse which faction fighting gives to trade and
“Towards , if a man was placed on an exalted station, so that he could look at the crowd, and wasn’t able to fight, he could have seen much that a man might envy him for. Here a hat went up, or maybe a dozen of them; then followed a general huzza. On the other side, two dozen caubeens sought the sky, like so many scaldy crows attempting their own element for the first time, only they were not so black. Then another shout, which was answered by that of their friends on the opposite side; so that you would hardly know which side huzzaed loudest, the blending of both was so truly symphonious. Now there was a shout for the face of an O’Callaghan: this was prosecuted on the very heels by another for the face of an O’Hallaghan. Immediately a man of the O’Hallaghan side doffed his tattered frieze, and catching it by the very extremity of the sleeve, drew it with a tact, known only be an initiation of half-a-dozen street days, up the pavement after him. On the instant, a blade from the O’Callaghan side peeled with equal alacrity, and stretching his home-made at full length after him, proceeded triumphantly up the street, to meet the other.
“Thundher-an-ages, what’s this for, at all, at all! I wish I hadn’t begun to manuscript an account of it, any how; ‘tis like a hungry man dreaming of a good dinner at a feast, and afterwards awaking and finding his front ribs and back-bone on the point of union. Reader, is that a black-thorn you carry – tut, where is my imagination bound for? – to meet the other, I say.
“Where’s the rascally O’Callaghan that will place his toe or his shillely on this frieze?’ ‘Is there no blackguard O’Hallaghan jist to look crucked at the coat of an O’Callaghan, or say black’s the white of his eye?’
“’Throth and there is, Ned, avourneen, that same on the sod here.’
“’Is that Barney?’
“’The same, Ned, ma bouchal; and how is your mother’s son, Ned?’
“’In good health at the present time, thank God and you; how is yourself, Barney?’
“’Can’t complain as time goes; only take this, any how, to mend your health, ma bouchal.’ (Whack).
“’Success, Barney, and here’s at your service, avick, not making little of what I got, any way.’ (Crack).
“About on a May evening, in the fair of Knockimdowney, was the ice thus broken, with all possible civility, by Ned and Barney. The next moment a general rush took place towards the scene of action, and ere you could bless yourself, Barney and Ned were both down, weltering in their own and each other’s blood. I scarcely know, indeed, though with a mighty respectable quote of experimentality myself, how to describe what followed. For the first twenty minutes the general harmony of this fine row might be set to music, according to a scale something like this:- Whick whack – crick crack – whick whack – crick crack - &c. &c. &c. ‘Here yer sowl- (crack) – there yer sowl – (whack.) Whoo for the O’Hallaghans!’ – (crack, crack crack.). ‘Hurroo for the O’Callaghans! – (whack, whack, whack.) The O’Callaghans for ever!’ – (whack) ‘The O’Hallaghans for ever!’ – (crack) ‘Murther! Murther! (crick, crack) – foul! Foul! – (whick, whack.) Blood and turf! – (whack, whick) – tunther-an-ouns’ – (crack, crick.) ‘Hurroo! My darlings! Handle your kippeens – (crack, crack) – the O’Hallaghans are going!’ – (whack, whack.).
“You are to suppose them here to have been at it for about half an hour.
“Whack, crack – ‘oh – oh –oh! Have mercy upon me, boys – (crack – a shriek of murther! murther! – crack, crack, whack) – my life – my life – (crack, crack – whack, whack) – oh! for the sake of the living Father! – for the sake of my wife and childher, Ned Hallaghan, spare my life.’
“’So we will, but take this, any how’ – (whack, crack, whack, crack.)
“’Oh! For the love of God don’t kill – (whack, crack, whack.) Oh!’ – (crack, crack, whack – dies.)
“’Huzza! huzza! huzza!’ from the O’Hallaghans. ‘Bravo, boys! there’s one of them done for: whoo! My darlings! Hurroo! The O’Hallaghans for ever!’
“The scene now changes to the O’Callaghan side.
“’Jack – oh, Jack, avourneen – hell to their sowls for murdherers – Paddy’s killed – his skull’s smashed! Revinge, boys, Paddy O’Callaghan’s killed! On with you, O’Callaghans – on with you – on with you, Paddy O’Callaghan’s murdhered – take to the stones – that’s it – keep it up – down with him! Success! – he’s the bloody villain that didn’t show him marcy – that’s it. Tunder-an’-ouns, is it laving him that way you are afther – let me at him!’
“’Here’s a stone, Tom!’
“’No, no, this stick has the lead in it. It’ll do him, never fear!’
“’Let him alone, Barney, he’s got enough.’
“’By the powdhers, it’s myself that won’t: didn’t he kill Paddy? – (crack, crack.) Take that, you murdhering thief!’ – (whack, whack.)
“’Oh! – (whack, crack) – my head – I’m killed – I’m (crack – kicks the bucket.)
“’Now, your sowl, that does you, any way – (crack, whack) – hurro! – huzza! – tol-deroll, lol-derol, tow, row, row huzza for the O’Callaghans!’
“From this moment the battle became delightful; was now pelt and welt on both sides, but many of the kippeens were broken; many of the boys had their fighting arms disabled by a dislocation, or bit of fracture, and those weren’t equal to more than doing a little upon such as were down.
“In the midst of the din, such a dialogue as this might be heard:
“’Larry, you’re after being done for, for this day.’ (Whack, crack.)
“’Only an eye gone – is that Mickey?’ (whick, whack, crick crack).
“’That’s it, my darlings! - you may say that, Larry – ‘tis my mother’s son that’s in it – (crack, crack, a general huzza:) (Mickey and Larry) huzza! huzza! huzza for the O’Hallaghans! What have you got, Larry? – (crack, crack.)
“’Only the bone of my arm, God be praised for it, very
purtily snapt across!’ – (whack, whack).
“’Is that all? Well, some people have luck!’ – (crack, crack, crack).
“’Why I’ve no reason to complain, thank God – (whack, crack!
– purty play that, any way – Paddy O’Callaghan’s settled – did you hear it? –
(whack, whack, another shout) – That’s it, boys – handle the shilleleys! –
Success O’Hallaghans – down with the bloody O’Callaghans!’
“’I did hear it: so is Jem O’Hallaghan – (crack, whack, whack, crack) – yo’ure not able to get up, I see – tare-an-ounty, isn’t it a pleasure to hear that play? – What ails you?’
“’Oh, Larry, I’m in great pain, and getting very weak,
entirely’ – (faints).
“’Faix, and he’s settled too, I’m thinking.’
“’Oh, murdher, my arm!’ (One of the O’Callaghans attacks him
– crack, crack) –
“’Take that, you bagabone!’ – (whack, whack).
“’Murdher, murdher, is it striking a down man you’re after? – foul, foul, and my arm broke!’ – (crack,
“’Take that, with what you got before, and it’ll ase you, maybe.’
“(A party of the O’Hallaghans attack the man who is beating
“’Murdher, murdher! – (crack, whack, whack, crack, crack, whack).
“’Lay on him, your sowls to perdition – lay on him, hot and
heavy – give it to him! He sthruck me and me down wide my broken arm!’
“’Foul, ye thieves of the world! – (from the O’Callaghan) – foul! Five against one – give me fair play! – (crack, crack, crack) – Oh! – (whack) Oh, oh, oh!’ – (falls senseless, covered with blood).
“’Ha, hell’s cure to you, you bloody thief; you didn’t spare
me with my arm broke.’ – (Another general shout). ‘Bad end to it, isn’t it a
poor case entirely, that I can’t even throw up my caubeen, let alone join in
“Both parties now rallied, and ranged themselves along the street, exhibiting a firm compact phalanx, wedged close against each other, almost foot to foot. The mass was thick and dense, and the tug of conflict stiff, wild, and savage. Much natural skill and dexterity were displayed in their mutual efforts to preserve their respective ranks unbroken, and as the sallies and charges were made on both sides, the temporary rush, the indentation of the multitudinous body, and the rebound into its original position, gave an undulating appearance to the compact mass – reeking, dragging, groaning, and huzzaing as it was, that resembled the serpentine motion of a rushing water-spout in the clouds.
“The women now began to take part with their brothers and
sweethearts. Those who had no bachelor among the opposite factions, fought
along with their brothers; others did not scruple even to assist in giving
their enamoured swains the father of a good beating. Many, however, were more
faithful to love than to natural affection, and these sallied out like
heroines, under the banners of their sweethearts, fighting with amazing prowess
against their friends and relations; nor was it at all extraordinary to see two
sisters engaged on opposite sides – perhaps tearing each other as, with
dishevelled hair, they screamed with a fury that was truly exemplary. Indeed it
is no untruth to assert that the women do much valuable execution. Their manner
of fighting is this – as soon as the fair one decides upon taking a part in the
row, she instantly takes off her apron or her stocking, stoops down, and
lifting the first four pounder she can get, puts it in the corner of her apron,
or the foot of her stocking, if it has a foot, and marching into the scene of
action, lays about her right and left. Upon my credibility, they are extremely
useful and handy and can give mighty nate knockdowns – inasmuch as no guard
that a man is acquainted with can ward off their blows. Nay, what is more, it
often happens, when a son-in-law is in a faction against his father-in-law and
his wife’s people generally, that if he and his wife’s brother meet, the wife
will clink him with the pet in her
apron, downing her own husband with great skill, for it is not always that
marriage extinguishes the hatred of factions; and very often ‘tis the brother
that is humiliated.
“Up to the death of these two men, John O’Callaghan and Rose’s father, together with a large party of their friends on both sides, were drinking in a public-house, determined to take no portion in the fight, at all, at all. Poor Rose, when she heard the shouting and terrible strokes, got as pale as death, and sat close to John, whose hand she captured in hers, beseeching him, and looking up in his face with the most imploring sincerity as she spoke, not to go out among them; the tears falling all the time from her fine eyes, the mellow flashes of which, when John’s pleasantry in soothing her would seduce a smile, went into his very heart. But when, on looking out of the window where they sat, two of the opposing factions heard that a man on each side was killed; and when on ascertaining the names of the individuals, and of those who murdered them, it turned out that one of the murdered men was brother to a person in the room, and his murderer uncle to one of those in the window, it was not in the power of man or woman to keep them asunder, particularly as they were all rather advanced in liquor. In an instant the friends of the murdered man made a rush at the window, before any pacifiers had time to get between them, and catching the nephew of him who had committed the murder, hurled him head-foremost upon the stone pavement, where his skull was dashed to pieces, and his brains scattered about the flags!“A general attack instantly took place in the room, between the two factions; but the apartment was too low and crowded to permit of proper fighting, so they rushed out to the street, shouting and yelling, as they do when the battle comes to the real point of doing business. As soon as it was seen that the heads of the O’Callaghans and O’Hallaghans were at work as well as the rest, the fight was re-commenced with re-trebled spirit; but when the mutilated body of the man who had been flung from the window, was observed lying in a pool of his own proper brains and blood, such a cry arose among his friends, as would cake the vital fluid in the veins of any one not a party in the quarrel. Now was the work – the moment of interest – men and women groaning, staggering, and lying insensible ; others shouting, leaping, and huzzaing; some singing, and not a few able-bodied spalpeens blurting, like overgrown children, on seeing their own blood; many raging and roaring about like bulls; all this formed such a group as a faction fight, and nothing else, could represent.
“The battle now blazed out afresh; and all kinds of instruments were pressed into the service. Some got flails, some spades, some shovels, and one man got his hands upon a scythe, with which, unquestionably, he would have taken more lives than one; but, very fortunately, as he sallied out to join the crowd, he was politely visited in the back of the head by a brick-bat, which had a mighty convincing way with it of giving him a peaceable disposition, for he instantly lay down, and did not seem at all anxious as to the result of the battle. The O’Hallaghans were now compelled to give way, owing principally to the introvention of John O’Callaghan, who, although he was as good as sworn to take no part in the contest, was compelled to fight merely to protect himself. But, blood-an-turf! when he did begin, he was dreadful. As soon as his party saw him engaged, they took fresh courage, and in a short time made the O’Hallaghans retreat up to the church-yard. I never saw any thing equal to John; he absolutely sent them down in dozens: and when a man would give him any inconvenience with the stick, he would down him with a fist, for right and left were all alike to him. Poor Rose’s brother and he met, both roused like two lions; but when John saw who it was, he held back his hand:-
“’No, Tom,’ says he, ‘I’ll not strike you, for Rose’s sake. I’m not fighting through ill will to you or
your family; so take another direction, for I can’t strike you.’
“The blood, however, was unfortunately up in Tom.
“’We’ll decide it now,’ said he. ‘I’m as good a man as you,
O’Callaghan; and let me whisper this in your ear – you’ll never warm the one
bed with Rose, while’s God’s in heaven – it’s past that now – there can be
nothing but blood between us!’
“At this juncture two of the O’Callaghans ran with their shillelaghs up, to beat down Tom on the spot.
“’Stop, boys!’ said John, ‘you mustn’t touch him; he had no
hand in the quarrel. Go, boys, if you respect me; lave him to myself.’
“The boys withdrew to another part of the fight; and the next instant Tom struck the very man that interfered to save him, across the temple, and cut him severely. John put his hand up and staggered.
“’I’m sorry for this,’ he observed; ‘but it’s now
self-defence with me;’ and, at the same moment, with one blow, he left Tom
O’Hallaghan stretched insensible on the street.
“On the O’Hallaghans being driven to the church-yard, they were at a mighty great inconvenience for weapons. Most of them had lost their sticks it being a usage in fights of this kind, to twist the cudgels from the grasp of the beaten men, to prevent them from rallying. They soon, however, furnished themselves with the best they could find, videlicet, the skull, leg, thigh, and arm bones, which they found lying about the grave-yard. This was a new species of weapon, for which the majority of the O’Callaghans were scarcely prepared. Out they sallied in a body – some with these, others with stones, and, making fierce assault upon their enemies, absolutely druv them back – not so much by the damage they were doing, as by the alarm and terror which these unexpected species of missiles excited.
“At this moment, not withstanding the fatality that had
taken place, nothing could be more truly comical and facetious than the
appearance of the field of battle. Skulls were flying in every direction- so
thick, indeed, that it might with truth be asserverated, that many who were
petrified in the dust, had their skulls broken in this great battle between the
factions. – God help poor
“But, perhaps, there was nothing more truly felicitous or original in its way than the mode of warfare adopted by little Neal Malone, who was tailor for the O’Callaghan side: for every tradesman is obliged to fight on behalf of his own faction. Big Frank Farrell, the miller, being on the O’Hallaghan side, had been sent for, and came up from his mill behind the town, quite fresh. He was never what could be called a good man, thought it was said that he could lift ten hundredweight. He puffed forward with a great cudgel, determined to commit slaughter out of the face, and the first man he met was the weeshy fraction of a tailor, as nimble as a hare. He immediately attacked him, and would probably have taken his measure for life had not the tailor’s activity protected him. Farrell was in a rage, and Neal, taking advantage of his blind fury, slipt round him, and, with a short run, sprung upon the miller’s back, and planted a foot upon the threshold of each coat pocket, holding by the mealy collar of his waistcoat. In this position he belaboured the miller’s face and eyes with his little hard fist to such purpose, that he had him in the course of a few minutes nearly as blind as a mill-horse. The miller roared for assistance, but the pell-mell was going on too warmly for his cries to be available. In fact, he resembled an elephant with a monkey on his back.
“’How do you like that, Farrell?’ Neal would say, giving him a cuff – ‘and that, and that; but that is best of all. Take it again, gudgeon (two cuffs more) – here’s grist for you (half a dozen additional) – hard fortune to you! (crack, crack.) What! Going to lie down! – by all that’s terrible, if you do, I’ll annigulate you! Here’s a dhuragh, (another half dozen) – long measure, you savage! – the baker’s dozen, you baste! – there’s a five-an’-twenty to the score, Sampson! And one or two in’ (crack, whack).
“’Oh! Murther sheery!’ shouted the miller. ‘Murther-an-age, I’m kilt! Foul play! – foul play!’
“’You lie, big Nebuchodonosor! It’s not – this is all fair play, you big baste! Fair play, Sampson! – by the same a-token, here’s to jog your memory that it’s the Fair day of Knockimdowney! Irish Fair play, you whale! But I’ll whale you’ (crack, crack, whack).
“’Oh! oh!’ shouted the miller.
“’Oh! oh! is it? Oh, if I had my scissors here till I’d clip your ears off – wouldn’t I bet the happy man, any how, you swab, you?’ (whack, whack, crack.)
“’Murther! murther! murther!’ shouted the miller. ‘Is there no help?’
“’Help, is it? – you may say that (crack crack): there’s a trifle – a small taste in the milling style, you know; and here goes to dislodge a grinder. Did ye ever hear of the tailor on horseback, Sampson? eh? (whack, whack.) Did you ever expect to see a tailor o’horseback of yourself, you baste? (crack.) I tell you, if you offer to lie down, I’ll annigulate you out o’ the face.’
“Never, indeed, was a miller before or since so well dusted; and, I dare say, Neal would have rode him long enough, but for an O’Hallaghan, who had gone into one of the houses to procure a weapon. This man was nearly as original in his choice of one as the tailor in the position which he selected for beating the miller. On entering the kitchen he found that he had been anticipated: there was neither tongs, poker, nor churn-staff nor, in fact, anything wherewith he could assault his enemies: all had been carried off by others. There was, however, a goose, in the action of being roasted on a spit at the fire: this was enough: Honest O’Hallaghan saw nothing but the spit, which he accordingly seized, goose and all, making the best of his way, so armed, to the scene of the battle. He just came out of an entry as the miller was once more roaring for assistance, and, to a dead certainty, would have spitted the tailor like a cock-sparrow against the miller’s carcase, had not his activity once more saved him. Unluckily, the unfortunate miller got the thrust which was intended for Neal, and roared like a bull. He was beginning to shout ‘Foul play!’ again, when, on turning round, he perceived that the thrust had not been intended for him, but for the tailor.
“’Give me that spit,’ said he; ‘ by all the mills that ever were turned, I’ll spit the tailor this blessed minute beside the goose, and we’ll roast them both together.’
“The other refused to part with the spit; but the miller, seizing the goose, flung it with all his force after the tailor, who stooped, however, and avoided the blow.
“’No man has a better right to the goose than the tailor,’ said Neal, as he took it up, and, disappearing, neither he nor the goose could be seen for the remainder of the day.
“The battle was now somewhat abated. Skulls, and bones, and bricks, and stones, were, however, still flying; so that it might be truly said, the bones of contention were numerous. The streets presented a woeful spectacle: men were lying with their bones broken – others, though not so seriously injured, lappered in their blood – some were crawling up, but were instantly knocked down by their enemies – some were leaning against the walls, or groping their way silently along them, endeavouring to escape observation, lest they might be smashed down and altogether murdered. Wives were sitting with the bloody heads of their husbands in their laps, tearing their hair, weeping, and cursing, in all the gall of wrath, those who left them in such a state. Daughters performed the said offices to their fathers, and sisters to their brothers; not pretermitting those who did not neglect their broken-pated bachelors to whom they paid equal attention. Yet was the scene not without abundance of mirth. Many a hat was thrown up by the O’Callaghan side, who certainly gained the day. Many a song was raised by those who tottered about with trickling sconces, half drunk with whiskey, and half stupid with beating. Many a ‘whoo,’ and ‘hurroo,’ and ‘huzza,’ was sent forth by the triumphanters; but truth to tell, they were miserably feeble and faint, compared to what they had been in the beginning of the amusement; sufficiently evincing that, although they might boast of the name of victory, they had got a bellyful of beating; still there was hard fighting.
“I mentioned, some time ago, that a man had adopted a scythe. I wish from my heart there had been no such bloody instrument there that day; but truth must be told. John O’Callaghan was now engaged against a set of the other O’s, who had rallied for the third time, and attacked him and his party. Another brother of Rose Galh’s was in this engagement, and him did John O’Callaghan not only knock down, but cut desperately across the temple. A man, stripped, and covered with blood and dust, at that moment made his appearance, his hand bearing the blade of the aforesaid scythe. His approach was at once furious and rapid, and I may as well add, fatal; for before John O’Callaghan had time to be forewarned of his danger, he was cut down, the artery of his neck laid open, and he died without a groan. It was truly dreadful, even to the oldest fighter present, to see the strong rush of red blood that curvated about his neck, until it gurgled, gurgled, gurgled, and lappered, and bubbled out, ending in small red spouts, blackening and blackening, as they became fainter and more faint. At this criticality, every eye was turned from the corpse to the murderer – but he had been instantly struck down, and a female, with a large stone in her apron, stood over him, her arms stretched out, her face horribly distorted with agony, and her eyes turned backwards, as it were, into her head. In a few seconds, she fell into strong convulsions, and was immediately taken away. Alas! alas! it was Rose Galh; and when we looked at the man she had struck down, he was found to be her brother! flesh of her flesh, and blood of her blood! On examining him more closely, we discovered that his under-jaw hung loose, that his limbs were supple; we tried to make him speak, but in vain – he too was a corpse.
“The fact was, that in consequence of his being stripped, and covered by so much blood and dust, she knew him not; and, impelled by her feelings to avenge herself on the murderer of her lover, to whom she doubly owed her life, she struck him a deadly blow, without knowing him to be her brother. The shock produced by seeing her lover murdered, and the horror of finding that she herself, in avenging him, had taken her brother’s life, was too much for a heart so tender as hers. On recovering from her convulsions, her senses were found to be gone for ever! Poor girl! she is still living; but from that moment to this, she has never opened her lips to mortal. She is, indeed, a fair ruin, but silent, melancholy, and beautiful as the moon in the summer heaven. Poor Rose Galh! you and many a mother, and father, and wife, and orphan, have had reason to maledict the bloody Battles of the Factions.
“With regard to my grandfather, he says that he didn’t see purtier fighting within his own memory; not since the fight between himself and Big Mucklemurray took place in the same town. But, to do him justice, he condemns the scythe and every other weapon except the cudgels; because, he says, that if they continue to be resorted to, nate fighting will be altogether forgotten in the country.”
[It was the original intention of the author to have made
every man in the humble group about Ned M’Keown’s hearth narrate a story
illustrating Irish life, feeling, and manners; but on looking into the matter
more closely, he had reason to think that such a plan, however agreeable for a
time, would ultimately narrow the sphere of his work, and perhaps fatigue the
reader by a superfluity of Irish dialogue and its peculiarities of phraseology.
He resolved therefore, at the close of the
Rose Gahl revenging her Lover's death.
 Literally, a stroke of cudgel; put for cudgel-player.
 This was the old code of laws
 There were properly only two Psalters, those of Tara and Cashel. The Psalters were collections of genealogical history, partly in verse; from which latter circumstance they had their name.
 Habeas corpus: the above is the popular pronunciation.
 These are called the “Fourteen Stations of the Cross.”
 Pilgrims and other impostors pass these things upon the people as miracles upon a small scale.
 Out. – The expression in remote parts of the country is understood to mean being at mass.
 Paddy Mellon – a short, thickset man, with grey hair, which he always kept cropped close – was the most famous shoemaker in the parish; in fact, the Drummond of a large district. No shoes were considered worth wearing if he did not make them. But, having admitted this, I am bound in common justice and honesty to say that so big a liar never put an awl into leather. No language could describe his iniquity in this respect. I myself am a living witness of this. Many a trudge has the villain taken out of men in my boyhood; and as sure as I went on the appointed day – which was always Saturday – so surely did he swear that they would be ready for me on that day week. He was, as a tradesman, the most multifarious and barefaced liar I ever met; and what was the most rascally trait about him, was the faculty he possessed of making you believe the lie as readily after the fifteenth repetition of it, as when it was uttered fresh from his lips.
 Flipe – One who is “flippant” – of which word it is the substantive, and a good one too.
 Manual – a Catholic Prayer-book.
 The priest described in “Ned M’Keown” having been educated on the Continent, was one of the first to introduce the Procession of the Host in that part of the country. The Consecrated Host, shrined in a silver vessel formed like a chalice, was borne by a priest, under a silken canopy; and to this the other clergymen present offered up incense from a censor, whilst they circumambulated the chapel from inside and out, if the day was fine.
 The Engraving at the end of
this Tale represents the real
 Garran – A horse; but it is always used as meaning a bad one – one without mettle. When figuratively applied to a man, it means a coward.
 Initiated into Whiteboyism.
 Irish frieze is mostly manufactured at home, which accounts for the expression here.
 A brave man. He was a man of huge size and prodigious strength, and died in consequence of an injury he received in lifting one of the cathedral bells of Clogher, which is said to be ten hundredweight.
 Annihilate. Many of the jawbreakers – and this was one in a double sense – used by the hedge-schoolmasters, are scattered among the people, by whom they are so twisted that it would be extremely difficult to recognise them.
 Dhuragh – An additional portion of anything thrown in from a spirit of generosity, after the measure agreed on is given. When the miller, for instance, receives his toll, the country-people usually throw in several handsful of meal as a Dhuragh.