|On this Day: May|
|1st||1169 - A Norman force landed at Bannow Bay.
1916 - Collapse of the Easter Rising.
1943 - Sir Basil Brooke becamePrime Minister of Northern Ireland.
1969 - James Chichester Clark became Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.
1980 - The Derrynaflan Chalice discovered in a bog
|2nd||1565 - Battle of Glentaisie.
1945 - Éamon de Valera expressed his sympathy on the death of Adolf Hitler to the German Ambassador.
1982 - Ireland affirmed its neutrality in the Falklands war and opposed EEC sanctions against Argentina.
|3rd||1916 - Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh and Thomas Clarke executed at Kilmainham Gaol for their part in the Easter Rising.
1933 - The Bill to abolish the Oath of Allegiance passed.
1949 - The British government passed an Act guaranteeing that Northern Ireland would remain within the United Kingdom as long as the majority of its citizens wanted it to be.
- Joseph Plunkett, Michael O'Hanrahan, Edward Daly and Willie Pearse
executed for their part in the Easter Rising. Chief Secretary of
Ireland Augustine Birrell resigned.
1922 - Three day truce secured between both Pro- and Anti-Treaty forces.
1939 - The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland announced that conscription would not be extended to Northern Ireland.
|5th||1916 - John MacBride executed for his role in the Easter Rising.
1918 - 15,000 attended an anti-conscription meeting in County Roscommon.
1941 - When Belfast suffered its third bombing raid, Dublin sent emergency crews to assist.
1970 - The Arms Crisis. Finance Minister Charles Haughey and Agriculture Minister Neil Blaney asked to resign after suspicions that they had supplied arms to the Provisional IRA.
1981 - Bobby Sands died on the 66th day of his hunger strike at Long Kesh prison.
|6th||1728 - The Disenfranchising Act, which prohibited all Roman Catholics from voting, received Royal Assent.
1882 - Lord Cavendish and Thomas Henry Burke murdered in Phoenix Park.
1924 - William Craig refused to appoint a Northern Ireland representative to the Boundary Commission.
2000 - The IRA began to decommission its weapons.
|7th||1915 - The RMS Lusitania torpedoed by German submarines eight miles off Kinsale, bringing America into the War.
1931 - An Óige established.
1969 - Tax exemptions announced for artists and others whose work has cultural merit.
1992 - Bishop Eamon Casey resigned following the revelation that he was a father.
|8th||1567 - Battle of Farsetmore.
1916 - Eamon Ceannt, Con Colbert, Michael Mallin and Seán Heuston executed for their role in the Easter Rising.
1987 - The SAS killed eight IRA members at Loughgall.
|9th||1912 - Second reading of the Home Rule Bill in the British House of Commons. A Unionist amendment was rejected.
1932 - Éamon de Valera elected Taoiseach
|10th||1318 - Battle of Dysert O'Dea, in which Conor O'Dea allied with other clans to kill Richard de Clare.
1650 - Battle of Macroom.
1912 - Andrew Bonar Law and Edward Carson both voiced opposition to the Home Rule Bill.
1972 - A referendum on Ireland's membership of the European Economic Community saw a large majority in favour.
1973 - Erskine H. Childers won the presidential election.
|11th||1689 - Battle of Bantry Bay.
1908 - British House of Commons voted in favour of the Irish Universities Bill.
1916 - During a session of the British Parliament, John Dillon of the Irish Parliamentary Party called for an end to the execution of the Easter Rebels.
|12th||1652 - End of Siege of Galway.
1654 - Priest William Tirry executed for refusing to convert to Protestantism.
1916 - James Connolly and Seán MacDiarmada executed for their role in the Easter Rising.
1950 - Nationalist MPs in Northern Ireland asked the Irish government to give Northern-elected representatives seats in the Dáil and Seanad.
- Rift in the Parliamentary Party healed, with John Redmond and John
Dillon sharing a platform together for the first time in ten years.
1919 - IRA men Dan Breen and Seán Treacy injured while rescuing Seán Hogan from custody in County Limerick.
1921 - Sinn Féin took 124 of the 128 seats available in the Southern Parliament.
1937 - A statue of George II in St. Stephen's Green was blown up.
1949 - Leading figures in the Republic of Ireland shared a platform to protest the British government's stance on Northern Ireland.
|14th||1260 - Brian O'Neill killed by the forces of Roger des Auters at the battle of Down.
1660 - Charles II proclaimed king in Dublin.
1784 - The Irish Post Office was established by statute.
1974 - The Ulster Workers' Strike began.
|15th||1395 - Richard II returned to England, confident that Gaelic Irish power had been checked.
1600 - Sir Henry Docwra landed at Culmore.
1847 - Death of Daniel O'Connell.
1990 - The Church of Ireland voted for women priests.
- David Lloyd-George announced that he wanted immediate Home Rule for
26 counties of Ireland. The remaining six counties were to be excluded
for five years.
1926 - Fianna Fáil founded by Éamon de Valera and Seán Lemass.
1945 - Éamon de Valera responded to Winston Churcill's criticism of Irish neutrality.
1954 - Huge Marian Year procession held in Dublin.
|17th||1650 - Cromwell's army suffered huge losses to Hugh Dubh O'Neill at Clonmel.
1782 - The British Parliament passed the Repeal of Act for Security Dependence of Ireland Act.
1880 - Parnell elected chairman of the Irish Parliamentary Party.
1916 - Bishop of Limerick Thomas O'Dwyer refused to discipline two of his curates who had expressed republican sympathies.
1974 - Loyalists bombed Dublin and Monaghan, killing 31 civilians.
1976 - Tim Severin set off in a voyage from Dingle to America in imitation of St. Brendan.
|18th||1854 - Catholic University of Ireland formally established.
1996 - Ireland won the Eurovision Song Contest for the seventh time.
|19th||1928 - Foundation stone of Northern Ireland Parliament building laid at Stormont.
1932 - The Constitution (Removal of Oath) Bill passed.
- A census shows that Ireland had a population of 4.5 million with
Catholics outnumbering Anglicans and Presbyterians by three to one.
1918 - Anti-conscription meeting in Dublin.
1963 - Plans announced for comprehensive schools and regional technical colleges.
|21st||1639 - Lord Deputy Thomas Wentworth imposed the Black Oath of loyalty to Charles I on all Ulster Scots aged more than sixteen.
1916 - Daylight Savings Act introduced.
1956 - First Cork International Film Festival.
1981 - Patsy O'Hara and Raymond McCreesh died on hunger strike.
|22nd||1649 - Robert Blake blockaded Prince Rupert of the Rhine's fleet in Kinsale, allowing Oliver Cromwell to land.
1957 - The Minister for Education announced that married women would no longer be barred from teaching.
1971 - The 'Contraceptive Train' brought contraceptives from the North to the Republic as a protest against their illegality.
1998 - The Good Friday Agreement endorsed by referendum on both sides of the border.
The first court of High Commission, a group of officials and Protestant
clergy, was set up to enforce the Reformation in Ireland.
1920 - Oliver Plunkett was beatified by Pope Benedict XV.
1964 - Official opening of the US Embassy in Dublin.
|24th||1487 - Ten-year-old Lambert Simnel was crowned in Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin as 'King Edward VI'.
1798 - First clashes of the United Irishmen rebellion.
|25th||1816 - According to the 'Boston Commercial Gazette', Orangemen fired into a church at Dumreilly, killing several people.
1921 - Custom House in Dublin set on fire.
|26th||1650 - Oliver Cromwell left Ireland on board the frigate President Bradshaw.
1868 - Fenian Michael Barrett publicly executed in Clerkenwall, London.
|27th||1936 - First Aer Lingus flight, going from Baldonnell to Bristol.
1941 - Winston Churchill ruled out military conscription in Northern Ireland.
1960 - The last barge sailed on the Grand Canal.
|28th||1740 - Starvation riots in Dublin.
1923 - Official end of Civil War.
1936 - Motion passed abolishing the Senate of the Irish Free State.
1970 - Charles Haughey, Neil Blaney, Albert Luykx and Captain James Kelly appeared in court accused of conspiracy to import arms.
|29th||1777 - The Palmer Baronetcy was created.
1977 - Massive peace rally in Belfast.
|30th||1924 - New licensing laws restricted pub opening hours and limits drinking to the over-seventeens.
1952 - Longer summer holidays for school children announced.
1983 - Inaugural session of the New Ireland Forum.
- Charges made against Thomas Foster, Archdeacon of Glendalough, that
he had sold the lands of the dignity, kept concubines, had offspring,
was ignorant of letters and did not know the language of the country.
1922 - RUC established.
1941 - Dublin bombed by the Luftwaffe with the loss of 34 lives.
Author: Nicholas Furlong
Diarmait: King of Leinster
Publisher: Mercier Press
Date published: 2006
'Putrid while living, damned when dead'. Diarmait Mac Murchada, or Dermot MacMurrough, was the man blamed for inviting the Normans to Ireland and in doing so opening the gates to eight centuries of conflict and oppression. By the 1600s, his reputation was such that the Four Masters described him as the 'king of Leinster, who had spread terror throughout Ireland, after putting the English in possession of the country... He became putrid while living, by the miracles of God'. The following centuries did nothing to salvage his reputation. Yet as Nicholas Furlong points out, there is 'no black, no white' in history. Diarmait's life must be understood in the context of his times. Elected king at the age of sixteen, he became an effective ruler, inspiring loyalty and nourishing the church. By 1162 he had control of Dublin.; but three years later, disaster struck. His ally, Mac Lochlainn, brutally put down a rebellion and Mac Murchada himself came under attack. When Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair claimed the high kingship of Ireland, Diarmait faced ruin. He fled Ireland and turned to Robert FitzHarding, a man with whose family his own forefathers had long had ties. In Bristol, he learned that Henry II was planning an invasion of Ireland, and approached the king, asking for assistance. After Mac Murchada's enemies blinded his son, Énna, Diarmait hurried events along. On May 1st, 1169, an armed force landed at Bannow Bay under the leadership of Robert FitzStephen. Although Mac Murchada regained his kingship, he had set off a chain of events from which there would be no return.
Rev. A. N. Cooper
The Walter Scott Publishing Co., Ltd, 1905
do not cotton to the distressful country,” wrote a friend to me
when I proposed we should walk together across Ireland. As we could not
hit upon a tour which for length would be agreeable to both of us, I
was fain to go alone. […]
My duties to my parish compelled me to take my holidays either just before or just after the summer season, and in the year in question, as Easter fell somewhat late, I started about the middle of April – on the 16th, to be exact. I did not stay at the “Shelburne” in Dublin, partly because a man with only his clothes he stands up in feels a little out of it when attended upon by waiters in full dress, and partly because I guessed hotels in general would be of a somewhat primitive character, and I had plunge in media res at once. So I made for a native hotel, and sat over a fire of native coals. The Irish have the character of being very warm-hearted, and I was cheered by the prospective warmth of my reception in the country; but certainly there was no warmth in the fire, and when I stirred it in hopes of making it blaze, it went out, and accordingly I went to bed.
|I was up
and off early the following morning, for there was nothing to delay me
in my hotel, I assure you; and soon I was inquiring my way to Kildare.
Nobody seemed to know the distance, which may be accounted for by the
fact that an Irish mile is a mile and a bit, and nobody exactly knows
of what the bits consists. I do not remember seeing the distance marked
up on any signpost on the east side of Ireland, but on the west, where
the roads are quite modern, the distance was marked in English miles. A
friendly policeman (by the way, every one seemed friendly and glad to
see me) directed me to go past Kilmainham Gaol, and then inquire the
way to Naas (pronounced Neese). The road became pretty after I had left
the town, and about six miles out I entered my first Irish village
– Rathcoole by name. My breakfast had been so unappetising that I
already felt ready for luncheon, and accordingly entered what I was
going to call a public-house, but, as every shop sells liquors and in
this sense is public, I will say this was a house where I expected to
get something to eat. So I did – bread-and-butter and dirt. The
landlady came and chatted with me all the time I was eating. If she had
been scrubbing her floor and tables she would have been more profitably
employed, but then that would not have been the Irish way of doing
things. She could give me no information as to my journey, and did not
know whether there was a hotel in Kildare or how far it was.
I trudged on to Naas, a small town, where I got a dinner of mutton-chops. To prevent a wearisome repetition of vituperative adjectives, here let me say that my experience of Irish cooking is that it is execrable in all points but one, and that one is so good that it all but atones for the general badness. Travellers tell us that no one has tasted oranges till he has been to Jaffa, or knows what a dish of rice is like until he has tasted one prepared by a Hindoo cook; and I can vouch that a man has never tasted potatoes till he has been in Ireland. Whether the excellence is in the potato itself, or in the peat in which it is roasted, or whether the absence of anything else throws you on the piece de resistance with a special appetite, I cannot say, but certainly its excellence is unimpeachable. I learned at Naas from a commercial traveller that Kildare is a little, dirty, slatternly place, despite its being a cathedral city, with scarcely accommodation for a dog, whereas Newbridge, which was considerably nearer, had two hotels, a large barracks, and other evidence of civilisation. He bade me hurry on, as Newbridge is close to the Curragh, and the races were on, and so there was likely to be a lively demand for beds. I took his kind advice and reached Newbridge a little after five, having done 20 Irish miles that day. I found all the beds the hotel had to let bespoken, but one of the daughters of the house offered to give up her room to me, and proceeded to show me upstairs. A town which has barracks for its chief building will be sure to have soldiers as the staple of its population, and my little inn was crowded that night with the red-coats, who were holding a “free-and-easy” in the only room in the inn. We were joined by some racing men, and I wondered where all were to sleep. I partly solved this mystery in the morning when, on coming down to breakfast, I found a man asleep on the sofa, wrapped up in the tablecloth. I cannot claim to have breakfasted on the historic cloth, taken fresh from the couch to the table, for the Irish are far too good-natured to disturb a sleepy man in his slumbers, and so I had my breakfast while he had the cloth.
Irish hotels may be comfortless, but at least they are cheap. Five shillings for a dinner, bed, and breakfast is a price unknown in England; and when it is remembered that this was race-week, and the town unusually full, the price is wonderful in its moderation.
My road next lay across the Curragh of Kildare, a large common now given up to racing and military purposes. Its history hangs on a legend which is only a variation of Dido and her bull’s hide. Dido having obtained the grant of as much land as a bull’s hide would cover, cut the hide into thin slips, and so enclosed enough to build a citadel on. St. Bridget was granted by a King of Leinster as much land as her cloak would cover, but the pious Irish would not put the lady to the trouble of Queen Dido, and so the cloak ran of its own accord over 5000 acres and covered that.
On the other side of Curragh I sighted the Cathedral of Kildare, but on arrival at the gates I found them fast and padlocked. The cathedral is said to stand on the very site of the cell of St. Bridget, in which case I wondered what the holy woman would have done had she lived in our time and had wanted to pray, or if the poor had wished to resort to her cell for that butter and bacon she gave away with so reckless a hand, but I supposed “other time, other manners.” But, quite apart from any ecclesiastical consideration, I, as a traveller, am in favour of open churches all along the line.
The cathedral was a fitting crown for the inhospitable little city where I did not see a single place tempting enough to cause me to stop and rest; so I trudged on, and before long I made acquaintance with an Irish bog. Notices were up that the bog-letting would take place on such and such a day, and from the size of the posters I judged it was a very important operation.
The other end of the bog brought me within sight of the spire of a church, which seemed to indicate I was nearer a village, and this led me to hope that I might get some luncheon. I was to learn in what a happy-go-lucky country I was, and perhaps I was let into the secret of how the Irish had borne all their sufferings and looked cheerful all the time. The spire truly belonged to a church, but the whole village consisted of a school and a public-house. I entered the latter and asked what they could give me to eat.
“Indeed, sir,” said the landlady, “we have nothing in the house but some fresh bread.”
“Perhaps you have something to drink?” I suggested.
“Indeed, sir, we have not. The cart has gone to town to-day, and may bring some back.”
Here was a cheerful look-out for a hungry man. However, it was more bearable than an experience I once had in Wales, when they refused me meat and drink, while the smell of meat in the process of being cooked was quite maddening in my nostrils. If I was hungry and thirsty, I was no worse off than my landlady. She at least asked me in to rest upon the sofa, and began to beguile the time by talking. One hears much of Irish blarney, which is only another way of saying that the soft speech of the Irish is inimitable. She told me she liked the English, especially as the only man in the district who had any money owed his wealth to having married an English heiress. She had heard my name, I found out, and had read the works of Cowper the poet. Meantime I hinted that perhaps the fresh bread was not too fresh for me to eat, and accordingly a slice or two was given me, which, with a little milk, was all the house contained.
After an hour’s rest I followed a straight road which in time brought me to Athy.[...] Though I went to the best hotel in Athy, the furniture for my bedroom was beggarly in the extreme, with such a tiny wash-hand stand, and no tooth-water or glass. [...]
Of course I had my meals and sat in the commercial room, for Athy was far too primitive to know anything of a coffee-room, and I noticed a single penny bottle of ink had to do duty for the whole of the commercial gentlemen, who were fairly numerous and very friendly. As an Englishman I am proud of my country, and do not like to hear it abused as it was, both in speech and print, around me. It was some relief to hear something on the other side from the commercial gentlemen, who one and all decided it would be worth their while to pay certain Irish M.P.’s £5000 a year a-piece to keep out of the country. Business was bad, very bad, they said: everybody with money was driven out of the country, and those who remained wanted nothing but potatoes and stirabout. [...]
A bedroom which had no tooth-glass on the washstand was not likely to have a key in the door. Nor had mine. Now, I am one of those who always lock their bedroom door for fear of intruders. I am, too, of that order of men who always look under the bed before stepping into it, to see if there be any robber lurking there! Therefore I barricaded the door as well as I could with a chair and my knapsack, and hoped that I should be safe from intrusion. However, next morning, as I was taking an apology for a bath in my washbasin, in walked the servant-girl, and, so far from retreating when she saw me in puris naturalibus, she actually advanced into the room and laid a clean towel over the horse, and asked me if I wanted anything more. I answered that I required nothing except that she should make herself scarce, which she did – yet quite at her leisure. I had a similar experience a few days later on, and when I fled to hide myself under the bedclothes, the girl busied about the room as though unable to understand my confusion. I do not relate the above to the disadvantage of Irish girls; quite the contrary, for I believe there is no purer set in the world, and that innocence sees no harm where less pure natures might suggest it. [...]
Neither board nor lodging was calculated to detain me at Athy, and though I confess the kindliness of the Irish commercials might have kept me, yet in the morning they were of course out on their rounds; so I set off too, and was soon by the side of the fine river, the Barrow. Irish rivers, as I saw them are all large and beautiful. No factories discolour them, and no barges disfigure their banks. Free Trade, so the people told me, had shut up the only industry which the South of Ireland possessed – its flour-mills. I passed several empty and windowless mills by the river-bank, and by the middle of the day had reached a charming village called Castle Comer. In the centre of the village was a beautiful mansion, the seat of a lady who was a leader among the Plymouth Brethren, and when I got there I found a convention of the Brethren being held, or, to be more particular, the convention had just adjourned for lunch at the “Wandlesford Arms.” As this was the only decent inn in the place, I went there too and asked for luncheon.
“Are you a ‘Plym’?” asked the landlord, not uncivilly.
“No, I am not,” I replied.
“No,” he said; “I saw you were not. You look far too jolly and wicked for them. Well, they have got all the good rooms, and if you want anything to eat you must have it in the kitchen.”
Kitchens and parlours come alike to a hungry man, provided he can get something to eat in them, but the Brethren were so long over their meal, that I was afraid they were not going to leave me anything at all. However, what was left of a hot steak-pie was rescued, refreshed with which and some “hummocks”, I made my way to Kilkenny.
I learned the name of the best hotel was the “Club House.” A queer name, but a good hotel as Irish hotels go. At the entrance of the town on the banks of the Nore is the seat of Marquis of Ormonde. There was a time when Kilkenny was “a hot corner” for all the treason-mongers of Ireland, and in the rebellion of 1641 the Council of Kilkenny practically governed the kingdom. All seemed quiet when I entered it.
There is only one way of making money in Ireland, and that is by distilling spirits. Kilkenny has its big distiller, who provides for the bodies of the majority of the people by giving them work, and for their souls by having built them a cathedral. What could they want more? and so it is no wonder that the place struck me as one of the most prosperous in Ireland.
I was well fed at the “Club House” both night and morning. This was fortunate, as I was to have a tremendous experience that day. Cashel was the next place on the map which was on my route, and which seemed likely to afford me a supper and a bed, but to learn the distance to Cashel was more than I could do. Twenty, thirty, and even fifty miles were mentioned as probable, but the cheery prospect was added that I should get better information as I got farther on. A little more than three hours’ walking brought me to Freshford, a village of some pretensions, but whose sole refreshment for a hungry man consisted of a piece of dry bread; even a grocer’s shop yielded not a morsel of cheese, and as I had no knife there was no use buying any butter. The same remark accounts for my non-purchase of sardines. There was nothing for me but to walk on, resting now and again by the roadside. At three I came upon a cluster of small houses, which I know not whether to call a village, a hamlet, or a town; but I do know that the contents of the solitary shop consisted of a piece of stale bread, two oranges, and some acid drops. I could not stomach the sweets, and again had to content myself with bread. All the way along I was inquiring how far I was from Cashel, or from any town, and was always politely told the farther I went on the nearer I should be to it. At last my informants began to talk about Littleton as a place likely to afford every accommodation under the sun, and soon after five o’clock I sighted the little place, consisting of a short street and containing two moderately sized houses – the priest’s and the inn. I was soon standing at the bar of the latter, and asked the girl if I could have a bed there for the night. She called up the stairs to her mother, “Mother! here’s a man wants a bed.” A voice from above replied, “How many are sleeping in the long bed?” “Four.” “Tell him it’s full.” Full, I thought to myself, I should think it was! Still, if there had only been three in the long bed, I should have been offered the fourth place.
|The girl explained to me that there were a number of poultry-buyers in
the neighbourhood who occupied the long bed, and there was no other in
the village. She told me if I walked to the “Horse and Jockey” (which I
took to be a public-house, but found to be a village possessing a
railway station), I should be sure to get a bed. Six miles was named as
the distance to the “Horse and Jockey,” and not staying to take
anything for the good of the house, which had done no good to me, I
went on. I always walk faster at the end of the day’s journey than at
any other time – not that I am not tired, but the longing for food and
rest acts as a spur. It was nearly seven when I reached the tiny
village, consisting of about a dozen houses and a “pub.” If it be asked
how a drink-shop could possibly subsist on such a population, I know of
no other way to explain it than the saying that every Irish landlord is
his own best customer.
I asked at the bar of the public-house the momentous question as to bed, and was told that the landlady had only moved into the house that very day, and had not a bed for herself, much less for me; but if I went down to the station-master’s, she was sure he had a spare room, and would be glad to let it. Fortunately the station was less than a minute’s walk, and in this short space of time I was trying to negotiate for a bed with the civil station-master. [...] By bedtime the recital of my adventures, the distance I had walked, and my starving condition so worked on his wife and four daughters that they lighted a fire, brought me out a quilting-frame and a blanket, lit a lamp, and gave me a supply of religious books to while away such hours as might be sleepless, and then left me.
have little doubt that the religious books were the only literature the
house contained. I never came across a people so religious as the
Irish, and yet without a trace of cant. My conversation with the
station-master had turned upon the various places where he had lived,
and the mention of Borris led me to say that I had been at Oxford with
the son of the owner, Mr. Kavanagh, M.P., who had been born without
arms and legs.
“Did you ever see him?” asked the station-master.
Yes, I had seen him in the House of Commons, brought in to his seat on the back of an attendant.
“Did I know how it happened?”
“No.” Then he would tell me. His father had been waiting at table at the time, and one of the jellies bore the effigy of the Pope. The lady of the house drew it towards her, and with a spoon deprived it of its arms and legs, and said that was how she would like the Pope to be; “And do you know, sir,” said my informant gravely, “it pleased the Almighty that her next child should be born without arms or legs? – teaching us not to speak disrespectfully of the priests and the Holy Father.”
Macaulay and those who had followed him have drawn conclusions prejudicial to the Irish religion on account of the poverty of the people compared with those of a Protestant country. Of course, if plenty of bread and beef, with money in the bank, constitutes an earthly paradise, their argument would be conclusive; but if the world belongs to those who enjoy it, I would rather be an Irish peasant on seven shillings a week than Middlesbrough puddler with seven pounds. The Irish enjoy everything, from their religion downwards. What an insight into their lives was given by a witness on Irish habitations before a Parliamentary Committee:- “Their cabins, your honours, are in such a state that the poor creatures could count the stars as they lay on their beds.” Now, without disputing, it would be better if the Irish peasant had got up and mended his roof instead of counting the stars, yet one sees that any one who could forget the discomfort to expatiate on the skies must be independent of external circumstances.
Next morning I was up early and was assured that it was not more than eleven miles to Cashel. So it proved, and by noon that day I was making the first substantial meal I had had for thirty hours, and, as it was market-day, I had not only food for the body, but I found in the charming Irish talk on all sides of me that rest for the mind which just suited a weary man. The Irish are exceedingly clean in their talk, and never so much as a doubtful story did I overhear in my walk across “the island of saints.”
While I was eating my dinner a gentleman entered into conversation with me, and learning that I was walking across Ireland, and was anxious to see as much of the life there as possible, invited me to stay at his house over Sunday. I naturally felt a reluctance to intrude on people I did not know, especially in my walking garb, but his face and manner were so inviting, which was more than my inn was, that I consented. He had his conveyance in the city (collections of one-storeyed cottages are cities in Ireland), and drove me out to his place. As we passed the Rock of Cashel, he told me the legend that the devil had bitten a piece out of a neighbouring mountain and put it down in this plain. There is a gap in the nearest mountain corresponding to it, but the fact that the Rock is of limestone and the mountain is not, is one of those discrepancies which do not matter in a legend. My host pointed out to me the cathedral which once stood on the Rock, but a hundred years before an archbishop unroofed and dismantled it on the plea that it was half a mile away from the palace, and he was an invalid. He substituted a barn-like structure in the centre of the town for the cathedral, in spite of the protests of the people. As I sat next day, almost the solitary worshipper in this brand-new cathedral, I could not help thinking about the measure we mete being measured to us again. Once the archbishop would not trouble himself to go to the people’s church, now the people would not go to his.
My newly-found friend drove me about two miles out to his castle, which bore about as much resemblance to an English castle as an Irish city does to an English one. Times were very bad for landlords just then, and there was only one maid in the castle, and one man to do the outside work. My host and his sister constituted the “family.” The sister washed my solitary collar and my handkerchiefs, and as there was no footman, my host filled the water-jug and in everything showed himself the generous blue-blooded Milesian gentleman he was. A river ran through his grounds, which provided the fish for our dinner. Though they might be poor, with home-made bread and the freshest of butter, with jugs of rich cream and new-laid eggs, there was no need to starve.
Next morning was Sunday, and as I wanted to see everything, my host proposed I should attend the two churches in Cashel as there would be ample time for both. Service began in the Roman Catholic church at ten, and though in good time I just managed to squeeze in. I was directed to a portion of the large church which was railed off, and where a man stood to take the money for the seats. Only a penny was charged. Mass began, at which there was neither music, incense, nor anything attractive, if I except the sermon, which came in the middle. It had the great advantage of being intelligible, dealt with the everyday duties of the people, and was delivered without a book. The sermon of the Protestant dean, which I subsequently heard in the cathedral, was as void of all interest as any sermon could be. If the sermon was poor, the service was poorer – for, only fancy, the mighty canon could not sing. It sounded like a duet between a treble and a bass, when the bass spoke and the treble sang. The only thing I can possibly comment about the cathedral was the seats, which were the very acme of comfort.
The next day I read that an Irish bishop had been pleading with his clergy for an earlier hour of service than twelve o’clock, the time at which Morning (sic) Prayer began in Cashel Cathedral. “Awake with the sun” half-an-hour after noon. I myself wondered why service was so late, but my friend pointed out the clergy were not able to help themselves in the matter, as all the world over the sacred hour is the one which fits the domestic arrangements of the flock. In Ireland practically all the masters are Protestants, and all the servants Roman Catholics. In a country so intensely religious provision must be made so that both can attend church, and so the servants go at twelve and leave the house in safety. With scarcely an exception the superiors appear to be Protestants. Not a single carriage waited at the door of the Catholic church, but there were several at the Protestant. I saw the rank and file of the Irish constabulary at the former, but their officers at the latter, and so in everything.
After dinner that day I took leave of my friends and their open house and departed from the city of kings, as Cashel is called, and made my way to Tipperary.
It was late on Sunday afternoon when I reached Dobbin’s Hotel in Tipperary and found the room full of commercial travellers. Two things are said to keep the town on its legs – barracks and butter. The soldiers spend their pay in the place, and of course are provisioned by the various shops in the town. Tipperary is the centre of the butter trade, and, as I noticed, everything looked like it. Never had I seen the priests looking so sleek and fat, or the people so well-to-do. The conversation in the commercial room turned on the price of butter; when that goes up people are quiet and content, when it goes down they are ready for rebellion. As I entered Tipperary I saw the only carriage and pair I came across in all my travels through Ireland, but whether that was made of butter is more than I can say.
I suppose no town in Ireland is more typically Irish than Tipperary, and there I met a number of typical Irishmen, keen-witted and swift at repartee. News had arrived of one of our many defeats in South Africa, and they could not forbear having a shot at an Englishman, as they saw me to be. Some Irish regiment had been engaged in the battle, and of course shared the disgrace of defeat, as I pointed out.
“Did you ever hear what King James said to an Irish lady after the battle of the Boyne?” asked one of them.
“No, I have not.”
“Well, the King came riding into Dublin, the first comer from the battle-field, and saluted Lady Tyrconnel by exclaiming: ‘Madam, your countrymen have run away.’ But the high-spirited Irish lady replied: ‘If they have run away, your Majesty seems to have won the race.’”
All joined in a good-humoured laugh against me, and for the life of me I could not think of an instance where an Englishman said something smarter than an Irishman, so I sat and listened to their stories. One related to an incident in a police-court, where the drollery of the Irish nature came out even in its rascals. At some English church an Irishman produced a plate from his pocket, and when the collection began he handed it about, and when fairly laden he transferred the contents to his own pocket. The attention of the officials was soon called to him, and he was given into custody. He pleased he had used no false pretences, as he had merely handed his plate about for any one to put what they liked on it; what false pretence was there in that? The magistrate was unable to say and discharged him, and even the money, which the church officials claimed, was given back to him; and the shouts of laughter which followed the recital of the story showed how dear to the Irish heart it is to get the better of a Saxon. I heard, however, no rancour against England, still less against Protestants, and as far as I could learn the various religions lived side by side in perfect amity.
Next morning a friend of the commercial room kindly showed me the road to Limerick, and his genial company made the milestones fly past. Presently he had to turn back and attend the markets, but still the milestones seemed to fly by. I got out my watch, and found I was walking an Irish mile in twelve minutes. Impossible! – they must be English miles. So they were. The roads of this county (I was now in Limerick) are of recent construction. The Irish mile is, like the language, dying out, and so in out-of-the-way parts of Limerick you come into splendid roads accurately marked with English miles. […]
It was in one of the Limerick villages that I saw something of the darker side of Irish life – dark in more senses than one. I hope I shall not be thought to exaggerate when I say that a quarter of a mile away I heard a peculiar moan, which I took for a funeral chant. On approaching, I found the crowd was gathered at a railway-station, and asking a constable what was the matter, I was told two young emigrants were being sent off, and the moans were the lamentations of their friends. I looked up and down the platform to see the interesting parties, but could discern no one who looked the least likely to be going on a journey – no luggage nor anything. Sir John Lubbock relates how in Borneo he attended a funeral of some party who was not dead, and I began to think I was attending the emigration of some one who was not going, when the train came up, and two young men hopelessly tipsy, with their bundles on their shoulders, were dragged forth from somewhere and thrust into the carriage, while their friends moaned about meeting them in Heaven!!