|The Hedge School
from Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry by William Carleton
First published in 1830 by George Routledge & Co, Farringdon Street
Battle of the Factions
Illustrations: Volume One
Illustrations: Volume Two
There never was more unfounded calumny, than that which would
impute to the Irish peasantry an indifference to education. I may, on the
contrary, fearlessly assert that the lower orders of no country ever manifested
such a positive inclination for literary acquirements, and that too, under
circumstances strongly calculated to produce carelessness and apathy on this
particular subject. Nay, I do maintain, that he who is intimately acquainted
with the character of our countrymen, must acknowledge, that their zeal for
book leaning, not only is strong and ardent, when opportunities of scholastic
education occur, but that it increases in proportion as these opportunities are
rare and unattainable. The very name and nature of Hedge Schools are proof of
this; for what stronger point could be made out, in illustration of my
position, than the fact, that, despite of obstacles, the very idea of which
would crush ordinary enterprise – where not even a shed could be obtained in
which to assemble the children of an Irish village, the worthy pedagogue
selected the first green spot on the sunny side of a quickset-thorn hedge,
which he conceived adapted for his purpose, and there, under the scorching rays
of a summer sun, and in defiance of spies and statutes, carried on the work of
instruction. From this circumstance the name of
The opinion, I know, which has been long entertained of Hedge Schoolmasters, was, and still is, unfavourable; but the characters of these worthy and eccentric persons has been misunderstood, for the stigma attached to their want of knowledge should have rather been applied to their want of morals, because, on this latter point were they principally indefensible. The fact is, that Hedge Schoolmasters were a class of men from whom morality was not expected by the peasantry; for, strange to say, one of their strongest recommendations to the good opinion of the people, as far as their literary talents and qualifications were concerned, was an inordinate love of whiskey, and if to this could be added a slight touch of derangement, the character was complete.
On once asking an Irish peasant, why he sent his children to a school master who was notoriously addicted to spirituous liquors, rather than to a man of sober habits who taught in the same neighbourhood,
“Why do I send them to Mat Meegan, is it?” he replied – “and do you think, Sir,” said he, “that I’d send them to that dry-headed dunce, Mr. Frazher, with his black coat upon him, and his caroline hat, and him wouldn’t take a glass of poteen wanst in seven years? Mat, Sir, likes it, and teaches the boys ten times betther whin he’s dhrunk nor when he’s sober; and you’ll never find a good tacher, Sir, but’s fond of it. As for Mat, when he’s half gone, I’d turn him agin the country for deepness in larning; for it’s then he rhymes it out of him, that it would do one good to hear him.’”
“So,” said I, “you think that a love of drinking poteen is a sign of talent in a schoolmaster?”
“Ay, or in any man else, Sir,” he
replied. “Look at tradesmen, and ‘tis always the cleverest that you’ll find
fond of the dhrink! If you had hard Mat and Frazher, the other evening, at it –
what a hare Mat made of him! but he was just in proper tune for it, being at
the time, purty well I thank you, and did not lave him a leg to stand upon. He
took him in
“Mat, then,” I observed, “is the most learned man on this walk.”
“Why, thin I doubt that same, Sir,” replied he, for all he’s so great in his books; for, you see, while they were ding dust at it, who comes in but mad Delany, and he attacked Mat, and, in less than no time, rubbed the consate out of him, as clane as he did out of Frazher.”
“Who is Delany?” I inquired.
“He was the makings of a priest, Sir, and was in Maynooth a couple of years, but he took in the knowledge so fast, that, bedad, he got cracked wid larnin’ – for a dunce, you see, never cracks wid it, in regard of thickness of the skull: no doubt but he’s too many for Mat, and can go far beyant him in the books; but then, like Mat, he’s still brightest whin he has a sup in his head.”
These are prejudices which the Irish peasantry have long entertained concerning the character of hedge-schoolmasters; but, granting them to be unfounded, as they generally are, yet it is an indisputable fact, that hedge-schoolmasters were as superior in literary knowledge and acquirements to the class of men who are now engaged in the general education of the people, as they were beneath them in moral and religious character. The former part of this assertion will, I am aware, appear rather startling to many. But it is true; and one great cause why the character of Society Teachers is undervalued, in many instances, by the people, proceeds from a conviction on their parts, that they are, and must be, incapable, from the slender portion of learning they have received, of giving their children a sound and practical education.
But that we may put this subject in a clearer light, we will give a sketch of the course of instruction which was deemed necessary for a hedge-schoolmaster, and let it be contrasted with that which falls to the lot of those engaged in the conducting of schools patronized by the Education Societies of the present day.
When a poor man, about twenty or thirty years ago, understood from the schoolmaster who educated his sons, that any of them was particularly “cute of his larnin’,” the ambition of the parent usually directed itself to one of three objects – he would either make him a priest, a clerk, or a schoolmaster. The determination once fixed, the boy was set apart from every kind of labour, that he might be at liberty to bestow his undivided time and talents to the object set before him. His parents strained every nerve to furnish him with the necessary books, and always took care that his appearance and dress should be more decent than those of any other member of the family. If the church were in prospect, he was distinguished, after he had been two or three years at his Latin, by the appellation of “the young priest,” an epithet to him of the greatest pride and honour; but if destined only to wield the ferula, his importance in the family, and the narrow circle of his friends, was by no means so great. If, however, the goal of his future ambition as a schoolmaster was humbler, that of his literary career was considerably extended. He usually remained at the next school in the vicinity until he supposed that he had completely drained the master of all his knowledge. This circumstance was generally discovered in the following manner:- As soon as he judged himself a match for his teacher, and possessed of sufficient confidence in his own powers, he penned him a formal challenge to meet him in literary contest, either in his own school, before competent witnesses, or at the chapel-green, on the Sabbath day, before the arrival of the priest, or probably after it – for the priest himself was sometimes the moderator and judge upon these occasions. This challenge was generally couched in rhyme, and either sent by the hands of a common friend, or posted upon the chapel-door.
These contests, as the reader perceives, were always public, and were witnessed by the peasantry with intense interest. If the master sustained a defeat, it was not so much attributed to his want of learning, as to the overwhelming talent of his opponent; nor was the success of the pupil generally followed by the expulsion of the master – for this was but the first of a series of challenges which the former proposed to undertake, ere he eventually settled himself in the exercise of his profession.
I remember being present at one of them, and a ludicrous exhibition it was. The parish priest, a red-faced, jocular little man, was president; and his curate, a scholar of six feet two inches in height, and a school-master from the next parish, were judges. I will only touch upon the circumstances of their conduct, which evinced a close, instinctive knowledge of human nature in the combatants. The master would not condescend to argue off his throne – a piece of policy to which, in my opinion, he owed his victory (for he won); whereas the pupil insisted that he should meet him on equal ground, face to face, in the lower end of the room. It was evident that the latter could not divest himself of his boyish terror so long as the other sat, as it were, in the plenitude of his former authority, contracting his brows with habitual sternness, thundering out his arguments, with a most menacing and Stentorian voice, while he thumped his desk with his shut fist, or struck it with his great ruler at the end of each argument, in a manner that made the youngster put his hands behind him several times, to be certain that that portion of his dress which was unmentionable, was tight upon him.
If in these encounters the young candidate for the honours of the literary sceptre was not victorious, he again resumed his studies, under the old preceptor, with renewed vigour and becoming humility; but if he put the schoolmaster down, his next object was to seek out some other teacher, whose celebrity was unclouded within his own range. With him he had a fresh encounter, and its result was similar to what I have already related. If victorious, he sought out another and more learned opponent; and if defeated, he became the pupil of his conqueror – going night about, during his sojourn at the school, with the neighbouring farmers’ sons, whom he assisted in their studies, as a compensation for his support. He was called during these peregrinations the Poor Scholar, a character which secured him the esteem and hospitable attention of the peasantry, who never fail in respect to any characterised by a zeal for learning and knowledge.
In this manner he proceeded, a literary knight errant, filled with a chivalrous love of letters, which would have done honour to the most learned peripatetic of them all; enlarging his own powers, and making fresh acquisitions of knowledge as he went along. His contests, his defeats, and his triumphs, of course, were frequent; and his habits of thinking and reasoning must have been considerably improved, his acquaintance with classical and mathematical authors rendered more intimate, and his powers of illustration and comparison more clear and happy. After three or four years spent in this manner, he usually returned to his native place, sent another challenge to the schoolmaster, in the capacity of a candidate for his situation, and, if successful, drove him out of the district, and established himself in his situation. The vanquished master sought a new district, a new challenge, in his turn, to some other teacher, and usually put him to flight in the same manner. The terms of defeat or victory, according to their application, were called sacking and bagging.
“There was a great argument entirely, sir,” said a peasant once, when speaking of these contest, “’twas at the chapel on Sunday week, betune young Tom Brady, that was a poor scholar in Munsther, and Mr. Hartigan, the schoolmaster.”
“And who was victorious?” I inquired.
“Why, sir, and maybe ‘twas young Brady that didn’t sack him clane before the priest and all, and went nigh to bog the priest himself in Greek. His Reverence was only two words beyant him; but he sacked the masther any how, and showed him in the Grammatical and Dixionary where he was wrong.”
“And what is Brady’s object in life?” I asked. “What does he intend to do?”
“Intend to do, is it? I’m tould
nothing less nor going into
Unquestionably, many who received
instruction in this manner have distinguished themselves in the Dublin
University; and I have no hesitation in saying, that young men educated in
Irish hedge-schools, as they were called, have proved themselves to be better
classical scholars and mathematicians, generally speaking, than any
proportionate number of those educated in our first-rate academies. The
That a great deal of ludicrous pedantry generally accompanied this knowledge is not at all surprising, when we consider the rank these worthy teachers held in life, and the stretch of inflation at which their pride was kept by the profound reverence excited by their learning among the people. It is equally true, that each of them had a stock of crambos ready for accidental encounter, which would have puzzled Euclid or Sir Isaac Newton himself; but even these trained their minds to habits of acuteness and investigation. When a schoolmaster of this class had established himself as a good mathematician, the predominant enjoyment of his heart and life was to write the epithet Philomath after his name; and this, whatever document he subscribed, was never omitted. If he witnessed a will, it was Timothy Fagan Philomath; if he put his name to a promissory note, it was Tim. Fagan, Philomath; if he addressed a love-letter to his sweetheart, it was still Timothy Fagan – or whatever the name might be – Philomath; and this was always written in legible and distinct copyhand, sufficiently large to attract the observation of the reader.
It as also usual for a man who had been a pre-eminent and extraordinary scholar, to have the epithet GREAT prefixed to his name. I remember one of this description, who was called the Great O’Brien, par excellence. In the latter years of his life he gave up teaching, and led a circulating life, going round from school to school, and remaining a week or a month alternately among his brethren. His visits were considered an honour, and raised considerably the literary character of those with whom he resided; for he spoke of dunces with the most dignified contempt, and the general impression was, that he would scorn even to avail himself of their hospitality. Like most of his brethren, he could not live without the poteen; and his custom was, to drink a pint of it in its native purity before he entered into any literary contest, or made any display of his learning at wakes or other Irish festivities; and most certainly, however blameable the practice, and injurious to health and morals, it threw out his talents and his powers in a most surprising manner.
It was highly amusing to observe the peculiarity which the consciousness of superior knowledge impressed upon the conversation and personal appearance of this decaying race. Whatever might have been the original conformation of their physical structure, it was sure, by the force of acquired habit, to transform itself into a stiff, erect, consequential, and unbending manner, ludicrously characteristic of an inflated sense of their extraordinary knowledge, and a proud and commiserating contempt of the dark ignorance by which, in despite of their own light, they were surrounded. Their conversation, like their own crambos, was dark and difficult to be understood; their words, truly sesquipedalian; their voice, loud and commanding in its tones; their deportment, grave and dictatorial, but completely indescribable, and certainly original to the last degree, in those instances where the ready, genuine humour of their country maintained an unyielding rivalry in their disposition, against the natural solemnity which was considered necessary to keep up the due dignity of their character.
In many of these persons, where the original gaiety of the disposition was known, all efforts at the grave and dignified were complete failures, and these were enjoyed by the peasantry and their own pupils, nearly with the sensations which the enactment of Hamlet by Liston would necessarily produce. At all events, their education, allowing for the usual exceptions, was by no means superficial; and the reader has already received a sketch of the trials which they had to undergo, before they considered themselves qualified to enter upon the duties of their calling. Their life was, in fact, a state of literary warfare; and they felt that a mere elementary knowledge of their business would have been insufficient to carry them, with suitable credit, through the attacks to which they were exposed from travelling teachers, whose mode of establishing themselves in schools, was, as I said, by driving away the less qualified, and usurping their places. This, according to the law of opinion and the custom which prevailed, was very easily effected, for the peasantry uniformly encouraged those whom they supposed to be the most competent: as to moral or religious instruction, neither was expected from them, so that the indifference of the moral character was no bar to their success.
At the food of this hill ran a clear, deep-banked river, bounded on one side by a slip of rich, level meadow, and on the other by a kind of common for the village geese, whose white feathers, during the summer season, lay scattered over its green surface. It was also the play-ground for the boys of the village school; for there ran that part of the river which, with very correct judgment, the urchins had selected as their bathing-place. A little slope, or watering-ground in the bank, brought them to the edge of the stream, where the bottom fell away into the fearful depths of the whirlpool, under the hanging oak on the other bank. Well do I remember the first time I ventured to swim across it, and even yet do I see, in imagination, the two bunches of water flagons on which the inexperienced swimmers trusted themselves in the water.
About two hundred yards above this, the boreen [a little road], which led from the village to the main road, crossed the river, by one of those old narrow bridges whose arches rise like round ditches across the road – an almost impassable barrier to horse and car. On passing the bridge, in a northern direction, you found a range of low thatched houses on each side of the road: and if one o’clock, the hour of dinner, drew near, you might observe columns of blue smoke curling up from a row of chimneys, some made of wicker creels plastered over with a rich coat of mud; some, of old, narrow, bottomless tubs; and others, with a greater appearance of taste, ornamented with thick, circular ropes of straw, sewed together like bees’ skeps, with the peel of a brier; and many having nothing but the open vent above. But the smoke by means escaped by its legitimate aperture, for you might observe little clouds of it bursting out of the doors and windows; the panes of the latter being mostly stopped at other times with old hats and rags, were now left entirely open for the purpose of giving it a free escape.
Before the doors, on right and left, was a series of dunghills, each with its concomitant sink of green, rotten water; and if it happened that a stout-looking woman, with watery eyes, and a yellow cap hung loosely upon her matted locks, came, with a chubby urchin on one arm, and a pot of dirty water in her hand, its unceremonious ejection in the aforesaid sink would be apt to send you up the village with your finger and thumb (for what you purpose you would yourself perfectly understand) closely, but not knowingly, applied to your nostrils. But, independently of this, you would be apt to have other reasons for giving your horse, whose heels are by this time surrounded by a dozen of barking curs, and the same number of shouting urchins, a pretty sharp touch of the spurs, as well as for complaining bitterly of the odour of the atmosphere. It is not landscape without figures; and you might notice, if you are, as I suppose you to be, a man of observation, in every sink as you pass along, a “slip of a pig,” stretched in the middle of the mud, the very beau ideal of luxury giving occasionally a long, luxuriant grunt, highly expressive of his enjoyment; or, perhaps, an old farrower, lying in indolent repose, with half a dozen young ones jostling each other for their draught, and punching her belly with their little snouts, reckless of the fumes they are creating, whilst the loud crow of the cock, as he confidently flaps his wings on his own dunghill, giving the warning note for the hour of dinner.
As you advance, you will also perceive several faces thrust out of the doors, and rather than miss a sight of you, a grotesque visage peeping by a short cut through the paneless windows – or a tattered female flying to snatch up her urchin that has been tumbling itself, heels up, in the dust of the road, lest “the gintleman’s horse might ride over it;” and if you happen to look behind, you may observe a shaggy-headed youth in tattered frize, with one hand thrust indolently in his breast, standing at the door in conversation with the inmates, a broad grin of sarcastic ridicule on his face, in the act of breaking a joke or two upon yourself, or your horse; or, perhaps, your jaw may be saluted with a lump of clay, just hard enough not to fall asunder as it flies, cast by some ragged gorsoon from behind a hedge, who squats himself in a ridge of corn to avoid detection.
Seated upon a hob at the door, you may observe a toil-worn man, without coat or waistcoat; his red, muscular, sunburnt shoulder peering through the remnant of a shirt, mending his shoes with a piece of twisted flax, called a lingel, or, perhaps, sewing two footless stockings (or martyeens) to his coat, as a substitute for sleeves.
In the gardens, which are usually fringed with nettles, you will see a solitary labourer, working with that carelessness and apathy that characterise an Irishman when he labours for himself – leaning upon his spade to look after you, and glad of any excuse to be idle.
The houses, however, are not all such as I have described – far from it. You see here and there, between the more humble cabins, a stout, comfortable-looking farm-house, with ornamental thatching and well-glazed windows; adjoining to which is a hay-yard, with five or six large stacks of corn, well-trimmed and roped, and a fine, yellow, weather-beaten old hay-rick, half cut – not taking into account twelve or thirteen circular strata of stones, that mark out the foundations on which others had been raised. Neither is the rich smell of oaten or wheaten bread, which the good wife is baking on the griddle, unpleasant to your nostrils; nor would the bubbling of a large pot, in which you might see, should you chance to enter, a prodigious square of fat, yellow, and almost transparent bacon tumbling about, to be an unpleasant object; truly, as it hangs over a large fire, with well-swept hearthstone, it is in good keeping with the white settle and chairs, and the dresser with noggins, wooden trenchers, and pewter dishes, perfectly clean, and as well polished as a French courtier.
As you leave the village, you have, to the left, a view of the hill which I have already described, and to the right a level expanse of fertile country, bounded by a good view of respectable mountains, peering decently into the sky; and in a line that forms an acute angle from the point of the road where you ride, is a delightful valley, in the bottom of which shines a pretty lake; and little beyond, on the slope of a green hill, rises a splendid house, surrounded by a park, well-wooded and stocked with deer. You have now topped the little hill above the village, and a straight line of level road, a mile long, goes forward to a country town, which lies immediately behind that white church with its spire cutting into the sky, before you. You descend on the other side, and having advanced a few perches, look to the left, where you see a long, thatched chapel, only distinguished from a dwelling-house by its want of chimneys, and a small stone cross that stands on the top of the eastern gable; behind it is a graveyard; and beside it a snug public-house, well white-washed; then, to the right, you observe a door apparently in the side of a clay bank, which rises considerably above the pavement of the road. What! you ask yourself, can this be a human habitation? – but ere you have time to answer the question, a confused buzz of voices from within reaches your ear, and the appearance of a little “gorsoon,” with a red, close-cropped head and Milesian face, having in his hand a short, white stick, or the thigh-bone of a horse, which you at once recognise as “the pass” of a village school, gives you the full information. He has an ink-horn, covered with leather, dangling at the button-hole (for he has long since played away the buttons) of his frize jacket – his mouth is circumscribed with a streak of ink – his pen is stuck knowingly behind his ear - his shins are dotted over with fire-blisters, black, red, and blue – on each heel a kibe – his “leather crackers,” videlicet – breeches, shrunk up upon him, and only reaching as far down as the caps of his knees. Having spied you, he places his hand over his brows, to throw back the dazzling light of the sun, and peers at you from under it, till he breaks out into a laugh, exclaiming, half to himself, half to you,
“You a gintleman! – no, nor one of your breed never was, you procthorin’ thief, you!”
You are now immediately opposite the door of the seminary, when half a dozen of those seated next it notice you.
“Oh, sir, here’s a gintleman on a horse! – masther, sir, here’s a gintleman on a horse, wid boots and spurs on him, that’s looking in at us.”
“Silence!” exclaims the master; “back from the door; boys rehearse; every one of you rehearse, I say, you Boeotians, till the gintleman goes past!”
“I want to go out, if you plase, sir.”
“No, you don’t, Phelim.”
“I do, indeed, sir.”
“What! – is it afther conthradictin’ me you’d be? Don’t you see the porter’s out, and you can’t go.”
“Well, ‘tis Mat Meehan has it, sir: and he’s out this half-hour, sir; I can’t stay in, sir – iphfff – iphfff!”
“You want to be idling your time looking at the gintleman, Pehlim.”
“No, indeed, sir – iphfff!”
“Phelim, I know you of ould – go to your sate. I tell you, Phelim, you were born for the encouragement of the hemp manufacture, and you’ll die promoting it.”
In the meantime, the master puts his head out of the door, his body stooped to a “half bend” – a phrase, and the exact curve which it forms, I leave for the present to your own sagacity – and surveys you until you pass. That is an Irish hedge-school, and the personage who follows you with his eye, a hedge-schoolmaster. His name is Matthew Kavanagh; and, as you seem to consider his literary establishment rather a curiosity in its kind, I will, if you be disposed to hear it, give you the history of him and his establishment, beginning, in the first place, with
THE ABDUCTION OF MAT KAVANAGH
THE HEDGE SCHOOLMASTER
For about three years before the
period of which I write, the
Garraghty had been attentive to his little pupils, and his instructions were sufficient to give them a relish for education – a circumstance which did not escape the observation of their parents, who duly appreciated it. His death, however, deprived them of this advantage; and as schoolmasters, under the old system, were always at a premium, it so happened, that for three years afterwards, not one of that class presented himself to their acceptance. Many a trial had been made, and many a sly offer held out, as a lure to the neighbouring teachers, but they did not take; for although the country was densely inhabited, yet it was remarked that no schoolmaster ever “thruv” in the neighbourhood of Findramore. The place, in face, had got a bad name. Garraghty died, it was thought, of poverty, a disease to which the Findramore schoolmasters had been always known to be subject. His predecessor, too, was hanged, along with two others, for burning the house of an “Aagint.”
Then the Findramore boys were not easily dealt with, having an ugly habit of involving their unlucky teachers in those quarrels which they kept up with the Ballyscanlan boys, a fighting clan that lived at the foot of the mountains above them. These two factions, when they met, whether at fair or market, wake or wedding, could never part without carrying home on each side a dozen or two of bloody coxcombs. For these reasons, the parish of Aughindrum had for a few years been afflicted with an extraordinary dearth of knowledge; the only literary establishment which flourished in it being a parochial institution, which, however excellent in design, yet, like too many establishments of the same nature, it degenerated into a source of knowledge, morals, and education, exceedingly dry and unproductive to every person except the master, who was enabled by his honest industry to make a provision for his family absolutely surprising, when we consider the moderate nature of his ostensible income. It was, in fact, like a well dried up, to which scarcely any one ever thinks of going for water.
Such a state of things, however, could not last long. The youth of Findramore were parched for want of the dew of knowledge; and their parents and grown brethren met one Saturday evening in Barny Brady’s shebeen-house, to take into consideration the best means for procuring a resident schoolmaster for the village and neighbourhood. It was a difficult point, and required great dexterity of management to enable them to devise any effectual remedy for the evil which they felt. There were present at this council, Tim Dolan, the senior of the village, and his three sons, Jem Coogan, Brian Murphy, Paddy Delany, Owen Roe O’Neill, Jack Traynor, and Andy Connell, with five or six others, whom it is not necessary to enumerate.
“Bring us in a quart, Barny,” said Dolan to Brady, whom on this occasion we must designate as the host; “and let it be the rale hathen.”
“What do you mane, Tim?” replied the host.
“I mane,” continued Doland, “stuff that was never christened, man alive.”
“Thin I’ll bring you the same that Father Maguire got last night on his way home, afther anointin’ ould Katty Durry,” replied Brady. “I’m sure, whatever I might be afther givin’ to strangers, Tim, I’d be long sorry to give yous anything but the right sort.”
“That’s a gay man, Barny,” said Traynor, “but off wid you like a shot, and let us get it under out rooth first, an’ then we’ll tell you more about it. – A big rogue is the same Barny,” he added, after Brady had gone to bring in the poteen, “an’ never sells a dhrop that’s not one whiskey and five wathers.”
“But he couldn’t expose it on you, Jack,” observed Connell; “you’re too ould a hand about the pot for that. Warn’t you in the mountains last week?”
“Ay: but the curse of Cromwell upon the thief of a gauger, Simpson – himself and a pack o’ redcoats surrounded us when we war beginnin’ to double, and the purtiest runnin’ that ever you seen was lost; for you see, before you could cross yourself, we had the bottoms knocked clane out of the vessels; so that the villains didn’t get a hole in our coats, as they thought they would.”
“I tell you,” observed O’Neil, “there’s a bad pill somewhere about us.”
“Ay, is there, Owen,” replied Traynor; “and what is more, I don’t think he’s a hundhre miles from the place where we’re sittin’ in.”
“Faith, maybe so, Jack,” returned the other.
“I’d never give in to that,” said Murphy. “’Tis Barny Brady that would never turn informer – the same thing isn’t in him, nor in any of his breed; there’s not a man in the parish I’d thrust sooner.”
“I’d jist thrust him,” replied Traynor, “as far as I could throw a cow by the tail. Arrah, what’s the rason that the gauger never looks next or near his place, an’ it’s well known that he sells poteen widout a license, though he goes past his door wanst a week?”
“What the h— is keepin’ him at all?” inquired one of Dolan’s sons.
“Look at him,” said Traynor, “comin’ in out of the garden; how much afeard he is! Keepin’ the whiskey in a phatie ridge – an’ I’d kiss the book that he brought that bottle out in his pocket, instead of diggin’ it up out o’ the garden.”
Whatever Brady’s usual habits of christening his poteen might have been, that which he now place before them was good. He laid the bottle on a little deal table with cross legs, and along with it a small drinking glass fixed in a bit of flat circular wood, as a substitute for the original bottom, which had been broken. They now entered upon the point in question, without further delay.
“Come, Tim,” said Coogan, “you’re the ouldest man, and must spake first.”
“Throth, man,” replied Dolan, “beggin’ your pardon, I’ll drhink first – healths apiece, your sowl; success boys – glory to ourselves, and confusion to the Scanlan boys, any way.”
“And maybe,” observed Connell, “’tis we that didn’t lick them well in the last fair – they’re not able to meet the Findramore birds even on their own walk.”
“Well, boys,” said Delany, “about the masther? Our childhre will grow up like bullockeens [little bullocks] without knowing a hap’orth; and larning, you see, is a burdyen that’s asy carried.”
“Ay,” observed O’Neil, “as Solvester Maguire, the poet, used to say –
Labour for larnin’ before you grow ould,
“Success, Owen! Why, you might put down the pot and warm an air to it,” said Murphy.
“Well, boys, are we all safe?” asked Traynor.
“Safe!” said old Dolan. “Arrah, what are you talkin’ about? Sure tisn’t of that same spalpeen of a gauger that we’d be afraid!”
During this observation, young Dolan pressed Traynor’s foot under the table, and they both went out for about five minutes.
“Father,” said the son, when he and Traynor re-entered the room, “you’re a wanting home.”
“Who wants me, Larry, avick?” says the father.
The son immediately whispered him for a moment, when the old man instantly rose, got his hat, and after drinking another bumper of the poteen, departed.
“Twas hardly worth while,” said Delany; “the ould fellow is mettle to the back-bone, an’ would never show the garran-bane at any rate, even if he knew all about it.”
“Bad end to the syllable I’d let the same ould cock hear,” said the son; “the devil thrust any man that didn’t switch the primer [take an oath] for it, though where will we get a schoolmaster? Mat Kavanagh won’t budge from the Scanlan boys, even if we war to put our hands undher his feet: and small blame to him – sure, you would not expect him to go against his own friends?”
“Faith, the gorsoons is in a bad state,” said Murphy; “but, boys, where will we get a man that’s up? Why, I know ‘tis betther to have anybody nor be without one; but we might kill two birds wid one stone – if we could get a masther that would carry ‘Articles’ [the Whiteboy regulations] an’ swear in the boys, from time to time – an’ between ourselves, if there’s any danger of the hemp, we may as well lay it upon strange shoulders.”
Way, but since Corrigan swung for the Aagint,” replied Delany, “they’re a little modest in havin’ act or part wid us; but the best plan is to get an advartisement wrote out, an’ have it posted on the chapel door.”
This hint was debated with much earnestness; but as they were really anxious to have a master – in the first place, for the simple purpose of educating their children; and in the next, for filling the situation of director and regulator of their illegal Ribbon meetings – they determined on penning an advertisement, according to the suggestion of Delany. After drinking another bottle, and amusing themselves with some further chat, one of the Dolans undertook to draw up the advertisement, which ran as follows:-
“Notes to Schoolmasthers, and to all others whom it may consarn.
“For the nabourhood and the vicrinity of the Townlond of Findramore,
in the Parish of Aughindrum, in the Barony of Lisnamoghry,
“Take Notes – That any Schoolmaster who understands Spellin’ gramatically – Readin’ and Writin’, in the raal way, accordin’ to the Dixonary – Arithmatick, that is to say, the five common rules, namely, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division – and addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, of Dives’s denominations. Also reduction up and down – cross multiplication of coin – the Rule of Three Direck – the Rule of Three in verse – the double Rule of Three – Frackshins taught according to the vulgar and decimatin’ method; and must be well practised to tache the Findramore boys how to manage the Scuffle.
“N.B. He must be well grounded in that. Practis, Discount, and Rebatin’. N.B. he must be well grounded in that also.
“Tret and Tare – Fellowship – Allegation – Barther – Rates per Scent – Intherest – Exchange – Prophet in Loss – the Square Root – the Kibe Root – Hippothenuse – Arithmatical and Jommetrical Purgation – Compound Interest – Loggerheadism – Questions for Exercise, and the Conendix to Algibbra. He must also know Jommithry accordin’ to Grunther’s scale – the Castigation of the Klipstiks – Surveying, and the use of the Jacob-staff.
“N.B. Would get a good dale of Surveyin’ to do in the vircinity of Findramore, particularly in Con-acre time. If he know the use of the globe, it would be an accusation. He must also understand the Three Sets of Book-keeping, by single and double entry, particularly Loftus & Company of Paris, their Account of Cash and Company. And above all things, he must know how to tache the Sarvin’ of Mass in Latin, and be able to read Doctor Gallaher’s Irish Sarmints, and explain Kolumkill’s and Pasterini’s Prophecies.
“N.B. If he understands Cudgel-fencin’, it would be an accusation also – but mustn’t tache us wid a staff that bends in the middle, bekase it breaks one’s head across the guard. Any schoolmaster capacious and collified to instruct in the above-mintioned branches, would get a good school in the townland Findramore and its vircinity, be well fed, an’ get the hoith o’ good livin’ among the farmers, an’ would be ped –
“For Book-keepin’, the three sets, a ginny and half.
“For Gommethry, &c., six Hogs.
“Arthimatic, eight and three-hapuns.
“Readin’, Writin’, & c., six Hogs.
“Given under our hands, this 37th day of June 18004.
“LARRY DOLAN “PADDY DELANY, his X mark.
“DICK DOLAN, his X mark. “JACK TRAYNOR,
“JEM COOGAN, his X mark. “ANDY CONNELL,
“BRINE MURPHEY, “OWEN ROE O’NEIL, his X mark.”
“N.B. By making airly application to any of the undher-mintioned, he will hear of further particklers; and if they find that he will shoot them, he may expect the best o’ thratement, an’ be well fed among the farmers.
“N.B. Would get also a good Night-school among the vircinity.”
Having penned the above advertisement, it was carefully posted early the next morning on the chapel-doors, with an expectation on the part of the patrons that it would not be wholly fruitless. The next week, however, passed without an application – the second also – and the third produced the same result; nor was there the slightest prospect of a schoolmaster being blown by any wind to the lovers of learning at Findramore. In the meantime, the Ballyscanlan boys took care to keep up the ill-natured prejudice which had been circulated concerning the fatality that uniformly attended such schoolmasters as settled there; and when this came to the ears of the Findramore folk, it was once more resolved that the advertisement should be again put up, with a clause containing an explanation on that point. The clause ran as follows:
“N.B. – the two last masthers that was hanged out of Findramore, that is, Mickey Corrigan, who was hanged for killing the Aagent, and Jem Garraghty, that died of a declension – Jem died in quensequence of ill-health, and Mickey was hanged contrary to his own wishes: so that it wasn’t either of their faults – as witness our hands this 207th of July.
“DICK DOLAN, his X mark.”
This explanation, however, was as fruitless as the original advertisement; and week after week passed over without an offer from a single candidate. The “vircinity” of Findramore and its “nabourhood” seemed devoted to ignorance; and nothing remained, except another effort at procuring a master by some more ingenious contrivance.
Debate after debate was consequently held in Barney Brady’s; and until a fresh suggestion was made by Delany, the prospect seemed as bad as ever. Delany, at length, fell upon a new plan; and it must be confessed, that it was marked in a peculiar manner by a spirit of great originality and enterprise, it being nothing less than a proposal to carry off, by force or stratagem, Mat Kavanagh, who was at the time fixed in the throne of literature among the Ballyscanlan boys, quite unconscious of the honourable translation to the neighbourhood of the Findramore which was intended for him. The project, when broached, was certainly a startling one, and drove most of them to a pause, before they were sufficiently collected to give an opinion on its merits.
“Nothin’, boys, is asier,” said Delany. “There’s to be a patthern in Ballymagowan, on next Sathurday – an’ that’s jist half way betune ourselves and the ‘Scanlan boys. Let us musther, an’ go there, any how. We can keep an eye on Mat widout much trouble, an’ when opportunity sarves, nick him at wanst, an’ off wid him clane.”
“But,” said Traynor, “what would we do wid him when he’d be here? Wouldn’t he cut an’ run the first opportunity?”
“How can he, ye omadhwan, if we put a manwill [Catholic prayer-book] in our pocket, an’ sware him? But we’ll butther him up when he’s among us; or, be me sowks, if it goes to that, force him either to settle wid ourselves, or to make himself scarce in the counthry entirely.”
“Divil a much force it’ll take to keep him, I’m thinkin’,” observed Murphy. “He’ll have three times a betther school here; and if he wanst settled, I’ll engage he would take to it kindly.”
“See here, boys,” says Dick Dolan, in a whisper, “if that bloody villain, Brady, isn’t afther standin’ this quarter of an hour, strivin’ to hear what we’re about; but it’s well we didn’t bring up anything consarnin’ the other business’; didn’t I tell yees the desate was in im’? Look at his shadow on the wall forninst us.”
“Hould yer tongues, boys,” said Traynor; “jist keep never mindin’, and, be me sowks, I’ll make him sup sorrow for that thrick.”
“You had betther neither make nor meddle wid him,” observed Delany; “jist put him out o’ that – but don’t rise yer hand to him, or he’ll sarve you as he did Jem Flanagan: put ye three or four months in the Strong Jug [gaol].”
Traynor, however, had gone out while he was speaking, and in a few minutes dragged in Brady, whom he caught in the very act of eavesdropping.
“Jist come in, Brady,” said Traynor, as he dragged him along; “walk in, man alive; sure, and sich an honest man as you are needn’t be afeard of lookin’ his friends in the face! Ho!- an’ be my sowl, is it a spy we’ve got? and, I suppose, would be an informer too, if he had heard anything to tell!”
“What’s the manin’ of this, boys?” exclaimed the others, feigning ignorance. “Let the honest man go, Traynor. What do ye hawl him that way for, ye gallis pet?”
“Honest!” Replied Traynor; “how very honest he is, the desavin’ villain, to be standin’ at the windy there, wantin’ to overhear the little harmless talk we had.’”
“Come, Traynor, said Brady, seizing him in his turn by the neck, “take your hands off of me, or, bad fate to me, but I’ll lave ye a mark.”
Traynor, in his turn, had his hand twisted in Brady’s cravat, which he drew tightly about his neck, until the other got nearly black in the face.
“Let me go, you villain!” – exclaimed Brady, “or, by this blessed night that’s in it, it’ll be worse for you.”
“Villain! is it?” replied Traynor, making a blow at him, whilst Brady snatched at a penknife, which one of the others had placed on the table, after picking the tobacco out of his pipe – intending either to stab Traynor, or to cut the knot of the cravat by which he was held. The others, however, interfered, and prevented further mischief.
“Brady,” said Traynor, “you’ll rue this night, if ever a man did, you tracherous informin’ villain. What an honest spy we have among us! – and a short coorse to you!”
“O, hould yer tongue, Traynor!” replied Brady: “I believe it’s best known who is both the spy and the informer. The devil a pint of poteen ever you’ll run in this parish, until you clear yourself of bringing the gauger on the Traceys, bekase they tuck Mick McKew, in preference to yourself, to run it for them.”
Traynor made another attempt to strike him, but was prevented. The rest now interfered; and, in the course of an hour or so, an adjustment took place.
Brady took up the tongs, and swore “by that blessed iron,” that he neither heard, nor intended to hear, anything they said; and this exculpation was followed by a fresh bottle at his own expense.
“You omadhawn,” said he to Traynor, “I was only puttin’ up a dozen o’ bottles into the tach of the house, when you thought I was listenin’;” and, as a proof of the truth of this, he brought them out, and showed them some bottles of poteen, neatly covered up under the thatch.
Before their separation they finally planned the abduction of Kavanagh from the Patron, on the Saturday following, and after drinking another round went home to their respective dwellings.
In this speculation, however, they experienced a fresh disappointment; for, ere Saturday arrived, whether in consequence of secret intimation of their intention from Brady, or some friend, or in compliance with the offer of a better situation, the fact was, that Mat Kavanagh had removed to another school, distant about eighteen miles from Findramore. But they were not to be outdone; a new plan was laid, and in the course of the next week a dozen of the most enterprising and intrepid of the “boys,” mounted each upon a good horse, went to Mat’s new residence for the express purpose of securing him.
Perhaps our readers may scarcely believe that a love of learning was so strong among the inhabitants of Findramore as to occasion their taking such remarkable steps for establishing a schoolmaster among them; but the country was densely inhabited, the rising population exceedingly numerous, and the outcry for a schoolmaster amongst the parents of the children loud and importunate.
The fact, therefore, was, that a
very strong motive stimulated the inhabitants of Findramore in their efforts to
procure a master. The old and middle-aged heads of families were actuated by a
simple wish, inseparable from Irishmen, to have their children educated; and
the young men, by a determination to have a properly qualified person to
conduct their Night Schools, and improve them in reading, writing, and
arithmetic. The circumstance I am now relating is now which actually took place:
and any man acquainted with the remote parts of
It was one Saturday night, in the latter end of the month of May, that a dozen Findramore “boys,” as they were called, set out upon this most singular of all literary speculations, resolved, at whatever risk, to secure the person and effect the permanet bodily presence among them of the Redoutable Mat Kavanagh. Each man was mounted on a horse, and one of them brought a spare steed for the accommodation of the schoolmaster. The caparison of this horse was somewhat remarkable; it consisted of a wooden straddle, such as is used by the peasantry for carrying wicker panniers or creels, which are hung upon two wooden pins, that stand up out of its sides. Underneath was a straw mat, the prevent the horse’s back from being stripped by it. On one side of this hung a large creel, and on the other a strong sack, tied round a stone merely of sufficient weight to balance the empty creel. The night was warm and clear, the moon and stars all threw their mellow light from a serene, unclouded sky, and the repose of nature in the short nights of this delightful season, resembles that of a young virgin of sixteen – still, light, and glowing. Their way, for the most part of their journey, lay through a solitary mountain-road; and, as they did not undertake the enterprise without a good stock of poteen, their light-hearted songs and choruses awoke the echoes that slept in the mountain glens as they went along. The adventure, it is true, had as much of frolic as of seriousness in it; and merely as the means of a day’s fun for the boys, it was the more eagerly entered into.
It was about when they left home and as they did not wish to arrive at the village to which they were bound, until the morning should be rather advanced, the journey was as slowly performed as possible. Every remarkable object on the way was noticed, and its history, if any particular association was connected with it, minutely detailed, whenever it happened to be known. When the sun rose, many beautiful green spots and hawthorn valleys excited, even from these unpolished and illiterate peasants, warm bursts of admiration at their fragrance and beauty. In some places, the dark flowery heath clothed the mountains to the tops, from which the grey mists, lit by a flood of light, and breaking into masses before the morning breeze, began to descend into the valleys beneath them; whilst the voice of the grouse, the bleating of sheep and lambs, the pee-weet of the wheeling lap-wing, and the song of the lark, threw life and animation over the previous stillness of the country. Sometimes a shallow river would cross the road, winding off into a valley that was overhung, on one side, by rugged precipices clothed with luxuriant heath and wild ash; whilst, on the other, it was skirted by a long sweep of greensward, skimmed by the twittering swallow, over which lay scattered numbers of sheep, cows, brood mares, and colts – many of them rising and stretching themselves, ere they resumed their pasture, leaving the spots on which they lay of a deeper green. Occasionally, too, a sly-looking fox might be seen lurking about a solitary lamb, or brushing over the hills with a fat goose upon his back, retreating to his den among the inaccessible rocks, after having plundered some unsuspecting farmer.
As they advanced into the skirts of the cultivated country, they met many other beautiful spots of scenery among the upland, considerable portions of which, particularly in long sloping valleys, that faced the morning sun, were covered with hazel and brushwood, where the unceasing and simple notes of the cuckoo were incessantly plied, mingled with the more mellow and varied notes of the thrush and blackbird. Sometimes, the bright summer waterfall seemed, in the rays of the sun, like a column of light, and the springs that issued from the sides of the more distant and lofty mountains shone with a steady, dazzling brightness, on which the eye could scarcely rest. The morning, indeed, was beautiful, the fields in bloom, and every thing cheerful. As the sun rose in the heavens, nature began gradually to awaken into life and happiness; nor was the natural grandeur of a Sabbath summer morning among these piles of magnificent mountains – nor its heartfelt, but more artificial beauty in the cultivated country, lost, even upon the unphilosophical “boys” of Findramore: so true is it, that such exquisite appearances of nature will force enjoyment upon the most uncultivated heart.
When they had arrived within two miles of the little town in which Mat Kavanagh was fixed, they turned off into a deep glen, a little to the left; and, after having seated themselves on the banks of a rivulet, they began to devise the best immediate measures to be taken.
“Boys,” said Tim Dolan, “how will we manage now with this thief of a schoolmaster, at all? Come, Jack Traynor, you that’s up to stillhouse work – escapin’ and carryin’ away stills from gaugers, the bloody villains! out wid yer spake, till we hear your opinion.”
“Do ye think, boys,” said Andy Connell, “that we could flatter him to come by fair mains?”
“Flatther him!” said Traynor; “and, by my sowl, if we flatther him at all, it must be by the hair of the head. No, no; let us bring him first whether he will or not, an’ ax his consent afterwards!”
“I’ll tell you what it is, boys,” continued Connell, “I’ll hould a wager, if you lave him to me, I’ll bring him wid his own consint.”
“No, nor sorra that you’ll do, nor could do,” replied Traynor; “for, along wid every thing else, he thinks he’s not jist doated on by the Findramore people, being one of the Ballyscanlan tribe. – No, no; let two of us go to his place, and purtind that we have other business in the fair of Clansallagh on Monday next, and ax him in to dhrink, for he’ll not refuse that, any how; then, when he’s half tipsy, ax him to convoy us this far; we’ll then meet you here, an’ tell him some palaver or other – sit down again where we are now, and, afther making him dead dhrunk, hoise a big stone in the creel, and Mat in the sack, on the other side, wid his head out, and off wid him; and he will know neither act nor part about it, till we’re at Findramore.”
Having approved of this project, they pulled out each a substantial complement of stout oaten bread, which served, along with the whisky, for breakfast. The two persons pitched on for decoying Mat were Dolan and Traynor, who accordingly set out, full of glee at the singularity and drollness of their undertaking. It is unnecessary to detail the ingenuity with which they went about it, because, in consequence of Kvangah’s love of drink, very little ingenuity was necessary. One circumstance, however, came to light, which gave them much encouragement, and that was a discovery that Mat by no means relished his situation.
In the meantime, those who staid
behind in the glen felt their patience begin to flag a little, because of the
delay made by the others, who had promised, if possible to have the
schoolmaster in the glen before two o’clock. But the fact was, that Mat, who
was far less deficient in hospitality than in learning, brought them into his
house, and not only treated them to plenty of whisky, but made the wife prepare
a dinner, for which he detained them, swearing, that except they stopped to
partake of it, he would not convoy them to the place appointed. Evening was,
therefore, tolerably far advanced, when they made their appearance at the glen,
in a very equivocal state of sobriety – Mat being by far the steadiest of the
three, but still considerably the worse for what he had taken. He was now
welcomed by a general huzza; and on his expressing surprise at their
appearance, they pointed to their horses, telling him that they were bound for
the fair at Clansallagh, for the purpose of selling them. This was the more
probable, as, when a fair occurs in
Mat now sat down, and was vigorously plied with strong poteen – songs were sung, stories told, and every device resorted to that was calculated to draw out and heighten his sense of enjoyment; nor were their efforts without success; for, in the course of a short time, Mat was free from all earthly care, being incapable of either speaking or standing.
“Now, boys,” said Dolan, “let us do the thing clane an’ dacent. Let you, Jem Coogan, Brian Murphy, Paddy Delany, and Andy Connell, go back, and tell the wife and two childher a cock-and-a-bull story about Mat – say that he is coming to Findramore for good and all, that’ll be thruth, you know; and that he ordhered yez to bring her and them afther him; and we can come back for the furniture to-morrow.”
A word was enough – they immediately set off; and the others, not wishing that Mat’s wife should witness the mode of his conveyance, proceeded home, for it was now dusk. The plan succeeded admirably; and in a short time the wife and children, mounted behind the “boys” on the horses, were on the way after them to Findramore.
The reader is already aware of the plan they had adopted for translating Mat; but, as it was extremely original, I will explain it somewhat more fully. The moment the schoolmaster was intoxicated to the necessary point – that is to say, totally helpless and insensible – they opened the sack and put him in, heels foremost, tying it in such a way about his neck as might prevent his head from getting into it; thus avoiding the danger of suffocation. The sack, with Mat at full length in it, was then fixed to the pin of the straddle, so that he was in an erect posture during the whole journey. A creel was then hung on the other side, in which was placed a large stone, of sufficient weight to preserve an equilibrium: and, to prevent any accident, a droll fellow sat astride behind the straddle, amusing himself and the rest by breaking jokes upon the novelty of Mat’s situation.
“Well, Mat, ma bouchal, how duv ye like your sitivation? I believe, for all your larnin’, the Findramore boys have sacked you at last!”
“Ay,” exclaimed another, “he is sacked at last, in spite of his Matthew-maticks.”
“An’, be my sowks,” observed Traynor, “he’d be a long time goin’ up a Maypowl in the state he’s in – his own snail would bate him.”
“Yes,” said another; “but he deserves credit for travellin’ from Clansallagh to Findramore, widout layin’ a foot to the ground –
“’Wan day wid Captain
Whisky I wrestled a fall,
Whoo – hurroo! my darlings – success to the Findramore boys! Hurroo – hurroo – the Findramore boys for ever!”
“Boys, did ever ye hear the song Mat made on Ned Mullen’s fight wid Jemmy Connor’s gander? Well here is part of it, to the tune of ‘Brian O’Lynn’ –
“’As Ned and the
gander wor basting each other,
“Bravo! Mat,” addressing the insensible schoolmaster – “success, poet. Hurroo for the Findramore boys! the Bridge boys for ever!”
They then commenced, in a tone of mock gravity, to lecture him upon his future duties – detailing the advantages of his situation, and the comforts he would enjoy among them – although they might as well have addressed themselves to the stone on the other side. In this manner they got along, amusing themselves at Mat’s expense, and highly elated at the success of their undertaking. About in the morning they reached the top of the little hill above the village, when, on looking back along the level stretch of road which I have already described, they noticed their companions with Mat’s wife and children, moving briskly after them. A general huzza now took place, which, in a few minutes, was answered by two or three dozen of the young folks, who were assembled in Barny Brady’s, waiting for their arrival. The scene now became quite animated – cheer after cheer succeeded – jokes, laughter, and rustic wit, pointed by the spirit of Brady’s poteen, flew briskly about. When Mat was unsacked, several of them came up, and shaking him cordially by the hand, welcomed him among them. To the kindness of this reception, however, Mat was wholly insensible, having been for the greater part of the journey in a profound sleep. The boys now slipped the loop of the sack off the straddle-pin; and, carrying Mat into a farmer’s house, they deposited him in a settle-bed, where he slept, unconscious of the journey he had performed, until breakfast-time on the next morning. In the mean time, the wife and children were taken care of by Mrs. Connell, who provided them with a bed, and every other comfort which they could require.
The next morning, when Mat awoke, his first call was for a drink. I should have here observed, that Mrs Kavanagh had been sent for by the good woman in whose house Mat had slept, that they might all breakfast and have a drop together, for they had already succeeded in reconciling her to the change.
“Wather!” said Mat – “a drink of
wather, if it’s to be had for love or money, or I’ll split wid druth – I’m all
in a state of conflagration; and my head – by the sowl of Newton, the inventor
of fluxions, but my head in a complete illucidation of the centrifugal motion,
so it is. Tundher-an’-turf! is there no wather to be had?
On cooling his burning blood with
the “hydraulics,” he again lay down with the intention of composing himself for
another sleep; but his eye having noticed the novelty of his situation, he once
Nancy, in the mean time, had been desired to answer in the affirmative, hoping that if his mind was made easy on that point, he might refresh himself by another hour or two’s sleep, as he appeared to be not at all free from the effects of his previous intoxication.
“Why, Mat, jewel, where else
would be, a lannah, but at home? Sure isn’t here Jack, na’ Biddy, and’ myself,
“The priest! Why, Mat, jewel, what puts that in your head? Sure, there’s nothing wrong wid ye, only the sup o’drink you tuck yesterday.”
“Go, woman,” said Mat, “did you
ever know me to make a wrong calculation?
I tell you I’m non compos mentis from
head to heel. Head! by my sowl, Nancy, it’ll soon be a caput mortuum wid me – I’m fair gone in a disease they call an
opthical delusion – the devil a thing less it is – me bein’ in my own place,
an’ to think I’m lyin’ in a settle bed; that there is a large dresser, covered
wid pewter dishes and plates; and, to crown it all, the door on the wrong side
of the house. Off wid ye, an’ tell his Reverence that I want to be anointed,
and to die in pace and charity wid all men. May the most especial kind of bad luck
light down upon you, Findramore, and all that’s in you, both man and baste –
you have given me my gruel along wid
the rest; but, thank God, you won’t hang me, any how! Off,
“Is there e’er a sup at all in the house?” said Mat; “if there is, let me get it; for there’s an ould proverb, though it’s a most unmathematical axiom as ever was invinted – ‘try a hair of the same dog that bit you;’ give me a glass, Nancy, an’ you can go for Father Connell after. Oh, by the sowl of Isaac, that invented fluxions, what’s this for?”
A general burst of laughter followed this demand and ejaculation; Mat sat up once more in the settle, and examined the place with keener scrutiny. Nancy herself laughed heartily; and, as she handed the full glass, entered into an explanation of the circumstances attending his translation.
Mat, at all times rather of a pliant disposition, felt rejoiced on finding that he was still compos mentis; and on hearing what took place, he could not help entering into the humour of the enterprise, at which he laughed as heartily as any of them.
“Mat,” said the farmer, and half a dozen of the neighbours, “you’re a happy man; there’s a hundred of the boys have a school-house half built for you this same blessed sunshiny mornin’, while you’re lying at aise in your bed.”
“By the sowl of
In the course of a short time Mat was dressed, having found benefit from the “hair of the dog that bit him,” he tried another glass, which strung his nerves, or, as he himself, expressed it – “they’ve got the rale mathematical tinsion agin.” What the farmer said, however, about the school-house had been true. Early that morning all the growing and grown young men of Findramore and its “vircinity” had assembled, selected a suitable spot, and, with merry hearts, were then busily engaged in erecting a school-house for their general accommodation.
The manner of building hedge schoolhouses being rather curious, I will describe it. The usual spot selected for their erection is a ditch on the road-side, in some situation where there will be as little damp as possible. From such a spot an excavation is made equal to the size of the building, so that, when this is scooped out, the back side-wall and the two gables are already formed, the banks being dug perpendicularly. The front side-wall, with a window in each side of the door, is then built of clay or green sods laid along in rows; the gables are also topped with sods, and, perhaps, a row or two laid upon the back side-wall, if it should be considered too low. Having got the erection of Mat’s house thus far, they procured a scraw-spade, and repaired with a couple of dozen of cars to the next bog, from which they cut the light heathy surface in strips the length of the roof. A scraw-spade is an instrument resembling the letter T, with an iron plate at the lower end, considerably bent, and well adapted to the purpose for which it is intended. Whilst one party cut the scraws, another bound the couples and bauks ,and a third cut as many green branches as were sufficient to wattle it. The couples, being bound, were raised – the ribs laid on – then the wattles, and afterwards the scraws.
Whilst these successive processes went forward, many others had been engaged all the morning cutting rushes; and the scraws were no sooner laid on, than half a dozen thatchers mounted the roof, and long before the evening was closed, a school-house, capable of holding near two hundred children, was finished. But among the peasantry no new house is ever put up without a hearth-warming, and a dance. Accordingly the clay floor was paired – a fiddler procured – Barny Brady and his stock of poteen sent for; the young women of the village and surrounding neighbourhood attended in their best finery; dancing commenced – and it was four o’clock next morning when the merry-makers departed, leaving Mat a new home and a hard floor, ready for the reception of his scholars.
Business now commenced. At nine o’clock the next day Mat’s furniture was settled in a small cabin, given to him at a cheap rate by one of the neighbouring farmers; for, whilst the school-houses was being built, two men, with horses and cars, had gone to Clansallah, accompanied by Nancy, and removed the furniture, such as it was, to their new residence. Nor was Mat, upon the whole, displeased at what had happened; he was now fixed in a flourishing country – fertile and well cultivated; nay, the bright landscape which his school-house commanded was sufficient in itself to reconcile him to his situation. The inhabitants were in comparatively good circumstances; many of them wealthy, respectable farmers, and capable of remunerating him very decently for his literary labours; and what was equally flattering, there was a certainty of his having a numerous and well-attended school, in a neighbourhood with whose inhabitants he was well acquainted.
Honest, kind-hearted Paddy! – pity that you should ever feel distress or hunger! – pity that you should be compelled to seek, in another land, the hard-earned pittance by which you keep the humble cabin over the head of your chaste wife and naked children! Alas! what noble materials for composing a national character, of which humanity might be justly proud, do the lower orders of the Irish possess, if raised and cultivated by an enlightened education! Pardon me, gentle reader, for this momentary ebullition; I grant I am a little dark now. I assure you, however, the tear of enthusiastic admiration is warm on my eyelids, when I remember the flitches of bacon, the sacks of potatoes, the bags of meal, the miscawns of butter, and the dishes of eggs - not omitting crate after crate of turf, which came in such rapid succession to Mat Kavanagh, during the first week on which he opened his school. Ay, and many a bottle of stout poteen, when
“The eye of the gauger saw it not,”
was, with a sly, good-humoured wink, handed over to Mat, or Nancy, no matter which, from under the comfortable drab jock, with velvet-covered collar, erect about the honest, ruddy face of a warm, smiling farmer; or even the tattered frize of a poor labourer – anxious to secure the attention of the “masther” to his little “Shoneen,” whom, in the extravagance of his ambition, he destined to “wear the robes as a clargy.” Let no man say, I repeat, that the Irish are not fond of education.
In the course of a month Mat’s school was full to the door-posts, for, in fact, he had the parish to himself – many attending from a distance of three, four, and five miles. His merits, however, were believed to be great, and his character for learning stood high, though unjustly so: for a more superficial, and at the same time, a more presuming dunce never existed; but his character alone could secure him a good attendance; he, therefore, belied the unfavourable prejudice against the Findramore folk, which had gone abroad, and was a proof, in his own person, that the reason of the former schoolmasters’ miscarriage lay in the belief of their incapacity which existed among the people. But Mat was one of those showy, shallow fellows, who did not lack for assurance
The first step a hedge
schoolmaster took, on establishing himself in a school, was to write out, in
his best copperplate hand, a flaming advertisement, detailing, at full length,
the several branches he professed himself capable of teaching. I have seen many
of these – as who that is acquainted with
“Mr. Matthew Kavanagh, Philomath and Professor of the Learned Languages, begs leave to inform the Inhabitants of Findramore and its vicinity, that he lectures on the following Branches of Education, in his Seminary at the above-recited place:-
“Spelling, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, upon altogether new principles, hitherto undiscovered by any excepting himself, and for which he expects a Patent from Trinity College, Dublin; or at any rate, from Squire Johnston, Esq., who paternizes many of the pupils: Book-keeping, by single and double entry – Geometry, Trigonometry, Stereometry, Mensuration, Navigation, Guaging, Surveying, Dialling, Astronomy, Astrology, Austerity, Fluxions, Geography, ancient and modern – Maps, the Projection of the Sphere – Algebra, the Use of the Globes, Natural and Moral Philosophy, Pneumatics, Optics, Dioptics, Catoptics, Hydraulics, Aerostatics, Geology, Glorification, Divinity, Mythology, Medicinality, Physic, by theory only, Metaphysics practically, Chemistry, Electricity, Galvanism, Mechanics, Antiquities, Agriculture, Ventilation, Explosion, &c.
“In Classics – Grammar, Cordery, Aesop’s Fables, Erasmus’ Colloquies, Cornelius Nepos, Phaedrus, Valerius Maximus, Justin, Ovid, Sallust, Virgil, Horace, Juvenal, Persius, Terence, Tully’s Offices, Cicero, Manouverius Turgidus, Esculapius, Rogerius, Satanus Nigrus, Quinctilian, Livy, Thomas Aquinas, Cornelius Agrippa, and Cholera Morbus.
“Greek Grammar, Greek Testament, Lucian, Homer, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Thucydides, Aristophanes, Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and the Works of Alexander the Great; the manners, habits, customs, usages, and meditations of the Grecians; the Greek Digamma resolved, Prosody, Composition, both in prose and verse, and Oratory, in English, Latin, and Greek; together with various other branches of learning and scholastic profundity – quos enumerare longum est – along with Irish Radically, and a small taste of Hebrew upon the Masoretic text.
“MATTHEW KAVANAGH, Philomath.”
Having posted this document upon the chapel-door, and in all the public places and cross roads of the parish, Mat considered himself as having done his duty. He now began to teach, and his school continued to increase to his heart’s content, every day bringing him fresh scholars. In this manner he flourished till the beginning of winter, when those boys who, by the poverty of their parents, had been compelled to go to service to the neighbouring farmers, flocked to him in numbers, quite voracious for knowledge. An addition was consequently built to the school-house, which was considerably too small; so that, as Christmas approached, it would be difficult to find a more numerous or merry establishment under the roof of a hedge school But it is time to give an account of its interior.
The read will then be pleased to picture to himself such a house as I have already described – in a line with the hedge; the eave of the back roof within a foot of the ground behind it; a large hole exactly in the middle of the “riggin,” as a chimney; immediately under which is an excavation in the floor, burned away by a large fire of turf, loosely heaped together. This is surrounded by a circle of urchins, sitting on the bare earth, stones, and hassocks, and exhibiting a series of speckled shins, all radiating towards the fire, like sausages on a Poloni dish. There they are – wedged as close as they can sit; one with half a thigh off his breeches – another with half an arm off his tattered coat – a third without breeches at all, wearing, as a substitute, a piece of his mother’s old petticoat, pinned about his loins – a fourth, no coat – a fifth, with a cap on him, because he has got a scald, from having sat under the juice of fresh hung bacon – a sixth with a black eye – a seventh two rags about his heels to keep his kibes clean – an eighth crying to get home, because he has got a head-ache, though it may be as well to hint, that there is a drag-hunt to start from beside his father’s in the course of the day. In this ring, with his legs stretched in a most lordly manner, sits, upon a deal chair, Mat himself, with his hat on, basking in the enjoyment of unlimited authority. His dress consists of a black coat, considerably in want of repair, transferred to his shoulders through the means of a clothes-broker in the county-town; a white cravat, round a large stuffing, having that part which comes in contact with the chin somewhat streaked with brown – a black waistcoat, with one or two “tooth-an’-egg” metal buttons sewed on where the original has fallen off – black corduroy inexpressibles, twice dyed, and sheep’s-gray stockings. In his hand in a large, broad ruler, the emblem of his power, the woful instrument of executive justice, and the signal of terror to all within his jurisdiction. In a corner below is a pile of turf, where, on entering, every boy throws his two sods, with a hitch from under his left arm. He then comes up to the master, catches his forelock with finger and thumb, and bobs down his head, by way of making a bow, and goes to his seat. Along the walls on the ground is a series of round stones, some of them capped with a straw collar or hassock, on which the boys sit; others have bosses, and many of them hobs – a light but compact kind of boggy substance found in the mountains. On these several of them sit; the greater number of them, however, have no seats whatever, but squat themselves down, without compunction, on the hard floor. Hung about, on wooden pegs driven into the walls, are the shapeless yellow “caubeens” of such as can boast the luxury of a hat, or caps made of goat or hare skin, the latter having the ears of the animal rising ludicrously over the temples, or cocked out at the sides, and the scut either before or behind, according to the taste or the humour of the wearer. The floor, which is only swept every Saturday, is strewed over with tops of quills, pens, pieces of broken slate, and tattered leaves of “Reading made Easy,” or fragments of old copies. In one corner is a knot engaged at “Fox and Geese,” or the “Walls of Troy” on their slates; in another, a pair of them are “fighting bottles,” which consists in striking the bottoms together, and he whose bottle breaks first, of course, loses. Behind the master is a third set, playing “heads and points” – a game of pins. Some are more industriously employed in writing their copies, which they perform seated on the ground, with their paper on a copy-board – a piece of planed deal, the size of the copy, an appendage now nearly exploded – their cheek-bones laid within half an inch of the left side of the copy, and the eye set to guide the motion of the hand across, and to regulate the straightness of the lines and the forms of the letters. Others, again, of the more grown boys, are working their sums with becoming industry. In a dark corner are a pair of urchins thumping each other, their eyes steadily fixed on the master, lest he might happen to glance in that direction. Near the master himself are the larger boys, from twenty-two to fifteen – shaggy-headed slips, with loose-breasted shirts lying open about their bare chests; ragged colts, with white, dry, bristling bears upon them, that never knew a razor; strong stockings on their legs; heavy brogues, with broad, nail-paved soles; and breeches open at the knees. Nor is the establishment without a competent number of females. These were, for the most part, the daughters of wealthy farmers, who considered it necessary to their respectability, that they should not be altogether illiterate; such a circumstance being a considerable drawback, in the opinion of an admirer, from the character of a young woman for whom he was about to propose – a drawback, too, which was always weighty in proportion to her wealth or respectability.
Having given our readers an imperfect sketch of the interior of Mat’s establishment, we will now proceed, however feebly, to represent him at work – with all the machinery of the system in full operation.
“Come, boys, rehearse – (buz, buz, buz) – I’ll soon be after calling up the first spelling lesson (buz, buz, buz) – then the mathematicians – book-keepers – Latinists, and Grecians, successfully. (Buz, buz buz) – Silence there below! - your pens! Tim Casey, isn’t this a purty hour o’ the day for you to come into school at; arrah, and what kept you, Tim? Walk up wid yourself here, till we have a confabulation together; you see I love to be talking to you.”-
“Sir, Larry Branagan, here; he’s throwing spits at me out of his pen.” – (Buz, buz, buz).
“By my sowl, Larry, there’s a rod in steep for you.”
“Fly away, Jack – fly away, Jill; come again, Jack – “
“I had to go to Paddy Nowlan’s for tobaccy, Sir, for my father.” (Weeping with his hand knowingly across his face – one eye laughing at his comrades.) –
“You lie, it wasn’t.”
“If you call me a liar agin, I’ll give you a dig in the mug.”
“It’s not in your jacket.”
“Behave yourself; ha! there’s the masther looking at you – ye’ll get it now.”-
“None at all, Tim? And she’s not after sinding an excuse wid you? What’s that undher your arm?”
“My Gough, Sir.” – (Buz, buz, buz).
“Silence, boys. And, you blackguard Lilliputian, you, what kept you away till this?”-
“One bird pickin’, two men thrashin’; one bird pickin’, two men thrashin’; one bird pickin’-”
“Sir they’re stickin’ pins in me, here.”
“Who is, Briney?”
“I don’t know, Sir, they’re all at it.”
“Boys, I’ll go down to yez.”
“I can’t carry him, Sir, he’d be too heavy for me: let Larry Toole do it, he’s stronger nor me; any way, there, he’s putting a corker pin in his mouth.”. – (Buz, buz, buz).
“Whoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo – I’ll never stay away agin, Sir; indeed I won’t, Sir. Oh, Sir dear, pardon me this wan time; and if ever you cotch me doing the like agin, I’ll give you lave to welt the sowl out of me.”- (Buz, buz, buz.)-
“Behave yourself, Barny Byrne.”
“I’m not touching you.”
“Yes, you are; didn’t you make me blot my copy?”
“Ho, by the livin’, I’ll pay you goin’ home for this.”
“Hand me the taws.”
“Whoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo – what’ll I do, at all at all! Oh, Sir dear, Sir dear, Sir dear – hoo-hoo-hoo.”
“Did she send no message, good or bad, before I lay on?”
“Oh, not a word, Sir, only that my father killed a pig yesterday, and he wants you to go up to-day at dinner time.” – (Buz, buz, buz.) –
“It’s time to get lave – it isn’t, it is – it isn’t, it is,” &c.
“You lie, I say, your faction never was able to fight ours; didn’t we lick all your dirty breed in Buillagh-battha fair?”
“Silence there.” – (Buz, buz, buz).
“Will you meet us on Sathurday, and we’ll fight it out clane?”-
“Ha-ha-ha! Tim, but you got a big fright, any how: whist, ma bouchal, sure I was only jokin’ you; and sorry I’d be to bate your father’s son, Tim. Come over, and sit beside myself at the fire here. Get up, Micky Donoghue, you big burnt-shinn’d spalpeen you, and let the dacent boy sit at the fire.”
“Hullabaloo, hoo-hoo-hoo – to go to give me such a welt, only for sitting at the fire, and me brought turf wid me.”-
“At dinner time, is id?”
“Faith, the dacent strain was always in the same family.” – (Buz, buz, buz) –
“Horns, horns, cock horns: oh, you up’d wid them, you lifted your fingers – that’s a mark, now – hould your face, till I blacken you.” –
“Do you call thim two sods, Jack Lanigan? Why, ‘tis only one long one broke in the middle; but you must make it up to-morrow, Jack; how is your mother’s tooth? – did she get it pulled out yet?”
“Well, tell her to come to me, an’ I’ll write a charm for it, that’ll cure her. – What kept you till now, Paddy Magouran?”
“Couldn’t come any sooner, Sir.”
“You couldn’t, Sir – and why, Sir couldn’t you come any sooner, Sir?” –
“See, Sir, what Andy Nowlan done to my copy.” – (Buz, buz, buz).
“Silence, I’ll massacre yez, if yez don’t make less noise.” - (Buz, buz, buz).
“I was down with Mrs. Kavanagh, Sir.”
“You were, Paddy – an’ Paddy, ma bouchal, what war you doing there, Paddy?”-
“Masther, Sir, spake to Jem Kenny here; he made my nose bleed.” –
“I was bringin’ her a layin’ hen, Sir, that my mother promised her at mass on Sunday last.’”
“Ah, Paddy, you’re a game bird, yourself, wid your layin’ hens; you’re as full o’mischief as an egg’s full o’mate – (omnes – ha, ha, ha, ha!) – Silence, boys – what are you laughin’ at? – ha, ha, ha! – Paddy, can you spell Nebachodnazure for me?”
“No, nor a better scholar, Paddy, could not do that, ma bouchal; but I’ll spell it for your. Silence, boys – whist, all of yez, till I spell Nebachodnazure for Paddy Magouran. Listen; and you yourself, Paddy, are one of the letthers:
“’A turf and a clod spells Nebachod –
Now, Paddy, that’s spelling Nebachodnazure by the science of Ventilation; but you’ll never go that deep, Paddy.”-
“I want to go out, if you plase, Sir.”
“Is that the way you ax me, you vagabone?”
“I want to go out, Sir,”- (pulling down the fore lock.)
“Yes, that’s something dacenter; by the sowl of Newton, that invinted fluxions, if ever you forget to make a bow again, I’ll flog the enthrils out of you – wait till the pass comes in.”
Then comes the spelling lesson.
“Come, boys, stand up to the spelling lesson.”
“Micky,” says one urchin, “show me your book, till I look at my word, I’m fifteenth.”
“Wait till I see my own.”
“Why do you crush for.”
“That’s my place.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Sir spake to – I’ll tell the masther.”
“What’s the matther here?”
“Sir, he won’t let me into my place.”
“I’m before you.”
“No, you’re not.”
“I say, I am.”
“You lie, pug-face: ha! I called you pug-face, tell now if you dare.”
“Well, boys, down with your pins in the book: who’s king?”
“I am, Sir.”
“Tag rag and bob-tail, fall into your places.”
“I’ve no pin, Sir.”
“Well, down with you to the tail – now, boys.”
Having gone through the spelling task, it was Mat’s custom to give out six hard words selected according to his judgment – as a final test; but he did not always confine himself to that. Sometimes he would put a number of syllables arbitrarily together, forming a most heterogeneous combination of articulate sounds.
“Now, boys, here’s a deep word, that’ll thry yez; come, Larry, spell me-mo-dran-san-ti-fi-can-du-ban-dan-ti-al-i-ty,ormis-an-thro-pomor-phi-ta-ni-a-nus-mi-ca-li-a-tion; that’s too hard for you, is it? Well, then, spell phthisic. Oh, that’s physic you’re spellin’. Now, Larry, do you know the difference between physic and phthisic?”
“Well, I’ll expound it: phthisic, you see, manes – whisth, boys; will yez hould yer tongues there – phthisic, Larry, signifies – that is, phthisic – mind, it’s not physic I’m expounding, but phthisic – boys, will yez stop yer noise there – signifies – but, Larry, it’s so deep a word in larnin’ that I should draw it out on a slate for you: and now I remember, man alive, you’re not far enough on yet to undherstand it: but what’s physic, Larry?”
“Isn’t that, Sir, what my father tuck, the day he got sick, Sir?”
“That’s the very thing, Larry: it has what larned men call a medical property and resembles little rickety Dan Reilly there – it retrogrades. Och! och! I’m the boy that knows things – you see now how I expounded them two hard words for yez, boys – don’t yez?”
“Yes, Sir,” &c, &c.
“So, Larry, you haven’t the larnin’ for that either: but there’s an ‘asier one – spell me Ephabridotas (Epaphroditas) – you can’t! hut! man – you’re a big dunce entirely, that little shoneen Sharkey there below would sack. God be wid the day when I was the likes of you – it’s I that was the bright gorsoon entirely – and so sign was on it, when a great larned traveller – silence, boys, till I tell yez this [a dead silence] – from Thrinity College, all the way in Dublin, happened to meet me one day – seeing the slate and Gough, you see, undher my arm, he axes me – ‘Arrah, Mat’, says he, ‘what are you in?’ says he. ‘Faix, I’m in my breeches, for one thing,’ says I, off hand – silence, children, and don’t laugh so loud (ha, ha, ha!) So he looks closer at me: ‘I see that,’ says he; ‘but what are you reading?’ ‘Nothing, at all at all’ says I; ‘bad manners to the taste, as you may see, if you’ve your eyesight.’ ‘I think,’ says he, ‘you’ll be apt to die in your breeches;’ and set spurs to a fine saddle mare he rid – faith, he did so – thought me so cute – (omnes – ha, ha, ha!) Whisht, boys, whisht; isn’t it a terrible thing that I can’t tell yez a joke, but you split your sides laughing at it – (ha, ha, ha!) – don’t laugh so loud, Barney Casey.’ – (ha, ha, ha!)
Barney. – “I want to go out if, you plase, Sir.”
“Go, avick, you’ll be a good scholar yet, Barney. Faith, Barney knows whin to laugh, any how.”
“Well, Larry, you can’t spell Ephabridotas? – thin, here’s a short weeshy one, and whoever spells it will get the pins; - spell a red rogue wid three letters. You, Micky? Dan? Jack? Natty? Alick? Andy? Pether? Jim? Tim? Pat? Rody? you? you? you? Now, boys, I’ll hould ye that my little Andy here, that’s only beginning the Rational Spelling Book, bates you all; come here, Andy, alanna: now, boys, if he bates you, you must all bring him a little miscaun of butter between two kaleblades, in the mornin’, for himself ; here, Andy avourneen, spell red rogue wid three letthers.”
Ardy.- “M, a, t – Mat.”
“No, no, avick, that’s myself, Andy; it’s red rogue, Andy – hem! – F-.”
“F, o, x – fox.”
“That’s a man, Andy. Now, boys, mind what you owe Andy in the mornin’, plase God, won’t yez?”
“Yes, Sir.” “Yes, Sir.” “Yes, Sir.” “I will, Sir.” “And I will, Sir.” “And so will I, Sir,” &c. &c. &c.
I know not whether the Commissioners of Education found the monitorial system of instruction in such of the old hedge schools as maintained an obstinate resistance to the innovations of modern plans. That Bell and Lancaster deserve much credit for applying and extending the principle (speaking without any reference to its merits) I do not hesitate to grant; but it is unquestionably true, that the principle was reduced to practice in Irish hedge schools long before either of these worthy gentlemen were in existence. I do not, indeed, at present remember, whether or not they claim it as a discovery, or simply as an adaptation of a practice which experience, in accidental cases, had found useful, and which they considered capable of more extensive benefit. I remember many instances, however, in which it was applied – and applied, in my opinion, though not as a permanent system, yet more judiciously than it is at present. I think it a mistake to suppose that silence, among a number of children in school, is conducive to the improvement either of health or intellect. That the chest and the lungs are benefited by giving full play to the voice, I think will not be disputed; and that a child is capable of more intense study and abstraction in the din of a schoolroom, than in partial silence (if I may be permitted the word,) is a fact, which I think any rational observation would establish. There is something cheering and cheerful in the noise of friendly voices about us – it is a restraint taken off the mind, and it will run the lighter for it – it produces more excitement, and puts the intellect in a better frame for study. The obligation to silence, though it may give the master more ease, imposes a new moral duty upon the child, the sense of which must necessarily weaken his application. Let the boy speak aloud, if he pleases – that is, to a certain pitch; let his blood circulate; let the natural secretions take place, and the physical effluvia be thrown off by a free exercise of voice and limbs: but do not keep him dumb and motionless as a statue – his blood and his intellect both in a state of stagnation, and his spirit below zero. Do not send him in quest of knowledge alone, but let him have cheerful companionship on his way; for, depend upon it, that the man who expects too much either in discipline or morals from a boy, is not, in my opinion, acquainted with human nature. If an urchin titter at his own joke, or that of another – if he give him a jagg of a pin under his desk, imagine not that it will do him an injury, whatever phrenologists may say concerning the organ of destructiveness. It is an exercise to the mind, and he will return to his business with greater vigour and effect. Children are not men, nor influenced by the same motives – they do not reflect, because their capacity for reflection is imperfect; so is their reason: whereas, on the contrary their faculties for education (excepting judgement, which strengthens my argument) are in greater vigour in youth than in manhood. The general neglect of this distinction is, I am convinced, a stumbling-block in the way of youthful instruction, though it characterises all our modern systems. We should never forget that they are children; nor should we bind them by a system, whose standard is taken from the maturity of human intellect. We may bend our reason to theirs, but we cannot elevate their capacity to our own. We may produce an external appearance, sufficiently satisfactory to ourselves; but in the mean time, it is probably that the child may be growing in hypocrisy, and settling down into the habitual practice of a fictitious character.
But another and more serious
objection may be urged against the present strictness of scholastic discipline
– which is, that it deprives the boy of a sense of free and independent agency.
I speak this with limitations, for a master should be a monarch in his school,
but by no means a tyrant; and decidedly the very worst species of tyranny is
that which stretches the young mind upon the bed of too rigorous a discipline –
like the despot who exacted from his subjects so many barrels of perspiration,
whenever there came a long and severe frost. Do not familiarize the mind when
young to the toleration of slavery, lest it prove afterwards incapable of
recognising and relishing the principle of an honest and manly independence. I
have known many children, on whom a rigour of discipline, affecting the mind
only, (for severe corporal punishment is now almost exploded,) impressed a
degree of timidity almost bordering on pusillanimity. Away, then, with the
specious and long-winded arguments of a false and mistaken philosophy. A child
will be a child, and a boy a boy, to the conclusion of the chapter.
A hedge schoolmaster was the general scribe of the parish, to whom all who wanted letters or petitions written, uniformly applied – and these were glorious opportunities for the pompous display of pedantry; the remuneration usually consisted of a bottle of whisky.
A poor woman, for instance, informs Mat that she wishes to have a letter written to her son, who is a soldier abroad.
“An’ how long is he gone, ma’am?’
“Oh, thin, masther, he’s gone
from me goin’ an fifteen year; an’ a comrade of his was spakin’ to Jim Dwyer,
an’ says his ridgiment’s lyin’ in the
“An’ is it a letther or petition you’d be afhter havin’ me to indite for you, ma’am?”
“Och, a letther, Sir – a letther, masther; an’ may the Lord grant you all kinds of luck, good, bad, an’ indifferent, both to you an’ yours: an’ well it’s known, by the same token, that it’s yourself has the nice hand at the pen entirely, an’ can indite a letther or petition, that the priest of the parish mightn’t be ashamed to own to it.”
“Why, thin, ‘tis I that ‘ud scorn to deteriorate upon the superiminence of my own execution at inditin’ wid a pen in my hand: but would you feel a delectability in my superscriptionizin’ the epistolary correspondency, ma’am’, that I’m about to adopt?”
“Eagh? Och, what am I saying’! – Sir – masther – Sir? – the noise of the crathurs, you see, is got into my ears; and, besides, I’m a bit bothered on both sides of my head, ever since I had that weary weid.”
“Silence, boys; bad manners to yez, will ye be asy, you Lilluputian Boetians – by my s- hem – upon my credit, if I go down to that corner, I’ll castigate yez in dozens: I can’t spake to this dacent-woman, with your insuperable turbulentiality.”
“Ah, avourneen, masther, but the larnin’s a fine thing, any how; an’ maybe ‘tis yourself that hasn’t the tongue in your head, an’ can spake the tall, high-flown English; a wurrah, but your tongue hangs well, anyhow – the Lord increase it!”
“Lanty Cassidy, are you getting’ on wid yer Stereometry? festina, mi discipuli; vocabo Homerum, mox atque mox. You see, ma’am, I must tache thim to spake an’ effectuate a translation of the larned languages sometimes.”
“Arrah, masther dear, how did you get it all into your head, at all at all?”
“Silence, boys - tace – ‘conticuere omnes intentique ora tenebant.’ Silence, I say agin.’
“You could slip over, maybe, to Doran’s, masther, do you see? You’d do it betther there, I’ll engage: sure an’ you’d want a dhrop to steady your hand, any how.”
“Now, boys, I am going’ to indite a small taste of literal correspondency over at the public-house here; you literati will hear the lessons for me, boys, till afther I’m back agin; but mind, boys, absente domino, strepuunt servi – meditate on the philosophy of that; and, Mick Mahon, take your slate and put down all the names; and, upon my sou- hem – credit, I’ll castigate any boy guilty of misty manners on my retrogadation thither; - ergo momentote, cave ne titubes mandataque frangas.”
“Blood alive, masther, but that’s great spakin’ – begar, a judge couldn’t come up to you; but in throth, Sir, I’d be long sarry to throuble you; only he’s away fifteen year, and I wouldn’t thrust it to another; and the corplar that commands the ridgment would regard your handwrite and your inditin’.
“Don’t, ma’am, plade the slightest taste of apology.”
“I’m happy that I can sarve you, ma’am.”
“Mush, long life to you, masther, for that same, any how – but it’s yourself that’s deep in the larnin’ and the langridges; the Lord increase yer knowledge – sure, an’ we all want his blessin’, you know.”
“Well, boys, ye’ve been at it – here’s swelled faces and bloody noses. What blacked your eye, Callaghan? You’re a purty prime minister, ye boxing blackguard, you: I left you to keep pace among these factions, and you’ve kicked up a purty dust. What blackened your eye – eh?”
“I’ll tell you, Sir, whin I come in, if you plase.”
“Ho, you vagabones, this is the ould work of the faction between the Bradys and the Callaghans – bastin’ one another; but, by my sowl, I’ll baste you all through other. You don’t want to go out, Callaghan. You had fine work here since; there’s a dead silence now; but I’ll pay you presently. Here, Duggan go out wid Callaghan, and see that you bring him back in less than no time. It’s not enough for your fathers and brothers to be at it, who have a right to fight, but you must battle betune you – have your field days itself!”
(Duggan returns). –“Hoo – hoo – Sir, my nose. Oh, murdher sheery, my nose is broked!”
“Blow your nose, you spalpeen you – where’s Callaghan?”
“Oh, Sir, bad luck to him every day he rises out of his bed; he got a stone in his fist, too, that he hot me a pelt on the nose wid, and then made off home.”
“Home, is id? Start, boys, off – chase him, lie into him – asy, curse yez, take time getting’ out: that’s it – keep to him – don’t wait for me; take care, you little spalpeens, or you’ll brake your bones, so you will: blow the dust of this road, I can’t see my way in it!”
“Oh! murdher, Jem,
“My elbow’s smashed, Paddy. Bad luck to him – the devil fly away wid him – oh! ha! ha! – oh! ha! ha! murdher – hard fortune to me, but little Mickey Geery fell, and’ thripped the masther, an’ himself’s disabled now – his black breeches split too – look at him feelin’ them – oh! oh! ha! ha! by tare-an’onty, Callaghan will be murdhered, if they cotch him.”
This was a specimen of scholastic civilization which Ireland only could furnish; nothing, indeed, could be more perfectly ludicrous than such a chase; and such scenes were by no means uncommon in hedge schools, for, wherever severe punishment was dreaded – and, in truth, most of the hedge masters were unfeeling tyrants – the boy, if sufficiently grown to make a good race, usually broke away, and fled home at the top of his speed. The pack then were usually led on by the master, who mostly headed them himself, all in full cry exhibiting such a scene as should be witnesses in order to be enjoyed. The neighbours, men, women, and children, ran out to be spectators; the labourers suspended their work to enjoy it, assembling on such eminences as commanded a full view of the pursuit.
“Bravo, boys – success, masther: lie into him – where’s your buntin’ horn, Mr. Kavanagh? - he’ll bate yez, if ye don’t take the wind of him. Well done, Callaghan, keep up yer heart, yer sowl, and you’ll do it asy – you’re gaining on them, ma bouchal – the masther’s down, you gallows clip, an’ there’s none but the scholars afther ye – he’s safe.”
“Not he; I’ll hould a naggin, the poor scholar has him; don’t you see, he’s close at his heels?”
“Done, by my song – they’ll never come up wid him; listen to their leather crackers and cord-a-roys, as their knees bang agin one another. Hark forrit, boys! hark forrit! huzzaw, you thieves, huzzaw!”
“Your beagles is well winded, Mr. Kavanagh, and gives good tongue.”
“Well, masther, you had your chase for nothin’, I see.”
“Mr. Kavanagh,” another would observe, “I didn’t think you war so stiff in the hams, as to let the gorsoon bate you that way – your wind’s failin’, Sir.”
“The schoolmaster was abroad” then, and never was the “march of intellect” at once so rapid and unsuccessful.
During the summer season, it was the usual practice for the scholars to transfer their paper, slates, and books, to the green which lay immediately behind the school-house, where they stretched themselves on the grass, and resumed their business. Mat would bring out his chair, and, placing it on the shady side of the hedge, sit with his pipe in his mouth, the contented lord of his little realm, whilst nearly a hundred and fifty scholars, of all sorts and sizes, lay scattered over the grass, basking under the scorching sun in all the luxury of novelty, nakedness, and freedom. The sight was original and characteristic, and such as Lord Brougham would have been delighted with. – “The schoolmaster was abroad again.”
As soon as drew near, Mat would pull out his Ring-dial, holding it against the sun, and declare the hour.
“Now, boys, to yer dinners, and the rest to play.”
“Hurreo, darlins, to play – the masther says it’s dinner time! – whip – spur-an’-away-grey – hurroo – whack – hurroo!”
“Masther, Sir, my father bid me ax you home to yer dinner.”
“No, he’ll come to huz – come wid me if you plase, Sir.”
“Sir, never heed them; my mother, Sir, has some of what you know – of the flitch I brought to Shoneen on Last Aisther, Sir.”
This was a subject on which the boys gave themselves great liberty; an invitation, even when not accepted, being an indemnity for the day; it was usually followed by a battle between the claimants, and bloody noses sometimes were the issue. The master himself, after deciding to go where he was certain of getting the best dinner, generally put an end to the quarrels by a reprimand, and then gave notice to the disappointment claimants of the successive days on which he would attend at their respective houses.
“Boys, you all know my maxim; to go, for fear of any jealousies, boys, wherever I get the worst dinner; so tell me now, boys, what yer dacent mothers have all got at home for me?”
“My mother killed a fat hen yesterday, Sir, an’ you’ll have a lump of bacon and flat dutch’ along wid it.”
“We’ll have hung beef and greens, Sir.”
“We tried the praties this mornin’, Sir, an’ we’ll have new praties, and bread and butther, Sir.”
“Well, it’s all good, boys; but rather than show favour or affection, do you see, I’ll go wid Andy, here, and take share of the hen an’ bacon; but, boys, for all that, I’m fonder of the other things, you persave; and as I can’t go wid you, Mat, tell your respectable mother that I’ll be with her to-morrow; and with you, Lary, ma bouchal, the day afther.”
If a master were a single man, he usually “went round” with the scholars each night; but there were generally a few comfortable farmers, leading men in the parish, at whose house he chiefly resided; and the children of these men were treated with the grossest and most barefaced partiality. They were altogether privileged persons, and had liberty to beat and abuse the other children of the school, who were certain of being most unmercifully flogged, if they even dared to prefer a complaint against the favourites. Indeed the instances of atrocious cruelty in hedge schools were almost incredible, and such as, in the present enlightened time, would not be permitted. As to the state of the “poor scholar,” it exceeded belief; for he was friendless and unprotected. But though legal prosecutions in those days were never resorted to, yet, according to the characteristic notions of Irish retributive justice, certain cases occurred, in which a signal, and at times, a fatal vengeance was executed on the person of the brutal master. Sometimes the brothers and other relatives of the mutilated child would come in a body to the school, and flog the pedagogue with his own taws, until his back was lapped in blood. Sometimes they would beat him until few symptoms of life remained.
Occasionally he would get a nocturnal notice to quit the parish in a given time, under a penalty which seldom proved a dead letter in case of non-compliance. Not infrequently did those whom he had, when boys, treated with such barbarity, go back to him, when young men, not so much for education’s sake, as for the especial purpose of retaliating upon him for his former cruelty. When cases of this nature occurred, he found himself a mere cipher in his school, never daring to practise excessive severity in their presence. Instances have come to our own knowledge, of masters, who, for their mere amusement, would go out to the next hedge, cut a large branch of furze or thorn, and having first carefully arranged the children in a row round the walls of the school, their naked legs stretched out before them, would sweep around the branch, bristling with spikes and prickles, with all his force against their limbs, until, in a few minutes, a circle of blood was visible on the ground where they sat, their legs appearing as if they had been scarified. This the master did, whenever he happened to be drunk, or in a remarkably good humour. The poor children, however, were obliged to laugh loud, and enjoy it, though the tears were falling down their cheeks, in consequence of the pain he inflicted. To knock down a child with the fist, was considered nothing harsh; nor, if a boy were cut, or prostrated by a blow of a cudgel on the head, did he ever think of representing the master’s cruelty to his parents. Kicking on the shins with the point of a brogue or shoe, bound round the edge of the sole with iron nails, until was bone was laid open, was a common punishment; and as for the usual slapping, horsing, and flogging, they were inflicted with a brutality that in every case richly deserved for the tyrant, not only a peculiar whipping by the hand of the common executioner, but a separation from civilized society by transportation for life. It is a fact, however, that in consequence of the general severity practised in hedge schools, excesses of punishment did not often produce retaliation against the master; these were only exceptions, isolated cases that did not affect the general character of the discipline of such schools.
Now when we consider the total absence of all moral and religious principles in these establishments, and the positive presence of all that was wicked, cruel, and immoral, need we be surprised that occasional crimes of a dark and cruel character should be perpetrated? The truth is, that it is difficult to determine, whether unlettered ignorance itself were not preferable to the kind of education which the people then received.
I am sorry to perceive the writings of many respectable persons on Irish topics imbued with a tinge of spurious liberality, that frequently occasions them to depart from truth. To draw the Irish character as it is, as the model of all that is generous, hospitable, and magnanimous, is in some degree fashionable; but although I am as warm an admirer of all that is really excellent and amiable in my countrymen as any man, yet I cannot, nor will I, extenuate their weak and indefensible points. That they posses the elements of a noble and exalted national character, I grant; nay, that they actually do possess such a character, under limitations, I am ready to maintain. Irishmen, setting aside their religious and political prejudices, are grateful, affectionate, honourable, faithful, generous, and even magnanimous; but, under the stimulus of religious and political feeling, they are treacherous, cruel, and inhuman – will murder, burn, and exterminate, not only without compunction, but with a satanic delight worthy of a savage. Their education, indeed, was truly barbarous; they were trained and habituated to cruelty, revenge, and personal hatred, in their schools. Their knowledge was directed to evil purposes – disloyal principles were industriously insinuated into their minds by their teachers, most of whom were leaders of illegal associations. The matter placed in their hands was of a most inflammatory and pernicious nature, as regarded politics; and as far as religion and morality were concerned, nothing could be more gross and superstitious than the books which circulated among them. Eulogiums of murder, robbery, and theft, were read with delight in the histories of Freney the Robber, and the Irish Rogues and Rapparees; ridicule of the Word of God, and hatred to the Protestant Religion, in a book called Ward’s Cantos, written in Hudibrastic verse; the downfall of the Protestant Establishment, and the exaltation of the Romish Church, in Columbkill’s Prophecy, and latterly in that of Pastorini. Gross superstitions, political and religious ballads of the vilest doggerel, miraculous legends of holy friars persecuted by Protestants, and of signal vengeance inflicted by their divine power on those who persecuted them, were in the mouths of the young and old, and of course firmly fixed in their credulity.
Their weapons of controversy were
drawn from the Fifty Reasons, the Doleful Fall of Andrew Sall, the Catholic
Christian, the ground of the Catholic Doctrine, a Net for the Fishers of Men,
and several other publications of the same class. The books of amusement read
in these schools, including the first-mentioned in this list, were, the Seven
Champions of Christendom, the Seven Wise Masters and Mistresses of Rome, Don
Belianis of Greece, the Royal Fairy Tales, the Arabian Nights Entertainments,
Valentine and Orson, Gesta Romanorum, Dorastus and Faunia, the History of
Reynard the Fox, the Chevalier Faublax, to those I may add, the Battle of
Aughrim, Siege of Londonderry, History of the Young Ascanius, a name by which
the Pretender was designated, and the Renowned History of the Siege of Troy;
the Forty Thieves, Robin Hood’s Garland, the Garden of Love and Royal Flower of
Fidelity, Parismus and Parismenos; along with others, the names of which shall
not appear on these pages. With this specimen of education before our eyes, is
it not extraordinary that the people of
“Thady Bradly, will you come up wid your slate, till I examine you in your figures? Go out, Sir, and blow your nose first, and don’t be after making a looking-glass out of the sleeve of your jacket. Now that Thady’s out, I’ll hould you, boys, that none of yez knows how to expound his name – eh? do ye? But I needn’t ax – well, ‘tis Thaddeus; and maybe, that’s as much as the priest that christened him knew. Boys, you see what it is to have the larnin’ – to lade the life of a gintleman, and to be able to talk deeply wid the clergy! Now I could run down any man in arguin’, except a priest; and if the bishop was afther consecratin’ me, I’d have as much larnin’ as some of them; but you see I’m not consecrated – and – well, ‘tis no matther – I only say that the more’s the pity.
“Well, Thady, when did you go into subtraction?”
“The day beyond yesterday, Sir; yarra musha, sure ‘twas yourself, Sir, that shet me the first sum.”
“Masther, Sir, Thady bradly stole my cutter – that’s my cutter, Thady Bradly.”
“No it’s not.” (in a low voice).
“Sir, that’s my cutter – an’ there’s three nicks in id.”
“Thady, is that his cutter?”
“There’s your cutter for you. Sir, I found it on the flure and didn’t know who own’d it.”
“You know’d very well who own’d it; didn’t Dick Martin see you liftin’ it off o’ my slate, when I was out?”
“Well, if Dick Martin saw him, it’s enough: an’ ‘tis Dick that’s the tindher-hearted boy, an’ would knock you down wid a lump of a stone, if he saw you murtherin’ but a fly!
“Well, Thady – throth Thady, I fear you’ll undherstand subtraction better nor your tacher: I doubt you’ll apply to it “Practice’ all your life, ma bouchal, and that you’ll be apt to find it ‘the Rule of False’ at last. Well, Thady, from one thousand pounds, no shillings, and no pince, how will you subtract one pound? Put it down on your slate – this way,
1000 00 00
“I don’t know how to shet about it, masther.”
“You don’t, an’ how dare you tell me so, you shingawn you – you Cornelius Agrippa you – go to your sate and study it, or I’ll - ha! be off, you” –
“Twice nought is one.” (Whack, whack.) “Take that as an illustration – is that one?”
“Faith, masther, that’s two, any how; but, Sir, is not wanst nought nothin’; now, masther, sure there can’t be less than nothin’”
“Very good, Sir.”
“If wanst nought be nothing’, then twice nought must be somethin’, for it’s double what wanst nought is – see how I’m sthruck for nothing, an‘ me knows it – hoo! Hoo! Hoo!”
“Get out, you Esculapian; but I’ll give you something’, by-and-by, just to make you remember that you know nothin’ – off wid you to your sate, you spalpeen you – to tell me that there can’t be less than nothin’ when it’s well known that sporting Squire O’Canter is worth a thousand pounds less than nothin’.”
“Paddy Doran, come up to your ‘Intherest.’ Well, Paddy, what’s the intherest of a hundred pound, at five per cent? Boys, have manners you thieves you.”
“Do you mane, masther, per cent. per annum?”
“To be sure I do – how do you state it?”
“I’ll say, as a hundher pound is to one year, so is five per cent. per annum.”
“Hum – why what’s the number of the sum, Paddy?”
“’Tis No. 84, Sir.” (The master steals a glance at the Key to Gough.)
“I only want to look at it in the Gough, you see, Paddy, - an’ how dare you give me such an answer, you big-headed dunce, you – go off an’ study it, you rascally Lilliputian – off wid you, and don’t let me see your ugly mug, till you know it.”
“Now, gintlemen, for the Classics; and first for the Latinaarians – Larry Cassidy, come up wid your Aisop. Larry, you’re a year at Latin, an’ I don’t think you know Latin for frize, what your own coat is made of, Larry. But, in the first place, Larry, do you know what a man that taiches Classics is called?”
“A schoolmasther, Sir.” (Whack, whack, whack.)
“Take that for your ignorance – and that to the back of it – ha; that’ll taiche you – to call a man that taiches Classics a schoolmasther, indeed! ‘Tis a Profissor of Humanity itself, he is – (whack, whack, whack,) – ha! you ringleader, you; you’re as bad as Dick M’Growler, that no masther in the county could get any good of, in regard that he put the whole school together by the ears, wherever he’d be, though the spalpeen wouldn’t stand fight himself. Hard fortune to you! to go to put such an affront upon me, an’ me a Profissor of Humanity. What’s Latin for pantaloons?”
“Fem – fem – femi-“
“No, it’s not, Sir.”
“Can you do it?”
“Don’t strike me, Sir, don’t strike me, Sir, an’ I will.”
“I say, can you do it?”
“Femorali,” – (whack, whack, whack,) – “Ah, Sir! ah, Sir! ‘tis femorali – ah, Sir! ‘tis femorali – ah, Sir!”
“This thratement to a Profissor of Humanity – (drives him head over heels to his seat). – Now, Sir, maybe you’ll have Latin for throwsers agin, or by my sowl, if you don’t, you must peel, and I’ll tache you what a Profissor of Humanity is!
“Dan Roe, you little starved-looking spalpeen, will you come up to your Illocution? – and a purty figure you cut at it, wid a voice like a penny thrumpet, Dan! Well, what speech have you got now, Dan, ma bouchal. Is it, ‘Romans, counthrymin, and lovers?’”
“No, Shir; yarrah, didn’t I spake that speech before?”
“No, you didn’t, you fairy. Ah, Dan, little as you are, you take credit for more than ever you spoke, Dan, agrah; but, faith, the same thrick will come agin you some time or other, avick! Go and get that speech betther; I see by your face, you haven’t it: off wid you, and get a patch upon your breeches, your little knees are through them, though ‘tisn’t by prayin’ you’ve wore them, any how, you little hop-o’-my-thumb you, wid a voice like a rat in a thrap; off wid you, man alive!”
Sometimes the neighbouring gentry used to call into Mat’s establishment, moved probably by a curiosity excited by his character, and the general conduct of the school. On one occasion Squire Johnston and an English gentleman paid him rather an unexpected visit. Mat had that morning got a new scholar, the son of a dancing tailor in the neighbourhood; and as it was reported that the son was nearly equal to the father in that accomplishment, Mat insisted on having a specimen of his skill. He was the more anxious on this point, as it would contribute to the amusement of a travelling schoolmaster, who had paid him rather a hostile visit, which Mat, who dreaded a literary challenge, feared might occasion him some trouble.
“Come up here, you little sartor, till we get a dacent view of you. You’re a son of Neil Malone’s – aren’t you?”
“Yes, and of Mary Malone, my mother, too, Sir.”
“Why thin, that’s not bad, any how – what’s your name?”
“Now, Dick, ma bouchal, isn’t it true that you can dance a horn-pipe?”
“Here, Larry Brady, take the door off the hinges, an’ lay it down on the flure, till Dick Malone dances the Humours of Glynn: silence, boys, not a word; but just keep lookin’ an.”
“Who’ll sing, Sir? for I can’t be afther dancin’ a step widout the music.”
“Boys, which of yez’ll sing for Dick? I say, boys, will none of yez give Dick the Harmony? Well, come, Dick, I’ll sing for you myself:-
“Torral lol, lorral
lol, lorral lol, lorral, lol –
“I say, Misther Kavanagh,” said the strange master, “what angle does Dick’s heel form in the second step of the treble, from the kibe on the left foot to the corner of the door forninst him?”
To this mathematical poser Mat made no reply, only sang the tune with redoubled loudness and strength, whilst little Dicky pounded the old crazy door with all his skill and alacrity. The “boys” were delighted.
“Bravo, Dick, that’s a man, - welt the flure – cut the buckle – murder the clocks – rise upon suggaun, and sink upon gad – down the flure flat, foot about – keep on foot on the ground and t’other never off it,” saluted him from all parts of the house.
Sometimes he would receive a sly hint, in a feigned voice, to call for “Devil stick the Fiddler,” alluding to the master. Now a squeaking voice would chime in; by and by another, and so on, until the master’s bass had a hundred and forty trebles, all in chorus to the same tune.
Just at this moment the two gentlemen entered; and, reader, you may conceive, but I cannot describe, the face which Mat (who sat with his back to the door, and did not see them until they were some time in the house), exhibited on this occasion. There he sung ore rotundo, throwing forth an astounding tide of voice; whilst little Dick, a thin, pale-faced urchin, with his head, from which the hair stood erect, sunk between his hollow shoulders, was performing prodigious feats of agility.
“What’s the matter? what’s the matter?” said the gentlemen. “Good morning, Mr Kavanagh!”
“- Tooral lol, lol –
Oh good – Oh, good morning – gintlemen, with extreme kindness”, replied Mat, rising suddenly up, but not removing his hat, although the gentlemen instantly uncovered.
“Why, thin, gintlemen,” he continue, “you have caught us in our little relaxations to-day; but – hem! – I mane to give the boys a holiday for the sake of this honest and respectable gintleman in the frize jock, who is not entirely ignorant, you persave, of litherature; and we had a small taste, gintlemen, among ourselves, of Sathurnalian licentiousness, ut ita dicam, in regard of – hem! - in regard of his lad here, who was dancing a hornpipe upon the door, and we, in absence of betther music, had to supply him with the harmony; but as your honours know, gintlemen, the greatest men have bent themselves on especial occasions.”
“Make no apology, Mr. Kavangh; it’s very commendable in you to bend yourself by condescending to amuse your pupils.”
“I beg your pardon, Squire, I can take freedoms with you; but perhaps the concomitant gentleman, your friend here, would be pleased to take my stool. Indeed, I always use a chair, but the back of it, if I may be permitted the use of a small portion of jocularity, was as frail as the fair sect: it went home yesterday to be mended. Do, Sir, condescend to be sated. Upon my reputation, Squire, I’m sorry that I have not accommodation for you, too, Sir; except one of these hassocks, which, in joint considheration with the length of your honour’s legs, would be, I anticipate, rather low; but you, Sir, will honour me by taking the stool.”
By considerable importunity he forced the gentleman to comply with his courtesy; but no sooner had he fixed himself upon the seat, than it overturned, and stretched him, black coat and all, across a wide concavity in the floor nearly filled up with white ashes produced from mountain turf. In a moment he was completely white on one side, and exhibited a most laughable appearance; his hat, too, was scorched, and nearly burned on the turf coals. Squire Johnston laughed heartily, as did the other schoolmaster, whilst the Englishman completely lost his temper – swearing that such another uncivilized establishment was not between the poles.
“I solemnly supplicate upwards of fifty pardons,” said Mat; “bad manners to it for a stool! but, your honour, it was my own defect of speculation, bekase, you see, it’s minus a leg – a circumstance of which you warn’t in a proper capacity to take cognation, as not being personally acquainted with it. I humbly supplicate upwards of fifty pardons.”
The Englishman was now nettled, and determined to wreak his ill temper on Mat, by turning him and his establishment into ridicule.
“Isn’t this, Mister – I forget your name, Sir.”
“Mat Kavanagh, at your sarvice.”
“Very well, my learned friend, Mr. Mat Kevanagh, isn’t this precisely what is called a hedge school?”
“A hedge-school!” replied Mat, highly offended; “my seminary a hedge-school! No, Sir; I scorn the cognomen in toto. This, Sir, is a Classical and Mathematical Seminary, under the personal superintendence of your humble servant.”
“Sir,” replied the other master, who till then was silent, wishing perhaps to sack Mat in presence of the gentlemen, “it is a hedge-school; and he is no scholar, but an ignoramus, whom I’d sack in three minutes, that would be ashamed of a hedge-school.”
“Ay,” says Mat, changing his tone, and taking the cue from his friend, whose learning he dreaded, “it’s just, for argument’s sake, a hedge-school; and, what is more, I scorn to be ashamed of it.”
“And do you not teach occasionally under the hedge behind the house here?”
“Granted,” replied Mat; “and now where’s your vis consequentioe?”
“Yes,” subjoined the other, “produce your vis consequentioe; but any one may know by a glance that the devil a much of it’s about you.”
The Englishman himself was rather at loss for his vis consequentioe, and replied, “Why don’t you live, and learn, and teach like civilized beings, and not assemble like wild asses – pardon me, my friend, for the simile – at least like wild colts, in such clusters behind the ditches?”
“A clusther of wild coults!” said Mat; “that shows what you are; no man of classical larnin’ would use such a word. If you had stuck at the asses, we know it’s a subject you’re at home in – ha! ha! ha! but you brought the joke on yourself, your honour – that is, if it is a joke – ha! ha! ha!”
“Permit me, Sir,” replied the strange master, “to ax your honour one question – did you receive a classical education? Are you college-bred?”
“Yes,” replied the Englishman; “I can reply to both in the affirmative. I’m a Cantabrigian.”
“You are a what?” asked Mat.
“Come, Sir, you must explain yourself, if you plase, I’ll take my oath that’s neither a classical nor a mathematical tarm.”
The gentleman smiled. “I was
educated in the
“Well,” says Mat, “and may be you would be as well off if you had picked up your larnin’ in our own Thrinity; there’s good picking in Thrinity, for gentlemen like you, that are sober, and harmless about the brains, in regard of not being overly bright.”
“You talk with contempt of a
hedge-school,” replied the other master. “Did you never heard, for all so long
as you war in
“’Inter lucos Academi quaerere verum.’
What was Plato himself but a hedge schoolmaster? and, with humble submission, it casts no slur on an Irish tacher to compared to him, I think. You forget also, Sir, that the Dhruids taught under their oaks: eh?”
“Ay,” added Mat,” and the Tree of Knowledge, too. Faith, an’ if that same tree was now in being, if there wouldn’t be hedge schoolmasters, there would be plenty of hedge scholars, any how – particularly if the fruit was well tasted.”
“I believe, Millbank, you must give in,” said Squire Johnston. “I think you have got the worst of it.”
“Why,” said Mat, “if the gintleman’s not afther bein’ sacked clane, I’m not here.”
“Are you a mathematician?” inquired Mat’s friend, determined to follow up his victory; “do you know Mensuration?”
“Come, I do know Mensuration,” said the Englishman, with confidence.
“And how would you find the solid contents of a load of thorns? Said the other.
“Ay, or how will you consther and parse me this sintince?” said Mat -
“’Ragibus et clotibus
solemnus stopere windous,
“Aisy, Misther Kavanagh,” replied the other; “let the Cantabrigian resolve the one I propounded him first.”
“And let the Cantabrigian then take up mine,” said Mat: “and if he can expound it, I’ll give him a dozen more to bring home in his pocket, for the Cambridge folk to crack after their dinner, along wid their nuts.”
“Can you do the ‘Snail’?” inquired the stranger.
“Or ‘A and B on opposite sides of a wood,’ without the Key?” said Mat.
“Maybe,” said the stranger, who threw off the frize jock, and exhibited a muscular frame of great power, cased in an old black coat – “maybe the gintleman would like to get a small taste of the ‘Scuffle’”
“Not at all,” replied the
Englishman; “I have not the least curiosity for it – I assure you I have not.
What the deuce do they mean,
“Hand me down that cudgel, Jack Brady, till I show the gintleman the ‘Snail’ and the ‘Maypole,’” said Mat.
“Never mind, my lad; never mind,
Mr. – a – Kevanagh. I give up the contest; I resign you the palm, gentlemen.
The hedge school has beaten
“One poser more, before you go, Sir,” said Mat – “Can you give me Latin for a game-egg in two words?”
“Eh, a game egg? No, by my honour, I cannot – gentlemen, I yield.”
“Ay, I thought so,” replied Mat; “and, faith, I believe the devil a much of the game bird about you – but bring it home to Cambridge, anyhow, and let them hew their cuds upon it, your persave; and, by the sowl of Newton, it will puzzle the whole establishment, or my name’s not Kavanagh.”
“It will, I am convinced,” replied the gentleman, eyeing the Herculean frame of the strange teacher and the substantial cudgel in Mat’s hand; “it will, undoubtedly. But who is this most miserable naked lad here, Mr. Kevanagh?”
“Why, Sir,” replied Mat, with his broad Milesian face, expanded by a forthcoming joke, “he is, Sir, in a sartin and especial particularity, a namesake of your own.”
“How is that, Mr. Kevanagh?”
“My name’s not Kevanagh,” replied Mat, “but Kavanagh; the Irish A for ever!”
“Well, but how is the lad a namesake of mine?” said the Englishman.
“Bekase, your see, he’s a poor scholar, Sir,” replied Mat: “an’ I hope your honour will pardon me for the facetiousness –
“’Quid vetat ridentum dicere verum!’
as Horace says to Maecenas, in the first of the Sathirs.”
“There, Mr. Kavanagh, is the price of a suit of clothes for him.”
“Michael, will you rise up, Sir, and make the gintleman a bow? He has given you the price of a shoot of clothes, ma bouchal.”
Michael came up with a very tattered coat hanging about him; and, catching his fore-lock, bobbed down his head after the usual manner, saying – “Musha yarrah, long life to your honour every day you rise, an’ the Lord grant your sowl a short stay in purgatory, wishin’ ye, at the same time, a happy death aftherwards!”
The gentleman could not stand this, but laughed so heartily that the argument was fairly knocked up.
It appeared, however, that Squire Johnston did not visit Mat’s school from mere curiosity.
“Mr. Kavanagh,” said he, “I would be glad to have a little private conversation with you, and will thank you to walk down the road a little with this gentleman and me.”
When the gentleman and Mat had gone ten or fifteen yards from the school door, the Englishman heard himself congratulated in the following phrases by the scholars:-
“How do you feel afther being’ sacked, gintleman? The masther sacked you! You’re a purty scholar! It’s not you, Mr. Johnston, it’s the other. You’ll come to argue agin, will you? Where’s your head, now? Bah! Come back till we put the suggaun about your neck. Bah! You must go to school to Cam-bridge agin, before you can argue an Irisher! Look at the figure he cuts! Why duv ye put the one foot past the other, when ye walk, for? Bah! Dunce!!”
“Well, boys, never heed yez for that,” shouted Mat; “never fear but I’ll castigate yez, ye spalpeen villains, as soon as I go back. Sir,” said Mat, “I supplicate upwards of fifty pardons. I assure you, Sir, I’ll give them a most inordinate castigation, for their want of respectability.”
“What’s the Greek for tobaccy?” they continued – “or for Larry O’Toole? or for bletherum skite? How many beans make five? What’s the Latin for poteen, and flummery? You a mathemathitician! I’d lick you myself! What’s Greek for gosther?” – with many other expressions of a similar stamp.
“Sir,” said Mat, “lave the
justice of this in my hands. By the sowl of
“You have heard, Mr. Kavanagh,”
continued Mr. Johnston, as they went along, “of the burning of
“And how could I do you a sarvice in it, Sir?” inquired Mat.
“Why,” replied Mr. Johnston, “from the children. If you could sift them in an indirect way, so as, without suspicion, to ascertain the absence of a brother, or so, on that particular night, I might have it in my power to serve you, Mr. Kavanagh. There will be a large reward offered to-morrow, besides.”
“Oh, damn the penny of the reward ever I’d finger, even if I knew the whole conflagration,” said Mat; “but lave the siftin’ of the children wid myself, and if I can get anything out of them you’ll hear from me; but your honour must keep a close mouth, or you might have occasion to lend me the money for my own funeral some o’ these days. Good morning, gintlemen.”
The gentlemen departed.
“May the most ornamental kind of hard fortune pursue you every day you rise, you desavin’ villain, that would have me turn informer, bekase your brother-in-law, rack-rintin’ Moore’s stables and horses were burnt; and to crown all, make the innocent children the means of hanging their own fathers or brothers, you rap of the devil! But I’d see you and all your breed in the flames o’hell first.” Such was Mat’s soliloquy as he entered the school on his return.
“Now, boys, I’m afther givin’ yez to-day and to-morrow for a holy-day; to-morrow we will have our Gregory; a fine faste, plinty of poteen, and a fiddle; and you will tell your brothers and sisters to come in the evening to the dance. You must bring plinty of bacon, hung beef, and fowls, bread and cabbage – not forgetting the phaties, and sixpence a-head for the crathur, boys, won’t yez?”
The next day, of course, was one of festivity: every boy brought, in fact, as much provender as would serve six; but the surplus gave Mat some good dinners for three months to come. This feast was always held upon St. Gregory’s day, from which circumstance it had its name. The pupils were at liberty for that day to conduct themselves as they pleased: and the consequence was, that they became generally intoxicated, and were brought home in that state to their parents. If the children of two opposite parties chanced to be at the same school, they usually had a fight, of which the master was compelled to feign ignorance; for if he identified himself with either faction, his residence in the neighbourhood would be short. In other districts, where Protestant schools were in existence, a battle-royal commonly took place between the opposite establishments, in some field lying half-way between them. This has often occurred.
Every one must necessarily be acquainted with the ceremony of barring out. This took place at Easter and Christmas. The master was brought or sent out on some fool’s errand, the door shut and barricaded, and the pedagogue excluded, until a certain term of vacation was extorted. With this, however, the master never complied until all his efforts at forcing an entrance were found to be ineffectual; because if he succeeded in getting in, they not only had no claim to a long vacation, but were liable to be corrected. The schoolmaster had also generally the clerkship of the parish; an office, however, which in the country parts of Ireland is without any kind of salary, beyond what results from the patronage of the priest; a matter of serious moment to a teacher, who, should he incur his Reverence’s displeasure, would be immediately driven out of the parish. The master, therefore, was always tyrannical and insolent to the people, in proportion as he stood high in the estimation of the priest. He was also a regular attendant at all wakes and funerals, and usually sat among a crowd of the village sages engaged in exhibiting his own learning, and in recounting the number of his religious and literary disputations.
One day, soon after the visit of the gentleman above mentioned, two strange men came into Mat’s establishment – rather, as Mat thought, in an unceremonious manner
“If your name Matthew Kavanagh?” said one of them.
“That is indeed the name that’s upon me,” said Mat, with rather an infirm voice, whilst his face got as pale as ashes.
“Well,” said the fellow, “we’ll jist trouble you to walk with us a bit.”
“How far, with submission, are yez goin’ to bring me?” said Mat.
“Do you know Johnny Short’s hotel?”
“My curse upon you Findramore,” exclaimed Mat, in a paroxysm of anguish, “every day you rise! but your breath’s unlucky to a schoolmasther; and it’s no lie what was often said, that no schoolmasther ever thruv in you, but something ill came over him.”
“Don’t curse the town, man alive,”
said the constable, “but curse your own ignorance and folly; any way, I wouldn’t
stand in your coat for the wealth of the three kingdoms. You’ll undoubtedly
swing, unless you turn king’s evidence. It’s about
“Damn the bit of that I’d do, even if I knew any thing about it; but, God be praised for it, I can set them all at defiance – that I’m sure of. Gintlemen, innocence is a jewel.”
“But Barny Brady, that keeps the shebeen house – you know him – is of another opinion. You and some of the Findramore boys took a sup in Barny’s on a sartin night?”
“Ay, did we, on many a night, and
will agin, plase
“I know a thrick worth two of that,” said the man; “I thank ye kindly, Mr. Kavanagh.”
One Tuesday morning, about six weeks after this event, the largest crowd ever remembered in that neighbourhood was assembled at Findramore Hill, whereon had been erected a certain wooden machine, yclept – a gallows. A little after the hour of , two carts were descried winding slowly down a slope in the southern side of the town and church, which I have already mentioned, as terminating the view along the level road north of the hill. As soon as they were observed, a low, suppressed ejaculation of horror ran through the crowd, painfully perceptible to the ear – in the expression of ten thousand murmurs all blending into one deep groan – and to the eye, by a simultaneous motion that ran through the crowd like an electric shock. The place of execution was surrounded by a strong detachment of military; and the carts that conveyed the convicts were also strongly guarded.
As the prisoners approached the fatal spot, which was within sight of the place where the outrage had been perpetrated, the shrieks and lamentations of their relations and acquaintances were appalling indeed. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, cousins, and all persons to the most remote degree of kindred and acquaintanceship, were present – all excited by the alternate expression of grief and low-breathed vows of retaliation; not only relations, but all who were connected with them by the bonds of their desperate and illegal oaths. Every eye, in fact, coruscated with a wild and savage fire, that shot from under brows knit in a spirit that seemed to cry out Blood, vengeance – blood, vengeance! The expression was truly awful; and what rendered it more terrific was the writhing reflection, that numbers and physical force were unavailing against a comparatively small body of armed troops. This condensed the fiery impulse of the moment into an expression of subdued rage, that really shot like livid gleams from their visages.
At length carts stopped under the gallows; and, after a short interval spent in devotional exercise, three of the culprits ascended to the platform, who, after recommending themselves to God, and avowing their innocence, although the clearest possible evidence of guilt had been brought against them, were launched into another life, among the shrieks and groans of the multitude. The other three then ascended; two of them either declined, or had not strength to address the assembly. The third advanced to the edge of the boards – it was Mat. After two or three efforts to speak, in which he was unsuccessful from bodily weakness, he at length addressed them as follows:-
“My friends and good people – In hopes that you may be all able to demonstrate the last proposition laid down by a dying man, I undertake to address you before I depart to that world where Euclid, De Carts, and many other larned men are gone before me. There is nothing in all philosophy more true, than that, as the multiplication-table says, ‘two and two makes four;’ but it is equally veracious and worthy of credit, that if you do not abnegate this system that you work the common rules of your proceedings by – if you don’t become loyal men, and give up burnin’ and murdherin’, the solution of it will be found on the gallows. I acknowledge myself to be guilty, for not separatin’ myself clane from yez; we have been all guilty, and may God forgive thim that jist now departed wid a lie in their mouth.”
Here he was interrupted by a volley of execrations and curses, mingled with “stag, informer, thraitor to the thrue cause1” which, for some time, compelled him to be silent.
“You may curse,” continued Mat;
“but it’s too late now to abscond the truth – the ‘sum’ of my wickedness and folly is worked out, and you see the ‘answer.’ God forgive me, many a young
crarthur I enticed into the Ribbon
business, and now it’s to
 The Scuffle was an exercise in fractions, illustrated by a quarrel between the first four letters of the alphabet, who went to loggerheads about a sugar-plum. A, for instance, seized upon three-fourths of it; but B snapped two-thirds of what he had got, and put it into his hat; C then knocked off his hat, and as worthy Mr. Gough say, “to work they went.” After kicking and cuffing each other in prime style, each now losing and again gaining alternatively, the question is wound up by requiring the pupil to ascertain what quantity of the sugar-plum each had at the close.
 Nothing can more decidedly prove the singular and extraordinary thirst for education and general knowledge which characterises the Irish people, than the shifts to which they have often gone in order to gain even a limited portion of instruction. Of this the Irish Night School is a complete illustration. The Night School was always opened either for those of early age, who from their poverty were forced to earn something for their own support during the day; or to assist their parents; or for grown young men who had never had an opportunity of acquiring education in their youth, but who now devoted a couple of hours during a winter’s night, when they could do nothing else, to the acquisition of reading and writing, and sometimes of accounts. I know not how it was, but the Night School boys, although often thrown into the way of temptation, always conducted themselves with singular propriety. Indeed, the fact, is, after all, pretty easily accounted for – inasmuch as none but the steadiest, most sensible, and best conducted young men ever attended it.
 This alludes to a question in Gough’s Arithmetic, which is considered difficult by hedge schoolmasters.
 The couples are shaped like the letter A, and sustain the roof; the banks, or rafters, cross them from one side to another like the line inside the letter
 The Author, in order to satisfy his readers that the character of Matt Kavanagh as a hedge schoolmaster is not by any means overdrawn, begs to subjoin (verbatim) the following authentic production of one, which will sufficiently explain itself, and given an excellent notion of the mortal feuds and jealousies which subsist between persons of this class:-
“TO THE PUBLIC. – Having read a printed Document, emanating, as it were, from a vile, mean, and ignorant miscreant of the name of --- calumniating and vituperating me; it is evidently the production of a vain, supercilious, disappointed, frantic, purblind maniac of the name of ---, a bedlamite to all intents and purposes, a demon in the disguise of virtue, and a herald of hell in the paradise of innocence, possessing neither principle, honor, nor honesty; a vain and vapid creature whom nature plumed out for the annoyance of --- and its vicinity.
It is well known and appreciated
by an enlightened and discerning public, that I am as competently qualified to
conduct the duties of a Schoolmaster as any Teacher in
The notorious impostor and biped
animal already alluded to, actuated by an overweening desire of notoriety, and
in order to catch the applause of some one, grovelling in the morasses of
insignificance and vice, like himself, leaves his native obscurity, and
indulges in falsehood, calumny, and defamation. I am convinced that none of the
highly respectable Teachers of --- has had any participation in this scurrilous
transaction, as I consider them to be sober, moral, exemplary, well-conducted
men, possessed of excellent literary abilities; but this expatriated ruffian
and abandoned profligate, being aware of the marked and unremitting attention which I have heretofore invariably
paid to the scholars committed to my care, and the astonishing proficiency
which, generally speaking, will be an accompaniment of competency, instruction,
assiduity and perseverance, devised this detestable and fiendish course in
order to tarnish and injure my unsullied character,
it being generally known and justly acknowledged that I never gave utterance to
an unguarded word – that I have always conducted myself as a man of
inoffensive, mild, and gentle habits, of unblemished moral character, and
perfectly sensible of the importance of inculcating on the young mind, moral
and religious instruction, a love of decency, cleanliness, industry, honesty,
and truth – that my only predominant fault, some years ago, consisted in
partaking in copious libations of the ‘Mountain Dew,’ which I shall for ever
mourn with heartfelt compunction. But
I return thanks to the Great God, for more than eighteen months my lips have
not partaken of that infuriating beverage to which I was unfortunately
attached, and my habitual propensity vanished at the sanctified and
every-memorable sign of the cross – the memento of man’s lofty destination, and
miraculous injunction, of the great, illustrious, and never-to-be-forgotten
Apostle of Temperance. I am now an humble member of this exemplary and
excellent society, which is engaged in the glorious and hallowed cause of
promoting Temperance, with the zealous solicitude of parents. – I am one of
these noble men, because they are sober
men, who have triumphed over their habits, conquered their passions, and
put their predominant propensities to flight; yes, kind-hearted, magnanimous,
and lofty high-minded conqueror, I have to announce to you that I have gained
repeated victories, and consigned to oblivion the hydra-headed monster, Intemperance;
and in consequence of which, have been consigned from poverty and misery, to
affluence and happiness, possessing ‘ready rino,’ or ample pecuniary means to
make one comfortable and happy, thereby injoying “the feast of reason and the
flow of soul,” i.e. – an honest,
cozy, warm, comfortable cup of tea, to consign my drooping, sober, and cheerful
spirits into the flow of soul, and philosophy of pleasure. I, therefore, do
feel I had no occasion to speak a word in vindication of my conduct and
character. A conspiracy in embryo, formed by a triumvirate, was brought to
maturity by as experienced a calumniator as Canty, the Hangman from
In conclusion, to the R.C. Clergymen of ---, and the respectable portion of the laity, I return my ardent heartfelt thanks – to the former, who are the pious, active, and indefatigable instructors of the peasantry, their consolers in affliction, their resource in calamity, their preceptors and models in religion, the trustees of their interest, their visitors in sickness, and their companions on their beds of death; and from the latter I have experienced considerable gratitude in unison with all the other fine qualities inherent in their nature; while neither time nor place shall ever banish from my grateful heart, their urbanity, hospitability, munificence, and kindness to me on every occasion.
I have the honour to be very devoted, much obliged, and grateful Servant,
The itinerant cosmopolite, to use his own phraseology, accuses me with being lame. – I reply, so was Lord Byron; and why not a Star from Dromcoloher be similarly honoured, for
The following poetic lines are to be inserted in reply to the doggerel composition of the equivocating and hoary champion of wilful and deliberate falsehood, and a compound of knavery, deception, villainy, and dissimulation, wherever he goes: -
O’Kelly’s my name,
We are obliged to omit some remarks that accompanied the following poetic effusion:-
A book to the blind
signifies not a feather,
The writer of this, after passing the highest eulogium on the Rev. Mr. O’Kelly, P.P., Kilmichael, in speaking of him, says,
In whom the Heavenly
virtues do unite,
A gentleman having applied for a transcript of this interesting document for his daughter, Mr. O’Kelly says, this transcript is given with perfect cheerfulness, at the suggestion of the amiable, accomplished, highly-gifted, original genius, Miss Margaret Brew of ---, to whom, with the most respectful defence, I take the liberty of applying the following most appropriate poetic lines:-
Kilrush, a lovely
I avail myself of this opportunity, in the most humble posture, the pardon and indulgence of that nobleman of the most profound considerable talents, unbounded liberality, and genuine worth, Crofton M. Vandeleur Esq., for the culpable omission, which I have incautiously and inadvertly made, in not prior to, and before all, tendered his honor, my warm hearted and best acknowledgements, and participating in the general joy, visible on every countenance, occasioned by the restoration to excellent health, which his most humane, truly charitable, and illustrious beloved patroness of virtue and morality, Lady Grace T. Vandeleur, now enjoys. May they very late, when they see their children, as well as their numerous, happy and contented tenantry, flourish around them in prosperity, virtue, honour, and independence – may they then resign their temporal care, to partake of the never-ending joys, glory, and felicity of Heaven; these are the fervent wishes and ardent prayers of their ever grateful servant, JOHN O’KELLY.
O rouse my muse and
launch in praise forth,
I hope, kind and extremely patient reader, you will find my piece humorous, interesting, instructive, and edifying. In delineating and drawing to life the representation of my assailant, aggressor, and barefaced calumniator. I have preferred the natural order, free, and familiar style, to the artificial order, grave, solemn, and antiquated style; and in doing so, I have had occasion to have reference to the vocal metaphrase of some words. With a due circumspection of the use of their synonymy, taking care that the import and acceptation of each phrase and word should not appear frequently synonymous. Again. I have applied the whip unsparingly to his back, and have given him such a laudable castigation, as to compel him to comport himself in future with propriety and politeness; yes, it is quite obvious that I have done it, by an appropriate selection of catogoramatic and cencatogormatic terms and words. I have been particularly careful to adorn it with some poetic spontaneous effusions, and although I own to you, that I have no pretentions to be an adept in poetry, as I have only moderately sipped of the Helicon Fountain; yet from my knowledge of Orthometry I can prove the correctness of it, by special and general metric annalysis. In conclusion, I have not indulged in Rhetorical figures and Tropes, but have rigidly adhered to the use of figurative and literal language; finally I have used a concatenation of appropriate mellifluous epithets, logically and philosophically accurate, copious, sublime, eloquent, and harmonious.
The author of this extempore production, is writing a Treatise on Mental Calculations, to which are appended more than three hundred scientific, ingenious, and miscellanous questions, with their solutions.
Mental calculations for the first time are simplified, which, will prove a grand desideratum and of the greatest importance in mercantile affairs.
You will not wonder
when I will ye,
There are Sixty-Eight Subscribers
to the forthcoming work, Gentlemen of considerable Talents, Liberality and
worth; - who, with perfect cheerfulness, have evinced a most laudable
disposition to foster, encourage and reward, a specimen of Irish Manufacture and Native Talent, in so humble a person as their
extremely grateful, much obliged, and fateful servant, JOHN O’KELLY,”
 In the hedge schools it was usual for the unfortunate culprit about to be punished, to avail himself of all possible stratagems that were calculated to diminish his punishment. Accordingly, when put upon another boy’s back to be horsed, as it was termed, he slipped a large pin, called a corker, into his mouth, and on receiving the first blow struck it into the neck of the boy who carried him. This caused the latter to jump and bounce about in such a manner, than many of the blows directed at his burthen missed their aim. It was an understood thing, however, that the boy carrying the felon should aid him in every way in his power, by yielding, moving, and shifting about, so that it was only when he seemed to abet the master that the pin was applied to him.
 At the spelling lesson the children were obliged to put down each a pin, and he who held the first place got them all with the exception of the queen – that is the boy who held the second place, who got two; and the prince, i.e. the third, who got one. The last boy in the class was called Bobtail.
 The Ring-dial was the hedge-schoolmaster’s next best substitute for a watch. As it is possible that a great number of our readers may never have heard of, much less seen one, we shall in a word or two describe it- nothing could indeed be more simple. It was a bright brass ring, about three quarters of an inch broad, and two and a half in diameter. There was a small hole in it, which when held opposite the sun admitted the light against the inside of the ring behind. On this was marked the hours and the quarters, and the time was known by observing the number of the quarter on which the slender ray that came in from the hole in front fell.
 The name of a “Rule” in Gough’s Arithmetic.
 The suggaun was a collar of straw which was put round the neck of the dunces, who were then placed at the door, that their disgrace might be as public as possible.
 This was precisely such a feast as is described in the text. Gregories were in general very beneficial to their masters, inasmuch as there was more provender and drink brought to his house, where the festival was held, than would feed the number of mouths appointed to partake of it a dozen times over. The description of it above is very correct.
 The county-goal. – Johnny Short was for many years the Governor of Monaghan Goal. It was to him that the Mittimus of “Fool Art,” mentioned in Phelim O’Toole’s Courtship, was directed. If the reader will suspend his curiosity, that is, provided he feels any, until he comes to the sketch just mentioned, he will get a more ample account of Johnny Short.