Margaret Moran Dixon McDougall.

The Letters of Norah on Her Tour Through Ireland online

. (page 1 of 24)
Online LibraryMargaret Moran Dixon McDougallThe Letters of Norah on Her Tour Through Ireland → online text (page 1 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Produced by Tonya Allen, Juliet Sutherland, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.

This file was produced from images generously made available by the
Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions.






THE LETTERS OF "NORAH" ON HER TOUR THROUGH IRELAND,

BEING A SERIES OF LETTERS TO THE MONTREAL "WITNESS"

AS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT TO IRELAND




COMPLETE LIST OF SUBSCRIBERS TO THE PUBLICATION
OF MRS. McDOUGAL'S LETTERS FROM IRELAND.


Monsignore Farrelly. Belleville, Ont. $ 5.00
Wm. Wilson, Montreal 10.00
Edward Murphy, Montreal 5.00
Joseph Cloran, " 5.00
Timothy Fogarty, " 5.00
Robert McCready, " 5.00
James Stewart, " 5.00
T.J. Potter, " 5.00
John Mahan, Paris (France) 5.00
Henry Hogan, Montreal 5.00
Bernard Tansey, " 2.00
B. Connaughton, " 2.00
F.G. Gormely, " 2.00
J.C. Fleming, Toronto 2.00
C.D. Hanson, Montreal 2.00
D. McEntyre Jr., " 2.00
Ald. D. Tansey, " 4.00
Wm. Farrell, " 2.00
M. Avahill, " 2.00
E.P. Ronavae " 2.00
Michael Sullivan," 1.00
James Guest " 2.00
M.P. Ryan " 5.00
Joseph Dunn, Cote St. Paul 4.00
Owen McGarvey, Montreal 5.00
Daniel Murphy, Carillon, P.Q. 5.00
John Kelly " " 5.00
C.J. Doherty, Montreal 5.00
James McCready " 5.00
Andrew Colquhoun, Winnepeg 5.00
P. Cuddy, Montreal 5.00
W.S. Walker " 5.00
M.J. Quinn " 5.00
Rev. M.J. Stanton, Priest, Westport,
Ont. 5.00
E. Stanton, Ottawa 5.00
J. Fogarty, Montreal 5.00
P. McLaughlin, Montreal 3.00
P.J. Ronayne, " 5.00
William Redmond, " 2.00
J.J. Milloy, " 2.00
C. Egan, " 2.00
John Cox, " 2.00
P.J. Durack, " 2.00
John McElroy, " 2.00
Michael Fern, " 2.00
J.I. Hayes, " 2.00
James Maguire, " 2.00
J.J. Curran, M.P., " 2.00
Mrs. McCrank, " 2.00
Dr. W.H. Hingston, " 5.00
John B. Murphy, " 5.00
Tim. Kenna, " 2.00
Matthew Hicks, " 5.00
Patrick Wright, " 5.00
Wm. S. Harper, " 2.00
Richard Drake, " 1.00
James O'Brien, " 5.00
H. Hodgson, " 2.00
P.A. Egleson, Ottawa, Ont. 5.00
John Keane, " 2.00
B.J. Coghlin, Montreal 5.00
Henry Stafford, " 2.00
Mrs. P. McMahon " 2.00
P. Cadigan, Pembroke, Ont. 5.00
H. Heaton, Nebraska, U.S. .50
Thomas Simpson, Montreal 1.00
Alexander Seath, " 2.00
M.C. Mullarky, " 5.00
John Fahey, " 5.00
J.J. Arnton, " 5.00
Richard McShane, " 2.00
B. Emerson, " 2.00
J.D. Purcell, " 2.00
W. O'Brien " 5.00

(Signed)

W. Wilson

_Treasurer "Norah's Letters" Fund._




A TOUR THROUGH IRELAND




I.

OFF - EXPERIENCES IN A PULLMAN CAR - HOARDING THE "ONTARIO" - THE CAPTAIN -
THE SEA AND SEA-SICKNESS - IMAGININGS IN THE STORM - LANDING AT
BIRKENHEAD.


On January 27th I bade good-bye to my friends and set my face resolutely
towards the land whither I had desired to return. Knowing that sickness
and unrest were before me, I formed an almost cast-iron resolution, as
Samantha would say, to have one good night's rest on that Pulman car
before setting out on the raging seas. Alas! a person would persist in
floating about, coming occasionally to fumble in my belongings in the
upper berth. Prepared to get nervous. Before it came to that, I sat up
and enquired if the individual had lost anything, when he disappeared.
Lay down and passed another resolution. Some who were sitting up began
to smoke, and the fumes of tobacco floated in behind the curtains, clung
there and filled all the space and murdered sleep. Watched the heavy
dark shelf above, stared at the cool white snow outside, wished that all
smokers were exiled to Virginia or Cuba, or that they were compelled to
breathe up their own smoke, until the morning broke cold and foggy.

Emerged from behind the curtains, and blessed the man who invented cold
water. Too much disturbed by the last night's dose of second-hand smoke
for breakfast at Island Pond. The moist-looking colored gentleman who
was porter, turned back to Montreal before we reached Portland. I
strongly suspect that a friend had privately presented him with a fee to
make him attentive to one of the passengers, for he came twice with the
most minute directions for finding the Dominion Line office, at
Portland. Still his conscience was unsatisfied, for finally he came with
the offer of a tumbler full of something he called pure apple juice.
There are some proud Caucasians who would not have found it so difficult
to square a small matter like that with their consciences.

It was pleasant to look at the comfortable homes on the line as we
passed along. Not one squalid looking homestead did we pass; every one
such as a man might be proud to own. All honor to the State of Maine.

The train was three hours late - it was afternoon when we arrived in
Portland. Following the directions of my colored friend, I went up an
extremely dirty stair into a very dirty office, found an innocent young
man smoking a cigar. He did not know anything, you know, so sat grimly
down to wait for the arrival of some one who did. Such a one soon
appeared and took a comprehensive glance of the passenger as he took off
his overshoes.

"Passenger for the 'Ontario,'" explained the innocent young man.

"Take the passenger over to the ship," said the energetic one,
decidedly. "We will send luggage after you. How much have you?"

Explained, handed him the checks, and meekly followed my innocent guide
down the dirty stair, across a wide street, up some dirty-looking steps
on to the wharf where the 'Ontario' lay, taking in her cargo. Large and
strong-looking, dingy white was she, lying far below the wharf.

My guide enquired for the captain, who appeared suddenly from somewhere -
a tall man with a resolute face and keen eye, gray as to hair and
whiskers, every inch a captain. I knew that his face - once a handsome
face, I am sure - had got that look of determination carved into it by
doing his duty by his ship and facing many a storm on God Almighty's
sea. I trusted him at once.

Did not sail through the night as I expected, but were still in Portland
when morning came. We had fish for breakfast; found mine frozen beneath
the crisp brown outside. After breakfast went up on deck. The sky was
blue and bright, the air piercing cold. The town of Portland looked
clean and beautiful in the fair sunlight. It is a place that goes
climbing up hill. The floating ice and the liquid green water ruffled
into white on the crest of the swells, are at play together. The ship
moves out slowly, almost imperceptibly. Portland fades from a house-
crowned hillside into a white line, darkness comes down. We are out at
sea.

The glass has gone down; the storm has come up; the sea tyrant has got
hold of the solitary passenger and dandles her very roughly, singing
"The Wreck of the 'Hesperus'" in a loud bass to some grand deep tune,
alternating with the one hundred and third Psalm in Gaelic. The
passenger holds on for dear life and wonders why the winds sing those
words over and over again.

Sabbath passes, day melts into night, night fades into day, the storm
tosses the ship and sea-sickness tosses the passenger. The captain
enquires, "Is that passenger no better yet?" Comes to see in his
doctoral capacity, looks like a man not to be trifled with, feels the
pulse, orders a mustard blister, brandy and ammonia, and scolds the
patient for starving, like a wise captain and kind man as he is. All the
ship stores are ransacked for something to tempt an appetite that is
above temptation; but the captain is absolute, and we can testify that
eating from a sense of duty is hard work. It was delightful to get rid
of an occasional apple on the sly to one of the ship's boys and be
rewarded with a surprised grin of delight.

It is grand to lie on cushions on the companion-way and watch long
rollers as they heave up and look in at the door-way. They rise rank
upon rank, looking over one another's shoulders, hustling one another in
their boisterous play, like overgrown schoolboys, who will have fun at
whoever's expense. Sometimes one is pushed right in by his fellows, and
falls down the companion-way in a little cataract, and then the door is
shut and they batter at it in vain. Then there is a great mopping up of
a small Atlantic.

The storm roars without, and within the passenger lies day after day
studying the poetry of motion. There is one motion that goes to the tune
of "Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep," but this rocking is so violent
that as one dashes from side to side, holding on to the bars above and
the edge of the berth, one is led to pity a wakeful baby rocked wickedly
by the big brother impatient to go to play. The tune changes, and it is
"Ploughing the Raging Main," and the nose of the plough goes down too
deep; then one is fastened to the walking beam of an engine and sways up
and down with it. A gigantic churn is being churned by an ogre just
under our head, and the awful dasher plunges and creaks. Above all the
winds howl, and the waves roll, and sometimes slap the ship till she
shivers and leaps, and then the "Wreck of the Hesperus" recommences.
Things get gloomy, the variations of storm grow monotonous, nothing
delights us, no wish arises for beef tea, nothing makes gruel palatable.
Neither sun nor stars have been visible for some days; the only sunshine
we see is the passing smile of the ship's boys, who are almost
constantly employed baling out the Atlantic.

It was the ninth night of storm. They say every ninth wave is larger
than the rest; the ninth night the wind roared louder than ever, the
Almighty's great guns going off. The ship staggered and reeled,
struggling gallantly, answering nobly to the human will that held her to
her duty, but shivering and leaping after every mighty slap of the mad
waves. I got one glimpse at the waves through a cautiously opened door.
I never thought they could climb upon one another's shoulders and reach
up to heaven, a dark green wall of water ready to fall and overwhelm us,
until I looked and saw the mountains of water all around.

Land in sight on the 8th of February, the Fasnet rock, then the Irish
coast; the great rollers drew back into the bosom of the Atlantic: the
winged pilot boats appeared; the pilot climbed up the side out of the
sea; we steamed over the harbor bar and stopped at Birkenhead on the
Cheshire side to land our fellow-passengers the sheep and oxen.

I might have gone up to Liverpool but was advised to remain another
night on board and go direct to the Belfast packet from the ship. I
considered this advice, found it good and took it.




II.

FROM LIVERPOOL TO BELFAST - IRELAND'S CONDITION DISCUSSED - EVICTIONS - A
SUNDAY IN BELFAST.


From Liverpool to Belfast, including a cup of tea, cost in all four
dollars and fifty cents. It seems ridiculous to a stranger that the cars
and cabs always stop at a little distance from the steamers, so as to
employ a porter to lift a trunk for a few yards at each end of the short
journey by cab.

The kind steward of the "Ontario" came over to the packet to look after
his passenger; had promised to see that passenger safely conveyed from
one steamer to the other, but, detained at home by sickness in the
family, came back to the ship a few minutes too late, and then came over
to explain and say good-bye. There could not possibly be a more
courteous set of men than the captain and officers of the steamship
"Ontario."

On the Belfast packet two ladies, one a very young bride on her way from
her home in South Wales to her new home in Belfast, were talking of the
danger of going to Ireland or living in it at the present disturbed
time. A gentleman in a grey ulster and blue Tam o'Shanter of portentous
dimensions broke into the conversation by assuring the handsome young
bride that she would be as safe in green Erin as in the arms of her
mother. Looking at the young lady it was easy to see that this speech
was involuntary Irish blarney, a compliment to her handsome face. "You
will meet the greatest kindness here, you will have the heartiest
welcome on the face of the earth," he continued.

"But there is a great deal of disturbance, is there not?" asked her
companion.

"Oh, the newspapers exaggerate dreadfully - shamefully, to get up a
sensation in the interest of their own flimsy sheets. There is some
disturbance, but nothing like what people are made believe by the
newspaper reports."

Old lady - "Why are Irish people so turbulent?"

Tam O'Shanter - "My dear lady, Ireland contains the best people and the
worst in the world, the kindest and the cruelest. They are so emotional,
so impulsive, so impressible that their warm hearts are easily swayed by
demagogues who are making capital out of influencing them."

Old lady - "Making money by it, do you mean?"

Tam O'Shanter, with a decided set of his bonnet - "Making money of it!
Yes, by all means. They have got up the whole thing to make money. But
here in Belfast, where you are going," with a bow to the bride, "all is
tranquil, all is prosperous. In fact all over the north there is the
same tranquillity, the same prosperity."

Here, a new voice, that of an enthusiastic supporter of the Land League,
joined in the conversation, and the controversy becoming personal the
ladies disappeared into the ladies' cabin. There was an echo of drunken
argument that was likely a continuation of the land question until the
wind increased to a gale. The little boat tossed like a cork on the
waves; there was such a rattle of glass, such a rolling and bumping of
loose articles, such echoes of sickness, above all, the shock of waves
and the shriek of winds, and the land question was for the time being
swallowed up by the storm.

Belfast, with its mud and mist, was a welcome sight. The dirty-faced
porters who lined the quay and beckoned to us, and pointed to our
luggage silently, seemed to be a deputation of welcome to _terra
firma_. At a little distance from the line of porters the jaunting
cars were stationed to convey passengers to the hotel. It did look
ridiculous to see full-grown people take the long way round in this
fashion.

At noon Saturday, the 19th of February, I had the blissful feeling of
rest connected with sitting in an easy chair before a coal fire, trying
to wake up to the blissful fact of being off the sea and in Ireland.

On Sunday it was raining a steady and persistent rain; went through it
to the Duncairn Presbyterian Church because it was near, and because I
was told that the minister was one skilled to preach the gospel to the
poor. Found myself half an hour too early, so watched the congregation
assemble. The Scottish face everywhere, an utter absence of anything
like even a modified copy of a Milesian face. Presbyterianism in Ulster
must have kept itself severely aloof from the natives; there could have
been no proselytizing or there would have been a mixture of faces
typical of the absorption of one creed in another.

Judging from the sentiments I have heard expressed by the sturdy
descendants of King Jamie's settlers, the sympathy that must precede any
reasonably hopeful effort to win over the native population to an alien
faith has never existed here. There is a great social gulf fixed between
the two peoples, with prejudice guarding both sides. The history, the
traditions of either side is guarded and nourished in secret by one,
openly and triumphantly by the other, with a freshness of strength that
is amazing to one who has been out of this atmosphere long enough to
look kindly on and claim kindred with both sides. Still there is a
perceptible difference between these Hiberno-Scotch and their cousins of
Scotland. Their faces have lost some of the concentrated look of a
really Scottish congregation. They are not so thoroughly "locked up;"
the _cead mille failte_ has been working into their blood
imperceptibly. The look of curiosity is kindly, and seems ready to melt
into hearty welcome on short notice.

It is not the minister of the Duncairn Church who preaches, but a
returned missionary, who tells us by what logical hair-splitting in the
regions of Irish metaphysics he confounds Hindoo enquirers after truth,
and argues them into the Christian religion. Pity the poor Hindoos upon
whom this man inflicts himself. In the afternoon I strayed into a small
Sabbath-School where the Bible never was opened; heard a stirring Gospel
sermon at night, and joined in a prayer-meeting and felt better.




III.

BELFAST - TEMPERANCE - "THE EVE OF A GREAT REBELLION" - THE POOR HOUSE -
THE POLICE - COUNTY DOWN - MAKING ENDS MEET - WAITING FOR SOMETHING TO
TURN UP.


Belfast seems a busy town, bustle on her streets, merchandise on her
quays. Did not meet one man on the streets with the hopeless look on his
face of the poor fellow who carried my trunk in Liverpool. There must be
distress however, for the mills are not running full time, and there are
entertainments got up for the benefit of the deserving poor. I saw no
signs of intoxication on the streets, yet the number of whiskey shops is
appalling. Had a conversation with a prominent member of the Temperance
League, who informed me that temperance was gaining ground in Belfast.
"Half of the ministers are with us now; they used to, almost entirely,
stand aloof." But where are the rest?

The land question is the absorbing topic. Every one seems to admit that
there is room for vast improvement in the land laws, that there has been
glaring injustice in the past. They acknowledge that rents are too high
to be paid, and leave anything behind to support the farmer's family in
any semblance of comfort. There is a very strong feeling against Mr.
Parnell among the Protestants of the north. In fact they talk of him
exactly as they did of Daniel O'Connell when in the height of his power.
Many whisper to me that we are on the eve of a great rebellion. One
strong-minded lady who informed me that she had come of a Huguenot stock
talked of the Land Leaguers as if they were responsible for the
revocation of the Edict of Nantes: but she acknowledged that the land
laws were very unjust and needed reform.

Visited the Poor House, a very noble building in well-kept grounds. Went
on purpose to see a sick person and did not go all over it. It was not
the right day, or something. It was very distressing to see the number
of able-bodied looking young men and rosy-cheeked women about the
grounds who begged for a halfpenny, and so many loungers in hall and
corridor - perhaps they were only visitors. If they were inmates there
was plenty of cleaning to be done - the smell in some parts was dreadful.
In the hospital part the floors were very clean, and the head nurse, a
bright, cheery woman, seemed like sunshine among her patients. She
showed us all her curiosities, the little baby born into an overcrowded
world on the street, the little one, beautiful as an angel, found on the
street in a basket. It was very touching to see the beggar mothers
sparing from their own babies to nourish the little deserted waif. A
poor house is a helpless, hopeless mass of human misery.

One thing that impresses a stranger here is the number of policemen;
they are literally swarming everywhere. Very dandified as to dress and
bearing, very vigilant and watchful about the eyes, with a double
portion of importance pervading them all over as men on whom the peace
and safety of the country depend. These very dignified conservators of
the peace are most obliging. Ask them any question of locality, or for
direction anywhere, and their faces open out into human kindness and
interest at once.

Went out into County Down by rail about twenty miles. No words can do
justice to the beauty of the country, the cleanness of the roads, the
trimness of the hedges, and the garden-like appearance of the fields.
The stations, as we passed along, looked so trim and neat. The houses of
small farmers, or laborers I suppose they might be, were not very neat.
Many of them stood out in great contrast as if here was the border over
which any attempt at ornament should not pass.

On the train bound for Dublin was a little old woman travelling third
class like myself, who scraped an acquaintance at once in order to tell
me of the disturbed state of the country. She emphasized everything with
a wave of her poor worn gloves and a decided nod of her bonnet.

"They are idle you know, they are lazy, they are improvident. They are
not content in the station in which it has pleased God to place them. I
know all about these people. They are turbulent, they are rebellious;
they want to get their good, kind landlords out of the country, and to
seize on their property. It is horrid you know, horrid!" and the little
old lady waved her gloves in the air. "If they had a proper amount of
religion they would be content to labor in their own station. I am
content with mine, why not they with theirs? You understand that,"
appealing to me.

"Have you a small farm?" I enquired.

"Indeed I have not," said the little old lady with the greatest disgust,
"I live on my money."

It was quite evident I had offended her, for she froze into silence. As
I left the train at Tandragee she laid her faded glove on my arm and
whispered, "It is their duty to be content in their own station, is it
not?"

"If they cannot do any better," I whispered back.

"They cannot," said the little old lady sinking back on her seat
triumphantly.

It is rather unhandy, that the names of the stations are called out by a
person on the platform outside the cars, instead of by a conductor
inside.

The manufacturing town of Gilford is a pretty, clean, neat, little place
clustered round the mills and the big house, like the old feudal
retainers round the castle. Here, as in Belfast, a certain amount of
distress must exist, for the mills are not running full time.

The wages of a common operative here is twelve shillings (or three
dollars) per week. If they have a family grown up until they are able to
work at the mills, of course it adds materially to the income. Girls are
more precious than boys, I have heard, as being more docile and easier
kept in clothing. They can earn about half wages, or six shillings (one
dollar and a half) per week. Rents are about two shillings (or half a
dollar) per week. It takes one and sixpence for fuel. A young family
would keep the parents busy to make ends meet in the best of times. In
case of the mill running short time I should think they would
persistently refuse to meet. No signs of distress, not the least were
apparent anywhere. The mill hands trooping past looked clean, rosy and
cheerful, and were decently clad. The grounds around the factory were
beautiful and very nicely kept, and beautiful also were the grounds
about the great house. I felt sorry that there were no little garden
plots about the tenement houses occupied by the operatives; so when hard
times come they will have no potatoes or vegetables of their own to help
them to tide over the times of scant wages. How I do wish that the
large-hearted and generous proprietors of these works could take this
matter into consideration.

People waiting at the station talked among themselves of hard times, of
farms that were run down, that would not yield the rent, not to speak of



Online LibraryMargaret Moran Dixon McDougallThe Letters of Norah on Her Tour Through Ireland → online text (page 1 of 24)