Baptist Wriothesley Noel.

Notes of a short tour through the midland counties of Ireland in the summer of 1836 : with observations on the condition of the peasantry online

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Online LibraryBaptist Wriothesley NoelNotes of a short tour through the midland counties of Ireland in the summer of 1836 : with observations on the condition of the peasantry → online text (page 1 of 19)
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The Author begs to thank those friends who
furnished him with many valuable letters of in-
troduction, which, from want of time, he was
unable to present. He wishes also to acknow-
ledge the kind hospitality with which he was
received by those whom he had the opportunity
of visiting. Of this he has said little in the
following work, because he had no right to bring
the intercourse of private friendship into pub-
licity. The personal narrative was carefully
written in a journal from day to day ; but the
information derived from various Parliamen-
tary Reports has been added since. That con-
tained in the Appendix D. published by the Poor
Inquiry Commissioners is peculiarly valuable,
because it was gathered from meetings held in
the different baronies, of persons of every class,



rank, and sentiment. Although the state of Ire-
land is far from hopeless, and very eflective
remedies for many of its evils have been proposed
by the Commissioners, still there is at present a
wide-spread misery among the people, apparent
to the eye of the passing stranger, and proclaimed
by all who have inquired into the subject ; a
misery which breaks out into a thousand acts
of turbulence, and which occasions so feverish
and so general a disquietude, as must be tran-
quillized by some effective legislation, or end in
a national catastrophe. Ce qui parait certain
c'est que les temps de monopole et d'oppression
sont accomplis sans retour, et qu'une grande
transition approche. Or elle ne pent s'operer
que de deux manieres ; ou par Tirruption violente
des classes poletaires et souffrantes sur les deten-
teurs de la propriete et de I'industrie, c'est a dire
par un retour k un etat de barbarie ; ou par
I'application pratique et generale des principes
de justice, de morale, d'huraanite et de charite.*

* Economie Politique, par M. le "\'icomte Alban de \'ille-
neuve Bargemont.




Introductory Remarks — Journey to Drogheda — Appearance
of that Town— State of the Poor — Amount of Whiskey
sold there — Whiskey-drinking in Ireland — What may be
done to repress it - - - - - - -1


A Roman Catholic Tradesman in Drogheda— Crolly's Bible
— Some account of Roman Catholic Tenets in Ireland
—The Abridgment of Christian Doctrine— The Christian's
Guide to Heaven - - - - 21


\ational Schools at Drogheda — Journey to Dundalk —
State of the Poor in that Neighbourhood — Journey
through Newry to Bryansford — Tolly more Park — Methods
of improving the Condition of the Poor — Bryansford
Schools— Lord Roden's Popularity — National Schools of
the Village — Parish of Kilkeel — Home Mission at New-
castle — Smuggling stopped in the Neighbourhood — Tolly-
inore attacked by the Mob - - - 46



Journey to Rostrevor — Independent Chapel near Kilkeel

— A Parley at Kilkeel Fair — Arrival at Rostrevor —
Scenery of that Place — Anecdote of a Priest — Whiskey-
drinking — Newry — Its Roman Catholic Chapel - - 67


Tourney to Castle Blaney, its Lake, its Inn, its National
Schools — Aspect of the Country — Carrickmacross — King's-
court— The Inn — Poverty of the Labourers — ^Vliiskey-
drinking — Ribbondmen — Mr. Nolan — Irish Society —
Meeting of the Irish Teachers — Persecution of Teachers
— Progress of the Society— Ii-ish Scriptures — Publications
in Irish — Journey to Kells— State of the Barony - - 82


Drive to Athboy — Grazing Farm — Athboy Schools — Cottiers
— Ministerial Labours — Mr. Nolan — His Conversion — His
Publications — His Preaching — Sunday-school— Journey
to Athlone — To Ballinasloe— Straw Hut on Road-side —
Hurling — Chimney-sweeper — National School at Balli-
nasloe — Schools of Lord Clancarty — Cottages on his Pro-
perty — Landlords in Ireland — Middlemen — The People
unquiet — The Police — Additional Employment — Rail-
roads - - - - - - - - - 125


Some Account of Achill Mission — Opposition to it — Visit of
Dr. M' Hale— His Cathedral— His Splendour— His Pro-
ceedings at Achill— Present State of the Mission — Account
of the Irish Islands - -.___ 153



Drive to Banagher — Sermon of the Home Missionary — Ex-
tent of the Home Mission — Nature of its Operations —
National School, Birr— The Messrs. Crotty — Drive to
Shinrone— State of the Barony of Clonlisk— Cangort Park
— National School — Remarks on Scriptural Schools —
Parish of Cloughjordan— Labours of Mr. Frederick Trench
— Remarks on Self-denial - - - - - -217


Drive to Castle Connel — Rapids of the Shannon — Sacred
Well— Appi-oach to Limerick — Shannon below the City —
Commerce of Limerick — Its Pauperism— Chapel of the
Blind Asylum — Roman Catholic Chapels — Ceremony of
the Mass — State of the Poor in the County of Clare —
Scenery above Cratloe — Boat-race on the Shannon —
Peasantry of Cratloe - - - - 244


The Shannon — Journey to Tipperary — Gal tee Mountains —
Town of Tipperary — State of the Poor — Outrages — Caliir
—Valley of the Suir— Clonmell— Callen - - - 208


Kilkenny — Poverty of the Neighbourhood— Want of Em-
ployment in the Town— Whiskey Shops — Mr. O'Connell's
Influence — National Schools— Ormond Castle - Journey
to Newtown Barry — National School at Newtown— Doyle's
Catechism— Tithe Agitation — Newtown Barry - - 282


Journey to Arklow — Ferns — Gorey — Arklow — Vale of Ovoca
— Ashford — The Glen— The Dargle— Powerscourt — Anti-
tithe Agitation — National School System — Return to
Dublin - . - ___- 29G



Visit to Maynooth — Some Account of its present Extent, its

Discipline, and its Studies — Other Roman Catholic Semi-
naries - - - - - 337


Contrast between England and Ireland— \Vliat may be done
to improve the Condition of the Irish Labourer — Poor Law
Bill — Emigration — Bill for the Extension and Promotion
of Public Works — Inland Navigation — Railroads — Duty
of Landlords — Duty of the Clergy — Schools — Loan
Libraries — Various Societies — Home Mission — Concluding
Remarks -_-__ - _- 3,55





Introductory Remarks — Journey to Drogheda — Appearance
of that Town — State of the Poor — Amount of Whiskey sold
there — Whiskey-drinking in Ireland — What may be done
to repress it.

On many accounts Ireland deserves to be visited
and known. Its condition is a strange anomaly.
United to Great Britain, its eight millions are
our weakness rather than our strength. It de-
luges our cities with paupers, and yet remains full
to overflowing. Although forming part of the
wealthiest empire in the world, the mass of its
inhabitants have scarcely the necessaries of life.


2 Ireland in 1836.

Notwithstanding the influence of a large Protes-
tant establishment, it remains, 300 years after
the Reformation, more Papal than the north of
Italy, and, till within 20 years, almost as des-
titute of the Scriptures as Portugal or Spain.
Surrounding barbarism tempts its aristocracy to
emigrate ; civil discord drives out its thriving
peasantry; and starvation ejects its paupers:
yet their numbers and their miseries continue
to multiply. The government can get from them
scarcely any revenue, clergymen have lost their
tithes, and proprietors tremble for their rents,
because the occupiers of the soil have scarcely
food and clothing. This wide-spread penury, in
a fertile land and favourable climate, with all
the irritation which necessarily accompanies it,
disturbs the island with intestine dissensions ;
leads to outrage after outrage; perplexes suc-
cessive governments; gives an unwholesome in-
fluence to agitators; and threatens the safety of
the empire. Its peasantry are often said, not-
withstanding their privations, to be the finest
in the world ; and for intellect, vivacity, and
warmth of afl'ection, perhaps they are unequalled :

Ireland in 1836. 3

and yet they worship the wafer, do penance on
their knees round holy wells, put their consciences
in the keeping of a priest, who may, perhaps, be
a blasphemer and a drunkard, and suppose that to
be touched, near death, on their ears, eyes, mouth,
nose, and fingers, with the oil which an ecclesi-
astic has blessed, is a passport to heaven. Such,
at least, are the reports which reach us across
the Channel. I wished, therefore, to see for
myself the real condition of the people ; whether
they are miserable or not, whether they are
advancing to civilization and plenty, to order,
religion, and happiness, or doomed to still deeper
degradation; what may be learned from their
virtues, or what can be done to mitigate their
sorrows. I did not expect that the investigation
of a few weeks would enable me to solve these
questions ; nor do I hope that the following short
account will much help another to solve them.
But my visit has enabled me to understand some
points of their condition, and to judge better of
what I may in future hear or read upon others :
and if this account may communicate to any
of my readers the interest which I feel myself


4 Ireland in 1836.

in the welfare of that suffering and amiable
people, it will not have been written in vain.

My time being exceedingly limited, 1 was
obliged, in determining our tour, to put out of
sight the prosperity of the North, with the
penury of the West and South. We could visit
neither Belfast nor Londonderry, neither Kerry
nor Connemara. We were obliged to renounce
the pleasure of treading on the Giant's Cause-
way, or exploring the shores of Killarney. We
could not see the Atlantic beat upon the rocks
of Moher, or even visit Achill. A humbler mid-
land tour was all which I could undertake. This
would, however, let us see the average condition
of the people. The nakedness and superstition of
the West and South, with the prosperity and
religious light of the North, being beyond our
view, we should still see the moral and physical
characteristics of the greatest part of the island.
We had, therefore, three points before us — the
Mourne Mountains, Limerick, and Arklow. We
should thus touch on Ulster ; we could visit
Kingscourt, we should cross the Shannon, learn
something of the state of Galway and of Clare,

Ireland in 1836. 5

pass through the most turbulent counties of
Ireland— Limerick, Tipperary, and Kilkenny;
and, finally, forget for a while the wide-spread
wilderness of mud cabins, to solace ourselves with
the summer verdure of Ovoca and the Dargle.

With these intentions, we set out from Dublin,
on Friday, July 29. I took with me some
tobacco for the cottagers, which afterwards I did
not give, because I thought the use of it a
mischievous and expensive habit, which it was not
well to encourage. I had with me some bacon
also, for the same purpose, and found that it was
thankfully received by those to whom I gave it.
We had- scarcely left Dublin, when the country
assumed at once that appearance of nakedness
and misery, with which we afterwards became so
familiar. There were no villas, no pleasure-
grounds; not even a dwelling like an English
farm-house. Nature has not cursed the land with
malignant vapours, such as those which brood
over the Campagna, nor has tyranny reduced it
to a desolation like the fertile wastes upon which
you may look down from the walls of Constan-
tinople; but its as]>ect is scarcely less melancholy.

6 IRELA^"D IN 1836.

Mud cabins alone break the sickening uniformity
of the negrlected and treeless inclosures. Women
are moving about with bare heads and feet ; men
are idle at their doors ; and if they have not the
livid hue of the malaria, many of them have all
the lines and furrows of starvation and premature
decay. Such appeared to me the character of the
Barony of Balrothery, which we traversed before
coming to the frontiers of Meath, on our way to
the Mourne Mountains.

Its real circumstances correspond with its
aspect. Of 1783 labourers, 578 alone have
constant employment, 1081 are employed occa-
sionally, and 124 are scarcely employed at all.
These last must be maintained by the labour of
their wives, or the charity which they beg from
door to door. Through the increase of the popu-
lation, and other causes, " labourers are now
little more than half as much employed as they
used to be formerly ;" and their earnings on an
average amount only to 10/., a sum which will
scarcely pay for the mere food of the family.
" Deficiency of food, therefore, frequently ren-
ders the occasional labourer totallv unfit for

Ireland in 183G. 7

work, when he is at length fortunate enough
to meet with it." "The great majority of
labourers suffer from an insufficiency of foo'l,

which renders them less able to work This

is especially the case when potatoes are scarce
and dear, as at the present season of the year,
(July) when he is often obliged to divide the
food that is barely sufficient for one meal into
three ; and although all that can possibly be
spared by the family is reserved for the man who
has to work, yet that provision is often en-
croached on to appease the cries of the children

for food It (this insufficiency of food)

amounts to a regular periodical half famine
among those labourers who have either very
large families, or only occasional employment, or

About two miles from Drogheda the scenery
improves. Hitherto we had seen crops of wheat,
oats, clover, and potatoes, all looking well, but
with neglected fences, and without the outline
of a tree to adorn and diversify the naked

* D. p. 16.

8 Teeland in 1836.

flat. Here there was inequality of surface and
wood, over which, at this distance, the town
looked handsome. But as we approached it,
long ranges of mud cabins on each side of us,
low and dark, with the smallest apertures for
windows, made it seem to me the receptacle of
half the pauperism of Ireland. Here we halted
for the night. The broken window in the best
room of the best inn in the town, with the bare
floors of its best bed -rooms, afforded an infe-
licitous omen of the accommodation which we had
to expect from the more retired and country
towns which we should probably have to visit.
A cheerful peat fire, after the deluge of rain,
a good dinner, and a civil and communicative
waiter, soon made us forget all defects. In the
afternoon we explored the suburbs. Though the
linen manufacture gives much employment to the
labouring classes, yet we found an extended and
fearful poverty. By incessant labour through the
whole day, (as we learned by various inquiries)
a weaver can make about 50 yards of linen in
the week, for which he receives 6s. The agri-
cultural labourer earns the same sum in summer,

Ireland ik 1836. 9

without food. Their mud cabins, with mud floors,
and very dark, were also destitute of all furni-
ture, except a rude bedstead, two or three chairs,
and a loom. For these, when there is a very
small garden attached, they pay about 21. and
1/. when there is none. In one wretched room
below ground, we found a widow with two chil-
dren, and a lodger. Down the steps the rain
was descending from the road, to trickle along
the mud floor, already damp. The only com-
fortable corner was that assigned to the pig, by
the fireside. This was still dry, and while we
were talking there, he descended the steps,
walked leisurely up to his place, buried his snout
in the straw, and composed himself to sleep. The
rent of this cellar was 1/. 10s. ! !

Notwithstanding the deep poverty into which
the people are plunged, they contrive to spend
enormous sums in whiskey. Our attention being
attracted by the numerous spirit shops in close
juxta-position, inquiry upon the subject made us
acquainted with an intelligent and civil Roman
Catholic tradesman, who bad carefully investi-
gated it. The town contains about 14,000 inha-


10 Ireland in 1836.

bitants ; and the town and county, comprehending
a small suburban district, together contain 18,000.
Within this district there are 120 spirit sellers.
Each of these would require at least the sale of
spirit to the value of 10/. per week to maintain
himself, and they are generally thriving. To this
statement I objected, that as many were grocers,
they would not require so large a sale of one
article of trade. He answered, that the grocers
sold more than any other traders, and as the
others were thriving too, none of the 120 could
sell, on an average, less than to the value of 10/.
Thus every week 1200/. is spent in whiskey at
that one place. A friend of his, who had ample
means of judging, and had closely investigated
the matter, declared to him that this calculation
was very far below the truth. This vice, which
consumes the poor of Ireland, had here enslaved
even women, who would be ashamed to have it
known. The poison being sold by grocers, they
could easily drink it, unobserved, while buying
grocery. So common is this practice, that a
widow, who had established a grocer's shop with-
out selling spirits, found it impossible to carry on

Ireland in 1836. 11

her trade unless she added this article to the rest.
Bad as Drogheda is in this respect, it does not
appear to be worse than many other Irish towns.
In 1833 the parish of Belfast consumed 129,819
gallons of whiskey.* Within a few years there
has been an increase of 300 places to sell spirits
in that one town.f In 1834 the number of licences
for the city of Dublin was 1019.;}: In Clonmel
there were, in 1811, 64 spirit shops; in 1833
there were 129 ; in 1834 there were 150. The
number of spirit retailers in Waterford in No-
vember, 1833, was 180 ; July, 1834, it had become
198, for a population of about 28,000 persons.§
Of late years there has been also an increase of
spirit shops in the villages. In one small village
in the county Down there was, 1833, an increase
of five spirit shops ; another village near it has
31 ; a third, with 61 houses, has 26. || Of the
390 new spirit sellers in Belfast, 221 were gro-
cers ; and Professor Edgar had heard it stated
that there were not more than 12 grocers in

* Evidence of Rev. John Edgar, before the Select Committee
on the subject of drunkenness, in 1834. Evidence, p. 88.

t Ev. p. 96. I Ev. p. 578. § Ev. p. 300. || Ev. p. 9G.


12 Ireland in 1836.

Dublin that were not spirit sellers.* The num-
ber of licences issued for Ireland in 1833 was
20,080, t which is about one for every 40 families
throughout Ireland. The quantity of home-made
spirits consumed in 1832 was 8,715,601 gallons.:]:
But to this must be added the produce of illicit
distillation, which, although much less than for-
merly, is said to be still large. One gentleman,
between Ross and Waterford, assured Mr. Carr,
in 1834, that there were about 35 farm-houses
in his neighbourhood in which illicit whiskey is
made.§ A magistrate of the county of Antrim
stated, apparently not long since, that he could
count 15 private stills from his own door.|| On
the 17th of March, 1834, Lieut. St. Laurence, in
Sligo and Mayo, destroyed, in ten days, 37 pri-
vate distilleries. II And even of the licensed stills
Professor Edgar states it to be commonly said,
that for every gallon made for the King, another
is made for the Queen, that is, not much more
than one half pays duty.^f On the whole, he
thought that 2,500,000 gallons were thus pri-

*Ev. p. 93. fib. 570. tlb.84. § lb. 300.

II lb. 95. H lb. 86.

Ireland in 1836, 13

vately distilled.* It may at once be seen what
an enormous drain this is upon the penury of
Irish farmers. Upon the Powerscourt estate,
Benburb, Armagh, the inhabitants of which are
not distinguished for drunkenness, a sum equal
to one-third of the whole rental was, till lately,
spent in spirits.f The cost of spirits to the parish
of Belfast, for 155,782 gallons, at 7*. per gallon,
is 54,500/. per annum, a sum which, after ade-
quately relieving their paupers, maintaining their
religious instructors, and their college, contri-
buting 1100/. per annum to religious objects, and
paying for schools, a sum equal to the whole avail-
able income of the Sunday School Society for
Ireland, would leave a surplus of 29,000/.f

Mr. Graves, barrister, magistrate of the Police
Office, Dublin, and his colleagues. Alderman
Darley and Major Sirr, concur in the opinion,
" that in cities and great towns more than one-
fourth of the entire earnings of artificers and
labourers (taken as a body) is expended in li-
quor.":|; And the whole cost of spirits to the
consumers throughout Ireland is not much less

* Ev. p. 85. t lb. 88. I lb. o74.

14 Ireland in 1836.

than 6,000,000/. sterling per annum,* a sum, says
that zealous advocate of temperance, Mr. Buck-
ingham, " which, if saved from this expenditure,
and applied in furnishing labour to the able-
bodied and relief to the helpless, would be suffi-
cient to remove nearly the whole of the evils
under which the poor of Ireland are now labour-
ing; this sum being considerably more than the
whole amount expended for the relief of the
poor in England and Scotland. "f If the effect
of this vice was merely to steep the people, already
wretched by their circumstances, into deeper and
more degrading misery, it would be an enormous
evil, but it is besides the fruitful source of dis-
order and of crime. A barrister, who some time
ago tried vast numbers of civil bill cases, stated
it as his opinion that the whole of them, either
directly or indirectly, are attributable to the use
of spirituous liquors, j: " The keeper of a large
house of correction stated his conviction that
four-fifths of the persons confined for crimes in
gaol have been led forward and hardened in crime

* Ev. p. 85.

t Letter to Mr. O'Connell in the Dublin Morning Register,
Aug. 23, 1836. t Ev. p. 89.

Ireland in 1836. 15

by the use of spirituous liquors."* Tlie Lord
Mayor and High Sheriffs of Dublin have signed
a document, stating that an indulgence in them
" is a most fruitful cause of crime in the city of
Dublin "t " Mr. Shaw, the Recorder, states
that in 40 out of 50 cases that come before him
weekly in Dublin, the crimes, he believes, are
traceable to intemperance as their proximate
cause." Jan. 1831, the Divisional Justices of the
Police district of Dublin reported, " that a large
proportion of the petty offences committed in
Dublin have their origin in an excessive indul-
gence in ardent spirits by the poorer classes of
society." In 1808 and 1809, when distillation

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Online LibraryBaptist Wriothesley NoelNotes of a short tour through the midland counties of Ireland in the summer of 1836 : with observations on the condition of the peasantry → online text (page 1 of 19)