J. M Callwell.

Old Irish life online

. (page 1 of 22)
Online LibraryJ. M CallwellOld Irish life → online text (page 1 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


SQUICKET8. |^ 3 ^

Chicago, .March 10. "Who says the
Irish are not funny? On March 17 they
will celebrate the natal day of a man
who was born on Aug. 15. A number
of the Irish will be proud when they
are called " Celts."

March 17 is the birthday of Hegon
O'Regon (Heogeogheon Or'Reogeogheon)
the first known European to circumnav-
igate the globe. He was a Gael. There
never was a nation that lived on the
face of the earth that were called Celts
any more than there is a race known
as Anglo-Saxoris or Scotch-Irish to des-_
ignate certain immigrants to the United
States that came by the way of Ireland.

There is abundant proof by the num-
ber of squicket stones scattered all over
Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and
Greenland to bear O'Regon's statement
that he " visited the top of the world."
or the north pole. Chinese historians
and the squicket stones in China bear
witness to O'Regon's visits there. There

are references to the old Gaels in the
Old Testament and it is now accepted
that the " lost tribes of Israel " were
nothing but the bands of Gaels who re-
turned home.

Wherever a squicket stone is found,
you can be sure that it marked the spot
of some ancient Gaelic settlement, for
the stone was erected on a spot selected
by O'Regon as a seat of learning.

Further proof of O'Regon's visit to
northern Europe can be found in the
fact that students of the ancient Gaelic
can today converse with residents of
Iceland and Finland and in parts of
Norway and Sweden. O'Regon left co-
pious notes of his discoveries, explora-
tions and colonization and these can
now be read in English in the books
called " Voyages of Hegon O'Regon."

How St. Patrick came to be connected

with the shamrock is a mystery, for this

should belong to O'Regon, who, being

the Luther Burbank of his day, evolved

the shamrock. March 17 is O'Regon's

birthday and it also marked the opening

day of the ancient feast of Tara.

i So next Monday the " Celts " will ob-

l serve a holiday in honor of a man who

was born in August. They will laugh

3 at the " dumb " Swedes and Norwe-

- gians, not knowing that in Norway and

} Sweden, in the shape of the sagas, are

o preserved the purest of ancient Gaelic

,t folklore and that the present day Eski-

-, mos are full blood brothers to the an-

cient Gaels. For people who brag so

much of their race, the Irish in Amer-
ica know less about themselves than
any other people.

President, Illinois Squieket Club.


The Italian School : Stor
The Spiders Web : ,



r t'or a train at a certain '
ie other day, I was affordeu'
display of railway activity
were railway porters, four in
lumber one procured a milk
d it at a drinking-water tap,

the help
across i-


5 the

number two, trans
tform and one set
' 1 or carriage,
ion on the
his head
erted in
*~->t was

ij . f
a n

Since . v
less alan. ^
was " Kno- **
indicating *|j^.
'lad ha'

addrt .
yet be. -
but it is .
the General
ances will be
inanont valu<
will reside at G .
during the Micha



From portrait in possession of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.




William Blackwood and Sons

Edinburgh and London



A PORTION of the following pages has already
appeared in the form of stray papers in
'Blackwood' and the 'Cornhill.' They are now
republished, together with much additional
material, by the kind permission of the pro-
prietors of those magazines.

For the earlier portion of this work innumer-
able authorities have been consulted, including
both the periodic literature of the day and the
State papers in the Record Office in Dublin.
In especial I have availed myself of Hardiman's
c History of Galway/ Roderick O'Flaherty's
' History of lar-Connaught,' Button's ' Topography
of Galway/ Sir Jonah Barrington's ' Personal
Sketches of His Own Time,' Oliver Burke's
' Anecdotes of the Connaught Circuit/ D. O.
Madden's ' Revelations of Ireland/ and Phillips'
' Curran and his Contemporaries.' I also wish


to accord very grateful thanks to Archer Martin,
Judge of the High Court of British Columbia,
for much valuable information given me concern-
ing the earlier history of the Martin family.

The latter part of this book has been related
to me personally, and I have reproduced it in
the form that seemed best calculated to give a
vivid picture of bygone days and to make the
dead past live.






III. NIMBLE DICK . . . . .40

IV. THE PENAL LAWS . . . . .53
V. STRATFORD EYRE . . . . .66


VII. DUELS . . . . . .116



X. THE EVE OF '98 . . . . . 187

XI. HUMANITY DICK . . . . . 197

XII. THE OLD HOME . . . ... 219










XXI. VALE . , 357




BALLINAHINCH . . . Frontispiece

From portrait in possession of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.


From a photo by R. Welch.





THE Irish antiquarians of the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries held hot debate as to whence
the town of Galway had its name. The earliest
pronouncement on the subject was by one of the
Four Masters, who declared it to be derived from
Galva, the daughter of an Irish chieftain, who was
drowned in the swift-flowing river that brings the
waters of Lough Corrib down to the sea. In con-
firmation of this theory the great map of Galway,
to be further alluded to hereafter, marks a rock
in the river where the disaster was said to have
occurred. Koderick O'Flaherty, the historian of
lar-Connaught and one of the dispossessed under
Cromwell's iron rule, whilst disbelieving in the
hapless lady and her fate, yet held that the river



had given its name to the town that grew up on
its eastern bank. Another and a much more
probable theory, however, was advanced a hundred
years later by General Vallancey, who was an
enthusiastic student of all things Irish and of the
Irish language, which he believed to be coeval
with the world, and the tongue wherein Adam
and Eve had conversed in the Garden of Eden.
This theory was that instead of the river giving
its name to the town, it was the town which had
given it to the river, and that both were called
after the Gaels, or merchant - strangers, who had
penetrated to that remote region, and that the
ancient name of Galway was Galimh, pronounced
Galwa, and meaning in Irish the town, or strong-
hold of the foreigners.

Be this as it may, there is no doubt whatever that
at a very early period, shortly after Strongbow's
invasion, a colony of English merchant adventurers,
how drawn thither we know not, made their way
across the island and established themselves at the
mouth of the river that falls into Galway Bay. Of
their coming we know nothing ; the earliest authentic
records show them already firmly ensconced there,
a busy, thriving community, sheltered at first under
the powerful protection of the De Burgos, Earls of
Ulster and overlords of Connaught, struggling later
on, and successfully, to throw that domination off
and to be masters in their own house. To most
people nowadays Galway stands for all that is


typically and essentially Irish, the very quintessence
of Hibernianism. The daring spirits who built up
that early Galway were English, and they desired
nothing less than to be mingled with the inhabitants
of the land and to learn their ways, they regarded
them indeed much as Clive and the rest of John
Company's servants did the dusky subjects of Shah
Sujah, or as the Hudson's Bay Traders looked out
from behind their stockades upon the prowling
Blackfeet and Iroquois. The ancient arms of
Galway were a galley that bore, suspended on
the mast, a shield with the leopards and fleurs-
de-lis of England, and when, long afterwards, the
descendants of those early settlers pleaded piteously
and in vain to the Government for redress against
the Cromwellian soldiery, they grounded their
appeal upon the fact that they were " an ancient
colonie of English planted in this nook of the

The English sovereigns from the first favoured
that sturdy little colony, which formed the farthest
outpost of empire, and the key, so said Richard II.,
of those parts of his lands of Ireland. They there-
fore granted charters to " the bailiffs and good men
of Galway," giving them large powers of self-govern-
ment, and the right to make war on Irish enemies
and English rebels alike, the right, too, to levy tolls
and taxes upon all articles brought into the town
for sale, whether by land or water, these tolls to be
expended in raising walls and towers for self-defence


and in keeping the same in repair. From these
charters we gather much of the life of these mer-
chant-strangers within their narrow walls, and of
the commodities wherein they dealt. For Galway
was the busy mart where the native products of
Ireland were exchanged for luxuries from beyond
the seas. From the earliest times the importation
of wine was the principal business of the traders of
Galway. During the reigns of the Angevin kings
the English drank the vintages grown in their
oversea possessions of Aquitaine and Gascony, but
as regarded Ireland, it was supplied by Galway with
the wines of Spain and Portugal. A hundred years
ago the wine-vaults which the merchants of Galway
erected at Athboy in Meath for the convenience of
their trade were still standing, marked by the
distinctive architecture of Galway. The common
import was from twelve to fifteen hundred tuns in
the year, and Edmund Lynch one of the earliest
of the provosts of Galway, before it had been raised
to the rank of having mayors of its own under
whose direction the great western bridge across the
river was built, was commonly called Emuin-a-Thuain,
or Edmund of the wine, from the quantity of that
article which he brought in. Next in importance to
wine came salt, also imported from Spain, and of
the utmost consequence for curing the fish that
formed Galway's chief export. A later mayor, John
French, was styled Shane-na-Sallin, or John of the
salt, from his large dealings in that commodity, and


a special bye-law decreed that no boatman or horse-
man who would both be of the mere, or native,
Irish who brought goods into the town should be
paid his hire in salt, nor was he to be paid therein
for the sacks that contained the goods, nor might as
much as a present of salt be given him, but he must
buy what he had need of. Besides these two staple
commodities there were brought into Galway wood-
ashes and alum for the tanning of the hides, which
formed another principal export, rich silks and gold-
wrought tissues to deck the prosperous merchants
and their wives, or to be converted into altar hang-


ings and vestments, glass, both white and painted,
for the adornment of the churches and houses of
Galway, pepper, ginger, and other spices, iron, cor-
dovan leather, and other commodities innumerable.
The royal charters laid down explicitly the tolls
that might be charged not only on these imported
wares, but also on all those that were gathered in
from the surrounding Irish. Thus a ship bringing
merchandise to Galway paid threepence for the
entry to that port. Fourpence was the tax upon
every tun of wine or honey or ashes. A crannock
paid a penny whether it contained corn, meal,
malt, or salt. The crannock was a basketwork
measure, lined with hide, and supposed to hold the
produce of seventeen sheaves of wheat. A crannock
of woad, however, paid twopence, and twelve cran-
nocks of " every kind of coal," meaning thereby the
wood and turf that were brought in across Lough


Corrib, one penny, whilst for the same quantity of
lime only a halfpenny was charged. A boatload of
timber or brushwood paid its penny, and so did ten
sheep or goats, or pigs, if they were brought in for
sale. Every millstone that came in paid the same
sum, but only a halfpenny was demanded for the
pair of handstones, or querns, wherewith the Irish
ground their meal. Each hide of ox or cow, horse
or mare, fresh or tanned, paid a farthing, a rate
that seems high, seeing that if the animal were
brought in alive it cost but a halfpenny. A half-
penny, too, was the toll upon every hundred skins
of wolves, squirrels, wild cats, or hares, the fur of
the Irish hare being specially prized in those days.
Every horseload of fish that came into the town for
sale was charged a penny, and a man's load one
farthing, but upon the lordly salmon and the highly
prized lamprey a farthing apiece was levied. A
penny was demanded for a hundredweight of scalpyn,
oysters to wit, or of dried or salted fish, but the
mease five hundred of herrings paid only a
farthing. A penny was the tax upon twenty ells of
cloth, whether it were linen or woollen, Irish,
English, or foreign made, but a cloth of silk or
baudekyn, the length of which is not stated, cost
but a halfpenny to bring in. Ten felt caps paid a
penny and so did a thousand sandals, the rough
brogues worn by the poor, whilst a halfpenny a
dozen was the charge upon the more dainty and
elaborate footgear that was made of cordovan leather.


A thousand wooden dishes or platters also paid their
halfpenny, and a thousand hinges only a farthing,
which sum was also demanded for twelve ropes for
the tackling of ships. Ten gallons of lamp oil were
charged a halfpenny, but the same quantity of olive
oil for medical purposes cost a penny, and upon all
articles not specially enumerated, and which exceeded
five shillings in value, a toll of a farthing was to be
levied. This was in 1361, in the reign of Edward
III. Even reckoning the penny as equivalent to a
shilling of our present money, these charges cannot
be considered heavy, and it was clearly laid down,
and reiterated in all subsequent charters, that all
the pence so raised were to be applied exclusively to
the defences of the town, and the paving thereof.

Defences were needed, no doubt, seeing the wild
hordes who dwelt all round, and with whom the
English settlers were at feud. To the east were the
O'Maddens, who were wont to gallop suddenly and
wildly into the town, pillaging and carrying off all
that they could lay hands on. To hinder such
forays a chain was hung across the street, the place
where it was fastened being still visible upon an old
house that was standing less than a hundred years
ago. The O'Briens inhabited the southern shore of
Galway Bay and the Aran Islands that lie across its
mouth, but with them the traders of Galway had
entered into an alliance, paying their chieftain a
yearly tribute of twelve tuns of wine, in return for
which he was bound to protect their trade and


harbour from all pirates and sea - robbers, and to
maintain an efficient fleet for that purpose. One
may heave a regretful sigh over the small outlay for
which maritime security could be purchased in those
days. Somewhat later, however, the merchants of
Galway of their own free will made the O'Brien of
that date an additional grant of wine in consider-
ation of the expense to which he had been put in
defending Galway Bay, and of the efficiency with
which he had performed his task. The most dreaded
of the hostile forces were the fierce O'Fflaherties,
who dwelt along the Atlantic coast and in the wild
and pathless mountains to the west. One of their
chieftains, Murrough O'Fflahertie, who had his castle
at Bunown on a crag that overhangs the sea, was
wont to ascend the hill above, and standing there to
declare war solemnly and comprehensively against
" all the potentates of the .world, but especially
against that pitiful, pettifogging town of Galway."
Upon which occasions his tribesmen used to mutter
amongst themselves, " Murrough is angry and there
will be bloody work." The citizens of Galway, upon
the other hand, inscribed over their western gate
which guarded the bridge across the river and the
passage to the region where Murrough and his like
dwelt, "0 God, deliver us from the ferocious

From the very earliest times of which there is
record fourteen families from amongst the English
colonists those of Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne,


D'Arcy, Deane, Faunt, French, Joyce, Kirwan,
Lynch, Martin, Morris, and Skerrett attained a
supremacy over the rest and formed a close oligarchy
by which the town and its affairs were ruled. To a
later age they became known as the Tribes of
Galway. So closely were the tribes knit together
by intermarriage that they formed as it were one
great family, acknowledging kindred and affinity with
one another wherever they might meet the world
over. Tradition asserts that the progenitors of the
tribes were Anglo-Norman knights, crusaders for the
most part, who had come over in Strongbow's fol-
lowing and pushed westwards across Ireland to this
farthest outpost of civilisation. If that were so,
they speedily beat their swords, if not into plough-
shares, then into yardwands and other implements
of commerce, and settled down into a race of ener-
getic and successful merchant folk. Thus it is
affirmed of the Martins, with whom these pages
are in large part concerned, that they descend from
Sir Oliver Marty n, who held high command in
Richard I.'s army, and having clung loyally to that
monarch when evil fate befel him, was imprisoned
with his royal master and died in the Austrian
dungeon ere yet Blondel had come singing his
rondels beneath its window a story curiously con-
firmed by the finding of recent years, within one
of the ancient fortress monasteries of Bohemia, of
a manuscript wherein the name of the solitary
attendant who accompanied Richard, when he


endeavoured after his shipwreck to make his way
in disguise across Europe, is given as Martin.
The earliest mention of the family in the records
of Galway, however, is when Joan de Sepishend,
chief miller of the mills of Galway, upon the
2nd of June 1365, made over all her rights
in the said mills to Thomas Martyn and his
heirs, to hold as quietly and freely as she, her
father and grandfather before her, had held them of
the Lords Walter and Richard de Burgo, late Earls
of Ulster and Lords of Connaught. A very valuable
possession, no doubt, was the ownership in chief of
the mills that turned in the rapid river sweeping
past the walls of Galway, as is evidenced by another
Thomas Martin, two hundred years later, a de-
scendant, no doubt, of the former one of that name,
being willing to have the site of the mills regranted to
him on condition of his building a gate and fortifi-
cation at the western end of the great bridge across
the river. The inscription upon a stone inserted in
a wall in Galway still records this fact, and the
grant also bestowed the right of spearing salmon
from the buttresses of the bridge, a right exercised
almost within living memory by representatives of
the family.

How the tribes won the ascendancy which they
indubitably possessed is not altogether easy to
understand, seeing that there were many others
in the town Coppingers, Berminghams, and so
forth who could boast the same Anglo-Norman


blood, but who were styled non- tribes, and who
were seemingly content to carry on their own
trade and business, and to leave the management
of public affairs to the tribes. The old records
of Galway prove conclusively that from the days
when the De Burgos still held sway and nominated
the seneschals or portreeves to whom they dele-
gated their authority, down to the ruthless sup-
pression of the old Galway Corporation by
Cromwell's soldiers four hundred years later, the
mayors and the twelve masters, or mayor's peers,
who composed the council, and who had mostly
already filled the civic chair, the sheriffs and the
representatives returned to the Irish Parliament,
practically one and all bore tribal names. There
are indeed but two mayors upon the long roll
who were exceptions to this rule, and of those
two one was Sir Thomas Rotheram, Governor of
the fort without the walls and of the King's
soldiers who lay in it, who was appointed because
in the year 1612 there was no man to be found
within the walls who would take the oath of
supremacy, or acknowledge that the King was
head of the Church.

There seems to have been little or no resistance
to a governance which, whilst drastic enough at
times, was at others almost grandmotherly in its
concern, not only for the morals, but also the
manners of the people under its rule. Doubtless
the citizens found that under that rule their little


community prospered and throve exceedingly, so
that in the year 1461 a mint was set up, and
Edward IV., by letters patent, granted to one
Jermyn Lynch the right to make "monies and
coignes, and do all things that shall nede or long
thereto " within the town of Galway, though such
coins were not to exceed a groat, or fourpence, in

The policy that inspired the tribes and council
of Galway was the same that animated most guilds
and corporations of that day, the determination,
namely, to keep all advantages which their situa-
tion conferred upon them, or which their energies
had acquired, for their own body - politic, and
rigorously to exclude outsiders. Thus almost the
earliest enactment upon the old statute-book of
Galway runs : " That ne merchant, ne maryner,
ne shipman shall not lade ne transport over the
seas no unfremens' goods, but only fremens' upon
paine to lesse the said goods and the just vallouer
there of, and to forfayte one hundred shillings, the
said goods and forfayts to be divided into three
several parts, one part to be to the reparacions
and building of the town walls and works, the
second part to the reparacions of the church, and the
third part to the officers for the time being," which
last provision was calculated to make the officials
keen in hunting out breaches of the regulation. The
church referred to was the old collegiate church
of St Nicholas, dedicated to that saint as the


protector of mariners, and of those who do their
business in the great waters. This statute is im-
mediately followed by another which decreed that :
" No manner dweller, of whatsoever degree he or
they be of, shall not sell nor set no lande or
tenement within the same town of Galway to no
Irishman, without lycense of the Counsaille," under
similar penalties to be similarly expended. Another
decree which throws a vivid light upon the condi-
tions at that time prevailing, ordained that if any
inhabitant of Galway in revenge for any " discord,
variaunce, hattred, or ingerous i.e., injurious,
wordes or language spokin, movid or moshioned
betwixte anny brother or neighboure of Galway,"
should cause that neighbour and brother to be
captured by any outlandish man or enemy of the
inhabitants whereby the surrounding Irish were
meant the individual at whose instigation the
seizure had taken place, if it could be proved
against him, should "ramsion and restore" the
captive, and make good to him all loss and damage
that he had sustained, whilst the rest of that evilly
disposed person's goods were to be forfeited to the
prince and the officers for the time being.

The officials of Galway did indeed take good
heed both of their own interests and their own
dignity. For the behoof of " evill persons," who
we may presume were unwilling to render this
unrewarded homage, it was decreed that upon
Michaelmas Day, when the new mayor was in-


stalled, all the different estates of the town should

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryJ. M CallwellOld Irish life → online text (page 1 of 22)