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This is what Christmas was like for many of our ancestors!

Christmas on The Galtees 1877 
by William O'Brien  


It has been thought well to re-publish the following letters, in a connected shape. They are the fruit of a ten-days' visit to the estate of Mr. Nathaniel Buckley, around the Galtee Mountains, undertaken at 
the wish of the Proprietor of the Freeman's Journal. My instructions were, to see for myself, to avoid heated or exaggerated language, and to tell the plaintruth - whatever it might be - without fear or favour. I have 
striven to do exactly this, and no more. Three of the five letters were written from notes taken on the spot, in the intervals of laborious journeys, from house to house, through a difficult country. It has been judged proper to reprint them just as they were written, "with all their imperfections, on their heads." I approached the estate, prepared to find that there  had been more clamour than was just over the misery of the tenantry; I left it in despair of ever being able adequately to put before the eyes of 
the public, for their pity and indignation, the shameful scenes which passed under my own eyes, in a time of peace, and in the name of law.

Dublin, March 6th, 1878



Mitchelstown, Christmas Eve, 1877

MR. PATTEN SMITH BRIDGE told Lord Chief Justice May that the whole 517tenants who populate the 22,000 acres of mountain and lowland under his sway had already settled except 47, and he had reason to 
believe that they would be "settled" when he went home. There was laughter in 
court at this. I do not know whether it was intended for grim humour, but the settlement has taken the form of a sheaf of processes of ejectment for the January Sessions in Clonmel. Mr. Bridge has left the Galtees for the Christmas holidays, and, however it may have been in the Castle, it must be owned that in the
cabins singled out for the process-server's visits, as well as  in those which are spared for another sessions, the season of Christmas peace and pleasure has little meaning around the Galtees. The exact number of processes served I have yet to cast up one by one as I visit the holdings, but it is certain
that a selection of the recalcitrants has been made, and that a large section of those who did not, and declare they cannot, accept the revaluation have been respited, for reasons quite beyond their 
own comprehension. The question then comes to be once more of cruel urgency -Is this whole wail over the Galtee tenancy a gigantic  conspiracy against truth, or is it the cry of honest industry driven to despair? 
Has public sympathy been trifled with, or has it only been half aroused? Have we here a
cunning and secretive peasantry, with rags on their backs and gold in the thatch, striving to shelter themselves by a parade of mendicancy andfilth frompaying the honest value of their holdings? Or are they really a 
race of
humble toilers whose sweat and substance has wrung-alas! not 
even bread
but sustenance-from the barren bosom of mountains and fens; who 
have waged a
lifelong battle for existence against rocks and heather, 
against a subsoil
of sandy mud, against nature in her stubbornest and most 
grudging mood;
and who today find themselves face to face with strangers who 
appropriated and trafficked in their improvements and sentenced 
them to rents which
will, in due process of law, chase them from the fields they 
have created? Is
their case, in fact, a libel upon a good landlord and a 
agent or is it a damming proof that under the aegis of the Land 
Act, Irish
tenants still owe it to the mercy of their masters that they 
are not stripped of
all that a life's industry has laid up for their declining 
days, and sent upon
the world with only the consolation of a legal viaticum? It 
will be the
business of these letters to make some small contribution of 
evidence upon
this bond, such as a person quite severed from the dispute, who 
uses his
eyes and ears cautiously, and frankly describes his 
experiences, may glean
from careful investigation on the spot. There is no disguising 
diligence with which I commence the task. I do not for a moment 
pretend to
review the revaluation further than the facts, when brought 
together may
affect it; and even an enquiry into the actual condition of a 
spread over a tract of wild hills some thirty miles around, 
where there
are so many diversities in the quality of soil and stock and 
habitations, and
so many exaggerations on both sides to be discounted, is beset 
difficulties, the more especially that - as will be seen in the 
sequel - Mr
Bridge's explanation of what I may see are denied me. The dread 
that any
inaccurate statement or incautious word of mine may be twisted 
to the
disadvantage of creatures whom I have seen bowed to the verge 
of despair,
weighs even more heavily that the consciousness that every 
sentence is
written under the sword of a capricious law. My plan is, 
however, a humble
one. It is to visit personally not only the doomed homesteads, 
but as
large a proportion as possible of all others lying in my track 
over the estate,
townland by townland; to describe the peasants' homes and mode 
of life; to
satisfy myself, as far as a layman may, of the nature and value 
of their
crops; to see their stock for myself, and see what quality of 
land is this
for which a few shillings an acre is a rack-rent. The facts 
thus collected
I shall first embody in as plain and succinct a narrative as 
may be.
Afterwards I shall state the impression left upon my own mind, 
leaving it
to the judgment of sober public opinion to say whether they 
shall have been
justified by dry facts.

Subject: Christmas on the Galtees 2

The townland of Skeheenarinka extends from the little village 
cross of
that name over the crest of a bare hump of mountain, rising to 
a height that
must be quite 2,000 feet above the sea level, considering that 
which rises just behind, and does not greatly overtop it, is 
3,012. Neither of
the peaks looks nearly so high from the level of the adjoining 
village. On the
southern slope, where the sun most rests, the face of the hill 
is scored
with great stone fences, marking out, terrace above terrace, 
the patches
of reclaimed land, until they merge in the untamable belt of 
heather, not a
stone's throw from the top. I saw it on Sunday at its best, 
when scarcely
a breeze stirred below and it was lighted by a sun of very 
brilliancy for the winter solstice; when, too, the houses and 
the people were in
their Sunday trim, and the cattle basking in unwonted warmth. 
My visit was made,
I need scarcely say, without the smallest previous notice. It 
will be
readily understood, also, that even if a perfect stranger could 
have treaded his
way alone through a maze of mountain borheen, he could not have 
penetrated for
a moment the suspicious reticence natural to people under the 
pressure of
heavy calamity, without the passport of a familiar face. I was 
enough in this respect to have obtained the guidance of the 
Very Rev. Dr. Delany,
P.P. of Ballyporeen. His wide parish embraces most of the 
Buckley estates,
and his great heart all their misery. Many a time during the 
day, as he
struck a faint track across some remote glen, or greeted some 
mountaineer with a reminder that he had not been to Mass that 
day, his
cheery smile, his gentle reproof, his word of comfort, his 
knowledge of everybody's little troubles, and the whole-souled 
with which his interest was repaid, recalled the best that I 
had over
heard or read of the relations of an Irish priest with his 
people. The dogs in
remote Highland cabins know him while they barked at me. "Will 
I tell him,
Doctor?" asked one old fellow whom I was questioning about his 
with Mr. Bridge. And when the approval was smilingly given he 
who had been
taciturn as Jules Verne's Phileas Fogg grew as voluble as the 
dressmaker in "Little Dorrit."

As the foot of the mountain, where the path begins to be steep, 
we entered
a thatched cabin by the roadside, in front of which, as is 
usual with
cottiers of the more wretched class, a foul pit of liquid 
manure was smoking. A man
with his head between his hands was bent over the fire, and a 
few children
stuck in the chimney-corner. The man started to his feet with a 
look as the priest entered; he was tall and strong limbed, but 
had a cowed and
haggard face. "You weren't at Mass this morning, Mick." The man 
turned up
his broken shoes, which had not indeed troubled shoemaker nor 
for many a day; he had no coat, a flannel waistcoat, and a 
brown hat,
and his shirt was not clean, though it was Sunday. Let me say 
here that in at
least half-a-dozen other instances during the day we came 
across similar
truants with similar excuses; and I do not think it was home 
that kept those men in their noisome dens poring over the fire 
while the
sun was shining and their neighbours going to Mass. This was 
Michael Dwyer;
and he had one of the processes of ejectment behind the 
dresser. "It is the
only Christmas-Box we got yet, God help us," said an old man 
later in the day,
who had been similarly served. A pot was boiling on the fire. 
It contained
potatoes, the Sunday dinner for the family - ten of them all 
told. I took up
some of the potatoes lying in a heap in the corner; they were 
many of them
rotten, all of them wet and miserably small. Several of them I 
bruise into a pulp between my fingers. And these were grown on 
lowlands, in a
field that looked as rich as the best of its neighbours. 
Potatoes have been bad
everywhere this year; but these are not like any other potatoes 
I ever
saw, except those picked out as refuse for the pigs in more 
favoured spots. I
have not yet seen in Skeheenarinka a single potato as large as 
an orange.
The cabin forms but one chamber, in which the whole family of 
ten are
somehow accommodated by night. There are two bedsteads; what 
the other
arrangements are I dare not guess. This man's holding is 
measured at 4a. 1r., of which
the old rent was £1 2s 4d., and the new £1 15s. His own belief 
(which, of
course, goes for what it is worth) is that the four acres 
include large
patches which were taken from him to be attached to the 
schoolhouse. I
only mention it as one of the several cases in which the 
tenants profess
themselves satisfied that a new survey would show them to be 
charged (not,
of course, wilfully) with more land than they occupy. Dwyer 
states he
twice offered Mr. Bridge the increased rent in full and it 
would not be taken
unless he signed an agreement as tenant from year to year. He 
was employed
as a quarryman by Mr. Bridge up to the time of these troubles, 
and he
states that he was not only then disemployed, but, that another 
tenant - John
Jackson - has refused to employ him alleging instructions which 
I cannot,
without more authority, give currency to. His whole tillage 
this year was
one acre of potatoes, and of these only six baskets were left 
on Sunday.
His whole stock is, in his own words, "one old cow that my wife 
bought for 25s."
I saw the old cow grazing in the best field in solitary 
majesty, and though
she was decidedly a bargain at the money, I doubt whether she 
would bring
double the price this moment in any market in Munster. Cheek by 
jowl with
this grassy field, lying flat beside it, separated by a fence, 
lay a tract
of virgin moor, covered with stunted heather, and interspaces 
of utterly
barren sand, with here and there a tuft of yellowish grass- a 
not inapt
picture, even in quite civilised latitudes, of what the land 
was, and what
the patient dint of industry has made it. This, then, being the 
sum of
Dwyer's ways and means, it only remained for him to show that 
he is £21
indebted to the bank to convince me that, assuming his figures 
to be correct, the
farm would not, as he himself put it, give a meal of yellow 
stirabout to
ten Christians, only that he ekes out his means by doing jobs 
as road
A pair of horses well skilled in mountain climbing awaited us 
on the
borheen outside, for the owner of the post car had made a 
special clause the
previous day against trusting his vehicle into the byroads. For 
a couple of
hundred feet we ascended a rough but fairly passable mountain 
path, some
eight feed wide. Thence to the top it grew more and more 
contracted and
jagged, as if the mountain streams had in winter coursed down 
the centre,
and torn a channel for themselves, and very quickly the horses 
had to pick
their steps in single file. Our second visit was to the house 
of Patrick
Burke, about the level of Galtee Castle, which lay in its 
bodyguard of
woods to our left. Burke's old rent for a farm that he believes 
to be about 16
acres was £4 18s 7d; it has been raised to £8. There has been 
no movement
whatever towards a settlement since the trial; yet, to his 
amazement, no
process of ejectment has been served upon him. He was at Mass 
when we
called. His wife appeared as wretched as if the process had 
already come.
The cabin, poor as it was, had the earthen floor neatly swept 
and the
dresser of blue delft shining. A streak of green slime came 
down the wall,
where the rain trickled down and collected in a hole in the 
floor, out of
which it had to be bailed with a cup, "and if you scrubbed it 
three times
a day you could not keep the floor dry under you." The five 
members of the
family sleep in two beds in the bedroom, whose poverty she 
shrank from
exposing, but stated they had to put a sop of straw under their 
feet to
keep the floor dry. This class of accommodation, which may be 
taken as a
fair average of the mountain cabins, except that I saw only 
three others
in which the rain penetrated the dwelling house to any 
appreciable extent, is
what I have generally found in the cabins of the poorest sort 
of labourers
elsewhere, neither better nor worse; but the den in which three 
people are
huddled together in the adjoining cowhouse is an outrage upon
civilisation. I had to stoop on entering its crazy door, and as 
soon as I could make out
anything in the gloom (for it is neither lighted by window not 
by chimney) I discovered that I stood up to my ankles in a 
fetid pool of
rainwater mixed with the droppings of cattle. Propped up on 
wattles in a
corner of this stifling den was a filthy bag of straw, littered 
with some
foul rages and a tattered coverlid; and here I was gravely, but 
manifest shame, assured that a man with his wife and daughter 
nightly, while the cow lies down in the sodden manure beside 
them. I met this
wretched wife (whose clothing by day was all but as scanty as 
by night)
coming down the mountain barefooted, as we were leaving. She 
was radiant
with thankfulness. She was after begging a mess of India meal 
from a
neighbour for the Sunday banquet of herself, her husband, and 
and she had the stuff tenderly rolled up on her red cotton 
handkerchief. And
she thanked God more fervently, I am afraid, that most of us do 
for merry
Christmas dinners. But she had another cause of joy; she held 
triumphantly to the Rev. Dr. Delany an American letter she had 
received with an enclosure of £1 from her daughter in distant 
But to return to her landlady, Mrs Burke, who was herself 
without a dress,
and only wore torn blue flannel petticoats. Her own blanket is 
pledged for
7s. "When we were married, the poor man's coat was in pawn, and 
I had to
pledge one of my own dresses that I got in service to release 
it for the
wedding; but sure it went again, and we never saw the sight of 
it since.
He got a present of a coat six years ago from a neighbouring 
man, and there
it is to this day. And as God is my judge," she cried, 
vehemently, "I never
saw that man drunk" I went out upon the farm and saw it dug in 
several places.
It really looked one of the best holdings on the mountain at 
elevation. Yet even in the lowest parts there was a tract of 
wet rea, and the upper
border was still thick with stones and heath. Two large fields 
were red
with potatoes, and I counted six pits. One of the fields, said 
Mrs. Burke, was
sub-let as a garden for a £1 a year. In his affidavit her 
husband swore he
would not get £3 for the grazing of his whole farm. I drove the 
spade some
eight inches into the upper potato field; after two efforts I 
brought up
about four inches of dark soil, beneath which there was a 
compost of wet sand, perfectly incapable of secreting the 
moisture that trickles
down eternally from the heights. At another trial I broke-spade 
The upper part of this field was still dotted with boulders and 
patches returning to, or never wholly recovered from, 
wilderness and this
season's crop of stones (the only bounteous crop on 
Skeheenarinka) lay
thick around. They never since the famine years had enough 
potatoes to carry
them through the year, said Mrs Burke, and she would be been 
proud if they hold
during the winter this season. They sowed five barrels of oats, 
for the seed
of which they paid £4 10s; upon this and other crops they put 
two bags of
superphosphate at 21s. the bag. They paid 7s. a day with diet 
ploughing and harrowing (for only two farmers on the mountain 
who I met had either a
horse or a plough); they paid a half sovereign for mowing. And 
she showed
me the note from Mr "Sam Burke, of Cahir, to whom her husband 
sold all but
five barrels of the oats for £6 1s. 6d.. Three small cocks of 
oaten straw,
however remain, as cattle food. They tried quarter of an acre 
of turnips;
"We could not get a mess for the cow out of them," was Mrs. 
summary of the result. The stock transactions are more 
still. There is a cow, a heifer, and a goat. Her husband bought 
a cow on 23rd May
for £13 10s on credit, and he had to sell her again for £8 when 
creditors clamoured for payment. The present cow was bought in
Mitchelstown on the 10th January, two years ago, for £9 17s. 
6d. of which £4 is still
due. All this is, of course, mere exparte statement, as is the 
that a debt of £60 is handing over their cabin, that "they were 
living on credit, but there is no credit to be had now since 
this man came
down on us." Bills in the bank and private bills were shown me, 
it is of somewhat more importance that when I questioned the 
husband some
hours later, in a distant part of the townland, his answers 
tallied almost
exactly with his wife's save that he mentioned two sheep where 
she had
only mentioned one. Burke brought forward at the same time a 
man who said he
had been his security for the price of one of the cattle, and 
said he had to
give the cows bran every day of the year, or they would run 
dry. When
questioned as to the cost of the bran, he said he did not know 
how much a
cwt. It was, as he got it "on time" but he made a very 
statement that his cattle used ½ cwt. Per week--say 3s 6d. 
worth. "How
much money have you in bank now:" "God help me, I have plenty 
of it to pay
them!" was the immediate response. One word more of Mrs. Burke. 
I spoke of
Christmas. She pointed to a neck of mutton, about 3lb of it, 
that hung
over the fireplace. This was to be the Christmas dinner of the 
family. "tis
only a pig's heart or a bone of pork that we could get cheap 
for a festival."

At the other side of the borheen lives one of the "settled" 
tenants the
most wretched I had met yet. This is the woman, Johanna 
Fitzgerald, whose
husband has gone to England as a labourer to earn bread for her 
four children.
Mrs. Fitzgerald has not been seen at chapel that morning, but 
her bare feet and
course petticoat made a pretty eloquent apology. The children, 
who played
about the door, had clean faces and clean rags, and the earthen 
floor was
newly swept. A mess of Indian meal was in the pot for dinner. 
The family,
of course, slept in one room; and a man and wife, who are 
lodged in
consideration of help on the farm, stretched by night on the 
floor inside
the doorway. Except a few blue plates, the dresser was only 
stocked with
marmalade pots, whose contents were never emptied on the 
Galtees. Mrs.
Fitzgerald said she had not heard from his husband these five 
weeks, and a
shilling was all the money she had in the world. Her rent was 
raised from
10s. 4d. to £4 4s. Her stock of potatoes was out this month 
past, "except
handful of seed," and from this to August yellow stirabout must 
be bought
on credit. Her other tillage was half an acre of oats, which 
cost her £1 for
seed, 7s. for labour, and 10s. for a cwt. Of superphosphate 
(which she had
not paid for yet). The whole crop was sold to James Fitzgerald, 
neighbour, for £2, straw and all. Two geese and some hens made 
a total of her live
stock. It was pitiful to see the open mouthed surprise with 
which a woman,
supposed to be the mistress of some twenty acres, gloated over 
the couple
of pieces of small silver given to the children, the eagerness 
with which she
pounced upon them, and the extravagant thanks with which she 
repaid them.

 Christmas on the Galtees 3

An ascent of ten minutes more brought us to a point at which we 
had to
dismount and toil across a rocky track, while the horses were 
led by an
easier path higher up the mountain. We were upon the farm of 
Mahony, and our way lay across a stony field upon which the 
process of
reclamation had commenced. Long rows of tough scraws, delved 
out of the heather, lay
with the heath turned downwards for burning the best side 
Anything like soil was not three inches deep; patches of 
however, appeared elsewhere in the field. Great heaps of 
sandstone were collected
in the centre, which had been dug out with crowbars, and were 
waiting to be
smashed with a sledge-hammer previous to being either piled on 
fences, or the biggest of them buried underground. All the 
fences on this part
of the mountain are built stouter than Roscommon stonewalls, 
with the
boulders dug out of the fields. "Sure we would not mind," said 
Darby Mahony, "if
they let us alone; but we have no sort of spirit to root a 
stone or put
on a bit of thatch owing to this man always promising to turn 
us out." His
son is a powerfully-build young man- a patient and hard-working 
drudge, I can
easily believe - but dulled and broken-spirited as I have seen 
few young
men at his age. Mahony has been served with a process of 
ejectment. His
rent was raised from £2 to £4 and he says, "If I was obliged to 
go into the
poorhouse I could not pay it." So strongly persuaded is he that 
measurement of 16a. 1r. 27p. is double the extent of his actual 
that, according to his own statement, he waited on Mr. Bridge 
twice with
an offer to pay the expense of a survey himself if he should 
turn out to be
wrong, Mr. Bridge paying the expense in the other event; the 
answer was
that no credit would be allowed for a survey, and none was 
made. The bulk of
his farm is semi-reclaimed pasture, but the rest melts into the 
unbroken mass
of rock and heather which crowns the mountain. "What's there is 
but little"
said the tenant, "but whatever is there, we made it." "I am old 
to recollect," said another old fellow, who had been to the 
during the late trial, "when you might as well graze a cow down 
the middle of
Sackville street as turn her loose on that mountain." Mahony 
tilled altogether two
acres this season, so his statement runs. He paid £1 for seed 
oats for
half an acre, and 7s. for the plough. Yet he never threshed the 
grain, and a
swathe which he pulled out of the stack showed the ears had 
never filled,
while the straw was scarcely a foot long at its best. His 
livestock is
made up of two cows and a stripper, two yearlings, a donkey, a 
sow with eleven
bonnives, and one sheep "nearly as old as himself." I saw this 
gaunt and
ragged bell-wether toddling among the stones, and making the 
allowance for exaggerated language, it was a miserable 
mountaineer. Mahony says he
gets but 2-1/2lb. of wool off her yearly, and that these are 
expended in
knitting stockings. The cattle are average mountain cattle, and 
affidavit made by Mahony's son states that a firkin and a half 
of butter
per dairy cow is their utmost produce with constant 
hand-feeding. The Cabin
and its appointments are of the average poverty and 
cleanliness. The out
office is tottering and covered with rotten thatch, through 
which the green
trail of the water runs down the walls-a cosy shelter for dairy 
cattle during
the week or fortnight yearly when the farm is snowed up. The 
Rev. Dr. Delany
rallied the old fellow on a congenial topic when he pointed to 
distant Commeragh Mountains, and said, "Darby, the O'Mahony's 
were not always on
the top of Skeheenarinka." But proud as the little old man is 
of his sept
and its glories, he was not be roused; he shook his head 
heedlessly, and
pulled out a notice of a bill in the bank for £6, to be met the 
next day,
while he had not half the amount. He made me out in 
Mitchelstown today
to show that he had discharged the debt by borrowing the money 
from a
neighbour. A horse, he asserted, would not draw more than 4 
cwt. to the
height of his farm, and the horse would cost 4s a day.
Michael Regan's is the adjoining farm, verging on the top, in 
almost exactly the same, and in extend about 47 acres, as he 
roughly estimates it; 74a 2r. 35p. statute measure, according 
to the figure in
the valuation. He also has been served with an ejectment. His 
rent was
raised from £5 9s 6d to £15 16 6d. He was out when we called, 
and although he
came into Mitchelstown to-day to proffer me his statement, 
inasmuch as his
evidence was extracted, no doubt fully, at the trial, I do not 
care to
return to it, further than to say he swore that he had ten 
that his father and himself built the house and reclaimed the 
land; and, that
his stock consisted of six mountain cows, six yearlings, three 
calves, a
horse, ten sheep, two pigs, and nine bonnives. Close by lives 
the Widow
English, whose rent was raised from 19s to £2 1s, and who, 
although she has
accepted the new tariff from the beginning, in as poorly 
housed, and as earnest as
any of her neighbours in declaring that the farm would not give 
stirabout only that two of her sons have been taken into the 
of Mr. Bridge. One of her sons fills poor Hyland's place as 
coachman at a
wage of 10s a week, without diet or other perquisites than 
clothes, and his
brother is a labourer on the same terms. The next cabin on our 
way was
that of another of the arranging tenants, Edmund Fitzgerald, 
who accepted an
increase from £1 7s. 6d. to £2 17s. 6d. Not a soul was within 
four pretty children, the eldest of whom was not six years old. 
Three of the
little creatures were stowed into a high wooden cradle, in 
which they
were rocking themselves joyously at some distance from the 
fire, while the
eldest, with the aid of a big dog, was gravely mounting guard 
over the
tiny trio in the cradle. The place was scrupulously clean. 
There were even
touches of a rude elegance her and there. The bedroom had been 
boarded in the good old times, though the timber was in many 
displaced, or rotting of age and damp. The bed furniture, 
though poor
was clean. A half-pint champagne bottle, transformed into a 
medicine bottle,
was on the shelf. Imagine the adventures of that bottle from 
the moment
it was primed with glowing liquor in some sunny vineyard of the 
Vonges until
fate made it a receptacle of castor oil in a thatched cabin on
Skeheenarinka. There was a little fireplace also in this 
bedroom, and on
the mantelpiece two plaster-of-paris statuettes of the Blessed 
the solitary representatives of the fine arts that have yet 
crossed my view.
Yet the young mistress of the house, whom we met in the 
borheen, a tidily
dressed, fair-faced, though care-worn housewife, looked and 
spoke as
despondingly as if her fate, too, were to be decided at the 
We were now able to resume the saddle for a ride through a 
narrow and
broken causeway, bordered by a deep channel, around the 
shoulder of the
mountain, where the sight of the cultivated plains disappeared, 
and we were gazing
into the gloomy and forbidding chasms that opened between 
Lyreen and the
bold front of Galteemore - places where the gamekeeper and a 
sportsman staying at the Mountain Lodge along penetrate. Here I 
came across a
farmer with the only good frieze coat I saw on the mountain. 
This was Patrick
Slattery, who's farm in parts looks warmer, and is, at all 
events, better
cultivated than his neighbours. He has accepted the increased 
and says he can pay it but badly. For forty-one years all his 
labour and
capital have gone into the land, and to use his own words "it 
was a
fright to look at when I came there." His next neighbour, 
Patrick Carroll, who
came up in flannel jacket and shabby hat, while we were 
speaking, made a
sad contrast; "He is the most industrious creature on the 
mountain," said
Slattery. Carroll's holding is one of the highest and his soil 
is most
thankless. The heather makes constant inroads upon his pasture 
and I saw one field of which he had himself built up a thick 
and almost
continuous wall of large stones five feet high. His rent has 
been raised from £3
8s. to £8 7s. 6d. He has not settled, and says he cannot; but 
no process of
ejectment has yet been served. He spoke in a tone of 
wretchedness of his outlook. His oats this season cost him 16s. 
a barrel
for five barrels of seed, upon credit; he paid 7s a day for the
ploughing, with oats for the horse, and bread, butter, and tea 
for ploughman (for in
those regions the ploughman is a superior being); yet he never 
the crop. The potatoes, upon which he spent £4 in manure, will 
last him
three months more "yellow meal from that to August, and where 
will I get the
price of it?" His fields are grazed by three milking cows, a 
heifer and two
calves - nothing more. His dairy transactions for the year were
these: three firkins of utter (three quarters), two of which he 
sold in Mitchelstown
for £3 a piece and the third, which he sent to Cork, returned 
him but £2 14s
profit. Striking a faint and boggy track across the heather, we 
passed sheer over
the summit of the mountain, turning our back upon that dismal 
of glens and precipices known in old topography by the cruelly 
ironic name
of Paradise, and descending by a new system of dry watercourses 
upon the
townland of Coolagarranroe. The portion of it over which we had 
time to
range before darkness descended covers the face of a sister 
ridge to that
of Skeheenarinka, sloping upwards, with somewhat 
better-sheltered pasture
lands, to a point at which its crest rises precipitously like a 
wall of
rock. The cattle here bore marks of better feeding, but the 
oats and
potato crops were, if anything, more blighted. Michael Noonan 
is one of those
who has bowed under the valuation. His rent was raised from £2 
14s. to £5
14s, and he has undertaken to pay it-"Though, God knows, I 
might as well pay
for my own coffin." I spoke with his sick wife as she stood at 
the door of
her miserable cabin, which is sunk in a crevice of the hill, 
with rain marks
coursing down the walls within, and the usual slough of rotting
abominations steaming in front. She spoke of her affairs in a 
mood of settled
despondency, as of a fate which it were hopeless to expect to 
Her husband has strippers and two calves. "We did not get two 
firkins of
butter out of three of them, and we have not a supper of 
potatoes in the house.
Every meal we eat from this out will be on credit, and nobody 
gives us
credit now that can help it." The tottering little cowhouse is 
dairy. "We would not make the bit of butter at all only the 
Doctor, when he said
Mass here, brought us luck; but sure what is the use of it 
all?" Her
husband we met crossing the fields shortly after, and he 
pointed out in
the middle of his pastures a wall of stones -some of them 
seemingly half a ton
in weight-which had been rolled down from the higher ground 
after being
rooted out by his own hands.

Subject: Christmas on the Galtees 4

Thomas Kearney's farm of 105a 0r 35p upon which the rent has 
been raised
from £5 12s 6d to £17 10s, lies close by, part of it smothered 
with heath,
part laid down in scanty but fairly sweet grass, and 16 acres 
of light,
cold soil on an exposed slope, with a subsoil of sand and marl 
reddened for
tillage. Kearney has been served with an ejectment. I saw his 
cows. "I wish I took them up to Dublin to give evidence in 
place of myself,"
Kearney remarked as he pointed to his gaunt and shrunken stock. 
They were
really poor mountain cattle. He states that he made six firkins 
of butter
this season, which fetched £3 5s. to buy hay and hand-food them 
from the
1st of November to the 15th of May or they would die in the 
cold." The rest
of his stock comprises 12 sheep, 6 heifers and 2 sows-those 
which he told the
Dublin jury would frighten them to look at. Upon cross 
examination in
Dublin he admitted that he made up a fortune of £80 for his 
daughter, and
paid £38 for the interest of part of his holdings. Yet this 
lord of a
hundred acres was dressed in flannel, and his family of ten 
souls were
after a dinner of Indiameal, and will be so regaled for nine 
months to come.
His potatoes are gone and his oats were never threshed. Terence 
senior is another of those under process of ejectment. He holds 
14a 1r 14p
statute measure, and Poor-law valuation of which is £3 10s, the 
old rent £3 15s,
and the new demand £7 7s. His farming operations have been 
these-An acre of
potatoes cost him £4 8s for seed to James Neill; £1 paid for 
and £5 10s for 11cwt. of special manure, still unpaid for. He 
will have
potatoes for six weeks to come, and the rest must be reserved 
for seed.
He put down two barrels of seed oats, which the neighbours 
sowed gratis in
return for like little services done by him; and never threshed 
a grain
of it. His live stock is made up of three dairy cows and three 
goats - neither
sheep, nor lamb, not donkey. His butter is sold in lumps. His 
circle numbers seven, and counts absent ones in America and 
Maurice Gorman has a lease of 116 acres. He is tenant from year 
to year
of another holding of 29a 1r 21p and from this he is under 
notice of
ejectment. Gorman appears to be one of the strong farmers of 
the mountain-one who was
not likely, therefore, to let any plot of land slip through his 
for the sake of two guineas a year, if any profit were to be 
had by keeping
it. The holding now in question is perched highest upon the 
Galtee range and
is grazed only by cows. It has not been broken for twelve 
years, and is fast
sinking back into barrenness. The man whom Gorman succeeded in 
made his living by cutting turf and selling heath for litter. 
The rent
used to be £2 2s, and was fixed by Mr. Walker at £4 4s.
The short day was already near its death when we recrossed to
Skeheenarinka. Our passage lay across a steep and rocky gorge 
between whose jagged sides
tumbles down a mountain stream which might easily enough become 
a torrent.
This is the precipice to the brink of which Denis Murphy 
invited the Lord
"Chief Justice, with the promise of a "Niagara Megrim," and in 
earnest a few days after the trial a neighbouring tenant named 
Thomas Leonard was
precipitated down the gorge, and lies abed to this day with his 
I did not experience any American variety of dizziness in the 
passage, but I
would have thought twice of clambering up the opposite height, 
without a
safe guide or in wet weather. We had only daylight for two 
visits more. One
was to the house of William Neill, who has been under notice to 
quite, but has
for the moment been spared process of eviction. Another cleanly 
peasant home is this, and another half-dozen dejected people 
inhabit it.
Neill has a horse, which according to his own assertion, must 
be fed on
kindlier soil than his. The story of his tillage experiments is 
the same
tale of blight and loss that was dinned into my ears in every 
cabin on the
mountain. He has a milch cow and three heifers. He offered the 
cow at
the last fair of Ballyporeen for £2, and nobody closed with 
him. Maurice Fitzgerald is under process of ejectment. He holds 
15 statute acres, the
old rent of which was £1 18s 6d, and the new demand £6 10s. He 
offered Mr
Bridge £4 in vain. His crop of oats was sown under the double 
of having the seed himself and having the ploughing done by his 
yet, he exhibited the note from Mr. Burke of Cahir, for £1 18s 
6d, for the
crop, less about 10 stone reserved for himself. He has to pay 
Lismore for the grazing of his six sheep and six lambs. The 
dairy stock comprises
three milch cows, with a heifer in calf. The produce last 
season was four
firkins of butter, to make up the fourth of which Mrs. 
Fitzgerald had to
purchase 15 lbs. Two of these fetched £3 9s and the two others 
sold in
Cork, yielded a united profit of £5 12s 6d. Thus far a first 
excursion around Skeheenarinka. Great portion of it has yet to 
be traversed before turning to the five or six other townlands 
embracing the estate.
I thought it my duty to repair to-day to the Mountain Lodge to 
lay before
Mr. Bridge, if he should be so minded, a frank statement of 
what I had heard
and seen and to receive with scrupulous respect whatever denial 
or correction
he should have wished to see placed side by side with evidence 
tinged with one sidedness. Owing to his departure to Roscrea 
for the
Christmas holidays this intention has been frustrated, and 
these sheets
must go forth, without possible explanations which, I know, you 
will readily
give Mr. Bridge an opportunity most fully of making. The 
Mountain Lodge [Galty Castle] is
picturesquely seated on a sunny southern slop overlooking a 
richly wooded
gorge, through which the meandering course of the Funcheon 
marks the
division between Limerick and Tipperary - opening on one side 
over the
far-reaching plains bounded by the Knockmealdown Mountains, and 
upon the
other side into the gloomy heart of the Galtees. It is 
approached by a
long bye-road outside the village of Kilbeheny. At the base of 
the mountain lies the model farm of the estate-that of Mr 
Holywell, the only English tenant, I believe, on the property, 
and manifestly the most skilled agriculturist.
But, then, his fields are the fat of the lowlands, and were 
drained at the expense of the Land Company before Mr. Holywell 
set foot
there. His farmhouse is a little mansion, fronted by a well 
lawn, and backed by extensive slated stables, barns and out 
offices. His cattle
and his tillage are of a totally different order from any other 
I have
seen upon the estate. Both are excellent and do him infinite 
credit. Higher
up there are large nurseries of young firs, larches, and 
beech-trees, with
which Mr. Bridge carries on an extensive system of plantations 
on the
mountain sides. His own avenue is thrown open to the many, for 
whom it is
a short cut into the glens. The way is bordered on each side by 
dense clumps
of rhododenrons, whose flowers in hundreds and thousands make 
this, I am
told, in summer another Pass of Roses. The avenue winds steeply 
up until
a bend brings one in full view of the Lodge in its eyrie on the 
side of the river. It is, in winter, a lonesome looking place, 
but the elements
of theatric scenery lie all around, and the woods are richly 
stocked with
pheasants, hares, woodcocks and the numerous herds of wild deer 
infest the heights of the Galtees. The Lodge is a plain 
sandstone two story
building with a short foolscap tower, on a little gravelled 
plateau. The
iron hut in which Mr. Bridge's bodyguard of Constabulary, under 
command of
Constable Carraher are housed, is pitched in the yard to the 
rear between
the Lodge and the woods, which stretch over the mountain 
Tipperary. It is a long, squat iron-proof compartment in which 
three of the men have
their hammocks swung. Their meals are cooked in a wooden hut 
facing it,
and their comrades sleep in an adjoining stable. As I rapped at 
the hall door
of the Lodge an affectionate little beagle rushed up to be 
fondled. The
servant from whom I enquired whether I could see Mr. Bridge, 
informed me
that he had left for Roscrea, two days before, and would not be 
back before
Monday next. To the suggestion that I might leave my card to 
say who
called, I replied that it was not necessary. As I jumped on the 
car the
head bailiff O'Loghlen, sprang out of the house, bareheaded and 
flurried, and commenced to gyrate around me in a very amusing 
way. I
found it necessary to inquire whether there was anything I 
could do for him.
Very sheepishly he replied, "I thought, you wanted to see Mr. 
Bridge, sire."
Well?" Mr. Bridge, is from home, sir," Well?" "He stopped for a 
hesitatingly. I think, sir, it would be well if you left your 
name, to let him
know who called?" "I don't" Mr. O'Loghlen moved backwards and 
the car
forwards. It had not gone far down the avenue when the coachman 
was at
our heels on horseback, and I hear that my visit to Mountain 
Lodge is
exercising the curiousity of some of the authorities there 
mightily those leisure

Christmas on the Galtees 5

Mitchelstown, Christmas Day

Two things have forced into notice at every step of my progress
through the Buckley estates. One is that I have not heard from 
high or low in
town or country, from tenants or dependants, a single good word 
for Mr.
Bridge, not a single violent one against him. The other is that 
the tenants who
have "settled" - at least the great majority of those whom I 
have spoken
with - are even more crushed in hope and spirit than those over 
eviction is impending. They do not cloak their passionate 
interest in the stand
made by their sturdier brethren. They speak of themselves in 
tones of misery
and shame. They hail the Rev. Dr Delany with welcomes and part 
with him with
prayers because they think (and think truly) that he has not 
abandoned hope. They reiterate in many a variation upon the 
same woeful plaint,
that they have bowed under a rent which will crush them. Their 
apology, put
in plain terms is that, in order to keep the roofs over them 
for the
present, they have bandaged their eyes to the future. In 
reference to Mr. Bridge,
again, strangers who have been horrified with blood-stained 
pictures of
tenantry, might have looked for vengeful fury of language on 
the part of
some, and tenderness, or at least cautious on the part of 
with whom he is presumed to be in peace. The converse is my 
Not even the language of outrage from men doomed to ejectment, 
and words
of wringing bitterness from those whom prudence ought to have 
silenced. The
strongest term of vituperation I have heard used, even in heat, 
by the
men under notice was "That man," with a significant nod towards 
Castle, and the best wish, that his shadow had never fallen 
across the estate.
If there is anything more curious than the utter 
inoffensiveness and
peaceable longings of the tenantry it is the eagerness with 
which they look for
redress to the newly-discovered powers of law and public 
opinion -rare visitors
hitherto to those sequestered glens. The names of their counsel 
champions are constantly on their lips with blessings. They 
have got dim
revelations that courts and newspapers are made for 
mountaineers as well
as citizens. Their visit to the capital has given them other 
material for
fireside talk than how Din Murphy got the better of the 
Serjeant on the
"cross" or how Shawn Shaughnessy's body-coat was the wonder of 
street. I have generally lighted on them in their cabins in one 
of two
moods - listless dejection or picturesque vehemence; and in 
either phase
there is a resistless fascination in their sorrow, emphasized 
as it is in so
many cases by worn cheeks and hungry eyes, by bare walls and 
barren heaths.

I went to Mitchelstown workhouse to-day to see the paupers eat 
Christmas dinner. The prospects I had seen from the festive 
season at
Skeheenrinka excited a curiousity to learn how much worse off 
an idle
pauper could be than a farmer who has spent all his days 
creating soil upon the
breast of a mountain. Now, the Mitchelstown Guardians do not 
feast their
charge with roast beef and plum-pudding and currant cake and 
tea, nor are
the rooms wreathed with holly, not do kind ladies distribute 
toys and
sweet bread and coffee, and a solid dinner of one pound of 
prime boiled beef
and vegetables, with an inexhaustible cauldron of appetising 
soup. I saw the
old people attack their trenchers, and right heartily demolish 
contents. They were cleanly and warmly clad and shod. I saw 
parties of
infirm men and women lolling before bright fires in their 
dayrooms, or
basking in the sun in the exercise yards. I passed through the 
white dormitories, with floors scrupulously scrubbed and 
windows half opened to
admit the bracing air from the hills. The mattresses of clean 
were in the infirmary ward, extended on wooden stretchers, and 
in the
able-bodied department upon a raised flooring at wide 
intervals. The bedding was two
pairs of woolen blankets, a pair of sheets, a warm rug and a 
pillow. I
passed through the children's quarters, where about a hundred
healthy-looking little children are neatly clothed, and fed, 
and educated, and, I was
glad to hear, admitted almost daily to breathe the air of the 
free fields. I
saw old, bedridden people, whom the order of the doctor might 
elevate to a
diet of wine or porter, beefsteak or arrowroot. It was not very 
splendid as a
prospect in life; but, there were no dripping walls, no scanty 
no clamorous creditors, no hungry stomachs, though these people 
toiled not,
neither did they spin. I am not going to say that Christmas on 
the Galtees was gloomier than in the workhouse. In many homes 
on the estate, I have no doubt, there were whatever Christmas 
comforts humble means could buy. In the very poorest, as far as 
I know, by whatever pinch or device, some
scrap of meat was foraged out in honour of the first of 
festivals. The custom
that it should be has the spell of a superstition. But I mean 
to say
the dryness, and cleanliness, and warmth, the indolence and 
fare, of the
workhouse would have been luxury; if transferred to two dozen 
of the
cottier homes of Skeheenarinka, where men have delved all their 
lifetime for
bread with twice the industry that would have cleared a 
settlement in the
American backwood. Not a sprig of holly was to be seen in any 
house I visited. I
looked up once towards where, in the obscurity, I thought I saw 
a flitch
of bacon hanging up opposite the chimney corner, as I had seen 
in happier
spots; it was a horse collar. Sweetmeats would be like sending 
ruffles who wanted a shirt. It would be almost a levity to 
speak of the ordinary
Christmas adjuncts of merry-making. A meal of bread and tea and 
pork was
the average Christmas banquet. In one house there were 6lb of 
pork among
ten; in another 3lb of mutton among five. A goose or a bit of 
bacon was
the mark of superior station. As I drove past the base of the 
hill after
nightfall, when no cheerful twinkle lighted the cabin windows, 
and when a
snowstorm breaking over the Galtees overspread it like a 
shroud, there
seemed to be few spots in Christendom that had less business 
with a happy
Subject: Christmas on the Galtees 6

St Stephen's Day, Dec 26th

I made the mistake of supposing at first sight that up to a 
elevation the whole surface of Skeheenarinka Mountain was 
reduced to
something like civilised cultivation. It seemed as if, in 
following the
beaten paths which wind about the sides of the mountain and 
over its brow,
I had seen the worst soil, the worst houses, and the most 
wretched people to
be found even on the Galtees. I devoted to-day to visiting 
almost every
homestead on the southern face of the mountain, penetrating 
thence across
the glens to the recesses of Carrigeen and Knocknagalty. My 
head almost
swims with the tales of misery, poverty, squalor, and despair 
poured into
my ears from fifty different sources, and told quite as 
bitterly by what I
have seen as what I have heard. The southern slope I found to 
be scarred with
huge tracts of incorrigible morass as well within 500 feet of 
the bottom
as of the top. The cabins with decaying thatch degenerated here 
and there
into hovels swarming with hungry-looking children. The fields 
were grazed
rarely by dwarf cattle shivering on the sheltered side of great 
stone fences.
The crops were abortive potatoes and short oaten straw. I met 
only one farmer
during the day who had threshed his oats for sale. On Sunday 
the influence
of a brilliant sun had softened the most forbidding nights. 
To-day there
were still spaces of sunshine, but the whole Galtee range was 
crowned with
snow, and the mountain's breast was swept from time to time by 
gusts of
icy rain and snow, which drove cold to one's marrow. Once more 
I had the Very
Rev. Dr Delany's escort, and once more I had reason to thank 
him for
unlocking to me the ready confidence of every peasant who 
crossed us.

At 11 o'clock we were leaving the main bridle road at a slight 
for a borheen piercing to the middle of the mountain. The first 
house we
passed was that of the widow of John Hyland, the poor coachman 
at Garrylee. Mrs Hyland obtained £700 compensation for the 
loss of her
husband; also in the last few months found a new partner in her 
The adjoining farm is that of Thomas Hyland, the father of the 
man. The old man's farm is measured at 19a 0r 33p; but so 
persuaded is he that
it does not exceed 11 that he demanded a survey, and it was 
refused. His
rent was raised from £4 16s 3d to £7. He yielded after two 
years' resistance,
and was obliged by Mr. Bridge, thereupon, to pay the difference 
between the
old and the new rents for a year and a half, which had been in 
since Mr. Walker's valuation. Hyland's land is in portions as 
good as any on the
mountain, and his farm buildings are really farm buildings, 
though humble
ones. He has a family of six. One of his sons, James some nine 
after the murder of his brother, was summoned at the 
prosecution of Mr.
Bridge for gathering a load of heath off the mountain, and 
suffered seven
days' hard labour in Clonmel. The lad admits, however, that 
although he
had permission from the gamekeeper to cut heath away in a 
poorer plot, he did
not take it in the place indicated, and I am disposed to think 
gamekeeper was not far wrong in accusing the young fellow of 
that he would take it "in spite of Bridge or bailiff." Close 
by, lies a
wretched patch of tillage, surrounded by a couple of acres of
irreclaimable "rea" [scrub land]. Edmund Coghlan paid 3s a year 
as sub-tenant of this
to a farmer named Michael Cull. Under the revaluation his 
holding was made a
separate one, and charged with £1 a year. Coghlan's son is in 
employment of the gamekeeper. His family numbers eight souls. 
accepted the terms of the valuation - "But sure my property 
would not support us
three months in the year, only I earn my board myself as a 
thatcher and
labouring through the country".
We emerged now upon an expanse of savage heath, broken by pools 
of water,
and browsed by a few goats. In the corner of this wilderness it 
the heap of jagged stones and rotten thatch which answers 
Laurence Cranitch
and his eight children for a home. Mr. D J Reardon, at the 
trial, described the
place as unfit for the habitation of a beast, and the bed as a 
handful of
rags. Mrs Cranitch's housewife's pride has been stung by the 
as she somewhat tartly explained to-day, and I fancy that in 
her case, as
in many others, the evidence given at the trial as to the 
prevalence of filth
in hovels of the more wretched sort has worked a reformation, 
for she had
the place as tidy as was consistent with a damp floor, slimy 
walls, and
worthless furniture. But I noticed that the bedroom was not 
open to view;
her husband, she said (who is in Mr. Bridge's employment), had 
taken the
key in his pocket. Poor creature! "Tis easy for them to talk of 
fine houses,"
says she, bitterly, "when I have to borrow the boots to go to 
Mass;" and
she pointed to her own ragged pair of brogues. Upon a space of 
some eight
Irish acres, nineteen twentieths of it a boggy waste, attached 
to this crazy
cabin, with a small cow and a donkey for live stock, and ten 
mouths to
feed, a rent of £3 18s 10d, has been imposed instead of £2 of 
Hardly a less wretched cabin or a less wretched slice of 
mountain is that
of the Widow Roche hard by - the thatch, as usual, old and 
patched with heath;
the green rainmarks disfiguring the walls in half a dozen 
places; the
floor, damp as it is, and indented with holes in which the 
rain, is swept; the
whole effects worth some fifteen shillings. The family sleep in 
two straw
beds in a suffocating little apartment, some seven feet by ten, 
and the
rain pours through the thatch within a few inches of the head 
of the bed in
which a withered little old man, Mrs Roche's father-in-law, lay 
for three months
this year with swellings and pains in the bones. How a sanitary 
could permit a man ill of rheumatism to linger in such a den I 
imagine. Yet Mrs Roche states that her husband lay sick here 
for a year
and a half, and died of dropsy and rheumatic pains. Dr Fenton, 
indeed, who
visited him on a dispensary red ticket, advised him not to stay 
in a wet
house but to go to the workhouse, where he would have 
nourishment. He did
for a time go to Clogheen workhouse hospital, where he was told 
that if he
had come six months earlier he would have been cured. He 
however, to the cabin to die. So said Mrs Roche, and she 
informed me that her rent
had been raised from 18s to £2 4s, and that her husband had 
accepted the
terms from the commencement. "Sure only the mercy of God I 
don't know
where 'tis to come from. There we have a handful of little 
croghauns that will
last us a couple of months longer, and no milk for them but to 
eat them
dry; and then the work will be to get security for the price of 
the yellow
meal." She had three-quarters of an acre of oats this year, for 
which she bought
two barrels of seed on credit, paid 7s and diet for ploughing, 
and 3s for
mowing. She threshed it with wattles and gave it to the cow. "A 
head of
cabbage here is not the big of your fist, and no sort of 
turnips comes
on unless a knob on the stalk." Mrs Roche has one sow.
Not far off we came upon Richard Leonard's house and met a 
sickly man of
middle age, once endowed with a powerful frame, tottering about 
the door,
with six young children around him. The creature pressed his 
hand to his
breast, and complained of an "impression" there, he had the 
marks of
consumption stamped unmistakably on his worn cheeks, and 
shivered in the
cold. The hut, made of loose stones and torn heath, had not 
even the
smallest apology for a window, and no safety-valve from 
suffocation but
the holes in the roof, and the larger hole that answered for a 
chimney. A
glance within showed nothing but "darkness visible." Leonard 
came to the
mountain fifteen years ago, appropriated a bit of course sand 
mottled with
heather, built this hut, and lived on unmolested until he had 
delved a
patch of potato ground out of the waste. Until the re-valuation 
he paid no
rent; since then he has to pay 7s 6d a year. Four goats and a 
sow are his
worldly goods.
After parting with Leonard we rode through an untracked expanse 
of rock,
sand, heath, and bog up the steep face of the hill; we struck 
once more a
borheen, through whose rocky course a donkey was toiling 
painfully up
under a barrel of water. This brought us into the farmyard of 
Thomas Hyland, one
of the highest on the mountain. Hyland has been served with a 
process of
ejectment. His holding is measured at 56a 2r 31p statute 
measure. His
rent was £5 1s 6d; the rent demand is £10 10s. the great bulk 
of his holding
is mere stunted heather, spotted here and there with tufts of 
sickly grass.
The rest is chiefly light pasturage, claimed and unreclaimed 
lie side by side;
and the contrast makes me incredulous that men ever dreamed of 
life by a struggle of this sort against unconquerable 
sterility. His farm
premises bore the strongest evidence of enterprise and of 
unceasing toil.
The outhouse and offices, worn, indeed, by rain and weather, 
but among the
most complete in Skeheenarinka, were built by himself and his 
father - by
their own hands and their own pockets. The foundations had to 
be scooped
out some ten feet on the steep side of the mountain: the snow 
every year
envelopes the place for a fortnight; a coat of it lay melting 
through the
roof when we saw it. The wind and rain are beginning to eat 
through the
thatch of the dwelling house; still it is a clean place, and 
there is a
cowhouse roofed with timber, a piggery, a little stable for the 
horse, and
a carthouse in which he has got up a rude cutting machine to 
grind furze into
fodder for his cattle and horse. A huge mass of manure, 
probably 200
loads, was piled in the farmyard against next season - if next 
season should find
Hyland on Skeheenarinka. Last season he sowed an acre of rye. 
The field
had to be turned up with spades, the ground being too 
precipitous for
ploughing. He paid 15s for the seed, £3 for the assistance of 
eight or
nine men, and the ten or eleven stones of corn it produced were 
used in feeding
the cattle. He sowed an acre and a-half of oats. This field 
also had to
be tilled with spades. The seed cost him £3 10s; the labour £4; 
and he never
threshed a stone of the oats. "For twelve years I never sold a 
grain of
it, but to throw it to the cows." His farm-stock consists of 6 
milking cows,
4 yearlings, 1 calf, 5 sheep, 2 pigs, a horse and a donkey. 
Hyland himself
states that fodder costs him £12 a year; that from September to 
May they
must be almost exclusively hand fed; and that the cold is so 
that good cattle quickly degenerated there, and last winter 
twelve months the
cows were near perishing of cramps. "What we'd got out of them 
in the
summer would hardly feed them in the winter." And begor, all 
the help we
ever got from Mr. Bridge was to have me fined £1 for cutting a 
barth of
heath on the mountain to put a coat of thatch on the roof". In 
his reclamation
work Hyland found that lime only burned up whatever little 
surface he
could make, and he had only to fall back upon the slow process 
of decomposing
straws of heather in farmyard manure, and thus creating an 
artificial soil
upon the gravelly foundation. He had to open deep drains in 
order to bury
the big stones, and build four-foot stone fences with the 
We called to the Widow Leonard, who was in bed ill. Her rent 
has been
raised from £2 6s 6d to £3 0s 6d. A few cheap religious prints 
hung over
her head. Thomas Leonard holds some twenty-one English acres, 
with the
usual mixture of barrenness and reclamation. His old rent was 
£2 6s; his
new rent, £6 8s 6d. He has been served with notice to quit, 
which has not
yet, however, been followed up by a process of ejectment. About 
a year
ago, when he approached Mr. Bridge for a settlement, he was 
told that the
arrears must be paid up since 1879. "I would give it up to him 
first," cried
Leonard; "and if there was any sort of a roof over me 'tis 
little I'd
grudge it."
We had not completed the circuit of Skehennarinka, and visited 
almost every
cabin on the mountain. Through an intricate tangle of dry 
and torn roads, we began to descend westwards into a deep 
defile, clothed with
fir plantations on one side, and bounded by the rocky acclivity 
Carrigeen on the other, while the Funcheon tumbled down through 
the centre. The
horses had to be led during the descent. On crossing the rude 
bridge over the
Funcheon [stream]we were in Limerick. In the depth of one of 
the wild glens that
open on all sides from the river we came upon the wretched 
habitation of
James Murphy, at Knocknagaltee. He came over the fields to 
welcome us - a
queer figure, active, but uncouth, deadened and almost 
apathetic in
spirit. He wore a rag on the crown of his matted hair, and an 
old blue coat,
streaming in a hundred shreds. This man has been served with a 
of ejectment. His rent has been raised from £4 7s 4d to £10 10s 
0d upon a
farm nominally rated at 95a 0r 9p statute measure. I did not 
boil a single
pratie this year," he said, "not one. It's Indian meal we're 
eating all
through." When asked if he could honestly manage to pay the 
rent, "I would stop till he leveled down the house about me 
first," was the
reply. "My father lived here before me," he continued, "for 80 
years. I was not
12 years old when I remember rooting that unfortunate rock, and 
from that day
to this sorra the day's confort we ever had there." He dug 
portions of the
semi-reclaimed heather, and after imperilling the spade, 
brought up three
inches of black soil with a substratum of more yellow mud and 
clay. In
another field,a thoroughly reclaimed one, I noticed at the 
edges soil
nine inches deep, with a fair only foundation. Perhaps the 
aspect of the place
was not served by a snow-storm which was beating about it; but 
it appeared
to be a dismal and unkindly spot. A cow, he stated, that he 
would bring
from good land, after three months here would not be worth 50s. 
In proof of
this he trotted out a little cow, which looked young and hardly 
enough, but,
which was visibly cramped from the cold, as well as wretchedly 
bony and
course-coated. He asserted that he sold a cow this year at 
for 50s. His stock consists of four cows, the produce of which 
this season
was three firkins, less, 25lbs which had to be bought to 
complete the
quantity. His tillage was confined to an acre of oats, an acre 
of potatoes, and a
cabbage-garden. For barrels of seed oats cost him £3, four bags 
special manure cost him £5, and he neither boiled a potato nor 
threshed a grain of
oats - for forty years he never sold any.

Subject: Christmas on the Galtees 7

We crossed another mountain stream, spanned by a bridge without 
and leaving the shaggy ravine behind mounted the opposite slope 
on the
steep road to Carrigeen. The wife of the first tenant we met 
told an
extraordinary and all but incredible story about the terms on 
which her
husband, John Murphy, came to a settlement with Mr. Bridge. Her 
who holds about 25 Irish acres, and has ten children, had his 
rent raised
from £7 8s 6d to £14 8s. After some two years he accepted the 
terms of
the valuation, and he has had (so this extraordinary but 
obstinate statement)
not only to pay the new rent, but to pay arrears and expenses 
to the
amount of £18 4s, being the difference between the old and new 
rents from the
date of the notice of the increase! But more extraordinary 
still, this woman
asserts that, being totally unable to meet those arrears at the 
time, her
husband was, by Mr. Bridge, obliged to sign an agreement to pay 
18s a year,
in addition to the increased rent, as interest, until the 
principal sum of
£18.4s has been wiped off! I hesitate to believe that there 
must not be a
mistake somewhere. I asked if her husband had got any copy of 
agreement signed by him, and was told he had got none whatever. 
I would not give
currency to the story at all, but that I am assured on 
authority I cannot
well doubt that there are several other cases which I have yet 
The following extract of Mr. Justice Barry, on the occasion of 
the conditional order against Mr. J S Casey, [reporter who 
originally wrote about Patton Bridge and his treatment of the 
Buckley Estate tenants] sheds a strange light upon this
extraordinary story:-
But what was the course adopted upon this estate in the 
Galtees? The
purchase is made in 1873; a stranger unknown to the tenants, of 
integrity or skill they know nothing, is brought down in July; 
completes his valuation about November, and in January, 1874, 
printed notices are
sent to the tenants informing them that their rent is to be 
(specifying the amount fixed by Mr. Walker) from the 26th March 
then next. I have
professionally and judicially come in contact with many cases 
controversy between landlord and tenant; I have seen and heard 
the usual charges and
counter charges of harshness on the one hand and dishonesty or
unreasonableness on the other, sometimes proved and sometimes 
but such a demand by agent or landlord as that made by those 
notices under
such circumstances never fell within my observation. The demand 
was wholly
unenforceable in law, and, so far as I see on the facts before 
indefensible as a matter of dealing between man and man. In 
point of law
the landlord could no more enforce the advanced rent from 26th 
March than
he could enforce its payment retrospectively for the ten years. 
tenants were entitled by law to hold at the old rent until the 
end of the
year, and the service of these notices must therefore be 
regarded as an
attempt, and so far as I can see, an unjustifiable attempt to 
through the terror of apprehended eviction, that increase on 
the coming half year
which he could not obtain by any legal process.
"We never will be able to pay it nor to pay what's due," said 
Murphy. "We had 6lb of pork yesterday for our Christmas dinner 
among twelve.
'Twas the poorest Christmas day we ever had, striving to pay 
everybody his
dues, and sure it's equal if we're there at all next 
 We clambered up a rocky watercourse into the heart of the 
hills. The
snow beat in our faces, out feet and hands were pierced through 
and through
with cold. The road dipped and fell in the midst of rocky 
desolation. The
horses started nervously at the streams that crawled across the 
and the rude red sandstone flags that now and again extended 
right across
beneath their feet. On one of the coldest and windiest summits 
of this
wild region stands the hut of Shawn Shaughnessy-the foulest and 
dingiest human
habitation I have yet put foot in. The whole construction is 
about nine
feet square, and beside it the tottering walls of a roofless 
Right in front of the door of the dwelling-house is built a 
wall to keep
out the wind. It has the effect also of completely keeping out 
the light,
save what struggles in through the broken window or the broken 
roof. I looked in twice, as it seemed into utter darkness, 
before I could trust myself into
the pestilential blackhole. Then, by groping around I nearly 
into the smouldering fire. A few moments habitation to the 
darkness enabled
me to see dimly black walls, an almost empty deal dresser, a 
spinning wheel,
and an alcove of some sort in the wall, wherein I could make 
out a poor
straw bed covered with ragged bedclothes. I am to this moment 
how this recess is formed, or whether the roof of it is a wall 
or a bedstead;
but live Christians herd there by night! The sight is revolting 
expression. Nothing could have been more significant than the 
between the wife, who sits constantly in this Malabolga, 
blear-eyed, with wan cheeks and matted black hair, and eyes 
reddened with
ophthalmia, and withal sprightly of intellect, and in her own 
dismal way
cheerful - nothing, I say, could better tell the difference 
breathing pure air and foul miasma than the contrast between 
her and her husband,
who is constantly on the hills. A huge, broad-shouldered, 
old man, straight as a ram-rod, with the purest type of Celtic 
face, half
simple, half roguish, in primitive costume of caubeen, frieze 
coat, and
knee breeches; and speaking a wonderful jumble of Irish and 
English. Shawn's
rent was raised from £7 4s 6d to £11 19s 11d. He went three 
times to Mr.
Bridge with the increased rent, which he sold one of his two 
cows to make
up, and was twice refused. Mr. Bridge, however, afterwards 
accepted it.
"But," says the wife, "he would throw him out only for the 
Galtee Boy. [The reporter -Casey]
We would not keep it at all only about two years ago a boy of 
ours went
out to New Zealand on the cheap emigration, with only 21s in 
his pocket when
he landed, and he was not landed two months when he sent us 
home £9, and he
always told us never to give up the old place while there was a 
roof over
it." There had been some story afloat that Mr. Bridge, who had 
taken two
of the sons into his employment at 6s and 9s a week 
respectively, a few
weeks before the trial, had since disemployed them. I was glad 
to learn that
there is not a little of foundation for the rumour. Mrs. 
states that she met Mr. Bridge since the trial. "How are you, 
Mrs. O'
Shaughnessy, my Dublin woman?" says Mr Bridge. "As well as you 
left me,
my Dublin man," was her reply; "it was you made Dublin men and 
women of the
whole of us."
There was little more to see of Carrigeen, and little time to 
see it, for
the shadows were already closing over the mountains, and to be 
beset here
after dark was to spend the night in hopeless wanderings in the 
snow. We
had barely time to visit the farmhouse of Michael O'Neill, who 
holds 34a
2r 10p, towards the base of the Carrigeen hill, and who has 
also been served
with an ejectment process. His old rent was £3 4s 8d; and the
re-valuation fixed it at £10 5s which Mr Bridge agreed to 
reduce to £10. "But I never
would be able to pay it, and where's the use of thinking I 
could?" He
never thrashed oats. He had not six months' potatoes out of two 
acres, though
he put down £6 worth of special manure on the field. His stock 
is composed
of three cows, two calves, a horse and three pigs, and there is 
not a cow of
them, he says, worth £4 a year to him with hand feeding. This 
another wide circuit of the estate. We descended the mountain 
Kilbeheny, and a short ride brought us just at nightfall within 
the pale [access]
of jaunting cars. To-morrow I mean to invade the Barnahown and 
country.Ballyporeen, Friday December 28
If ever there was a suspicion that the unfortunate paraded at 
the trial in
the Court of Queens Bench were not fair specimens of "the rich, 
well-to-do fellows," the Buckley tenantry was described to be, 
one may hope
that this investigation will once for all scatter it to the 
winds. I have
already visited at haphazard better than one hundred and thirty 
of the four
hundred and odd holdings affected by the valuation without 
stumbling upon
more than three homes of average country comfort, and two of 
the three were
enriched by the Land Companys expenditure. In fully half the 
rest there
were a bitter struggle for such necessaries of life as the 
inmates of
poorhouses and prisons enjoy in abundance, and in none was 
there the
smallest savour of the little comforts that make a life a 
sleepless industry
endurable. I feel the terrible weight of the deduction from 
these words,
but, I cannot help it. In half a dozen human styes I have said 
"This is
surely the worst," until some other tottering heap of mud and 
some other ragged widow shivering with ague, some group of 
children ankle
deep in mud ravening a platter of course stirabout turned up to 
admonish me
I had spoken too soon. Thirty times, in varying phrase and in 
portions of
the estate far apart, a peasant has said of his own acres of 
stony heath or
bog "This is the most starved bit of ground on the property;" 
and as often
some deeper depth has been revealed, until I have to job my 
memory for the
few spots to which nature has been kind, or the much more 
numerous ones in
which human toil has got the better of nature. It is irksome, 
if it were
not vitally necessary, to go through this dreary catalogue of 
one by one. All I can promise those who follow me is that if, 
as the author
of "Coningsby," once said, "there is a romance in every life," 
there is an
all-too-real tale of melting human sorrow and endurance within 
hundreds of
those thatched cabins, could I only transfer it to these pages 
with half the
power with which it has imprinted itself upon my own heart.
The village of Ballyporeen stands on an island of property, 
belonging to Mr
Denis O'Brien, of Carlow, almost in the centre of the Buckley 
Around it spreads an undulating valley some four miles wide, 
watered by the
Funcheon and the Tar, but far more effectually saturated by the 
from the hills of which it forms the basin. On the north it is 
enclosed by
the Galtee range, along the foremost heights of which extend 
the townlands
of Carrigeen, the mountain part of Skeheenarinka and 
Coolegarraroe. To the
south are piled irregular masses of hills, some 1,500 feet 
above the sea
level at their highest, indented by deep glens, their warmer 
variegated with fairly grassy pasturage, and the hardy toil of 
men disputing
even their summits with the primeval rocks. A deep mountain 
gorge, four
miles long, runs up into these hills near their eastern butt, 
until it
bursts into the valley of the Araglin. This is Glenacunnah. 
occupies the rump of the hills, southwards, Lyrefunn and 
stretch away over the western heights. There are cosy nooks 
among these
fastnesses which the industry of man has brought to bloom; and 
character of the soil is the general kindlier than on the 
Galtees that is to
say, it is not all mere rock, and marl, coated with a created 
soil, and from
year to year watching its chance to rush back to its native 
barrenness. But
this is as much as can be fairly said of it. Considerably more 
than half of
it is to this day unproductive of anything but heath and 
niggerdly bog, and
the soil at it s best bears evidence of artificial creation, 
going on
deepening and reddening for long years, until the disadvantages 
of a quaking
or gravelly bottom have been conquered. This is the reality how 
fertility is in these townlands has been manufactured, and the 
tracts of
unreclaimed rocky heaths, side by side with civilised fields, 
even on the
level of the valleys, seem to me to place it beyond doubt that 
the whole
countryside was once thus uniformly savage. The first task is 
to eradicate
the stones, then to dig the tough roots of the heather three 
times, turning
up a fresh crop of stones at every digging; then to lay up the 
stock of
scraws of heather, and let them rot during the winter in 
farmyard manure;
put out in the spring over the reclaimed ground, the black soil 
engendered, now and manure a first crop, which is sure to be an 
and so go on year after year, adding hundreds of loads of 
rotted compost
(distributed almost invariable on the high grounds out of 
hampers carried on
the backs), until some warmth of nutrition is created. Now upon 
townlands all but a few of the tenants have accepted the 
re-valuation almost
from the commencement. Let us see how their four years 
experience of the
new tariff has fared with them.
A road practicable for light vehicles runs at an 
ever-increasing altitude
through the length of Glennacunna, past Ballyporeen iron 
springs, which Dean
Swift once recommended to Stella. Upon a steep bluff fronting 
the mouth of
the pass, about a mile inwards, James Phelan's farm has its 
eyrie. Phelan
himself slid down the heights to proffer us the hospitality of 
his cabin. A
bizarre figure was Jim, as he stood on a high stone fence, with 
his hand to
a snuff-coloured canteen, which had possibly been new in the 
days of the
Georges, but was not battered into a shrivelled heap, with one 
part of the
brim beaten down and another part cocked up a queer little old 
face, touched with grizzly grey hair and pinched into a 
thousand wrinkles;
an odd side long gait, a patchwork dialect of England and 
Irish, spoken in a
mellifluous brogue; and a pair of eyes in which, more than in 
almost any
Irishman I can remember, a twinkle of native roguishness was 
blended with
queer unconscious strokes of pathos. Phelan has been served 
with an
ejectment process from his farm of 22a 3r 27p. His old rent was 
£3 7s 6d,
the poor law valuation of his farm (his son stated), £2 8s; and 
the rent
which he has refused to pay, £5 8s 9d. "the Saturday before we 
went to
Dublin," he said, "I made Mr. Bridge an offer that if he would 
forgive the
arrears up to this, I would try to settle with him, if it was 
to bring me to
the workhouse. "If you give me fairness, sir, " says I "you 
need not go to
cross purposes nor law with me.. Sure the world known I have 
nothing to
lose by it, and any day you wish I will give you your own, and 
do you
compensate me." He said nothing to that, but says he, "how well 
neighbours are settling." "I know nothing of my neighbours, now 
how they
stand," says I, " but I know how I stand myself." "Well", says 
he, " you
wont come to reason til I bring the sheriff and fall the 
house". "Begor I
can't help that same" says I, "because the wind and weather 
will bring it
down before you. And, be the same token, sir," says I, "there 
are two of
the ould rafters split across, and Id be thankful to you for 
couples to
keep em from killing myself and the children in the bed." "Why, 
then, I
don't know how you can have the face of asking for rafters-how 
innocent you
are," says Mr Bridge, says he "how nice your neighbours would 
look if I
charged them for the timber and gave it for nothing for you." 
And, true
enough for him, it would be the rare story. "Almost the first 
charge he
made on me was, says he "Didn't you threaten to shoot Tobin the 
bailiff, or
put a pitchfork into his guts: "I never said it, begging your 
pardon, Mr.
Bridge, says I, "but, of course, I cannot account for my son in 
regard to
what a foolish boy might say." "He did say it, the villain." 
Says Mr Bridge.
You'll be very glad to settle with me after coming from 
Dublin." And that
was all I got for it after my fifty years here, pulling and 
dragging with
the world, and half-starving." I saw the tears stand in the old 
eyes, and he changed the subject by pulling out an account from 
Mr. John
Sheehy, of Ballyporeen, for 18cwt of Indiameal at £12. 9s, of 
which £1. 9s
remained due. "And begor, with all I owed him, he gave me five 
pounds of a
pigs head for Christmas. God Almighty may reward him!"/ I took 
down these
words as they came from his lips; the reader must estimate 
their worth for
himself. Later in the day we found time to climb to his cabin, 
up the face
of a steep, grassy field, up which no plough could travel, and 
every ounce
of artificial soil spread upon which has had to be carried in 
hampers. We
arrived breathless in front of the cabin, which it took Phelan, 
according to
his own showing twenty years to build.
A family of nine or ten (including the donkey), inhabit its 
three rooms.
The common room, as soon as I could make out anything through 
the blinding
smoke of the decayed earthy scrawn which answer for turf upon 
those hills,
had grimy walls stained with rainmarks, and a few cheap 
utensils of the
conrment kind-scrubbed however, cleanly enough. I noticed a bed 
of heath
soiled with manure near the entrance to one of the bedrooms, 
and was
informed it was the sleeping place of the donkey, which had 
been turned out
of doors in honour of our visit. In one of the bedrooms, a 
little closet, lit by a dirty pane, the rare section of the 
roof had a couple of rafters split across, and would inevitably 
tumble into
ruin but for two clumsy props, which might easily be displaced 
by a person
stumbling in the dark. Upon a wisp of straw , covered by a 
tattered brown
dress and a few dirty flannel rags, upon the damp earthen 
floor, right
underneath the tottering rafters, three children sleep!. The 
parents sleep
in a covered bedstead of coarse deal in the same den. The 
remains of the
potato crop were stored in the other bedroom. They were 
miserably small,
black, and wet, and bad as anything I had seen on 
Skeheenarinka. In three
or four weeks after Christmas they will be exhausted. Et apres? 
"We must
sell the little cow for meal, and after eating her out we must 
sell the
other one. After that we have only to trust to Providence. Sure 
only for
the confidence the people have in our honesty they would not 
trust us with a
cow not a sheep." And, having seen the little cows, which were 
more warmly
housed in the outhouse than their Christian masters next door, 
I am disposed
to think they will not long stave off the trust in Providence. 
Upon another night I had an opportunity of seeing several other 
whose holdings are seated amidst the stony heaths behind 
Phelans. One of
the houses stuck me particularly by its neatness. It was that 
of Timothy
Drislane; it was newly whitewashed for the holidays, 
scrupulously clean
within, furnished with several handy, though cheap little 
appliances that I
have seen nowhere else, the children fairly dressed for peasant 
and the woman of the house clad with something like comfort. 
rent was raised from £2 to £3 7s 6d, and he accepted the 
increase from the
beginning. Here surely was a case where the increase had 
brought no misery!
But the explanation soon came. "Ever since he paid it," said 
exceedingly quiet and respectable housewife, "we have been 
falling deeper
and deeper into debt every year. His means would not pay 
quarter of his
debts this moment. We would not be able to live at all upon 
unfortunate place only he goes out and earns himself here and 
there as a
handyman, as you may see by his little jobs about the house. 
Tobin told him
that they valued two acres of his at two guineas, that a house 
could never
be got to plough-he has to dig it all himself." And another 
tenant related
how Phelan and himself would start at one o'clock in the night 
for Clogheen
and sleep in a hayrick, to get a days employment at harvest 
work, and would
tramp it home the same night with a half-crown each in their 
But to return to our present circuit, which led us from end to 
end of
Glenncunnah, until a sudden bend at Barnagaoithe, or the Windy 
Gap, brought us
within the borders of Barnahown. It is worth while mentioning 
that we
passed on the way the field of turnips which Mr. Byrne, JP 
swore would not be
worth more than 6d, and I am very sure that if the cost of 
rooting them out
were brought into account the 6d would be on the wrong side of 
the balance
sheet. The Araglin in this place bisects a prosaic valley, 
having on its
northern bank Barnahown East, sloping upwards in dreary little 
tillage plots
into a background of bare brown heather, and to its right the 
softer and
better cultivated uplands of Captain Barry's estate, Lord 
lands stretching away eastwards under the shadow of 
Knockmeldown, and the
view to the west opening a dim perspective over the plains 
towards Fermoy.
We halted at the farmhouse of James Lynch-dingy and scantily 
thatched as
usual-and held conferences with his busy and active-minded 
wife. There was
evergreen stuck over the dresser-the only Christmas emblem I 
have yet met
upon the estate. A penny print of Father Tom Burke had an 
honoured place on
the wall; the rain came down quite near his reverences head. 
Now, Lynchs
rent was raised from £1 18s 6d to £3 7s 3d, and he has taken a 
31 year lease
at the increased rent. "What in the world ever possessed him to 
do such a
thing?" cried his wife, who was very poorly dressed. "He would 
not take a
lease from the beginning, and I ordered him several times 
against it, but he
was told by the bailiff, O'Loughlin, that one of his neighbours 
an adjoining tenant), when he was pretending to go to Clogheen, 
went up by
night to Galtee Castle to make a proposal for the land over his 
head. Them
were the sort of stories he was telling the people, and the 
poor, foolish
man went and took the lease. Mr. Bridge wished him to take it, 
and told him
he would have not trouble about it, but the poor man was 
processed for the
costs of the lease, and it came to £2 9s. And there he is now," 
she added
bitterly, "with his 31 years lease, and he owes him a years 
rent already
with the hanging gale-that will be two years rent in March. We 
finding ourselves getting into debt with the old rent, and only 
God is good
I don't know in the world how we are going to manage. You know, 
doctor," turning to my very reverend companion, "I had often to 
put the
children in all the road for fear they would be seen." There 
were six of
those same children and the potatoes all out. Mrs Lynch's 
parting words
were-"As poor as I am, if £3000 came down the chimney to me, if 
I was to beg
in the morning, I would give it to have him bato after all." 
Her next-door
neighbour hd no children; the one phenomenon of this kind on 
the estate.
While the Very Rev. Dr Delany was summoned away to a sick call 
in the
vicinity I made him a call. His prospects seemed non the 
brighter for that.
"Only it plazed God not to give us children we would have to 
fly, and it is
hard enough to get a meal of victuals out of it as it is; 
nothing buy
dragging and debt."
William Cullinane, a fine young man, whom we found immersed in 
work, holds an adjoining farm. His rent has been raised from £5 
12s 7d to
£7, and he has accepted a 31 years lease-under terror, as he 
asserts-at the
increased figure. His cabin was a wretched one, and a little 
opening into the living room, with no other vent hole that the 
doorway, was found to be filled with solid and liquid manure, 
where probably
some animal finds habitation. The farms has been won out of the 
jaws of
rocks and bogs. I saw the field photographed for the trial, 
under the name
of "the stony field." Something less and a rood of ground, 
which was last
year attached for the first time with a crowbar, and 
subsequently with a
spade, lay literally paved every foot of it, with large 
stones-as it seemed
to me, hundreds of loads of them. After clearing these off, and 
piling them
into fences, as the process goes on, the tenant will be obliged 
year after
year-as he estimates, for the next ten years-to cover the 
surface inches
thick with turf-soil decomposed in manure, and year after year 
to turn up a
fresh crop of stones, until there is at last something like 
subsoil upon the
gravelly foundation. Part of the same field, which has been 
nominally 10
years in cultivation, was littered abundantly with last seasons 
output of
Patrick Creagh is another of those who took a 31 years lease 
"What was a man
to do when every person was settling, and no way out of it but 
poorhouse? "his rent having been raised from £2 19s to £3 7s 
6d. He paid
two guineas for the expense of the lease, and has three acres 
and a half
arable acres, which himself and his father have broken with 
drained, manured and fenced. The result is that he is already a 
years rent
in arrear, beside the handing gale. £35 would not pay his 
debts, and "if he
was thinking till the day of his death" he could not tell where 
the money
was to come from. Richard Condon had the same dismal tale. It 
was he who
sworn in the Court of Queens Bench that in the famine times he 
sold to the
Board of Works 500 loads of stones taken off three quarters of 
an acre of
The most pitiful spot in Barnahown, however, is John Creaghs 
cabin. Three
of the six small frames of the window are without glass or even 
The exterior reeks with poisonous odours; all within is dark as 
slimy, damp, and suffocating. To see the wife and six children 
burrowing in
the chimney-corner in such a place was bad enough; things were 
not bettered
when we found that one little closet-door opened into a filthy 
receptacle of
stable manure where the donkey slept; but when I opened the 
door on the
other side and could distinguish a tall, gaunt, worn old man, 
palsied with
rheumatic pains, and with lingering consumption stamped on 
every line of his
wan face, staggering out of his miserable bed of straw to greet 
us feebly;
when I heard that for seven years, off and on, he has been 
struggling with
disease in this place; when I saw one of the rafters over his 
bed smashed
and propped; when I saw the children's frightful-looking couch 
supported on
mountain flagstones, and the poor remnant of the potatoes 
stowed under the
bed, I could not but think that if the rafters had mercifully 
given way and
silenced all beneath, there had been small share of happiness 
the less in
the world. This creatures rent was raised from £2 7s 7d to £3 
10s. the
one really comfortable-looking farm-house and barns in the 
townlands belong
to James Donovan; the interior was in every way worthy of a 
farmer of
moderate means, but a glimpse we caught of his two 
strapping-looking sons
sinking double lines of deep drains in the morass gave us some 
glimpse also
of how the comfort has come.
Mr. Buckleys property is confined to Barnahown East. Barnahown 
West, which
is a continuation of the same mountainous ridge, naturally of 
the same
obstinate barrenness, but nursed into a higher state of 
cultivation, forms
part of the estate of the Rev. M A Collin, D.D. Queenstown 
vigorous hater
of Papacy, I am told, but none the less passionately praised as 
a landlord
by his Papist tenantry. I had a curiousity to know whether they 
these things better in Barnahown West, and took good care that 
in learning I
should not be at the mercy of any over-officious underling 
itching for
favour with his lord. I had an opportunity of questioning three 
of the most
independent tenants on the Collin property, and their 
statements tally too
exactly to lave any shadow of suspicion of their truth. Here, 
then is the
substance of the statement of James Fitzgibbon a man of very 
intelligence, who wore the nearest approach to a silk hat and a 
cape which I have seen in these latitudes:--"If we till an acre 
of barren
mountain," he said, "the Rev. Collin will either give the lime 
or whatever
it may cost to the amount of 50 or 60 barrels per statute acre, 
and if the
land is in want of drainage he will make full compensation to 
the tenant for
the cost of that also. The tenant has only to give in the 
tickets for the
lime out of his half years rent. Whenever timber is wanting to 
repair a
home Dr Collin gives it for nothing, and if every a tenant is 
short in the
rent through bad times I never knew it to make a difference. 
The estate has
never been revalued for the last seventeen years, since it 
passed into Dr
Collins hands in the Landed Estates Court, and kinder or better 
there never was. " The praises of the Rev Dr Collis and his 
agent, Mr Thomas
Parrot, of Uplands, Fermoy, were chorused even more warmly by 
my two other
informants, Patrick Drinsane and Jeremiah Kenealy. When the 
tenants of
Barnahown West were, by accident or design, amorced with the 
policy tax
which fell upon the test of the townland after the first 
attempt on Mr
Bridges life, Dr. Collis exerted himself warmly and with 
success to secure
the exemption of his tenantry. It is almost superfluous to add 
that he is
repaid with gratitude and reverence by a punctual and improving 
We returned half way through the pass of Glencunnah, where we 
deserted the
car for a tramp of some eight miles right-over the mountains 
from height to
height. On the borders of Glenacunnah in a stifling cabin, 
patched rather
than thatched with heath and rotten straw, John O'Briens family 
were found
eating yellow stirabout dry. He agreed from the beginning to 
pay 30x
instead of 8s for his little holding of about two acres. "I am 
paying it
now as long as I have it, Mr Bridge," he said, when settling, 
"but I dont
know how long I will be troubling you." He has one old cow 
which he would
part with for £3 10s He made not an once of butter last season. 
His main
dependence is on a field overhanging a deep glen. The soil is 
in parts ten
inches deep of good dark mould upon a clayey bottom. "It was my 
own hard
industry made it what it is," he said, "bringing manure on my 
back and
digging every inch of it myself, for a horse could never climb 
it with a
plough." He is already a half gale in arrear beside the seed, 
and has
nothing to pay it. "I would enlist," he cried, "but what am I 
do do with
the houseful of young ones?" Crossing a deep gorge, through 
which a
mountain stream ran down, we mounted the opposite acclivity, 
and were in
Lyrefunn. The first farm on our way was that of John O'Brien, 
Gortnaskehy, whose rent was increased from £1 10s to £3, and 
who had to pay
arrears on the increase from the date of the valuation to the 
time of
settlement, amounting in his case to £3.
A little way off, within a sort of shelter-trench from the 
storm, formed of
huge stone ramparts, built out of the plenteous rockeries on 
the farm, stood
the cabin of John Carey, of Lyrefunn stood, for it has already 
half tumbled
about the cars of its inmates. Misery seems here to have 
reached its acme.
The walls that remain have bulged threateningly out. Half the 
roof blew
down one night in the storm, the day after Lord Chief Justice 
May had
intimated that there did not seem to be much danger of it. Six 
children and
the mother were cooped up in bed when they heard the rafters 
crack, and fled
for their lives. In the dismantled part of the cabin the sorry 
dresser and broken chair which formed the principal furniture 
of the
demolished chamber stand still under the open heaven rotting in 
the rain.
Against the portion which still stands there has been raised a 
hut of sods
of grass and wattles, without even a hole for ventilation, 
except as
entrance four feet high, and in this hideous little shieling in 
which a man
could not stand upright without putting his head through the 
roof, children
were cowering over the smoldering ashes, right underneath the 
gable. Carey was in Dublin when the home fell; a quiet 
spiritless hopeless
drudge, who plods along to his doom with a dulled equanimity 
too deadened
for despair. He went to Mr. Bridge on his return, and begged 
for live
couples to restore the roof. The answer was that Mr. Bridge was 
planting, not cutting timber and that if he got it he should 
pay for it.
Said Carey, "I have eight in family, no money, and no crops, 
trying to feed
the children." The argument did not prevail. He had recourse to 
a reverend
gentleman, who will be surprised-and I think unpleasantly-to 
know that I
have learned anything of this. "God Bless him, he gave me £1, 
and the £1
went on debts to keep up the credit, and we have to put up with 
the cabin
just as you see it." His relation of the state of his finances 
was in the
last degree painful. His rent for some twelve Irish acres was 
raised from
£1 5s 4d to £2 2s. "I agreed to pay it like the rest, of 
course, fearing to
be thrown out. I will owe two years rent in March next, and 
nothing to pay
it. There is over £25 in debts on me. I have not a cow or a 
sheep, and a
little bonnive and a donkey. I would give the grass of my four 
fields for
£2 2s a year, and there is not one to take them. My brother had 
them last
year for £2 but he would not take them any more." He dug 
portion of the
tilled field for me and brought up about six inches of soil. I 
asked him to
go deeper. "I have not a crowbar convenient, sir," was his 
reply. I saw in
his farmyard a little heat of oaten chaff not two feet high, 
the only thing
in the farmyard; this was the remains of his oat crop, for the 
seed of
which he paid 10s 10d. He came to dig a few sods of his 
potato-field, upon
which he had expended £2 worth of manure. In a yard of ground I 
exactly fourteen potatoes turned up, not a single one of which 
(I say it
with the utmost deliberation) was larger than a marble. Heather 
still grew
on the headlands; his father and himself had extirpated it from 
the field.
I saw another man digging in a distant part of the field, and 
in a long
strip of ground which he was after turning I have to repeat 
that I searched
in vain for a potato above the size of a marble.Another 
miserable farmhouse, propped up with stakes, and another
broken-spirited tenant, was the next we encountered. James 
Cuneens rent was
increased from £1 4s to £2 5s 6d. "We considered if we let the 
run we never would be able to get out of it at all, but twill 
be only
starving, and robbing Peter to pay Paul." His wife showed me 
pawn-ticket of nineteen yards of home-made flannel, upon which 
she had
raised £1 to pay the last half gale. Nothing, could have been 
piteously eloquent that her "Yea, winhn, don't go near the 
bedroom, sir;
sorry I am you should see it as it is." At Cuneens door I saw a 
load of potatoes, so tiny that I am afraid no jury in the world 
would say
they were fair specimens of any potato crop ever raised; yet I 
convinced in my heart that I saw them just as they were dug 
out. If a man
swore that a goose could swallow the biggest of them, I dare 
not believe
that he exaggerated. I met here David Hennessy, of Glenacunnah, 
repeated to me in his own case the almost incredible tale I 
have heard in
Carrigeen, about the terms of settlement which Mr. Bridge dealt 
out to
tenants unable to clear off the arrears. Hennessy settled some 
months ago, his rent having been raised from £2 10s to £4 7s 
6d, but reduced
to £4 by Mr. Bridge. The arrears of the increase since 1873 
came to two and
a-half years with £1 costs. He could not pay it, and had to 
sign an
agreement by which he is to pay 5s yearly in perpetuity, unless 
he is able
to pay off the principal. What his prospects are in this 
respect may be
guessed from the fact that he is already a year in arrears with 
the new rent
beside the handing gale, that he has not a grain of oats left, 
nor a potato
except the seed. Maurice Fitzgerald was assessed at £5 15s 
instead of £4;
He has not settled, but no process of ejectment has reached 
As were were toiling across the wilds towards Ballywilliam, we 
lighted upon
the farm of John Tobin, the bailiff. He was himself engaged in 
upon one of the headlands. He descried us afar off, but 
immediately ducked
his head, and appeared to be wholly wrapt in his labour when we 
jumped over
the fence beside him. Then he looked furtively up, and with his 
hand to his
cap and an agonised smile on his face, cried, "How are you, 
Doctor?" "You
are civiller to-day than the day you dogged us across the 
mountains," said
the very Rev Dr Delany, quietly. "Dogged, you, Doctor? Sure, I 
never did
the like," said Mr Tobin, humbly. "Not when we routed you from 
behind the
bush, and you warned all the tenants to disappear before us?" 
"Well I was
only earning my hire the same as you were earning yours, 
doctor," retorted
the fellow insolently, and poured out much more of the same 
sort, avowing
boldly that he had circulated the story that he had received 
£200 for his
work in Dublin, and saying that he was only sorry he had not 
the chance.
Perhaps the odiousness of his office did no predispose me to be 
with this squat, stout, heavy-jawed man with the red hair and 
the furtive
eyes, who is in very truth the solitary fat man to be seen upon 
the estate;
beside, it was only Fouquier de Tinville who hanged a man for 
physiognomy-so let him pass.
One more horror I feel constrained to add to those which have 
already, I
fear, grated over often upon renders of gentle nerve. On a bare 
overlooking the deep glen which divides Lyrefunn from 
Ballywilliam stands
the hut of the widow ------.. It is built of jagged stone, 
thrown together
more loosely than in the mountain fence, without mortar or even 
mud to fill
the interstices. The thatch may once have been of straw, but is 
now a
ragged medley of heath, sods and rubbish, protected by big 
stones against
the storm. It forms a single unplastered chamber, some fourteen 
feed by
eight, lighted normally by one broken pane, but much more 
exhibited by a huge rent in the masonry at one of the sides 
near the bed,
were a chasm four feed by three was yawning in the wall, and 
was being
partially built up with mud and stones by a sickly and a half 
looking man, who was doing this for charity! Four barer walls 
enclosed six human beings in the depths of Africa. There was 
not even a
chimney-corner; a wooden contrivance was built over the fire 
place to keep
the smoke from stifling all within. A pot, a small bag of 
Indian meal, two
straw chairs, without bottoms; an old medicine bottle, a box,. 
And a straw
mattress upon a mound of stones covered with a few hideous 
rags, comprised
the whole inventory of worldly wealth. How six Christians, who 
have supped
on yellow meal, crouch together in that frightful place where 
the rain pours
down about them, and the storms of the night sweep down the 
hills and howl
through the yawning wall beside their miserable bed, pray 
Heaven, kind
render you many never dream. I have, I regret to say, lost my 
not of the
exact amount by which this widows yearly tribute was increased; 
I hope my
memory deceives me in thinking it was all but doubled. She had 
the whole
place let for grazing last season, for £3; she has no stock, 
and no crops
whatever, except a bit of potato-ground scarce worth digging. 
starved-looking humanitarian before mentioned told me he was 
brother-in-law, and that only he lent her a hand now and again 
she and her
children would be in the workhouse. The Rev Dr Delaney slipped 
a silver
piece into his hand as we parted: the wretchs eyes glistened as 
if it were
This letter has already grown to such size that I am forced to 
bodily my notes of our subsequent process through Ballywilliam 
though they are with interest of the same dismal sort. Enough 
has, perhaps
been written to make it as clear to the ready as it is to me 
that settlement
means, for a considerable section of the Buckley tenantry, a 
losing battle
against grinding misery, and an all inevitable eviction for 
non-payment of
rent as the issue. My next letter will dent with the remaining 
townlands of
Cooladerry and Kiltankin.Ballyporeen, Saturday Dec, 29.
If I have seen the worst part of the Buckley Estate at its 
best. I have
possibly seen the best part of it at its worst. The rain poured 
doggedly yesterday while we threaded the maze of boggy borheens 
intersects the low-lying townlands of Cooladerry and Kiltankin. 
The cordon
of mountains which encompasses them was buried quite out of 
sight. The
discharges from the high grounds, mingling with the overflow of 
the swamps,
turned the low lands into one great watershed, in which the 
water was not
merely borne on the surface, but soaked through and through as 
in a charged
sponge. Allowance must be made for as much of this as may be 
due to a night
s rain. The curse of swampy soil is, in fact, here as in other 
that what is in wet weather muddy pulp toughens in the hot 
season into
adamant; a wet summer rots the crops, and a hot one dries the 
cows. A
considerable portion, perhaps one-fourth, of the three thousand 
acres over
which the townlands range, is not to spoken of in the same 
category with the
rest of the estate. Cold and wet thought the soil is, 
precarious for
meadowland and all but ruinous to corn crops, it is deep and 
rich in grass,
the cattle better (roughly speaking) by £4 a beast than in the 
the farm buildings as good as those of small farmers generally, 
the tenant
as well (or rather as ill) clad, and the barns as well stocked. 
I do not
think any reasonable person will say that, even thought the 
pasture is
nearly all of the tenants own making, there are not farms of 
some of the
warmer eminences let upon moderate terms, and open to a 
moderate increase.
More than one of the tenants, who groans under the present 
impost, has
confessed that he would welcome a readjustment made on the 
principle either
of total independence or of mutual appointment. But this must 
be the limit
of any panegyric even of the lowlands. The very best fields are 
lensa compound of bogstuff laboriously drained and nutriment 
imported. Over the great bulk of the cultivated land the 
bulrush and the
pool are at eternal war with the tenants scanty resources in 
manuring, and draining; all the rest is dismal, ague-stricken 
swamp, the
happy hunting-ground of the snipe; whide-weltering over the 
beds of bogs
excavated generations ago. Much of it, to an unscientific eye, 
capable of transformation into prime ley for cattle; the river 
bed seems
capacious enough to carry off a vast body of surplus water, and 
the levels
not too difficult. But this would be work not of the patchwork
contrivances of impoverished tenants, but of some such sweeping 
system as in
France would be the care of the State and in England of the 
proprietor. The
Irish proprietor need drain nothing but pockets. As things 
although brisk streams gush through the drains from the 
headlands, it is
only to wobble about the roads and lie stagnant on some lower 
level, while
the spaces between the drains are almost as moist as ever. Upon 
every holding there is some oasis where sweet grass grows but 
the cattle,
though fairly sleek, are ridiculously few for the acreage, and 
tillage is
only a less disastrous fiasco than on the peaks of 
Skeheenarinka. Wheat
grown to a good length of straw, and expends all its strength 
in doing so;
the ears are frequently not worth threshing, sometimes do not 
fill at all.
Turnips sprout in bulbous excrescences overground, which use up 
all the
nutritious juices that should go to form the root. Even oats 
(at least such
specimens as I saw of last seasons crop) scarcely clear the 
expenses of
their culture, and I saw several potato fields that would not 
pay for the
labour of digging them. The potatoes piled in William Sheedys 
barn (one of
the best in the townland) would have done discredit to 
Barnahown. Speaking
broadly, the difference of condition between the tenantry on 
the hills and
in the valley may be summed up in the fact that the former are 
subsisting on
Indian-meal, the latter upon a mixture of Indian and Oaten 
meal; the former
have made land out of rock, the latter out of water.
As to the best of these townlands, Cooladerry, I have happily 
discovered a
capital standard of value. Upon the thirteen holdings which I 
was able to
discover on the townland, and I believe there are a few more), 
Mr. Walkers
valuation imposed increased of rent amounting altogether to £90 
12s 3d per
year. Cooladerry belonged, until 1872, to Mr. Frederick Grubb, 
of Clogheen,
a member of the Society of Friends, whose name is still 
whispered in as "the
master" in terms of endearment and respect around every hearth 
in the
valley. Having learned that a revaluation of the townland had 
been made
during his ownership, I waited upon Mr Grubb a few days ago to 
ascertain how
far the results corresponded with those worked out by Mr. 
Walker. Mr. Grubb
expressed a very natural anxiety not to be mixed up with 
quarrels of whose
merits he could form no judgement; but once assured that he was 
simply to declare matters of fact upon a point of vital 
interest to his old
tenantry, he stated freely that the townland was valued about 
the time of
the passing of the Land Act (in 1870) by a valuator of great 
experience, Mr White, of Golden. He could not remember the 
exact terms of
the award, but the increase put upon the entire place was 
something very
insignificant, he himself reduced it to either £17 or £18 upon 
the whole
townland. It was the tenants themselves, he said, who were 
crying out for
the revaluation, and when they asked for leases he offered them 
31 years
leases or 61 years leases, just as they pleased, upon the terms 
of Mr. White
s valuation. They were at first anxious to get them, but the 
passing of
the Land Act having at the time somewhat unsettled their minds, 
they in the
long run refused to take leases at all. "But they were the best 
paying and
the most industrious tenants in the whole world; they were 
indeed. I never
asked a single one of them for a halfpenny rent in my life 
except Ryan" (of
whom I will have more to say presently). "He owed me just one 
rent. I met him a week or so before Mr Bridge was first shot 
at, and asked
him was he forgetting the half-years rent he owed me. "Never 
fear, sir,"
says he; "I will pay it yet." But, indeed, I always got on very 
well with
Ryan. Many a time he would knock me up at eleven oclock at 
night to give
me the rent, and he would say, "Take it now, or I might not 
have it to give
when you wanted it." The tenants would come to my office the 
day the rent
was due, and if I told them I was too busy, that it would do 
any other time,
they would insist on my taking it there and then. I never knew 
tenants. It is the greatest pity in the world there ever should 
be any
trouble on them." I have since then journeyed into Golden to 
obtain from Mr.
White himself the terms of the valuation; but the papers, if he 
still had
them, were not at the moment accessible, and his memory could 
not carry him
to details. All he could say with certainty was that the 
increase upon the
whole townland was something exceedingly trifling. It was the 
last place in
the world, he said, he would himself choose for farming. The 
soil was cold,
wet and tenacious, and the whole look of the place so 
uninviting that he
strongly advised Mr. Grubb to get rid of it, and was heartily 
glad he had
taken his advice. One other little circumstance of some 
significance I
learned from Mr. White - he was paid for his work, not by a 
percentage upon the
increased valuation, but by the modest lump sum of ten guineas. 
In his
estimation, beyond doubt, therefore, Cooladerry could not seven 
years ago
bear a fourth of the increment Mr. Walker laid upon it: and an 
has for the last four years stood all but paralysed on this 
estate, the
Cooladerry of Mr. Whites valuation is the Cooladerry of to-day.
And now to resume the narrative of my final tour of the Buckley 
should the public patience, which has so far borne with a mass 
monotonous details, have still stomach for the little that 
remains to be
told. About a mile to the north of the village of Ballyporeen a 
divides Cooladerry from the Dungan property of Mr. Octavius 
O'Brien. In a
little wooden shanty, built against the ditch of the borheen on 
the Dangan
side, Mrs. John Ryan keeps her extraordinary watch and ward 
over the farm
from which she was evicted upon her husbands outlawry. This 
mans story is
a thing altogether apart from the general current of affairs on 
the estate,
and is in more than one aspect, deplored by the bulk of the 
tenantry as the
root of even worse than pecuniary disaster for them. But it 
reads like a
chapter of "Rory OMore" or "Rody the Rover". Since the 23rd of 
1873, when a double-barrelled gun was first discharged into Mr 
Bridges face
as he was walking with his sister in his own avenue, the policy 
have never
ceased to scour the country in search of Ryan, sometimes in 
small parties,
sometimes in small armies, approaching the mountains by night 
from half a
dozen different points, and ransacking every farmhouse, grove 
and thicket
within a circuit of miles. With rewards amounting to some 
£1,500 for his
capture, among a people profuse of gratitude for sixpence, and 
to whom
£1,500 would represent the wealth of the Indies, he walked 
unscathed. He
has no relations among the Buckley tenantry, and the general 
belief is that
he never sought or found refuge amongst them. Even to this day 
the police
appear to have some lingering suspicion that he has not left 
the country. A
few weeks ago they swarmed over the hills by night in search of 
him, and no
later than St. Stephens night they searched his wifes hut. The 
day after
the first outrage Mrs. Ryan was evicted in Mr. Bridges 
presence. She retook
possession, was evicted again; built a hut on sods and carts 
upon the
highroad; was summoned as a trespasser and fined £5; preferred 
to go to
jail to Clonmel for two days until some friend (without her 
leave) paid the
fine; returned to re-erect her hut upon a cross-road in the 
midst of her
husbands farm; was once more dispossessed by a great force of 
police, the
hut demolished and her furniture put upon the road; and at last 
refuge on the neutral side of the borheen, where we found her 
ensconced in an artistically constructed shanty, with the fence 
for a
back-wall, a roof and front of deal, covered with felt, and a 
patchwork of
stones and mud where the timber falls short. The farm, which is 
one of the
very best on the estate, has lain fallow ever since. A Mr. 
Cahill, of
Mitchelstown, who for sometime rented the grazing, was beaten 
and left for
dead in the streets of Tipperary last June; and except a small 
portion let
to a tenant named John O'Brien, nobody has since ambitioned the 
Mrs. Ryan, who is physically a magnificent type of the Irish 
quite six feet high, with a modest, pleasing and intelligent 
face, told me
she wished her case to be properly represented. Upon a farm of 
23 Irish
acres, he husbands rent had been raised from £30 5s 9d to £44 
5s. "Mr.
Bridges people said in Dublin he would not do anything buy defy 
him. Well,
He offered himself to pay £7 increase before anything happened 
at all, and
Mr. Bridge would not have it. I went up to Galtee Castle when 
Mr. Buckley was
there last and offered to pay him £10 increase. My family 
reigned there for
the last four hundred years. I demanded the land for my 
children, for who
had a better right to it? Mr. Buckley said the land was worth 
the rise. I
told him I offered as much as anybody could pay for it, and Mr. 
Bridge then
said in Mr. Buckley's presence. "If the land be given, I will 
not remain
here an hour." It is superfluous, I should hope, to remind the 
reader that
statements of this sort must be received as they are 
communicated, with
entire reserve. "I went a second time to Mr. Buckley," pursued 
Mrs. Ryan,
"and I met Mr. Bridge; he had a double-barrelled gun on his 
shoulder. I
demanded the land again for the children. He said "Why doesn't 
your husband
come back and prove his innocence?" I said if he gave him the 
land he
would; and," says Mrs. Ryan "he would-he had nothing to be 
afraid of."William Sheedy farms 37 Irish acres, of mixed 
tillage and morass, upon which
the rent has been increased from £30 17s 6d to £39 12s. His is 
the seventh
generation of Sheedys that he dwelt and toiled there. Thirty 
acres of the
place are to this day in need of drainage. "But we are not able 
to lose a
farthing upon draining, unless whatever we can do ourselves 
when the food
and the rent are not troubling us." His mother, he said, an old 
woman of
86, was frightened into surrender by a notice to quit; "but 
'twas all the
same for her to go out then as to leave us pulling and dragging 
to pay a
rent we are not able for." As an illustration of what one of 
the most
comfortable farmers on the property can turn by husbandry, it 
is worth while
to examine his years operations. He sowed one acre of wheat; it 
would have
cost him £1 8s 4d at the market price. He had two horses 
employed for three
days in putting it down; and without allowing for the expenses 
of reaping
or threshing he sold the entire crop of £9. He was winnowing 
one acre of
oats when we called, and had not got two barrels out of the 
stack. The
potatoes could not have been worse if they had been grown in 
Liliputia. His
dairy stock consisted of nine cows (three of them strippers) 
and two calves.
He had made but 17 firkins of butter on ten cows during the 
season, at £3 to
£3 5s per three quarter firkin, had to buy £6 5s worth of hay 
for them and
had not his stock of fodder yet complete. Practical farmer, 
will be able
upon these figures to estimate for themselves the princely 
derivable form the primest lands in the valley.
From Sheedy's tidy farmhouse, however, to the hovel where his 
neighbour, the Widow English, lives to squeeze an all but 
trebled rent out
of her half-acre field, is once more to descend from a question 
trammelling industry to a question of bare sustenance. A goat 
and a few
hens are her whole livestock. Her one puddly field was divided 
between a
patch of meadow and a strip of potato ground too poor to be 
worth rooting,
even to her, and she paid 5s 9d for ten and a half stones of 
seed potatoes,
and a charitable neighbour made her a present of ten stone 
more. She was
already feeding on India meal, and only concerned for its 
continuance. She
got £2 from Denis Holy, a neighbour in better circumstances, 
for the hay,
upon which she had expended 9s in seed and 3s in labour "and it 
was not
worth that same only he took compassion on me." "Her cabin had 
not even a
hold for a window. "As there, I cant afford a window nor less 
than a
window." Mrs. English is asked to pay 30s where she paid 10s 6d 
We were now well within the borders of Kiltankin, and were 
loaded at every
farm with details of the reclamation wrought by the tenants and 
fathers. I will not unnecessarily weary the reader by 
enumerating them.
Sufficient for the present to note, as I have done in every 
detail of this
revaluation, that where the tenants industry and frugality have 
greatest there the tax has been paid most heavily, and that 
reclaimed fields
and decent houses are invariably the passport to augmented 
burdens. A few
cases will illustrate my meaning. Pat Lyons has toiled all his 
life at
draining inveterate morasses. I saw one field that might have 
been in the
lap of the Golden Vein. The streams of water even yet coursing 
through its
drains bear testimony of what it was transformed from. Lyons 
says it cost
him £9 an acre to drain it. He had another field in process of 
and has altogether rescued seven acres from pestilential 
barrenness. To
such a pitch of fertility has he reduced his fields that his 
ten cows
produced two firkins of butter a piece (though, of course, he 
last year
bought £20 worth of fodder to supplement the pasturage). En 
revanche his
rent was raised from £39 19s to £44 8s. Thomas Kearney, again, 
who has only
been 22 years on his farm, has in that time drained and fenced 
five or six
acres of what he himself calls "the wild mountain," and built 
at his own
expense a slated barn, which he could not finish today for £70. 
He drew
from 2,000 to 2,500 barrels of lime to fertilise the reclaimed 
Every stone used in roofing the drains and in building the barn 
had to be
drawn miles away from the hills (for stones are in many parts 
of the valley
as grievous a desideratum as they are an incumbrance on the 
Notwithstanding all this, possibly in consequence of it all, Mr 
increased his valuation from £20 15s 2d to £26 11s 4d. Kearney 
stoutly to accept the new tariff until a few weeks ago he was 
informed that
a process of ejectment was being filed for him and was advised 
that it would
be enforced. Upon last Saturday week he went to Mr. Bridge, and 
told him of
what he had drained and built and fertilised. If all his farm 
were red
ground, he said he would not grumble at a fair rise; but great 
part of it
was still as wild as the day it was created. Mr. Bridge did 
make a reduction
of 6s an acre upon the six wildest acres, reducing the 
increased rent to £25
1s 4d; but I saw the memorandum by which Kearney was charged 
with £12 18s
6d three years increase to March, 22nd, 1877 and £3 10s costs, 
(Kearney supposes) his proportion of the costs which Mr. Bridge 
was adjudged
to pay the tenants on the dismissal of his first batch of 
Kearney was only able to pay an instalment of £10, but was not 
interest on the remainder. He declared he would be perfectly 
satisfied with
the valuation of the Government valuator, or any arbitrator 
appointed, no matter what his award might be. When Mr. Walker 
was inspecting
the land he pointed out its barrenness. "It would feed cattle 
right well,"
said Kearney; and he added, "I would have explained to him that 
the cattle
themselves would not have had a feed there only for me and the 
likes of me,
but I was in dread lest it would vex him more and more to raise 
the rent,
and I did not want to put him into too much bad humour." He has 
to house
and hand-feed his cattle from Michaelmas to May, and has almost 
every man on
the property. For the first time these 10 years he sowed half 
an acre of
oats for the seed of which he paid 26s and 14s for cutting it. 
So few of
the ears filled that he means to grind the crop for his own 
food. He would
not get 2s 6d a barrel for his oats, and his potatoes will not 
pay what they
cost. Of two cows which he sold during the year one fetched £3 
18s and the
other £8 10s. We rode across his farm until the horses fetlocks 
impounded in quaking bog, and the dog which accompanied us set 
a snipe in
the very middle of what was by no means the worst field in the 
holding. For
miles beyond, a dismal moor, dotted with exhausted turbaries, 
and fields
overrun with tall bulrushes, bule-week, and that species of 
tree-edged grass which the natives call "fiong", extended under 
clouds of
exhalations to the horizon. A field next to us was choked with 
furze and
rushes. Kearney told us he had drained and limed this to such 
effect that
when Mr. Walker made his valuation not a rush grew on its 
surface. "I had n
o heart to touch it for the last three years, while the 
ejectment was
handing over me, and you see how it is now. I cut three loads 
of furze off
it this morning, the only crop0 it brought me this year. I 
promise you you
wont catch me at reclamation any more until I see better before 
Thomas Kelly is one of those doomed to ejectment. With a farm 
of 13a 3r 27p
and a family of six, his rent has been increased from £7 2s 1d 
to £10. His
dwelling is a squalid and rainbeaten one, "and only he does 
something in
coopering," said his wife, "we might as well fly long ago." The 
produce of
an acre and a quarter of oats, which cost £2 14s in seed, and 
would have
cost an additional guinea in labour but for the loan of a 
neighbours horse
and plough, was sold to Mr. Fitzgerald, Ballyporeen, for £2 8s. 
£2 worth of
special manure, beside a hundred loads of farm manure, expended 
three-quarters of an acre of potatoes; all but next years seed 
disappeared, and the family will subsist from this to August on 
a mixed diet
of oaten and Indian meal. Here again three cows produced two 
firkins a
piece. But Kelly's condition is one of rank luxury compared 
with that of
his sub-tenant, the Widow Quinn, who has also been served with 
an ejectment.
Words of mine cannot picture the desolation and hideous misery 
of the abode
of this wretched old woman, deaf, palsied, and trembling on the 
brink of the
grave. If she does not find her grave under the ruins of her 
hut it will
not be the fault of the state of society which consigns human 
beings to such
a shelter. How a storm can pass it by without laying it in 
ruins at a
breath only a merciful Providence may tell. The weight of the 
three sides
of it which are of unmortared stone is crushing and bulging the 
fourth side,
which is of mud, and a frail wooden stake along keeps the 
leaning mass of
mud from a collapse. A midnight gloom lay on all within, one 
unglazed hole
in the wall kept the atmosphere from absolute asphyxia, but the 
dazed old
creature who breathed it might as well lived in a tomb. There 
was a
spinning-wheel which she had borrowed, a faint glimmer of fire, 
into which a
stream of rain-water was working its way; for the rest, stones, 
rags, and a
plate of stirabout. 


The Case of Fr. Nicholas Sheehy
A true account of an event during the Penal Laws in Ireland in the 1700s in which a priest was publicly hanged and beheaded in front of his faminy and parishioners.  A Must-Read Book on Ireland.

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