Their beds were of straw, mountain grass, or green and dried rushes. Among the nine thousand people there were but two feather-beds, and but eight beds stuffed with chaff. There were but two stables and six cow-houses in the whole district. None of the women owned more than one shift, nor was there a single bonnet among them all, nor a looking-glass costing more than threepence.
The climate and the scenery took the fancy of Lord George. He made up his mind to see what could be done with this forgotten corner of the world, and to that end bought up as he could the small and scattered properties, till he had invested the greater part of his small fortune, and acquired about twenty thousand acres of land. Of this, little was fit for cultivation, even with the help of capital and civilised management. There was not a road in the district, nor a drain.
Lord George came and established himself here. He went to work systematically to improve the country, reclaiming bog-lands, building roads, and laying out the property into regular farms. He went about among the people himself, trying to get their confidence, and to let them know what he wanted to do for them, and with their help.
For a long time they wouldn't believe him to be a lord at all, "because he spoke Irish"; and the breaking up of the rundale system, under which they had lived in higgledy-piggledy laziness, exasperated them greatly. Of the first man who took a fenced and well-defined farm from Lord George, and went to work on it, the others observed that he would come to no good by it, because he would "have to keep a maid just to talk to his wife." Men could not be got for any wages to work at draining, or at making the "ditches" or embankments to delineate the new holdings; and when Lord George found adventurous "tramps" willing to earn a few shillings by honest work of the kind, conspiracies were formed to undo by night what was done by day. However, Lord George persevered.
There was not a shop, nor a dispensary, nor a doctor, nor a warehouse, nor a quay for landing goods in this whole populous and sea-washed region. He put up storehouses, built a little harbour at Bunbeg, established a dispensary, got a doctor to settle in the district, and finally put up the hotel in which we are. He advanced money to tenants disposed to improve their holdings. Finding the women, as usual, more thrifty and industrious than the men, and gifted with a natural aptitude for the loom and the spindle, he introduced the weaving of woollen yarn into stout frieze stuffs and foot-gear for both sexes. This was in 1840, and in 1854 Gweedore hand-knit socks and stockings were sold to the amount of L500, being just about the annual estimated rents of all the properties bought by Lord George at the time when he bought them in 1838! But with this difference: The owners from whom Lord George bought the properties got their L500 very irregularly, when they got it at all; whereas the wives and daughters of the tenants, who made the socks and stockings, were paid their L500 in cash.
Clearly in Gweedore I have a case not of the children of the soil despoiled and trampled upon by the stranger, but of the honest investment of alien capital in Irish land, and of the administration by the proprietor himself of the Irish property so acquired for the benefit alike of the owner and of the occupiers of the land.
That the deplorable state in which he found the people was mainly due to their own improvidence and gregarious incapacity is also tolerably clear. On the west coast of Norway, dear to the heart of the salmon-fisher, you find people living under conditions certainly no more favourable than here exist. North of the Hardanger Fjord, the spring opens only in June. The farmers grow only oats and barley; but they have no market except for the barley, and live chiefly by the pasturage. It is as rocky a region as Donegal. But the Norsemen never try to make the land do more than it is capable of doing. With them the oldest son takes the farm and works it. The juniors are welcome to work on the farm if they like for their brother, but they are not allowed to cut it up. There is no rundale in Norway; and when the cadets see that there is no room for them they quietly "pull up stakes," and go forth to seek a new home, no matter where.
For fourteen years Lord George Hill spent on Gweedore all the rents he received from it, and a great deal more. During that time the relations between the people and their new landlord seem to have been, in the main, most friendly, notwithstanding his constant efforts to break up their old habits, or, to use their own language, to "bother them." But there were no "evictions"; rents were not raised even where the tenants were visibly able to pay better rents; prizes were given annually for the best and neatest cottages, for the best crops of turnips (neither turnips, parsnips, nor carrots were there at Gweedore when Lord George bought the estate), for the best pigs (there was not a pig in Gweedore in 1838!), for calves and colts, for the best fences, the best ordered tillage farms, the best labourers' cottages, the best beds and bedding, the best butter, the best woollen goods made on the estate. The old rundale plan of dividing up the land among the children was put a stop to, and every tenant was encouraged not to make his holding smaller, but to add to and enlarge it. A corn-mill, saw-mill, and flax-mill were established. In 1838 there was not a baker within ten miles. In 1852 the local baker was driving a good business in good bread. The tenant's wife, for whom in 1838 a single shift was a social superiority, in 1852 went shopping at Bunbeg for the latest fashions from Derry or Dublin.
Whatever "landlordism" may mean elsewhere in Ireland, it is plain enough that in the history of Gweedore it has meant the difference between savage squalor and civilisation.
Lord George Hill died in 1879, the year in which the Land League began its operations. He bequeathed this property to his son, Captain Hill, by whom the management of it has been left to agents. After Lord George's death two tracts of mountain pasture, reserved by him to feed imported sheep, were let to the tenants, who by that time had come to own quite a considerable number, some thousands, of live stock, cattle, horses, and sheep.
Concurrently with this concession to the tenants the provisions made by Lord George against the subdivision of holdings began to give way. Father M'Fadden, combining the position of President of the National League with that of parish priest, seems to have favoured this tendency, and to have encouraged the putting up of new houses on reduced holdings to accommodate an increasing population. A flood which in August 1880 damaged the chapel and caused the death of five persons gave him an opportunity of bringing before the British public the condition of the people in a letter to the London Times, which elicited a very generous response, several hundred pounds, it is said, having been sent to him from London alone. Large contributions of relief were also made to Gweedore from the Duchess of Marlborough's Fund, and Gweedore became a standing butt of British benevolence. Two results seem to have followed, naturally enough,—a growing indisposition on the part of the tenants to pay rent, and a rapid rise in the value of tenant rights. With the National League standing between them and the landlord, with the British Parliament legislating year after year in favour of the Irish tenant and against the Irish landlord, and with the philanthropic public ready to respond to any appeal for help made on their behalf, the tenants at Gweedore naturally became a privileged class. In no other way at least can I explain the extraordinary fact that tenant rights at Gweedore have been sold, according to Lord Cowper's Blue-book of 1886, during the period of the greatest alleged distress and congestion in this district, at prices representing from forty to a hundred-and-thirty years' purchase of the landlord's rent!
In this Blue-book the Rev. Father M'Fadden appears as receiving no less than L115 sterling for the tenant-right sold by him of ground, the head rent of which is L1, 2s. 6d. a year. The worst enemy of Father M'Fadden will hardly suspect him, I hope, of taking such a sum as this from a tenant farmer for the right to starve to death by inches.
A shrewd Galway man, now here, who seems to know the region well, and likes both the scenery and the people, tells me that the troubles which have now culminated in the arrest of Father M'Fadden have been aggravated by the vacillation of Captain Hill, and by the foibles of his agent, Colonel Dopping, who not long ago brought down Mr. Gladstone with his unloaded rifle. That the tenants as a body have been, or now are, unable to pay their rent he does not believe. On the contrary, he thinks them, as a body, rather well off. Certainly I have seen and spoken with none of them about the roads to-day who were not hearty-looking men, and in very good case. Colonel Dopping, according to my Galwegian, is not an Englishman, but a Longford Irishman of good family, who got his training in India as an official of the Woods and Forests in Bengal. "He is not a bad-hearted man, nor unkind," said my Galwegian, "but he is too much of a Bengal tiger in his manner. He went into the cottages personally and lectured the people, and that they never will stand. They don't require or expect you to believe what they say—in fact they have little respect for you if you do—but they like to have the agent pretend that he believes them, and then go on and show that he don't. But he must never lose his temper about it. Colonel Dopping, I have heard, argued with an old woman one day who was telling him more yarns than were ever spun into cloth in Gweedore, till she picked up her cup of tea and threw it in his face. He flounced out of the cottage, and ordered the police to arrest her. That did him more harm than if he had shot a dozen boys." "What with the temper of Colonel Dopping and the vacillation of Captain Hill, who is always of the mind of the last man that speaks to him, Father M'Fadden has had it all his own way. Captain Hill's claim was for L1800 of arrears, long arrears too, and L400 of costs. How much the people paid in under the Plan of Campaign nobody knows but Father M'Fadden. But he is a clever padre, and he played Captain Hill till he finally gave up the costs, and settled for L1450."
"And this sum represents what?"
"It represents in round numbers about two years' income from an estate in which Captain Hill's father must have invested, first and last, more nearly L40,000 than L20,000 of money that never came out of it."
"That doesn't sound like a very good operation. But isn't the question, Whether the tenants have earned this sum, such as it is, out of the land let to them by Captain Hill?"
"No, not exactly, I think. You must remember there are some twelve hundred families living here on land bought with Lord George's money, and enjoying all the advantages which the place owes to his investment and his management, much more than to any labour or skill of theirs. You must look at their rents as accommodation rents. Suppose they earn the rent in Scotland, or England, or Tyrone, or wherever you like, the question is, What do they get for it from Captain Hill? They get a holding with land enough to grow potatoes on, and with as much free fuel as ever they like, and with free pasture for their beasts, and all this they get on the average, mind you, for no more than ten shillings a year! Why, there was a time, I can assure you, when the women here earned the value of all the Hill rents by knitting stockings and making woollen stuffs. You see the stuffs lying here in this window that they make even now, and good stuffs too. But before the League boycotted the agency here, the agency ten years ago used to pay out L900 in a year, where it pays less than L100 to the women for their work."
"Why did the League do this?"
"Why? Why, because it wanted to control the work itself, and to know just what it brings into the place. You must remember Father M'Fadden is the President of the League, and the people will do anything for him. I have heard of one old woman who sat up of nights last year knitting socks to send up to London, to pay the Christmas dues to the Father,—six shillings' worth."
"And are these stuffs here in the hotel made for the agency you speak of?"
"Oh no; these are just made by women that know the hotel, and Mr. Robinson here, he kindly takes in the stuffs. You see the name of every woman on every one of them that made it, and the price. If a stranger buys some, he pays the money to Mr. Robinson, and so it goes to the women, and no commission charged."
The "stuffs" are certainly excellent, very evenly woven; and the patterns, all devised, I am told, by the women themselves, very simple and tasteful. The only dyes used are got by the women also from the sea-weeds and the kelp, which must be counted among the resources of the place. The browns and ochres thus produced are both soft and vivid; while nothing can be better than a peculiar warm grey, produced by a skilful mingling of the undyed wools.
"What, then, causes the distress for which the name of Gweedore is a synonym?" I asked.
"It doesn't exist," responded my Galwegian; "that is, there is no such distress in Gweedore as you find in Connemara, for instance; but what distress there is in Gweedore is due much more to the habits the people have been getting into of late years, and to the idleness of them, than to any pressure of the rents you hear about, or even to the poverty of the soil. Go down to the store at Bunbeg, and see what they buy and go in debt for! You won't find in any such place as Bunbeg in England such things. And even this don't measure it; for, you see, two-thirds of them are not free to deal at Bunbeg."
"Why not? Is Bunbeg 'boycotted'?"
"No, not at all. But they are on the books of the 'Gombeen man'—Sweeney of Dungloe and Burtonport. They're always in debt to him for the meal; and then he backs the travelling tea-pedlars, and the bakers that carry around cakes, and all these run up the accounts all the time. Tot up what these people lay out for tea at four shillings a pound—and they won't have cheap tea—and what they pay for meal, and what they pay for interest, and the 'testimonials,'—they paid for the monument here to O'Donnell, the Donegal man that murdered Carey,—and the dues to the priest, and you'll find the L700 or so they don't pay the landlord going in other directions three and four times over."
"Then they are falling back into all the old laziness, the men sauntering about, or sitting and smoking, while the women do all the work."
The maid having told us Mass would be performed at noon, I walked with Lord Ernest a mile or so up the road to Derrybeg, to see the people thronging down from the hills; the women in their picturesque fashion wearing their bright shawls drawn over their heads. But the maid had deceived us. The Mass was fixed for eleven, and I suspect her of being a Protestant in disguise.
On the way back we met Mr. Burke, the resident magistrate. He has a neat house here, with a garden, and had come over from Dunfanaghy to see his wife. He meant to return before dark. The country was quiet enough, he said; but there were some troublesome fellows about, keeping up the excitement over the arrest at Father M'Fadden's trial of Father Stephens—a young priest recently from Liverpool, who has become the curate of quite another Father M'Fadden—the parish priest of Falcarragh, and is giving his local superior a great deal of trouble by his activity in connection with the "Plan of Campaign." Mr. Wybrants Olphert of Ballyconnell, the chief landlord of Falcarragh, has been "boycotted," on suspicion of promoting the arrest of the two priests. Five policemen have been put into his house. At Falcarragh, where six policemen are usually stationed, there are now forty. Mr. Burke evidently thinks, though he did not say so, that Father Stephens has been spoiled of his sleep by the laurels of Father M'Fadden of Gweedore. He is to be tried at Dunfanaghy on Tuesday, and there are now 150 troops quartered there—Rifles and Hussars.
"Are they not boycotted?" I asked.
"No. The people rather enjoy the bustle and the show, not to speak of the money the soldiers spend."
Lord Ernest, who knows Mr. Olphert, sent him over a message by Mr. Burke that we would drive over to-morrow, and pay our respects to him at Ballyconnell. From this Mr. Burke tried to dissuade us, but what he told us naturally increased our wish to go.
After luncheon I ordered a car, and drove to Derrybeg, to call there on Father M'Fadden, Lord Ernest, who has already seen him, agreeing to call there for me on his return from a walk. We passed much reclaimed bogland, mostly now in grass, and looking fairly well; many piles of turf and clusters of cottages, well-built, but not very neatly kept. From each, as we passed, the inevitable cur rushed out and barked himself hoarse. Then came a waste of bog and boulders, and then a long, neat stone wall, well coped with unhewn stone, which announced the vicinity of Father M'Fadden's house, quite the best structure in the place after the chapel and the hotel. It is of stone, with a neat side porch, in which, as I drove up, I descried Father M'Fadden, in his trim well-fitting clerical costume, standing and talking with an elderly lady. I passed through a handsome iron wicket, and introduced myself to him. He received me with much courtesy, and asked me to walk into his well-furnished comfortable study, where a lady, his sister, to whom he presented me, sat reading by the fire.
I told Father M'Fadden I had come to get his view of methods and things at Gweedore, and he gave it to me with great freedom and fluency. He is a typical Celt in appearance, a M'Fadden Roe, sanguine by temperament, with an expression at once shrewd and enthusiastic, a most flexible persuasive voice. All the trouble at Gweedore, he thought, came of the agents. "Agents had been the curse both of Ireland and of the landlord. The custom being to pay them by commissions on the sums collected, and not a regular salary, the more they can screw either out of the soil, or out of any other resources of the tenants, the better it is for them. At Gweedore the people earn what they can, not out of the soil, but out of their labour exported to Scotland, or England, or America. Only yesterday," he continued, turning to his neat mahogany desk and taking up a letter, "I received this with a remittance from America to pay the rent of one of my people."
"This was in connection," I asked, "with the 'Plan of Campaign' and your contest here?"
"Yes," he replied; "and a girl of my parish went over to Scotland herself and got the money due there for another family, and brought it back to me here. You see they make me a kind of savings-bank, and have done so for a long time, long before the 'Plan of Campaign' was talked about as it is now."
This was interesting, as I had heard it said by a Nationalist in Dublin that the "Plan of Campaign" was originally suggested by Father M'Fadden. He made no such claim himself, however, and I made no allusion to this aspect of the matter. "I have been living here for fifteen years, and they listen to me as to nobody else."
In these affairs with the agents, he had always told his people that "whenever a settlement came to be made, cash alone in the hand of the person representing them could make it properly." "Cash I must have," he said, "and hold the cash ready for the moment. When I had worked out a settlement with Captain Hill, I had a good part of the money in my hand ready to pay down. L1450 was the sum total agreed upon, and after the further collection, necessitated by the settlement, there was a deficit of about L200. I wrote to Professor Stuart," he added, after a pause, "that I wanted about L200 of the sum-total. But more has come in since then. This remittance, from America yesterday, for example."
"Do they send such remittances without being asked for them?" I inquired.
"Yes; they are now and again sending money, and some of them don't send, but bring it. Some of them go out to America now as they used to go to England—just to work and earn some money, and come back.
"If they get on tolerably well they stay for a while, but they find America is more expensive than Ireland, and if, for any cause, they get out of work there, they come back to Ireland to spend what they have. Naturally, you see," said Father M'Fadden, "they find a certain pleasure to be seen by their old friends in the old place, after borrowing the four pounds perhaps to take them to America, coming back with the money jingling in their pockets, and in good clothes, and with a watch and a chain—and a high hat. And there is in the heart of the Irishman an eternal longing for his native land constantly luring him back to Ireland. All do not succeed, though, in your country," he said. "We hear of two out of ten perhaps who do very well. They take care we hear of that. The rest disappear, and are never heard of again."
"Then you do not encourage emigration?" I, asked, "even although the people cannot earn their living from the soil?"
Father M'Fadden hesitated a moment, and then replied, "No, for things should be so arranged that they may earn their living, not out of the country, but on the soil at home. It is to that I want to bring the condition of the district."
At this point Lord Ernest Hamilton came up and knocked at the door. He was most courteously received by Father M'Fadden. To my query why the Courts could not intervene to save the priests from taking all this trouble on themselves between the owners and the occupiers of the land, Father M'Fadden at first replied that the Courts had no power to intervene where, as in many cases in Gweedore, the holdings are subdivided.
"The Courts," he said, "may not be, and I do not think they are, all that could be desired, though they undoubtedly do supply a more or less impartial arbitrator between the landlord and the tenant. It is an improvement on the past when the landlords fixed the rents for themselves."
I did not remind him of what Lord George Hill tells us, that in the olden time at Gweedore the tenants fixed their own rents—and then did not pay them—but I asked him how this could be said when the tenant clearly must have accepted the rent, no matter who fixed it. "Oh!" said Father M'Fadden, "that may be so, but the tenant was not free, he was coerced. With all his life and labour represented in the holding and its improvements, he could not go and give up his holding. It's a stand-and-deliver business with him—the landlord puts a pistol to his head!"
"But is it not true," I said, "that under the new Land Bill the Land Commissioner's Court has power to fix the rents judicially without regard to landlord or tenant during fifteen years?"
"Yes, that is so," said Father M'Fadden. "Under Mr. Gladstone's Act of 81, and under the later Act of the present Government, the rents so fixed from '81 to '86 inclusive are subject to revision for three years; but the people have no confidence in the constitution of the Courts, and, as a matter of fact, the improvements of the tenants are confiscated under the Act of '81, and the reductions allowed under the Act of '87 are incommensurate with the fall in prices by 100 per cent. And there still remains the burden of arrears. I feel that I must stand between my people and obligations which they are unable to meet. To that end I take their money, and stand ready to use it to relieve them when the occasion offers. That is my idea of my work under the 'Plan of Campaign'; and, furthermore, I think that by doing it I have secured money for the landlord which he couldn't possibly have got in any other way."
This struck me as a very remarkable statement, nor can I see how it can be interpreted otherwise than as an admission that if the people had the money to pay their rents, they couldn't be trusted to use it for that purpose, unless they put it into the control of the priest or of some other trustee.
Reverting to what he had said of the necessity for some change in the conditions of life and labour here, I asked if, in his opinion, the people could live out of the land if they got the ownership of it.
In existing circumstances he thought they could not.
Was he in favour, then, of Mr. Davitt's plan of Land Nationalisation?
"Well, I have not considered the question of Nationalisation of the land."
To my further question, What remedies he would himself propose for a state of things in which it was impossible for the people to live out of the land either as occupiers or as owners—emigration being barred, Father M'Fadden, without looking at Lord Ernest, replied, "Oh, I think abler men who draw up Parliamentary Acts and live in public life ought to devise remedies, and that is a matter which would be best settled by a Home Government."
The glove was well delivered, but Lord Ernest did not lift it.
"But, Father M'Fadden," I said, "I am told you are a practical agriculturist and engineer, and that you have contrived to get excellent work done by the people here, dividing them off into working squads, and assigning so many perches to so many—surely then you must understand better than a dozen members of Parliament what they can be got to do?"
He smiled at this, and finally admitted that he had a plan of his own. It was that the Government should advance sums for reclaiming the land. "The people could live on part of their earnings while thus employed, and invest the surplus in sheep to be fed on the hill pastures. When the reclamation was effected the families could be scattered out, and the holdings increased. In this district alone there are 350 holdings of reclaimable land of 20 acres each, the reclamation of which, according to a competent surveyor, "would pay well." And the district could be improved by creating employment on the spot, establishing factories, developing fisheries, giving technical education, and encouraging cottage industries, which are so vigorously reviving in this district owing to the benevolent efforts of the Donegal Industrial Fund."
Father M'Fadden spoke freely and without undue heat of his trial, and gave us a piquant account of his arrest.
This was effected at Armagh, just as he was getting into an early morning train. A sergeant of police walked up as the train was about to start, and asked—
"Are you not Father M'Fadden of Gweedore?"
"What interest have you in my identity?" responded the priest.
"Only this, sir," said the officer, politely exhibiting a warrant.
"I had been in Armagh the previous day," said Father M'Fadden, "attending the month's memory of the late deceased Primate of All Ireland, Dr. M'Gettigan, and stayed at a private residence, that of Surgeon-Major Lavery, not suspecting that while enjoying the genial hospitality of the Surgeon-Major my steps were dogged by a detective, and that gentleman's house watched by police."
Of the trial Father M'Fadden spoke with more bitterness. His eyes glowed as he exclaimed, "Can you imagine that they refused me bail, when bail had been allowed to such a felon as Arthur Orton? Why should I have been locked up over two Sundays, for ten days, when I offered to pledge my honour to appear?" He made no other complaint of the magistrate, and none of the prosecutor, Mr. Ross. He praised his own lawyer, too, but he strongly denounced the stenographer who took down his speech, or the parts of it which I told him I had seen in Dublin.
"Why, just think of it," he exclaimed; "it took the clerk just eight minutes to read the report given by that stenographer of a speech which it took me an hour and twenty minutes to deliver! I do not speak from the lips, I speak from the heart, and consequently rather rapidly; and a stenographer who can take down 190 words a minute has told me I run ahead of him!"
I suggested that the report, without pretending even to be a full summary of his speech, might be accurate as to phrases and sentences pronounced by him.
"Yes, as to phrases," he answered, "that might be; but the phrases may be taken out of their true connection, and strung together in an untruthful, yet telling way. Even my words were not fully set down," he said, with some heat. "I was made to call a man 'level,' when I said in the American way that he was 'level-headed.'" A propos of this, I am told that the American word "spree" has become Hibernian, and is used to describe meetings of the National League and "other political entertainments."
When I told Father M'Fadden I had just come from Rome, where, as I had reason to believe, the Vatican was anxious to get evidence from others than Archbishop Walsh and Monsignore Kirby, of the Irish College, as to the attitude of the priests in Ireland towards the laws of the United Kingdom, he said he knew that "some Italian prelates neither understood nor approved the 'Plan of Campaign,' nor is the Irish Land question understood at Rome;" but this did not seem to disturb him much, as he was quite sure that in the end the "Plan of Campaign" would be legalised by the British Government. "I think I see plainly," he said, "that Lord Ernest's government is fast going to pieces, though I can't expect him to admit it!" Lord Ernest laughed good-naturedly, and said that Father M'Fadden saw more in Donegal than he (Lord Ernest) was able to see in Westminster. Upon my asking him whether the "Plan of Campaign" did not in effect abrogate the moral duty of a man to meet the legal obligations he had voluntarily incurred, Father M'Fadden advanced his own theory of the subject, which was that, "if a man can pay a fair year's rent out of the produce of his holding, he is bound to pay it. But if the rent be a rack-rent, imposed on the tenant against his will, or if the holding does not produce the rent, then I don't think that is a strict obligation in conscience."
In America, the courts, I fear, would make short work of this theory of Father M'Fadden. If a tenant there cannot pay his first quarter's rent (they don't let him darken his soul by a year's liabilities) they promptly and mercilessly put him out.
Interesting as was our conversation with the parish priest of Gweedore, I felt that we might be trespassing too far upon his kindness and his time. So we rose to go. He insisted upon our going into the dining-room, where, as he told us, he had hospitably entertained sundry visiting statesmen from England, and there offered us a glass of the excellent wine of the country. He excused himself from joining us as being "almost a teetotaller."
On our return to the hotel I met the Galwegian strolling about. When I told him of Father M'Fadden's courteous hospitality, he said, "I am very glad you took that glass he offered. I really believe his quarrel with Captain Hill dates back to Hill's declining that same courtesy under Father M'Fadden's roof."
GWEEDORE, Monday, Feb. 6.—Another very beautiful morning—as a farmer said with whom I chatted on my morning stroll, "A grand day, sorr!" Errigal, which in this mountain atmosphere seems almost to hang over our hotel, but is in reality three or four miles away, stood out superbly against a clear azure sky, wreaths of soft luminous mist floating like a divine girdle half way up his bare volcanic peak.
I walked up to the Bunbeg road with Lord Ernest to call upon some peasants whom he knows. In one stone cabin, very well built and plastered, standing sidewise to the road, with doors on either side, we found the house apparently in charge of a little girl of nine or ten years, a weird but pretty child with very delicate well-cut features, who lay couchant upon her doubled-up arm on a low bed in a corner of the main room, and peered at us over her elbow with sparkling inquisitive eyes.
By her side sat a man with his cap on, who might have been the "young Pretender," or the "old Kaiser," so far as his looks went towards indicating his age. He never rose or welcomed us, being, as we afterwards found out, only a visitor like ourselves, and a kinsman of Mrs. M'Donnell, the head of the house. "Mrs. M'Donnell," he said, "is gone to the store at Bunbeg."
This main room rose perhaps ten feet in height to the open roof. It had one large and well-glazed window. When Lord George Hill came here there were not ten square feet of window-glass in the whole parish outside of the Church, the national school, and the residence of the chief police-officer.
Windows when there were any were closed with dried sheepskins, through which the cats ran in and out as freely as through the curious tunnel which the kindly Master of Blantyre has constructed at Sheba's Cross for their special benefit.
There were two beds in the main room; rather high than low, one of rushes, on which lay the child of whom I have spoken, and one of greater pretensions vacant in another corner.
The door stood wide open, but the cabin was warm and comfortable, and a peat fire smouldered, sending up, to me, most agreeable odours. An inner room seemed to be a sort of granary, full of hay and straw. There the cow is kept at night. "It's handy if you want a drink of milk," said the visitor. In comparison with the dwellings of small farmers in Eastern France or in Southern Italy this Donegal cabin was not only clean but attractive. It was more squalid perhaps, but less dreary than the extemporised and flimsy dwellings of settlers in the extreme Far West of the United States, and I should say decidedly a more wholesome habitation than the hermetically sealed and dismal wooden houses of hundreds of struggling farmers in the older Eastern States. I am sure my old friend Mr. Frederick Law Olmsted, who made the only thorough surveys of agricultural life in the United States before the Civil War, would have pronounced it in all respects superior, so far as health and comfort go, to the average home of the average "poor buccra," between the Chesapeake and the Sabine. I am afraid a great deal of not wholly innocuous nonsense has been written and spoken about this part of the United Kingdom by well-meaning philanthropists who have gauged the condition of the people here by their own standards of comfort and enjoyment. Most things in this life of ours are relative. I well remember hearing an American millionaire, who began life in New York as the patentee of a mouse-trap, express his profound compassion for a judge of the Supreme Court condemned to live "upon a pittance of eight thousand dollars a year."
These dwellers in the cabins of Donegal are millionaires, so far as those essentials of life are concerned, which we call room and air and freedom to move and breathe, in comparison with hundreds and thousands of their own race in the slums of New York and Chicago and Liverpool and London.
Mrs. M'Donnell's cousin, however, took dark views of things. The times "were no good at all."
The potatoes, I had heard, were doing well this year.
"No! they wouldn't keep the people; indeed, they wouldn't. There would have to be relief."
"Why not manure the land?"
"Manure? oh yes, the sea-stuff was good manure, but the people couldn't get it. They had no boats; and it cost eighteenpence a load to haul it from Bunbeg. No! they couldn't get it off the rocks. At the Rosses they might; the Rosses were not so badly off as Derrybeg or Gweedore, for all they might say."
"But Father M'Fadden had urged me," I said, "to see the Rosses, because the people there were worse off than any of the people."
"Well, Father M'Fadden was a good man; he was a friend of the people; and they were bad indeed at the Rosses, but they could get the sea-stuff there, and hadn't to pay for cartage. And indeed, if you put the sea-stuff on the bogland, the land was better in among the rocks' at the Rosses than was the bogland, it was indeed: the stuff did no good at all the first year. The second and the third it gave good crops—but then you must burn it—and by the fourth year and the fifth it was all ashes, and no good at all! This was God's truth, it was; and there must be relief."
"But could the people earn nothing in Scotland or in Tyrone?"
"Oh no, they could earn nothing at all. They could pay no rent."
So he sat there, a Jeremiah among the potsherds, quite contented and miserable—well and hearty in a ragged frieze coat, with his hat over his eyes.
While we talked, a tall lusty young beggar-girl wandered in and out unnoticed. Chickens pecked and fluttered about, and at intervals the inevitable small dog suddenly barked and yelped.
On our way back we met the elder daughter of Mrs. M'Donnell, a girl of sixteen, the "beauty of Gweedore." A beauty she certainly is, and of a type hardly to have been looked for here.
Her lithe graceful figure, her fine, small, chiselled features, her shapely little head rather defiantly set on her sloping shoulders, her fair complexion and clear hazel eyes, her brown golden hair gathered up behind into a kind of tress, all these were Saxon rather than Celtic. Her trim neat ankles were bare, after the mountain fashion, but she was prettily dressed in a well-fitting dark blue gown, wore a smartly trimmed muslin apron, with lace about her throat, and carried over her arm a new woollen shawl, very tasteful and quiet in colour. She greeted us with a self-possessed smile.
"No," she had not, been shopping with her mother. The shawl was a present from one of her cousins. Did we not think it very pretty? She was only out for a walk, and had no notion where her mother might be. A stalwart red-bearded man who lounged and loitered behind her on the road was "only a friend," she said, "not a relation at all!" Nor did she show, I am sorry to say, any compassion for the evident uneasiness with which, from a distance, he regarded her long and affable parley with two strangers.
We asked her whether she expected and wished to live in Gweedore, or would like to follow elsewhere some calling or trade. "Oh yes," she unhesitatingly replied, "I should like to be a dress-maker in Deny; but," she added pensively, "it's no use my thinking about it, for I know I shouldn't be let!"
"Wouldn't you like Dublin as well?" I asked.
"Perhaps; but I shouldn't be let go to Dublin either!"
Would she like to go to America?
"No!" she didn't think much of "the Americans who came back," and America must be "a very hard country for work, and very cold in the winter."
Now this was a widow's daughter, living in such a cabin as I have described, and upon a small holding in a parish reputed to be the most "distressful" in Donegal!
Returning to the hotel we found our car ready for Falcarragh. Our driver was a quiet, sensible fellow, who did not seem to care sixpence about the great Nationality question, though he knew the country very well.
Iron was visible in the rocks as we drove along, and we passed some abandoned mining works, "lead and silver mines;" he said, "they were given up long before his time." We got many fine views of the mountains Errigal, Aghla More, and Muckish. Lough Altan, a wild tarn, lies between Errigal and Aghla More.
The peasants we met stared at us curiously, but, were very civil, even at a place bearing the ominous name of Bedlam, against which Mr. Burke had warned us as the most troublesome on the way. All the countryside was there attending a fair, and we drove through throngs of red-shawled, barelegged women, ponies, horses, cattle, and sheep. Of Tory Island, with its famous tower, dating back to the fabled "Fomorians," we had some grand glimpses. The white surf, flashing and leaping high in the air on the nearer islets accented and gave life to the landscape.
In one glorious landlocked bay, we saw not a single boat riding. Our driver said, "The fishermen all live on Tory Island, and send their fish to Sligo. The people on the mainland don't like going out in the boats."
Lord Ernest tells me there is a movement to have a telegraph station set up on Tory Island, to announce the Canadian steamers coming into Moville for Deny.
We found Falcarragh, or "Cross-Roads," a large clean-looking village, consisting of one long and broad street, through which horses and cattle were wandering in numbers, apparently at their own sweet will.
Ballyconnell House, the seat of Mr. Wybrants Olphert, is the manor house of the place. As we drew near, no signs appeared of the dreadful "Boycott." The great gates of the park stood hospitably open, and we drove in unchallenged past a pretty ivy-clad lodge, and through low, but thickly planted groves. A huge boulder, ruddy with iron ore, bears the uncanny and unspellable name of the "Clockchinnfhaelaidh," or "Stone of Kinfaele." Upon this stone, tradition tells us, Balor, a giant of Tory Island, chopped off the head of an unreasonable person named Mackinfeale, for complaining that Balor, under some prehistoric "Plan of Campaign," had driven away his favourite cow, Glasgavlan.
Ballyconnell House, a substantial mansion of the Georgian era, stands extremely well. Over a fine sloping lawn in front, you have a glorious view of the sea, and of a very fine headland, known as "the Duke's Head," from the really remarkable resemblance it bears to the profile of Wellington. The winds have such power here that there are but few well-grown trees, and those near the house. About them paraded many game-hens, spirited birds, looking like pheasants. These, as we learned, never sleep save in the trees.
The "boycotted" lord of the manor came out to greet us—a handsome, stalwart man of some seventy years, with a kindly face, and most charming manners. His family, presumably of Dutch origin, has been established here since Charles II. He himself holds 18,133 acres here, valued at L1802 a year; and he is a resident landlord in the fullest sense of the term. For fifty years he has lived here, during all which time, as he told us to-day, he has "never slept for a week out of the country." His furthest excursions of late years have been to Raphoe, where he has a married daughter. "Absenteeism" clearly has nothing to do with the quarrel between Mr. Olphert and his tenants, or with the "boycotting" of Ballyconnell.
The dragoons from Dunfanaghy had just ridden away as we came up. They had come over in full fig to show themselves, and to encourage the respectable Catholics of Falcarragh, who side with their parish priest, Father M'Fadden of Glena, and object to the vehement measures, promoted by his young curate, Father Stephens, recently of Liverpool. The people had received them with much satisfaction. "They had never seen the cavalry before, and were much delighted!"
Before we sat down to luncheon young Mr. Olphert came in. It was curious to see this quiet, well-bred young gentleman throw down his belt and his revolver on the hall table, like his gloves and his umbrella. "Quite like the Far West," I said. "And we are as far in the West as we can get," he replied laughingly.
Our luncheon was excellent—so good, in fact, that we felt a kind of remorse as if we had selfishly quartered ourselves upon a beleaguered garrison. But Mr. Olphert said he had no fear of being starved out. Personally he was, and always had been, on the best terms with the people of Falcarragh. The older tenants, even now, if he met them walking in the fields when no one was in sight, would come up and salute him, and say how "disgusted" they were with what was going on. It was the younger generation who were troublesome—more troublesome, he added, to their own parish priest than they were to him. Three or four years ago a returned American Irishman, an avowed unbeliever, but an active Nationalist and one of Mr. Forster's "suspects," had come into the neighbourhood and done his worst to break up the parish. He used to come to Falcarragh on a Sunday, and get up on a stone outside the chapel while Father M'Fadden was saying Mass or preaching, and harangue such people as would listen to him, and caricature the priest and the sermon going on within sound of his own voice. "I am myself a Protestant," said Mr. Olphert, "but I have a great respect for priests who do their duty; and the conduct of Father M'Fadden of Gweedore, in countenancing this man, who tried to overthrow the authority of Father M'Fadden of Glena, excited my indignation. As to what is going on now," said Mr. Olphert, "it is to Father M'Fadden of Gweedore, and to Father Stephens here, that the trouble is chiefly to be charged." This tallies with what I heard at Gweedore from my Galwegian acquaintance. He thought Mr. Olphert, and Mr. Hewson, the agent, ought to have made peace on the terms which Father Stephens said he was willing to accept for the tenants, these being a reduction of 3s. 4d. in the pound, if Mr. Olphert would extend the reduction to the whole year. My Galwegian thought this reasonable, because in this region the rent, it appears, is only collected once a year. With this impartial temper, my Galwegian still maintained that but for the two priests—the parish priest of Gweedore and the curate of Falcarragh—there need have been no trouble at Falcarragh. There had been no "evictions." When the tenants first went to Mr. Olphert they asked a reduction of 4s. in the pound on the non-judicial rents, and this Mr. Olphert at once agreed to give them. The tenants had regularly paid their rents for ten years before. That they are not going down in the world would appear from the fact that the P.O. Savings Banks' deposits at Falcarragh, which stood at L62, 15s. 10d. in 1880, rose in 1887 to L494, 10s. 8d. A small number of them had gone into Court and had judicial rents fixed; and it was on the contention promoted by the two priests, through these judicial tenants, he said, that all the difficulty hinged. Father M'Fadden of Glena, who thought the quarrel unjustifiable and silly, had an interview with Mr. Blane, M.P., and with Father Stephens, and tried to arrange it all. He would have succeeded, my Galwegian thought, had not the agent, Mr. Hewson, obstinately fought with the obstinate curate, Father Stephens, over the suggestion made by the latter, that the terms granted on the fine neighbouring estate of Mr. Stuart of Ards—a man of wealth, who lives mainly at Brighton, though Ards is one of the loveliest places in Ireland—should be extended by Mr. Olphert for a whole year to his own people, who had never asked for anything of the kind!
Mr. Olphert said he knew Gweedore well. He owns a "townland" there, on which he has thirty-five tenants, none of them on a holding at more more than L4 a year. Father M'Fadden of Gweedore, he said, finding that the people on Mr. Olphert's townland were going back to the "Rundale" practices, tried to induce Mr. Olphert to return all these subdivisions as "tenancies." This he refused to do. As to the resources of the peasantry, he thought them greater than they appeared to be. "This comes to light," said Mr. Olphert, "whenever there is a tenant-right for sale. There is never any lack of money to buy it, and at a round good price." The people also, he thinks, spend a great deal on what they regard as luxuries, and particularly on tea. "A cup of tea could not be got for love or money in Gweedore, when Lord George Hill came there. You might as well have asked for a glass of Tokay."
Now they use and abuse it in the most deleterious way imaginable. They buy the tea at exorbitant rates, often at five shillings a pound, and usually on credit, paying a part of one bill on running up another, put it into a saucepan or an iron pot, and boil, or rather stew, it over the fire, till they brew a kind of hell-broth, which they imbibe at odd moments all day long! Oddly enough, this is the way in which they prepare tea in Cashmere and other parts of India, with this essential difference, though, that the Orientals mitigate the astringency of the herb with milk and almonds and divers ingredients, tending to make a sort of "compote" of it. Taken as it is taken here, it must have a tremendous effect on the nerves. Mr. Olphert thinks it has had much to do with the increase of lunacy in Ireland of late years. From his official connection with the asylum at Letterkenny, he knows that while it used to accommodate the lunatics of three counties, it is now hardly adequate to the needs of Donegal alone.
Everything about Ballyconnell House is out of key with the actual military conditions of life here. It is essentially what Tennyson calls "an ancient home of ordered peace." In the ample hall hang old portraits and trophies of the chase. The large and handsome library, panelled in rich dark wood, is filled full of well-bound books. Prints, busts, the thousand and one things of "bigotry and virtue" which mark the dwelling-place of educated and thoughtful people are to be seen on every side. Mr. Olphert showed us a cabinet full of bronzes, picked up on the strand of the sea. Among these were brooches, pins, clasps, buckles, two very fine bronze swords, and a pair of bronze links engraved with distinctly Masonic emblems, such as the level, the square, and the compasses. When were these things made, and by what people?
So far as I know, Masonry in the British Islands cannot be historically traced back much, if at all, beyond the Revolution of 1688.
Mr. Olphert and his son walked about the place with us. They have no fears of an attack, but think it wise to keep a force of police on the premises. The only demonstration yet made of any kind against the house was the march from Falcarragh some time ago of a mob of young men, who promptly withdrew on catching sight of half-a-dozen policemen within the park gates. As to getting his work done, some of his people had steadily refused to acknowledge the "boycott," and they were now strengthened by the attitude of those who had surrendered to the pressure, and were now sullen and angry with the League which had given them nothing to do, and no supplies.
At Falcarragh we met a person who knew much about the late Lord Leitrim, who was murdered in this neighbourhood on the highway some years ago. He spoke freely of the murderer by name, as if it were matter of common notoriety. Of the murdered man, he said that he had made himself extremely unpopular and odious, not so much by certain immoralities freely alleged at the time of his death, as by vexatious meddling with the prejudices and whims of his tenants. "He used to go into the houses and pull down cartoons and placards, if he saw them put up on the walls." "No! he had no party feeling in the matter; he used to pull down William III. and the Pope with an equal hand." It seems that in this region, too, a local legend has grown up of the birth at a place called Cashelmore of a "Queen of France." The case is worth noting as throwing light on the genesis and accuracy of local traditions. The "Queen of France" referred to proves, on inquiry, to have been Miss Patterson, who married Jerome Bonaparte, brother of the first Emperor, afterwards created by him King of Westphalia! This Avas the lady so well known in America as Mrs. Patterson Bonaparte of Baltimore, who died at a great age only a few years ago. I have no reason to suppose that she was born at Cashelmore at all or in Ireland. But her father, reputed in the time of Washington to be the richest man in the United States, who came from the North of Ireland and settled in Baltimore as a merchant, may very well have been born there.
To my great regret Father M'Fadden of Glena, or Falcarragh, was absent from home. As we drove homeward we met on the way a young lady on a smart jaunting-car, with a servant in livery. This was the daughter, our driver told us, of Mr. Griffiths, the Protestant clergyman, past whose residence our road lay. His church stands high upon a commanding cliff, and is a feature in the landscape. We met the parson himself also, walking with a friend. The road from Bedlam to Derrybeg goes by a region of the "Rosses," reputed the most woe-begone part of the Gweedore district. This is the scene of a curious tale told about Father M'Fadden of Gweedore, by his ill-wishers in these parts, to the effect that he advises English Members of Parliament and other "sympathising" visitors who come here to make a pilgrimage to "the Bosses," where, no matter at what time of day they appear, they invariably find sundry of the people sitting in their huts and eating stewed seaweed out of iron pots. I cannot vouch for this tale, but certainly I have seen no people here of either sex, or of any age, who look as if they lived on stewed seaweed. Another person at Falcarragh told us, as an illustration of the influence exerted by Father M'Fadden of Gweedore, in this parish, over which he has no proper authority, that, in obedience to an intimation from him, the persons whose seats in the chapel had been occupied on two successive Sundays by the policemen now stationed here, yesterday refused to allow the policemen to occupy them, the only exception being in the case of a man who had been arrested at the same time with Father Stephens, and who had been so well treated by the police, that he felt bound to repay their courtesy by offering one of them his seat.
DUNGLOE, Tuesday, Feb. 7.—We rose early this morning at Gweedore; the sun shining so brightly that we were forced to drop the window-shades at breakfast, while I read my letter from Rome, telling me of the bitter cold there, and of a slight snow-fall last week. Here the birds were singing, and the air was as soft and exhilarating as that of an April morning in the Highlands of Mexico or Costa Rica.
Our host gave us a capital car, with a staunch nag and a wide-awake jarvey, thanks to all which I found the thirteen miles drive to this place too short. No doubt it will be a great thing for Donegal when "light railways" are laid down here. But I pity the traveller of the future here, if he is never to know the delight of traversing these wild and picturesque wastes in such weather as we have had to-day, on a car, well-balanced by a single pleasant companion, drinking, as he goes, deep draughts of the Atlantic air! Truly on a jaunting-car "two are company and three are none." You have almost the free companionship of a South American journey in the saddle, jumping off to walk, when you like, more freely still.
We drove near the house of the "beauty of Gweedore," but she was not visible, though we met her mother (by no means a pulchra mater) as we crossed the Clady at Bryan's Bridge.
We soon passed from the bogland into a wilderness of granite. Our jarvey, however, maintained that there was "better land among the stones than any bogland could be." He was a shrewd fellow, and summed up the economical situation, I thought, better than some of his betters, when he said of the whole region that "it will fatten four, feed five, and starve six."
It may well fatten six, though, I should say, if the natural wealth of this vast granite range can be properly turned to account. On every side of us lay vast blocks of granite of all hues and grades, all absolutely unworked, but surely not unworkable. We stopped and picked up many specimens, some of them almost as rich in colour as porphyry. Of lakes and lakelets supplying water-power the name too, is legion.
Beyond Annagary we caught a glimpse of the Isle of Arran, the scene, a few years ago, of so much suffering, and that of a kind I should think as much beyond the control of legislation as the misery and destruction which have overtaken successive attempts to establish settlements on Anticosti in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
This town of Dungloe sprawls along the shore of the sea. It is reputed the most ill-favoured town in Donegal, and it certainly is not a dream of beauty. But it blooms all over with evidences of the prosperity of that interesting type of Irish civilisation, the "Gombeen man," of whom I had heard so much at Gweedore. Over the doorways of most of the shops appear the names of various members of the family of Sweeney, all of them, I am told, brought here and established within a few years past by the head of the sept, who is not only the great "Gombeen man" of the region, but a leading local member of the National League, and Her Majesty's Postmaster. The Sweeneys, in fact, commercially speaking, dominate Dungloe, their, only visible rivals being a returned Irish American, who has built himself a neat two-story house and shop just at the entrance of the village, and our own host, Mr. Maurice Boyle, whose extremely neat little inn just faces a large shop, the stronghold of the Chief of the Sweeneys. I am sorry to find that this important citizen of Dungloe is not now here. We went into his chief establishment to make some purchases, and found it full of customers, chiefly women, neatly dressed after the Donegal fashion, and busily chaffering with the shopgirls and shopmen, who had their hands full, exhibiting goods such as certainly would not be found in any New York or New England village of this sort. When we secured the attention of the chief shopman, a nattily dressed, dark-haired young man who would not have discredited the largest "store" in Grand Street or the Bowery of New York, we asked him to show us some of the home-made woollen goods of the country. These, he assured us, had no sale in Dungloe, and he did not keep them. But he showed us piles of handsome Scottish tweeds at much higher prices. Now as this is an exclusively agricultural region, it is evident that the tenants must be able to make it worth a trader's while to keep on hand such goods as we here found, and therefore that they cannot be exactly on "the ragged edge" of things.
Mr. Sweeney is also the proprietor of the chief "hotel" of Dungloe; our host, Mr. Boyle, being in fact supposed to be "boycotted" for entertaining officers of the police. This "boycott," however, has entailed no practical inconvenience upon us; and Mr. Boyle's pretty and plucky daughters, who manage his house for him, laughed scornfully at the notion of being "bothered" by it.
After luncheon we took a car and drove out to Burtonport, on the Roads of Arranmore, to visit the parish priest there, Father Walker, and Mr. Hammond, the agent of the Conyngham estates.
We passed near a large inland lake, Lough Meela, and the seaward views along the coast were very fine. With peace and order this corner of Ireland might easily become the chosen site of the most delightful seaside homes in the United Kingdom. The Recorder of Cork has discovered this, and passes a great part of the year here. This Donegal coast is no further from the great centres of British wealth and population than are Mount Desert and the other summer resorts of Maine and New Hampshire from New York and Philadelphia; and the islands which break the great roll of the Atlantic here cannot well be more nearly in "a state of nature" than were the Isles of Shoals, for example, in my college days, long after Mr. Lowell first wandered there with the transcendental Thaxters to celebrate the thunders of the surf at Appledore.
The wonderful granitic formations we had seen on the way from Gweedore stretch all along the coast to the Roads of Arranmore. At Burtonport they lie on the very water's edge. At a place called Lickeena, masses of beautiful salmon-and rose-coloured granite actually trend into the tidewater, and at Burtonport proper is a promontory of that richly-mottled granite which I had supposed to be the peculiar heritage of Peterhead, and which is now largely exported from Scotland to the United States. Why should not this Irish granite be shipped directly from Donegal to America, there to be built up into cathedrals, and shaped into monuments for the Exiles of Erin? All these formations which we have seen present themselves in great cubical blocks, so jointed that they may be detached without blasting, with great comparative ease, and with little of the waste which results from the squaring of shapeless masses. At the same time, as we saw while coming from Gweedore, the many lakes of this region offer all the water-power necessary for polishing-works, columnar lathes, and the general machinery used in developing such quarries. Without being an expert in granites, I have seen enough of the granite works at home to feel quite sure that a moderate and judiciously managed investment here ought to return a handsome result. If the National League is as well off as it is reputed to be, it might go into this business open a new and remunerative industry to the people of a "congested" district, and earn dividends large enough to enable it to pay the expenses of the war against England at Westminster, without drawing on the savings of the servant-girls in America, The only person likely to suffer would be the "Gombeen man," if the peasantry earned enough to pay off their debts to him, and stop the flow of interest into his coffers.
At Burtonport we found the "Gombeen man," of Dungloe, represented by a very large "store." He runs steamers between this place and various ports on the Scottish and Irish coasts, bringing in goods and taking out the crops which his debtors turn over to him.
This Burtonport "store" towers high above the modest home of the parish priest, Father Walker. To our great regret he was absent on parochial duty, but his niece very kindly welcomed us into his modest study, where we left a note begging him to honour us with his company at dinner in Dungloe.
Mr. Hammond, too, was absent, so after paying our respects to his wife, we drove back to Dungloe, and walked about the village till dark, chatting with the good-natured, civil people. The local sensation here they tell us is not the trial of the priests at Dunfanaghy, but a "row" breeding between the chief of the Sweeneys and one of his brethren over the possession of Her Majesty's Post-office. It seems there is an official regulation or custom that the post-office once established in a particular building shall not be moved thence without positive cause shown. The head of the Sweeneys, having completed his new and grand establishment, wishes to move the post-office thither; but the brother to whom he confided the office in the older building, where he left it while making the change of his own business, now desires to keep the office where it is, and, I suppose, to become postmaster himself! A trivial matter enough, but not without edification for students of the actual situation in this most curious country.
About seven o'clock Father Walker made his appearance—a fine-looking, dignified, most amiable man. He is a teetotaller, which we esteemed a stroke of good fortune, a bottle of port wine which we obtained, despite the "boycott," from the Gombeen shop, proving to be of such a quality that it might have been concocted in the last century, expressly to discredit the Methuen treaty.
Father Walker is the President of the National League branch.
Like Father M'Fadden at Gweedore, he speaks of the landlords in this part of Donegal as really owning, not so much farms as residential grounds for tenants who export their thews and sinews to Scotland and other countries, and live by that traffic mainly. It is a common practice here, he tells me, for the children, who are very sharp and bright, to be taken by their parents into Tyrone and other parts of the North, and put out to live with the people there, who prize them, and pay very good wages. I asked him if he thought the official estimate I had seen of the proportion of these "migratory labourers" to the whole population of Ulster, as about one-tenth of one per cent., an under-statement. He thought it was an under-statement for this part of the county of Donegal, but to be explained, perhaps, by the fact that so much of the migration is merely from one county into another, and not out of the kingdom. He agreed that the practice goes on upon a much more extensive scale in the County Mayo, where more than thirteen per cent, of all the adult male population are said to belong to the category of migratory labourers. The Irish population of England seems to be recruited at regular seasons in this way, very much as is the Albanian population of Constantinople.
Father Walker was full of information about the granite quarries, and much interested in the prospect of their development. He told us that a practical engineer from Liverpool had, not long ago, been here seeking a lease of the quarries—or, in other words, of the quarrying rights over sixty or seventy miles of Donegal—from the agent of Lord Conyngham. This engineer had come to Donegal on a sporting expedition last year, and gone back full of the capabilities of the granite region. Father Walker had been told by him that similar quarries also exist in the County Mayo at Belmullet, where preparations are now making, he thinks, to develop them, though on a smaller scale than would be both practicable and desirable here.
In Mayo, as in Donegal, labour must be plentiful enough, and the comparatively unskilled labour required in such quarries would be particularly abundant here. It would be a great thing, Father Walker thought, to introduce here the custom of a regular pay-day, and with it gradually habits of exactness and economy, not easily developed without it.
He gave me also, at my request, some valuable information as to the stipends of the Catholic clergy, and the sources from which they are derived. This subject has been agitated in the local press of this part of Ireland in connection with estimates of Father M'Fadden's income at Gweedore, which Father M'Fadden declares, I believe, to be greatly exaggerated. Father Walker has been parish priest at Burtonport for about nine years. In all that time the highest sum reached in one year by the stipend has been L560; this sum having to be divided between the parish priest, who received L280, and two curates receiving L140 each. The annual stipend, however, has more than once fallen below L480, and Father Walker thinks L520 a fair average, giving L260 to the parish priest, and L130 each to his curates. Where there are only two priests in a parish, as is the case, for example, in each of the parishes of Gweedore and Falcarragh, the parish priest receives two-thirds, and the curate one-third of the stipend.
The sources of this stipend are various, and in speaking upon this point Father Walker desired me to note that he could only speak positively of the rules of this particular diocese, as they do not cover in their entirety the usages of other provinces, or even of other dioceses in this province of Ireland. One general and invariable rule indeed exists throughout Ireland, which is that every parish priest is bound to offer the Holy Sacrifice, pro populo, for the whole people, without fee or reward, on all Sundays and Holy Days, making in all some eighty-seven times a year.
In the diocese of Raphoe, to which Burtonport belongs, there are four recognised methods by which the revenues of the priests are raised. The first is an annual fixed stipend of four shillings for each household or family. "Sometimes," said Father Walker, "but rarely, the better-off families give more than this; and not unfrequently the poorer families fail to give anything under this head." The second is a fixed stipend of one pound upon the occasion of a marriage. "Sometimes, but not often, this sum is exceeded by generous and prosperous parishioners." The third is a standard stipend of two shillings for a baptism. "This also suffers, but on rare occasions," said the good priest, "a favourable exception. I mention the exceptions as well as the rules," said the good Father, "in order to make grateful allusion to the donors."
The fourth and last consists of the offerings at interments. "These vary very much indeed, but they constitute an important, and, I may say, a necessary item in the incomes of the clergy."
Besides these four forms of stipend, the priests derive a revenue from "those who ask them to offer the Holy Sacrifice 'for their special intention.'" In such cases it is customary to offer a sum, usually of two shillings, but sometimes of half-a-crown, which is intended both as a remuneration for the priest, and to cover the cost of altar requisites.
Father Walker estimates the families in his own parish in round numbers at about thirteen hundred, and in Gweedore and Falcarragh at about nine hundred each. We had some conversation about the great fisheries, which one would think ought to exist, but do not exist, on this coast, such fishing as is done here by the natives being on a very limited scale. Father Walker tells me that formerly L80,000 worth of herring were taken on this coast, though he is not sure that Donegal fishermen took them. But of late years he thinks the herring have deserted these waters. He admits, however, that the people have no liking for the sea. "Going over once," he said, "to Arranmore from the mainland in a boat with a priest of the country, the water was a little rough, and the poor man nearly pinched a piece out of my arm holding on to me!" Father Walker himself thought the trip across the "sound" to Tory Island rather a ticklish piece of business. Yet the natives make it sometimes in their little corraghs or canvas boats, which would seem to show that some of them must be capable of seamanship. Most of these islands, notably Arranmore, Father Walker thought quite incapable of supporting the people who dwell on them, without constant help from the mainland. Is it not an open question whether an age which countenances the condemnation of private property in houses declared unfit for human habitation ought to hesitate at dealing in the same spirit with nurseries of chronic penury and intermittent famine? On one of these islands, known as Scull Island, Father Walker tells me great quantities of human bones are found in circular graves or trenches, very shallow, and going all around the island. There are legends of great battles fought on the little island, and of pestilences, to account for these. But it is likely enough that the island was simply used as a cemetery by the dwellers on the shore at some early date. Father Walker when he was last, there had brought away some of these relics. One he showed us, the beautifully formed jawbone of a young child, apparently ten or twelve years old, with exquisite pearly teeth. The chin was not in the least prognathous, but very well formed. In this district of Dungloe, too, the women weave and knit as well as at Gweedore; and Father Walker, before he left us for his home, after a most agreeable evening, promised to send me some specimens of their handiwork. He is sure that with a proper organisation this industry might be so developed as to materially relieve the people here from the pressure of their debts to the dealers of all kinds, a pressure much more severe than that of the rent. According to the dealers themselves, no tenant really in debt to them can now expect to work himself free of the burden under four or five years. It is obvious how much power, political as well as social, is thus lodged in the hands of the dealers, and especially of the "Gombeen men."
BARON'S COURT, Wednesday, Feb. 8.—Since last night I have travelled from one extreme to the other of Irish life—from the desolation of the Rosses of Donegal to the grandly wooded, picturesque, and beautiful demesne of Baron's Court. We made an early start from Dungloe on a capital car for Letterkenny, where we were to strike the railway for Strabane and Newtown-Stewart. The morning was clear, but cold. On leaving Dungloe we drove directly into a region of reclaimed land, where improvements of various kinds seemed to be going on. All this our jarvey informed us, with a knowing look, belonged to Mr. Sweeney.
"Was he a squire of this country?" I asked innocently.
"A squire of this country, sorr? He is just Mr. Sweeney, the Gombeen man; he and his brothers, they all came here from where I don't know."
An energetic man, certainly, Mr. Sweeney, and not likely, I should think, to allow the National League, to push matters here to the point of nationalising the land of Donegal, if he can prevent it. In the highway we met, two or three miles out of Dungloe, a very trim dainty little lady, in a long, well-fitting London waterproof ulster, with a natty little umbrella in her hand, walking merrily towards the town. How weatherwise she was soon appeared, the rain coming up suddenly, and coming down sharply, in the whirling way it has among the hills everywhere. The scenery was desolate, but grand. Countless little lochs give sparkle and life to it. Everywhere the granite. About Doocharry, a romantic little spot, where Lord Cloncurry has a fishing-box in the heart of a glorious landscape, masses crop out of a rich red granite, finer in colour than any we had previously seen. In that neighbourhood the wastes of Donegal take on an aspect which recalls, though upon quite a different key in colour, the inimitable beauty of those treeless North-western highlands of Scotland, upon which Nature has lavished all the wealth of her palette. Vast spaces of brown and red and gold shimmer away under the softly luminous mountain atmosphere to the dark blues and purples of the hills. We passed Glen Veagh again, but from quite a different point of view, which gave us a beautiful picture of Lough Veagh in its length, and of the smiling pastoral landscape upon its further shore.
As we drew near the eastern boundary of Donegal, hedges and civilised agriculture reappeared. With these we came upon mud cottages, such as I had not seen in Donegal, being the huts provided for their labourers by the tenant-farmers, whose comfortable stone-houses and out-buildings stood well back under the long ranges of the hills.
We passed through much striking scenery, perhaps the finest point being a magnificent Gap in the hills, guarded and defined by three colossal headlands, one of them a vast long rampart, the other two gigantic counterscarps. The immediate approach to Letterkenny, too, from the west is charming, passing in full view of the extensive and beautiful park and the large mansion of Colonel Stewart of the Guards, and skirting the well-kept estate of Mr. Boyd, the owner of the ivy-clad cottages which so took my fancy the other day.
In the Ulster settlement under King James I. a patent for Letterkenny was issued to one of the Crawfords. Then, as the records tell us, "Sir George Marburie dwelt there, and there were forty houses all inhabited by British tenants. A great market town, and standeth well for the King's service."
Again we found a fair going on—this time attended by swarms of peddlers vending old clothes and all sorts of small wares, bread-cartmen, and tea-vendors. These latter aver that it is easier to sell tea in the "congested" districts at 4s. 6d. than at 2s. 6d. The people have no test of its quality but its price!
The town was gay with soldiers and police—whose advent had created such a demand for bread and meat, a man told us, that all the butchers and bakers in Letterkenny and Dunfanaghy were at their wits' ends to meet it. "But they don't complain of that!" We reached Newtown-Stewart by railway after dark. As we passed Sion the mills were all lighted up, giving it the look of an English or New England town. A New England snow-storm, too, awaited us at our journey's end; and, after a wild drive of several miles through the whirling white mists, it was a delectable thing to find ourselves welcomed in a hall full of light and warmth and flowers by merry children and lively dogs, the guard of honour of the most gracious and charming of hostesses.
BARON'S COURT, Thursday, Feb. 9.—Among a batch of letters received this morning I find one from a most estimable and accomplished priest in the West of Ireland, to whom I wrote from Dublin announcing my intention of visiting the counties of Clare and Kerry. "I shall be very glad," he says, "to learn that no evil hath befallen you during your visit to that solitary plague-spot, where dwell the disgraceful and degraded 'Moonlighters.' Would not 'martial law,' if applied to that particular spot, suffice to stamp out, these-insensate pests of society?" This language, strong, but not too strong in view of the hideous murder last week near Lixnaw of a farmer in the presence of his daughter for the atrocious crime of taking a farm "boycotted" by the National League, shows that the open alliance between this organisation and the criminal classes in certain parts of Ireland is beginning (not a day too soon) to arouse the better order of priests in Ireland to the peril of playing with edged tools. For my correspondent is not only a priest, but a Nationalist. I have sent him in reply a letter received by me, also to-day, touching the conduct in connection with the Lixnaw murder of a priest, a curate, I think, comparatively new to the place, who, standing by the corpse of the murdered man, endeavoured, so my informant states, to make his unfortunate daughter give up the names of the murderers, the effect of which would have been to put them on their guard, and "under the protection of that public conspiracy of silence, which is the shield of all such criminals in these parts!" Baron's Court is a very large, stately mansion, lacking elevation perhaps like Blenheim, but imposing by its mass and the area it covers. It was rebuilt almost entirely by the late Duke of Abercorn, who also made immense plantations here which cover the country for miles around. His grandfather, the handsome Marquis of the days of the Prince Regent, came here a great deal towards the end of his life, but did little towards making the mansion worthy of its site. Two very good portraits of him here show that he deserved his reputation as the finest-looking man of his day, a reputation attested by a diamond ring, the history of which is still preserved in the family. A fine though irregular pearl given by Philip of Spain to his hapless spouse, Mary Tudor, is another of the heirlooms of Baron's Court; but the ring and the note left by Mary Stuart to Claud Hamilton, Lord Paisley, mysteriously disappeared during the long minority of the late Duke under the trusteeship of the fourth Earl of Aberdeen, and have since, it is said, come into the possession of the Duke of Hamilton.
Of the three castles given to Lord Claud Hamilton by James I., to enable him to hold this country, one which stood at Strabaue has disappeared, the memory of it surviving only in the name of Castle Street in that town. The ivy-clad ruins of another adorn a height in this beautiful park. They are "bosomed high in tufted trees," and overlook one of three most lovely lakes, stretching in a shining chain through the length of the demesne.
Another ruined tower of the time of King John stands on an island in one of these lakes. When the Ulster settlement was made, these lands with all the countryside were held by the O'Kanes. With the other Celtic and Catholic inhabitants, they were driven by the masterful invaders into the mountains and bogs. There still remain their descendants, still Celtic and still Catholic, and still dreaming of the day when they shall descend into the low country and drive the Protestant Scotch and English from the "fat lands" which they occupy. In this way the racial and religious animosities are kept alive, which have died out in Tipperary and Waterford, for example, where the Cromwellian English have become more Irish and often more Catholic than the Irish themselves.
I took a long drive and walk with Lord Ernest this afternoon through the park, which rivals Curraghmore in extent. It is nowhere divided from the lands of the adjoining tenants, and with great liberality is thrown open to the people, not only of Newtown-Stewart and Strabane, but of all the country. Parties, sometimes of seven hundred people, from Belfast come down to pass the day in these sylvan solitudes, and it is to be recorded to the praise of Ireland that these visitors always behave with perfect good sense and good feeling.
The "terrible trippers" of the English midlands, as I once heard an old verger in a northern Cathedral call them, who chip off relics from monuments, pull up flowers by the roots, and scatter sandwich papers and empty gingerbeer bottles broadcast over well-rolled lawns, are not known, Lord Ernest tells me, in this island. As he neatly puts it, the Irishman, no matter what his station in life may be, or how great a blackguard he may really be, always instinctively knows when he ought to behave like a gentleman, and knows how to do so. In the lakes were hundreds of wild fowl. The sky was a sky of Constable—silvery-white clouds, floating athwart a dome of clear Italian blue. The soil here must be extraordinarily fertile. The woods and groves are dense beyond belief. Cut down what you like, the growth soon overtakes you, as lush almost as in the tropics.
There was a great cyclone here a year or two ago, which prostrated in a night over a hundred thousand trees. You see the dentated gaps left by this disaster in the great circle of firs and birches on the surrounding hills, but they make hardly a serious break in the thoroughly sylvan character of the landscape. We visited the centre of the devastation, where I found myself in what seemed to be a backwoods clearing in America. An enterprising Scot, Kirkpatrick by name, has taken a contract under the Duke, built himself a neat wooden cabin and stables, set up a small saw-mill driven by steam, and is hard at work turning the fallen trees into timber, and making a very good thing of it, both for the Duke and for himself. He has one or two of his own people with him, but employs the labour of the country, and has no fear of disturbance. He thinks, however, that he must get "a good wicked dog" to frighten away the tramps, who sometimes stray into his woodland, and put the enterprise in peril by smoking and drowsing under haystacks.
Near this clearing is a model village, the houses scrupulously neat, with trees and flowers, and here we met the Duchess with her devoted dog walking briskly along to visit one of her people, a wonderful old man, bearing the ancient name of the O'Kanes, and five years older than the Kaiser William. Until six months ago this veteran was an active carpenter, coming and going, about his work at ninety-six like a man in middle age. Then he went to bed with a bad cold, and will probably never rise again. In all his life he never has touched meat or soup, and when they are now offered him rejects them angrily. He has lived, and preferred to live, entirely on oatmeal in the form of cakes and porridge, and on potatoes; so I make a present of him as a glorious example to the vegetarians. As in so many other cases, his memory of recent events is dim and clouded—of events long past, clear and photographic: the negatives taken in youth quite perfect, the lenses which now take, dimmed and fractured.
He perfectly recollects, for example, the assembling here of the recruits going out to the Continent before the battle of Waterloo, and can give the names and describe the peculiarities of stalwart lads long since crumbled into dust around Mont St. Jean. With the curious unconcern about death which marks his people, this expectant emigrant into the unknown world chats about his departure as if it were for Dublin, and his kinsfolk chat with him.
"Ye'll be going soon!"
"Oh yes, I shan't trouble ye more than an hour or two more."
In quite another part of the domain we came upon a Covenanter—a true, authentic Covenanter, who might have walked out of Old Mortality; the name of him, Keyes. He greeted Lord Ernest cheerily enough, nodded to me in a not unfriendly way, and at once broke into exhortation: "It's a very short life we live; man that is born of woman is of few days, and full of trouble. Well for them that are the children of light—if seeing the light they sin not against it"; and so on with amazing volubility.
There are eighty-five of these Covenanters here. They touch not nor have touched the accursed thing. To them all parties and all governments are alike evil. The Whigs persecuted the Solemn League and Covenant—so did the Tories. Nationalists and Unionists are to them alike abominable, sold under sin. Withal they are shrewd, canny, successful farmers—and, as I inferred from sundry incidents, before Lord Ernest confided the fact to me, not averse from a "right gude williewaught" now and then.
Mr. Keyes, I thought, was not a blue-ribbon man, nor a ribbon-man of any kind.
The Duchess told me afterwards she had vainly endeavoured more than once to get these people to vote at elections.
We had a sprinkling of such people, and very good people in quiet times they were, in the Shenandoah Valley during the Civil War, to whom Federals and Confederates were alike anathema.
We wound up our drive to-day just beyond "the Duke's seat," a little rustic bench put up by the late Duke on a hill range which commands a magnificent view over the whole domain of hill and forest and lakes, and far away to the mountains of Munterlony. There, in the bogs and woods James Hamilton, "lord baron of Strabane," with "other rebels, unknown, in his company," hid himself till, after the fall of Charlemont in August 1650, he was captured by a party of the Commonwealth's men—whereby, as the record here runs, "all and singular his manors, towns, lands, and so forth were forfeited to the Commonwealth of England." Under this pressure he sought "protection," and got it a fortnight later from Cromwell's General, Sir Charles Coote, whose descendants still nourish in Wicklow. But on the 31st of December 1650 he "broke the said protection, and joined himself with Sir Phelim O'Neill, being then in rebellion."
Troublous times those, and a "lord baron of Strabane" needed almost the alacrity in turning his coat of a harlequin or a modern politician! It is a comfort to know that at last, on the 16th of June 1655, he found rest, dying at Ballyfathen, "a Roman Catholic and a papist recusant." As we came back into the gardens and grounds, Lord Ernest showed me, imbedded in the earth, a huge anchor presented to the present Duke by the Corporation of Waterford, as having belonged to the French 28-gun frigate, on which in 1689 James II. and Lord Abercorn sailed away from Ireland for Prance. I believe that because of its weight the present First Lord of the Admiralty avers that it is no anchor at all, but a buoy fixture. It might have been ten times as heavy, and yet not have availed to keep James from getting to sea at that particular time.
BARON'S COURT, Friday, Feb. 10.—Here also, in County Tyrone, the Irish women show their skill in women's work. Mrs. Dixon, the English wife of the house-steward of Baron's Court, has charge of a woollen industry founded here, after a discourse on thrift, delivered at a temperance meeting of the people by the then Marquis of Hamilton, had stirred the country up to consider whether the peasant women might not possibly find some better and more profitable way of passing their winter evenings than in sitting huddled around a peat fire with their elbows on their knees, gossiping about their neighbours. Lord Hamilton cited the women of Gweedore as proofs that such a way might by searching be found.
The Duke and Duchess found the funds, the stewardess invested them in buying the necessary yarn and knitting-needles, and the Marchioness of Hamilton acted as corresponding clerk and business agent of the new industry. The clothing department of the British army lent a listening ear to the business proposals made to it, and the work began. From that time on it has been the main substantial resource against suffering and starvation of the families of some three hundred labourers in the hill country near Baron's Court.
These labourers work for the small farmers from April to November; and between the autumn and the spring their wives and daughters knit, and by the Baron's Court machinery are enabled to dispose of, nearly twenty thousand pairs of woollen socks. The yarns are brought from Edinburgh to the store-house at Baron's Court. Thither every Wednesday come the knitters. Mrs. Dixon weighs the hanks of yarn, and gives them out.
On the following Wednesday the knitters reappear, each with her bale of stockings or socks. These are again weighed, and the knitters receive their pay according to the weight, quality, and size of the goods. In some families there are four, five, or six knitters. All these people, with four or five exceptions, are small cottars living on wretched little mountain farms, not on the Duke of Abercorn's property; and but for this industry they would be absolutely without employment all the winter through.
Some of them come from a distance of twelve or fourteen miles, and but for this resource would literally starve. They are nearly all of them Catholics, and the Protestants here being Unionists, they are probably Nationalists. About three hundred knitters in all are employed. In the year 1886-87 the orders given for Baron's Court work enabled Mrs. Dixon to pay out regularly about five pounds a week, not including casual private orders. For the current year the orders have been much larger, and the expenditure proportionally greater. Mrs. Dixon's storehouse was full of goods to-day. The long knickerbocker stockings which she showed us were remarkably good, some in "cross-gartered" patterns, handsomer, I thought, than similar goods in the Scottish Highlands—and all of them staunch and well-proportioned.
For socks such as are supplied to the volunteers and the troops the War Office pays 8-3/4d. a pair.
It was pleasant to learn from Mrs. Dixon that these people thoroughly appreciate the spirit which prompted and still directs this enterprise. Last spring when the Duchess was thought for a time to be hopelessly ill, a young girl came down to Baron's Court weeping bitterly. On her arm was a basket, in which were two young chanticleers crowing lustily. The poor girl said these were all she had, and she had brought them "to make soup for the Duchess, for she heard that was what the great people lived on, and it might save her life."
This afternoon I went over by the railway to Derry with Lord Ernest to attend a meeting there. The "Maiden City" stands picturesquely on the Foyle, and has a fine, though not large, cathedral of St. Colomb, restored only last year, of which it may be noted that the work never was undertaken while the Protestant Church of Ireland was established by law, and has been successfully carried out since the disendowment of that Church. The streets were white with snow, but the meeting in the old Town Hall was largely attended. It was, in fact, a sort of Orange symposium—tea being served at long tables, and the platform decorated with a pianoforte. The Mayor of the city presided, and between the speeches, songs, mostly in the Pyramus or condoling vein, were sung by a local tenor of renown. It was very like an American tea-fight in the country, and the audience were unquestionably enthusiastic. They quite cheered themselves hoarse when Lord Ernest Hamilton reminded them that he had made his first political speech in that hall on a "memorable occasion," when, being an as yet unfledged Parliamentarian, he had taken a hand in a successful attempt to prevent the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Mr. Dawson, from making a speech in Derry. One of my neighbours, a merchant in the city, told me that a project is afoot for tearing down the old hall in which we met "to enlarge the street," but he added that "the people of Derry were too proud of their history to allow it!"
I understood him to say it is one of the very few buildings in Derry which witnessed the famous siege, and the breaking of the boom.
We left the "revel" early, caught a fast train to Newtown-Stewart, and returned here an hour ago through a driving snowstorm, most dramatically arranged to enhance the glow and genial charm of our welcome.
BARON'S COURT, Saturday, Feb. 11th.—All the world was white with snow this morning. Alas! for the deluded birds we have been listening to for days past; thrushes, larks, and as, I believe, blackbirds, though there is a tradition in these parts that no man ever heard the blackbird sing before the 15th of February. I suspect it grew out of the date of St. Valentine's Day. We had some lovely music, however, within doors this morning; and, in spite of the snow and the chill wind, a little fairy of a girl, with her groom, went off like mad across country on her pony, "Guinea Pig," to fetch the mails from Newtown-Stewart.
Not long after breakfast came in from Letterkenny Sergeant Mahony of the constabulary, on whose testimony Father M'Fadden was convicted. We had heard at Letterkenny that he was now on leave at Belfast, and Lord Ernest had kindly arranged matters so that he should come here and tell us his story of Gweedore.
An admirable specimen he is of a most admirable body of men. He is as thoroughly Celtic in aspect as he is by name—a dark Celt, with a quiet resolute face, and a wiry well-built frame.
Nothing could be better than his manner and bearing, at once respectful and self-respectful: that manner of a natural gentleman one so often sees in the Irish peasant. He is a devout Catholic, but no admirer of Father M'Fadden.
As to his evidence, he explains very clearly that he was not sent to report Father M'Fadden's speech at all, but to note and take down and report language used in the speech of a sort to excite the people against the law. He was selected for this duty for three reasons: he is a Donegal man who has lived at Gweedore for sixteen years; he is a fair stenographer; and he speaks Irish, in which language Father M'Fadden made his speech.
"I speak Irish quite as well as he does," said the Sergeant quietly, "and he knows I do. What I did was to put down in English words what I heard said in Irish. This I had to do because I have no stenographic signs for the Irish words." He tells me he taught himself stenography.
"As for Father M'Fadden," he said, "he told the people that' he was the law in Gweedore, and they should heed no other.' He spoke the truth, too, for he makes himself the law in Gweedore. He dislikes me because I am a living proof that he is not the only law in Gweedore!" Of the business shrewdness and ability of Father M'Fadden, Sergeant Mahony expressed a very high opinion, though hardly in terms which would have gratified such an ecclesiastic as the late Cardinal Barnabo. Possibly Cardinal Cullen might have relished them no better. "Certainly he has the finest house in Gweedore, sir, and what's more he made it the finest himself."
"Do you mean that he built it?"
"He did, indeed; and did you not notice the beautiful stone fences he is putting up all about it, and the four farms he has?"
"Then he is certainly a man of substance?"
"And of good substance, sir! The Government, they gave him a hundred pounds towards the house. But it was the flood that was the blessed thing for him and made a great man of him!"
"The flood?" I asked, with some natural astonishment; "the flood? What flood?"
"And did you never hear of the great flood of Gweedore? It was in August 1880. You will mind the water that comes down behind the chapel? Well, there was a flood, and it swelled, and it swelled, and it burst the small pipe there behind the chapel: too small it was entirely for carrying off' the great water, and nobody took notice of it, or that there was anything wrong, and so the water was piled up behind the chapel, and at Mass on the Sunday, while the chapel was full, the walls gave way, and the water rushed in, and was nine feet deep. There were five people that couldn't get out in time, and were drowned—two old people and three children, young people. It was a great flood. And Father M'Fadden wrote about it—oh, he is a clever priest with the pen—and they made a great subscription in London for the poor people and the chapel. I can't rightly say how much, but it was in the papers, a matter of seven hundred pounds, I have heard say. And it was all sent to Father M'Fadden."