Thursday, 27 November 2014

In Memoriam

The sword and the shield of the valiant are broken;
     In fragments they lie on the war-beaten field;
To him who hath borne them the Chieftain hath spoken,
     "No longer the weapons of earth you shall wield.
Come up higher my soldier, your warfare is ended;
     The peace of your Lord shall be yours evermore;
The outposts assigned you, right well you defended,
     In the face of the foeman, my standard you bore."

So his ashes were laid on the lap of the mountain;
     When the purple heath bloomed on the grey crags above;
Where a streamlet, new born, gushes pure from its fountain,
     Fit symbols or purity, life, and of love.
And now he rests well from his labours and sorrows;
     And his place in the fast-thinning ranks is a void;
While we, faltering, think of the doubtful to-morrows,
     And forget that the anchor holds firm, and is buoyed.
For we see not the Rock that the anchor is gripping,
     And but dimly the buoy that marks where it lies;
But we do see the sun in the red west dipping,
     While o’er all hangs the pall of the stormladen skies.


This poem appeared in The Witness of 11th September 1914.
Image: Courcelette Sunset by Paul Reed

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Whiskey and Cheap Beer - 19th Century Home Brew

"Drunkard" by Vladimir Makovsky


Every country has a spirituous liquor peculiar to itself. In England gin is the spirit in general use; it is flavoured with turpentine. In Holland, the spirit called Jeneva Brandewyn, is flavoured with juniper berries. – Both these are corn spirits, and are strongly diuretic. Brandy Eau dt Vie is the spirit of France; it is produced from wine; and the flavour peculiar to it, is derived from an essential oil, called the Oil of Wine: it is considered more cordial than other spirituous liquors, and is frequently prescribed as a stomachic. Pure brandy is colourless, but that most used in England is browned by burned sugar. Arrack is produced from rice, and is the favourite spirit in India. Kirch Wasser, or Cherry Water, is the local spirit of Germany and Switzerland; it is distilled from cherries, and holds in combination the prussic acid derived from the kernels. Rum is produced in the West Indies from the uncrystallizable liquor, which remains after the manufacture of sugar; it has a very disagreeable and empyreumatic flavour, when new; and requires age before it can be used. Whiskey is the favourite spirit of Ireland and Scotland; it is distilled from malt in Ireland, but in Scotland from oats, or oats and malt combined. The whiskey generally preferred, is that which has no particular flavour; but there are many who esteem that which has the smell of smoke or peat.

All the above spirits are highly stimulant, and when taken medicinally either to relieve spasm in the stomach, to act as a carminative, to increase the action of the heart and arteries, and to restore the energy of the nervous system, as is sometimes indicated in low fevers and other diseases, they may be resorted to with good and beneficial results; but the practice of drinking them, either ardent or diluted, daily, and to the frightful excess which is too often witnessed in these countries, is most injurious to the constitution of the individual, – prejudicial to the well-being and good order of society, and cannot be too strongly reprobated. We have not space to point out the varied acts of moral delinquency arising from it, suffice it therefore to enumerate some few of the destructive consequences upon the mind and body, which we trust may have the effect of deterring those who have as yet avoided it, from commencing; and causing those who have habituated themselves to the baneful practice, to pause ere it is too late. One of the primary effects, is loss of appetite, and inability on the part of the stomach to digest the food which is received into it; the frame is so debilitated, as a consequence of past excitement, and want of its natural support, that it is again felt necessary to seek temporary relief, from a repetition of the stimulus; this being frequently repeated, lays the foundation of biliary derangement, and ultimately destroys the structure of the liver. Debility, emaciation, and dropsy succeed, and the constitution, once healthy and robust, and which might have endured for a long life, vigorous, by temperance, is broken down, and is only relieved by a lingering death. Many other effects might be enumerated, such as that state or disease, known by the name of delirium tremens, in which the nervous system is so completely upset, that the martyr to it can only exist under a state of intoxication. The countenance becomes cadaverous, the mind looses its powers, and every muscle (if mere fibre can be called muscle) is perpetually in a tremulous state, and the being becomes rather a subject of disgust than sympathy. – Butler.

Cheap Beer

Sir, I send you some receipts for cheap beer, to which, I hope, you will give general publicity. I observe, first, that West Indian molasses is the best for the purpose. It is a kind of treacle, which is sold as it comes from the West Indies, and is known by a gritty substance at the bottom of the cask, more or less like sand, which substance is, in truth, an imperfect sugar. Common treacle will do as well, if the quantity be a little increased, say one pound in six or seven; but the best article of all is the coarsest brown sugar you can get; it is better than the higher-priced for this purpose; and you may use one pound in six less of it than the West Indian molasses. It is, however, dearer upon the whole, though still much cheaper than malt. In making beer from unmalted barley, it is necessary to take good care not to use the water too hot, as, if it be, the barley will set, that is, become pasty, and not allow the water to drain off. Be very particular about this; a little oat chaff well mixed with the barley will go a great way to prevent this accident.

Raw Barley and Molasses. – The use of raw grain with molasses, for making beer, is a most valuable discovery for the middle classes. Put a peck of barley or oats into an oven after the bread is drawn, or into a frying-pan, and steam the moisture from them. Then gird or bruise the grain roughly (not fine), and pour on it 2½ gallons of water, so hot as to pain the finger smartly. Mash it well, and let it stand three hours. Then draw it off, and pour on every two gallons nine of water rather hotter than the last; but not boiling (say not above 180°). Mash the liquor well, and let it stand two hours before you draw it off. Pour on afterwards 2 gallons of cold water; mash well, and draw off. You will have about 5 gallons. Mix 7 pounds of West Indian molasses in 5 gallons of water; mix it with the wort from the barley; then add 4 oz. of hops, and boil one hour and a half. When cooled to blood-heat, add a teacupful of yeast; cover it with a sack, and let it ferment eighteen hours. In fourteen days it will be good sound fine beer, quite equal in strength to London porter or good ale. The 9 gallons of beer will cost:— 1 peck of barley, 1s. 3d.; 7lbs. of molasses. 1s. 6d. to 2s.; 4 oz. of hops, 3d.: in all, 3s., or, at most, 3s. 6d.

2. Malt and Molasses. – Pour 8 gallons of water at 175°, on a bushel of malt. Mash well; let it stand three hours; draw it off, and add 8 gallons more water at 196°. Mash, and let it stand two hours: add 8 gallons of cold water to the grain, and let it stand three hours and a half. Mix 28 pounds of West Indian molasses in 20 gallons of water, and boil the whole with 2 pounds of hops for two hours. When the liquor is cooled down to 85°, add half a pint of yeast; cover it with a sack, stir it well, and let it ferment twenty-four hours. In proper time you will have 36 gallons of good ale for – 1 bushel of malt, 9s.; 28lbs. of molasses, 6s. to 8s. 2lbs. of hops, 2s.: in all 17s., or at most, 19s.

3. West Indian Molasses only. – Mix 14 pounds of West Indian molasses with 11 gallons of water; boil it for two hours with G ounces of hops. Let it become quite cool; add a teacupful of yeast, stir it up, and cover it over with a sack, to keep it warm. Let it ferment sixteen hours, put it into a cask, and keep it well filled up; bung it down in two days, and in seven days it will be fit to drink, and be stronger beer than London porter. This is the simplest of all; a washing copper and a tub, or even a large teakettle, only being requisite. Thus 9 gallons of beer can be made:– 14lbs. of molasses, 3s., or, at most, 4s.; 6oz. of hops, 4½d.: in all, 3s. 4½d., or, at most., 4s. 4½d.

A small quantity of copperas, or vitriol of iron, about as much as will lie on the point of a small knife, is in general use, to give beer a head, and make it drink pleasant and lively. It is not necessary, but it is not unwholesome in any respect. – Gardener's Magazine.

The Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 15 (Oct. 6, 1832), pp. 114-115

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Fairy Children

The superstitious belief which still prevails to a great extent in Ireland, with regard to fairy children, or changelings as they are called, is of very injurious tendency, and will, we trust, ere long, be extirpated. The entertaining historian of fairy lore, Mr. Crofton Croker, says -- "When a child appears delicate, or a young woman consumptive, the conclusion is, that they are carried off to be made a playmate or nurse to the young fairies, and that a substitute, resembling the person taken away, is deposited in their place, which gradually declines, and ultimately dies. The inhuman means used by ignorant parents to discover if an unhealthy child be their offspring or a changeling, (the name given to the illusory image,) is, placing the child, undressed, on the road side, where it is suffered to lie a considerable time exposed to cold. After such ceremony, they conclude a natural disorder has caused the symptoms of decay; and the child is then treated with more tenderness, from an idea, that had it been possessed by a fairy, that spirit would not have brooked such indignity, but made its escape. Paralytic affections are attributed to the same agency, whence the term 'fairy-struck;' and the same cruel treatment is observed towards aged persons thus affected."

The following very pleasing ballad, by our talented countryman, Dr. Anster, has been founded on this superstition; the mother is supposed to speak --

"The summer sun was sinking
      With a mild light, calm and mellow.
 It shone on my little boy's bonny cheeks.
      And his loose locks of yellow.

 The robin was singing sweetly,
     And his song was sad and tender;
 And my little boy's eyes as he heard the song,
     Smiled with sweet soft splendour.

 My little boy lay on my bosom,
     While his soul the song was quaffing;
 The joy of his soul had ting'd his cheek,
     And his heart and his eye were laughing.

 I sat alone in my cottage.
     The midnight needle plying;
 I fear'd for my child, for the rush's light
     In the socket now was dying.

 There came a hand to my lonely latch,
     Like the wind at midnight moaning,
 I knelt to pray -- but rose again --
     For I heard my little boy groaning!

 I crossed my brow, and I crossed my breast,
     But that night my child departed!
 They left a weakling in his stead,
     And I am broken-hearted!

 Oh! it cannot be my own sweet boy,
     For his eyes are dim and hollow,
 My little boy is gone to God,
     And his mother soon will follow.

 The dirge for the dead will be sung for me,
     And the mass be chaunted sweetly;
 And I will sleep with my little boy,
     In the moonlight church-yard meetly."

Text: The Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 29 (Jan. 12, 1833), p. 227.
Illustration: The Poems of John Greenleaf Whittier, Revised Edition, 1879.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Fairy Annals of Ulster -- No 2 (pt 3)

The following legend was communicated by a farmer, far advanced in years, who resides at the foot of Lurgeadon -- or Lurig, as it is usually called -- a curiously shaped hill in the immediate vicinity of Cushendall, which is said to bear a marked resemblance to the Table Mountain of the Cape of Good Hope. The farmer, like other dwellers in the Glens, was a true believer in Fairy annals.

"There's two races of people in this country, and always has been from the earliest time, one invisible and the other visible, like ourselves, and how long we are to have the dominion nobody can tell; them that lost it had great power at one time, and has it still in their present dominions underground. Some will have it that the other race took the air when we got the upper hand -- but God knows best.

"At the time the other race had the sway, they put Ireland under enchantment entirely. At that time, the King of Spain had five sons, and the youngest requested his father to give him three ships, made ready for sailin', and three years' provisions on boord, that he might go aff to gain knowledge, see forrin countries, and do all the good he could. So the king granted him the ships and the hands, and three years' provisions, and then the young prince sailed westward for longer than I can tell, when a storm cum on, and it raged night and day till the ships was near shattered to atoms. The prince was walkin' the deck, not knowin' what hand to turn to, when he saw by some signs that land was near, but he seen none; so he ordered his men to cast anchor on chance, and at a certain hour of the night he seen the land, and made for it at once, with all the hands that could be spared out of the ship. They landed safe, and took possession, but didn't get lave to keep it long; for an army cum down upon them, threatening to have their lives if they didn't leave that. The prince was a brave warrior, and he ordered his men to prepare for battle. They fought it out for three days with no advantage, for all the inemies they killed by day cum alive in the night, so the prince knew it was enchantment done that, and made off to the ships with the men that was left; and when he got into the boats, the land disappeared in the clappin' of your hand, and they never seen more of it.

"The prince got safe back to Spain, but the king was no ways glad to see him when he heard what had happened. 'Why didn't you come to a capitulation with the Gineral of the array you fought with,' says the king, 'and not lave the country the same as you found it.' 'I fought my best as long as I could,' says the prince, 'but could do nothin' again' enchantment.' This didn't pacify the king, so he sent for his Gran' Counsellor, to consult with him about puttin' the prince in prison, and sendin' a plinipotintiary to the enchanted island. The Gran' Counseller gov his advice that the king should give the young prince another chance, as the luck hadn't left him for good an' all on the one trial; so the king consinted to fit him out once more with five ships and five years' provisions, and as many more han's as he had the first time.

"The prince sailed away, in great heart, westward once more, and again a storm overtook him and wrecked two of his ships, on the north coast of this kingdom, but the other ships stood it out, and anchored once more in the ould place: and at the same hour of the night the prince saw the land appearing, and made for it with men and boats with all speed, and took possession. Once more down cum the army upon them, and the fightin' commenced. The prince left the field for a short time to get breath, when up cum an aged ould man, and says to him, 'what reward will you bestow on me if I put you in the way of vanquishin' your inemies?' 'Spain's at no short for gold,' says the prince, 'and I'll give you what you ask.' 'Very good,' says the ancient man, 'now mind my directions, take these slips of rowan-tree, give your men every one a bundle of them, and when-iver an inemy falls on the ground, pin him down with one of the slips, and he'll never rise.' The prince and his men followed the advice, and in a short time the inemy was fast pinned to the earth, the battle won entirely, and the enchantment broke. The land has never been invisible since, and the enchanted race, with them that ruled them, has disappeared, as we all know, to habitations of their own, and they bear us no malice worth mentioning, if we don't meddle with them, or what belongs till them."



Antiquarian Notes and Queries.

Supplementary to the notices in vol. vi. of the Journal respecting Fairy superstitions in the county of Antrim, I would notice some singular extensions of the prevalent ideas on the subject which exist in a part of that county not far distant from Cushendall. A well-known feature connected with this superstition is, that old thorn-bushes on the banks of streams, or near what the people call "Danes' forts," or, indeed, any place where standing alone, are considered to be the haunts or peculiar abodes of fairies; and, as such, are not to be disturbed without the risk of personal danger, sooner or later, to the person so offending. I have often endeavoured to explain, on rational principles, to persons putting faith in this belief, how it was that a thorn-bush might be growing alone -- that they were perhaps wrong in their opinion that it had never been planted by human hands -- that there was at least no proof of the fact -- or if so, it was possible that the birds of the air, or the little boys of a far distant age, might have carried away haws to those remote places, some one of which, out of a multitude, might have fallen on good ground, and escaped the thousand dangers to which young thorns, as well as other growing scions, are exposed in their progress from youth to maturity. My attempted explanations were always received with incredulity: and in truth, a solitary old gnarled thorn that has braved the storms of two or three centuries, standing on the bank of one of those beautiful streams with which this country abounds, distant from any human habitation or from any of its kind, is, to say the least of it, an object of some interest; and we can scarcely wonder that it should produce an impression on weak and credulous minds not easily removed. And this brings me to what I have called an extension of the superstition, though it might rather be considered a degradation of it, being destitute of any romantic associations whatever. Passing through a meadow lately with the occupier, I asked him why he did not remove a number of what are called "wild sallies," [willows,] perfect weeds, in fact, which were fast spreading over his ground, forming a most unseemly and unprofitable thicket. He said it was considered best  not to touch thorn, as they never had been planted by the hand of man. In the next field nearly, there is an ash-tree standing alone at the edge of a stream, and also thought to be of supernatural origin. The consequence is, that it is tended with the utmost reverence by the small farmer in whose land it is growing: it is even thought unsafe to cut a rod from it, stories being told of calamities befalling persons who had been so daring as to commit such an act; the grass around it is carefully shorn, and when brought home, a strict examination of it is made, to discover if any twig has been cut in the process and carried away unwittingly from the sacred plant; and in cases where this has happened, I have known the twig taken back again, and laid with due respect and caution beside the parent stem.

These instances are brought forward to show that this superstitious belief is not confined to old thorns only, but would probably be found, at least in some localities, to extend itself to a tree of any kind, growing alone, or of which the origin did not readily appear.
 G. B.

The above articles are reproduced from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. 7, 1859.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Lest We Forget

Sometimes when the bands are playing
And the uniforms march by
You will find a seaman watching
With a wistful-looking eye
And you know just what he's thinking
As he hears the cheering crowd
As the soldiers and the sailors
Swing along, erect and proud.
He is thinking that his country
Saves its honor once again
For the uniforms, forgetting
All the seas' forgotten men.
He is thinking of the armies
And the food and fighting tanks
That for every safe arrival
To the seamen owe their thanks.
He is thinking of those buddies
Who have paid the final score,
Not in khaki or in the Navy
But the working clothes they wore;
And we'd like to tell him something
That we think he may not know
A reminder he can stow away
Wherever he may go.
All your countrymen are proud of you
And though there's no brass band
Not a bugle or a banner
When the merchant seamen land,
We know just the job you're doing
In your worn-out work clothes
On the seas where death is lurking
And a fellow's courage shows.
So be sure to keep your chin up
When the uniforms parade
What a man wears doesn't matter
It's the stuff of which he's made.


Image: Swell, Southern Ocean, Stuart Klipper, 1992.