Wednesday 31 December 2014

Fun in the Pun with Mary and the Lamb

Poetry... What can I say... it's complicated... You just have to look at its wikipedia definition to see that:
Poetry is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning.
It can be funny, sad, emotional, meaningless, challenging, pretentious [insert adjective of choice] but, more than any other art form, is oh so subjective...

Of course everyone's a poet! Just ask anyone one who works on a magazine with a poetry column. It's not easy to tell someone that the opus they submitted and put their heart and soul into is... not very good.

I was reflecting on this the other day (as you do – especially when the traffic means your journey to work is taking forever) while pondering that most well known form of poetry – the Nursery Rhyme (I doubt there is one person out there who, if asked, couldn't recite one at the drop of a hat) specifically...
Mary had a little lamb
it's fleece was white as snow;
And everywhere that Mary went
the lamb was sure to go. 
Now before anyone posts a comment that the original states (allegedly) the lamb was a 'he' in the spirit of political correctness I am being gender neutral :P

What you may not realise though is that there are other verses to this popular little rhyme however I thought this one that I wrote is really much better:
Mary lost the rag with this –
It was a little... sinner!
So she grabbed by its scrawny neck
And chopped it up for dinner.
Always have been very fond of lamb chops :) (Please note – no real lambs were injured in the writing of this rhyme!)

And how many of you recall this version which, as a child, seemed so funny...
Mary had a little lamb
she also had a bear.
You always saw her little lamb
but never saw her bear.
(Bear... get it... you could be talking about the bear or Mary being bear... no... oh well...)

I recall using that little ditty as an example years ago when discussing a friends poetry and the merits of how saying the same thing in different forms and styles can affect it such as...
Mary watched her lamb at play
in fields of grass that dance and sway,
but heartache drove her fervent prayer –
sweet memories of her absent bear.
Mary sighed
the lamb sprang
the evening closed
the bear gone
and for this post I've even attempted some haiku...
Spring brought forth the lamb
but Mary did not see it
for her heart was bear
The lamb nudged Mary
the promise of Spring brought forth
two had become three

Anyway... I don't think i'll be submitting a magnum opus for publication anytime soon but hopefully I've a least raised a little smile.

Happy New Year :)

Wednesday 24 December 2014

The Christmas Fairy

Have you heard of the Christmas fairy, sweet,
Who keeps the home so bright and neat?
Who enters the room of boys and girls,
And finds lost marbles or smooths out curls.
Who mends the rent in a girlie's frock –
Or darns the hole in a tomboy’s sock?
     If you don’t believe it is true, I say,
     You may search and find her this very day,
          In your home.

You must not look for a maiden fair,
With starry eyes and golden hair;
Her hair may be threaded with silver grey,
But one glance of her eyes drives care away.
And the touch of her hand is so soft and light
When it smooths out a place for your head at night.
     If you know of someone just like this,
     My Yuletide fairy you cannot miss –
          It's "Mother."

Poem: The Witness, 11th December 1914.
Image: Christmas Angel by Karen Tarlton.

The Unknown Helper

Grateful to host and hostess, too,
On both your heartfelt thanks bestow,
But don't forget, whate'er you do.
The girl who hung the mistletoe.

Acclaim the half successful trick,
The good old game be shown, or show;
But let your heart to thank be quick –
The girl who hung the mistletoe.

No more the entertaining guest
Your gratitude should feel and know,
Than the unknown, the unconfessed –
The girl who hung the mistletoe.

Applaud the useful vocalist,
The raconteur's delightful flow,
But treasure, when you've cooed and kissed,
The girl who hung the mistletoe.

Poem: The Witness, 11th December 1914.
Image: Mistletoe by Debra Hall.

Thursday 18 December 2014

Yuletide "Whys."

In the first place, why is Christmas celebrated on December 25th? The precise day of the year on which Christ was born, nobody knows, and it must be remembered that nineteen hundred years ago the year was not calculated as it is now, in any case.

It is not even known what section of the Christian Church first looked upon this particular date as the one associated with the Birth of the founder of our religion. About the middle of the fourth century, Pope Julius issued an instruction that the proper day of the year should be ascertained, and the inquiry was undertaken by St. Cyril. He found that the festival was celebrated on varying dates by the several sections of the Church – January, March, April, May, and September – though the churches, in the West of Europe seem to have agreed on December 25th. That was sufficient for the Pope, and since his day Christmas has always been celebrated on the day to which we all look forward with such pleasure every year.


Thus having seen why we celebrate Yuletide on December 25th, let us examine the whys and wherefores of some of the festival's hoary associations. Those of us who are young enough have, say, a passing interest in the mistletoe, and the opportunities it connotes. Why is kissing under the mistletoe customary, or – shall we say? – permissible? It's an old idea, and for its origin we go back to the time of our Scandinavian forefathers. They built big "Jule" or "Yule" fires as a method of honouring the god Thor, a deity who was supposed to be the better pleased the higher the flames from the bonfires rose to the skies. And the tree whose sap was somewhat exhausted, the trees which were driest, were these on which the mistletoe, had battened, so to speak, and thus it cams to be believed that by this process the god – who had caused the mistletoe to grow on the trees – ensured big fires in his own honour.

Gathering Mistletoe
Under the branches of a tree on which the mistletoe grew the men dropped their weapons; they took home bunches of the shrub and hung them over their doorposts, and it was the custom that even if an enemy passed: into the house beneath that mistletoe he became for the time being a friend. From that it became usage to greet people who came under the mistletoe with a kiss in token of friendship, and – well, you know very well the manner in which the sentiment is manifested in this year of grace.

Incidentally it may be mentioned that the reason why mistletoe is never used in the decoration of our churches is that it was used by the Druids as a religious symbol in their rites at the sacrificial altars.


Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra
Then there is the question of good old Santa Claus, who seems nowadays to be almost a better known as Father Christmas, and more or less caricatured as such by the disguised individuals who masquerade at the Christmas grottos and other scenic arrangements at the big shops. "Santa Claus" may be taken as another way of saying "Saint Nicholas," for that very popular bishop of Myra, some sixteen hundred years ago, seems to have been the original of the gentleman who comes with cartloads of god things for the younger generation every Yuletide. The legend runs that the good bishop once climbed the roof of a house and dropped down the chimney a gift for an old gentleman who would have been greatly annoyed if he thought other people knew of his dire poverty. But the gift fell into the stocking which had been hung up to dry, and it was used as part of the dowry for the old gentleman's daughter. Thereafter, when a daughter of almost any house was about to marry, she hung up her stocking to see what gifts might fall therein from the skies. That is why we look for gifts in our stockings at Christmas; and some verisimilitude is given to the narrative by the fact that the anniversary of the saint's death, December 6th, is honoured in several countries – the close approximation of the two dates having further connected St. Nicholas with Christmas.

As to the whys and wherefores of the practice of giving presents at Christmas time there are several explanations. Probably we give them just out of some such feeling as impels us to make presents at Easter, on birthdays, and on sundry other occasions. Devout persons, however, prefer to associate their practice of giving presents with the story that the Magi from the East brought with them gifts to the lowly birthplace of our Lord at Bethlehem.


Mention of the gifts of the Wise Men brings to mind a reason for the association of plum puddings and mince pies with Yuletide. Formerly the contents of these toothsome affairs symbolised the offerings of the Magi, and this idea dates back to the very early days of the Christian Church. The meat, fruits and spices, which are the usual ingredients, were once upon a time known as "hacking," from the hacking or chopping, to which they were subjected before they were subjected before they were finally incorporated into the finished article and cooked, but in this country this somewhat barbarous name for our time-honoured plum pudding was changed shortly after the Restoration to that by which we now know it,

Plum pudding is a peculiarly English dish in these times, for, whatever other people did in bygone ages, they can no longer make plum puddings as we like them in Britain. Indeed, there is a story told of a Frenchman who, wishing to please an English visitor at Yuletide, instructed his cook to make a plum pudding according to the recipe which had been sent from this country. When that pudding came to the table it had to be brought in a soup tureen. The directions had been followed with close attention, but unfortunately the recipe did not state that when the ingredients had been duly cut up and mixed together they should be placed in a cloth!

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --


Beef is a characteristically British item of the Christmas festival. The reason must be sought for in those old pagan festivals from which we have obtained so many of the traditions and observances of Christmas time. It is, of course, well-known that the Druids set great store by the mistletoe, and we have already referred to its place in their sacred rites. Well, when the Druids gathered the mistletoe every winter it was their wont to sacrifice a couple of bulls. The special connection of beef with Christmas has been handed down, from those remote times, but, of course, not one person in a million who enjoys his Christmas dinner has ever associated his slice of sirloin with the gathering of the mistletoe. On the other hand, he may have some knowledge of how the loin of beef came to be knighted by a Stuart King, who enjoyed a hunting dinner so much one day that
     Quoth he "It is a noble dish!
      Ay, noble made by me!
By kingly right I dub thee knight
      Sir Loin henceforward be."

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --


Caroling in the Town centre
These are days when a great deal of attention is paid to the singing of carols. They were always popular, and a Christmas number without some sentimental picture of the old-time waits would indeed be regarded as an arid and uninteresting production. Since time immemorial, bands of singers have raised their voices in carols at this time of the year. But of late [1914], as the practice of singing all round the parishes has been less and less observed, an attempt has been made on the other hand to put the matter on a truer musical basis, and several of our ablest musicians and composers have taken the old carols in hand, have rescued them from old documents or revived them before they have passed from the ken of the few people to whom they have been transmitted from past generations orally, have given them more up-to-date settings, and thus enriched the resources of choirs and congregations everywhere. Thus at Christmas we are so frequently charmed not only by strangely sweet old melodies, but by the quaint verses which so strikingly illustrate the ideas of our pious forefathers.

Carol-singing found its way into Christian observance from the saturnalias of pagan peoples, and in various forms has been, as we all know, a continued practice until to-day. The older carols of this country have a great deal in common with folk-song, and, as perusal of a representative collection will show, they contain much in the way of old legend.

These articles appeared in The Witness of 11th December 1914.

Thursday 11 December 2014

A Further Sketch of Belfast

Having, at the conclusion of the brief sketch of the history of Belfast in our 44th number, intimated our intention of giving some account of the present state of that town as regards its population, trade, manufactures, public institutions, &c., we now proceed to redeem that pledge.

Of the amazing rapidity with which Belfast has of late years been advancing to her present degree of importance, a tolerably fair estimate may be formed from a statement of her population at the following distant periods of time;

In 1754, the number of dwelling houses was 1,779, and the population was computed at 8,549; of these, but 556 were Roman Catholics. In 1782, the population amounted to 13,105: and in 1791, to 18,320.

By the last census, viz. that of 1831, the number of dwelling houses is stated to be 8,710; and the population, males 25,450, females 28,287; total 53,737. It is to be observed, that this is exclusive of the populous suburb of Ballymacarrett, which, (though in the county of Down, and separated from Belfast Proper by the river Lagan, across which the communication is at present carried on by means of the Long bridge of which we have already spoken,) may, we think, be fairly considered as part of the town of Belfast. The census of 1831 states the population of Ballymacarrett to be, males 2,490, females 2,678; total 5,168.

The relative proportion of Protestants to Roman Catholics in Belfast cannot be stated with precision; but we are informed that the present Roman Catholic population is estimated at 20,000.

The places of public worship are in number twenty-one, of which three are of the Established Church, namely, the parish church of St. Anne's, a chapel-of-ease, and a free church, lately built; six belong to the Presbyterian body; two of these are of what is termed the New-light; there are four meeting-houses of Methodist congregations; three of the Seceders; one of the Independents; one of the Covenanters; one of the Society of Friends, and two Roman Catholic chapels. In Ballymacarrett there is a parish church, a Roman Catholic chapel, and a Methodist meeting-house.

The number of vessels belonging to the port of Belfast, in 1686, was but 67, the tonnage of which was rated at 3,307 tons. The largest of these was the Antelope, of 200 tons which traded to Virginia. From the Belfast Mercantile Register, a paper published by government authority, we learn that on the 31st of December, 1832, the number of vessels registered at the port of Belfast, as engaged with others from various parts, both British and foreign, in its trade, was 219, the tonnage of which amounted to 23,681 terns. Of these sixty vessels, measuring 13,554 tons (averaging 225 tons to each ship) were employed in foreign commerce, and the remaining 159 (averaging 60 tons each) in the coasting and cross-channel trade.

The docks of Belfast are extensive and handsome; a large one was lately erected by Messrs. Dunbar and Holmes, at their own expense, and without any assistance from government.

The customs in 1688, were estimated at £20,000; for the year ending the 10th October, 1832, they amounted to £210,177 16s. 6d.

The founderies for the casting of iron and metal are on an extensive scale; and the manufacture of glass, salt, vitriol, and other less important matters, is by no means inconsiderable. But the chief manufacture is that of cotton, which is comparatively of recent introduction into this country, having been first brought to Belfast about the end of the last century. It now gives employment to a great mass of the population in this town, and the surrounding district; and has in a great measure superseded the weaving of linen, at least in the houses of the peasantry. There can be no doubt but that the domestic manufacture of linen has greatly retrograded of late years; but notwithstanding, we have learned from a source of unquestionable authority, that by the recent erection of flaxmills, and public establishments for the manufacture of linens, the export trade has now regained its former extent, and, in fact, was never greater than at the present day. There is one large flax-mill, the property of the Messrs. Mulholland at this moment in full operation, and several more are about being built.

The following authentic history of the introduction of cotton machinery into Ulster, has been obligingly communicated to us by a friend; and will, we apprehend, be found interesting.

In the year 1771, Mr. Robert Joy, who had a principal part in designing the establishment in Belfast, where the support of the young and aged poor is provided for, and who was the revered father of the volunteers in Ulster, conceived when on a tour through North Britain, the scheme of introducing into this, then desponding, kingdom, the more intricate branches of the cotton manufacture. He was mainly prompted to this by a desire to render service to the lower orders of the working poor, particularly linen weavers and spinners, whose livelihood was often rendered precarious, depending almost solely on a single manufacture -- that of linen.

Having suggested that the spinning of cotton yarn might, as an introductory step, be a fit and profitable employment for the children of the Belfast Poor-house, a spinning machine was made in Belfast, at the expense of Mr. Joy and a Mr. M'Cabe, assisted in the practical part by Nicholas Grimshaw, cotton and linen printer, from England, who had some time before settled in this country. Shortly afterwards an experienced spinner was brought over by Mr. Joy from Scotland, to instruct the children in the house. Also, under the same direction, a carding machine was erected, to go by water, which was afterwards removed to the poor-house, and wrought by hand.

After Messrs. Joy and M'Cabe had in vain solicited the co-operation of others, in prosecuting a scheme fraught with such national advantage, they proposed a transfer of their machinery, at first cost, to the managers of the Charitable Institution, promising as continued attention as if the emoluments were to be their own.

On the refusal of the Committee to run the risk of a new undertaking, the original proprietors formed themselves into a company with others. They dispatched a skilful mechanic to England, who obtained a minute knowledge of the most improved British machinery. On his return, they erected a new carding machine, of superior structure, and a spinning jenny of 72 spindles, which was then reckoned a very large size.

In a memorial to the Dublin Society, praying for aid, they informed the Board, that far from confining their hopes of gain to themselves, they had encouraged the public to avail themselves of their discoveries -- they had exposed their machinery to open view -- permitted numbers, even from distant parts, to be gratuitously taught in their apartments -- and promoted the manufacture of cottons, dimities, and marseilles quilting, equally by example and instruction.

The magnitude of those improvements at the time, is now to be estimated by comparison. Eight or ten cuts per day, were formerly the scanty produce of the most laborious spinner on the common wheel; while, in the same time, not more than a single pound could be carded by hand. On their jenny of 72 spindles, 72 Irish hanks were spun weekly, an increase of fourteen to one; and by their carding machine, twenty pounds of rovings were daily thrown off, an increase of twenty to one.

Their exertions were in time followed by Messrs. Nathaniel Wilson and Nicholas Grimshaw. To the talents, property, and adventurous spirit of the former of these two gentlemen, and to the practical knowledge, talent, and industry of the latter, this country stands highly indebted. The first mill for spinning twist, by water, in Ireland, was built by them in 1784, from which date the Irish cotton manufacture was considered firmly established.

In the year 1800, (only twenty. three years from the origin of the enterprize by Mr. Joy,) it appeared in evidence before Parliament, that the cotton manufactures, which had been thus introduced, gave employment to 13,500 working people; and, including all manner of persons occupied in various ways, to 27,000, within a circuit of only ten miles, comprehending within its bounds the towns of Belfast and Lisburn.

It is worthy of observation, that as far as machinery is concerned, a poor-house was the cradle of the present cotton trade of Ireland; and the detail now given, should be a stimulus to the exertions of every individual. -- It demonstrates how much may be effected by a limited capital and ardent zeal. In the present instance, the early introduction of a manufacture, already of immense and increasing importance, has been traced to the perseverance of private individuals, actuated by a wish to create useful employment for destitute children -- to assist the working classes at a time when the linen manufacture was in a most depressed state -- and to render a permanent benefit to the community at large. There are now eight large cotton mills in full work in Belfast and its neighbourhood.

There are four Banks, namely, the Belfast Banking Company, and the Northern Banking Company, the capital of each of which is £500,000; and a branch bank of the Bank of Ireland, and one of the Provincial Bank of Ireland.

Of the literary establishments, the first in rank is the Belfast Academical Institution, m which a comprehensive system of education of youth is carried on under a body incorporated by Act of Parliament, in 1810. Another of high character, is the Belfast Academy, instituted 25th January, 1786. There are, besides, various literary societies which meet periodically, and a Mechanic's Institute. Of the former, the Gaelic Society is particularly deserving of notice, on account of its national character; as is also the Irish Harp Society, which preserves our national instrument, and the race of native minstrels. At a short distance from the town is an extensive botanical garden. The Belfast National History Society, and the handsome edifice lately erected for their Museum has been already noticed in our 30th Number.

There are many distinguished names connected with literature, which should be recorded in the annals of Belfast, but we are exceeding our limits, and must restrict ourselves to the mention of one -- Dr. Alexander Haliday, the amiable and talented friend of Lord Charlemont; his character is thus given by a contemporary:

"Haliday was a scholar; a man of peculiar and varied genius and talents. As a physician, universally esteemed throughout the North of Ireland, or a considerable part of it; his medical skill was not less sought after than his conversation, which was truly valuable. He knew mankind perfectly; but his wit, which was abundant, in no wise partook of that saturnine complexion, which too deep an insight into our frail nature, and a vexatious intercourse with the world may sometimes generate, and will too often be found in company with a cold heart, and a fain mind, affecting that superiority to which it has no claim. He was as playful as intelligent; full of life and humour, candid, hospitable, and benevolent."

This may appear to be too laudatory, but we are assured that he truly, deserved it all; and the following lines written by an intimate friend of his, at the time when he was in the zenith of his popularity and practice, appears abundantly to corroborate it:--
"If to foibles, not faults, honest laughter's inclined,
 While the incidents hit, and the actions defined;
 If anecdote pleased, with nought out of joint,
 And well-seasoned epigram always in point;
 If humour be wanting to light up the feast.
 And art should be welcome, and genius carest,
 Ask the Doctor to set every guest in a roar --
 But what heart shall be light when his jests are no more?
                                                                                 R. W.

There is a fact we find we have hitherto omitted to state, which is worthy of being recorded: namely, that the first edition of the Bible ever printed in Ireland, appeared from the press of James Blow, in Belfast, in the year 1704. It is also remarkable, that the Belfast New-Letter is, (with the single objection of, we believe, a Limerick Paper), the oldest Newspaper in Ireland, having been established in 1737. The other Newspapers published here, are the Commercial Chronicle, the Mercantile Register, the Guardian, and the Northern Whig.


This article is reproduced from The Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 2, No. 54 (Jul. 13, 1833), pp.12-14.

Thursday 4 December 2014

A Sketch of Belfast

The town of Belfast, confessedly ranks the third in Ireland; yielding in importance but to Dublin and Cork. -- Though the period of its first attaining any degree of commercial consequence is well known, its origin is now lost in impenetrable obscurity. Conjecture, indeed, founded upon its locality, would lead us to suppose, that it took its rise from an obscure and mean village placed at a ford which formed the principle point of communication between the northern parts of the Counties of Down and Antrim. This prosperous and wealthy town, distinguished no less for its commerce and manufacture, than for its cultivation of literature and science, is situated at the mouth of the river Lagan, which falls into the sea at the extremity of the bay, anciently called Carrickfergus Lough, but which is now often designated as the Lough of Belfast. Although in its vicinity there are some lofty hills, and especially a very considerable range to the northwest, yet from the low situation in which the town itself is built, its appearance, from a distance, is not only unimpressive, but mean, and it is not till the stranger almost enters it, that he is convinced of its extent and commercial importance and wealth. This will, in some measure, account for its not appearing to more advantage in our illustration.

A castle appears to have been erected here at an early period of the occupation of Ulster by the English, supposed to have been founded by the well-known John de Courcey, to whom this part of Ireland was allotted, or by some of his followers. No historical record of its foundation, however, is to be found. It seems to have been held by the English in connexion with the castle of Carrickfergus, a strong hold, of vastly greater grandeur and importance, and their extensive possessions in the part of the county of Down, called the Ards. The first mention in history of Belfast relates to its destruction by Edward le Bruce, who, invited by O'Neil and other Irish chieftains, came over to Ireland in 1315, with a force of 6,000 men, and devastated the northern parts of the English pale, which, according to Spencer, then extended to Dunluce. Among the good towns and strong holds belonging to the English which he wasted and sacked, was Belfast, which thus fell into the hands of the Irish, who long after continued to hold undisturbed possession of almost the entire of Ulster, the attention of the English nation being diverted by the civil wars of the Roses, as well as by their French expeditions, from attempting to regain their lost possessions in the North of Ireland.

In the reign of Henry VIII., Gerald, Earl of Kildare, then Lord Deputy, finding it necessary to check the growing power of the O'Neils, made several expeditions into Ulster; in one of which in 1503, he took the castle of Belfast, but unable to hold his ground there, he dismantled it before his return to Dublin. This is the first distinct historical mention of the castle. Upon his retreat it was again repaired and occupied by the Irish, till in 1512, it was once more taken and destroyed by the same Earl of Kildare. In 1552, the Lord Deputy, Sir James Crofts, fortified the castle and garrisoned it. At this time it seems probable that the outworks were erected, considerable traces of which remained until a few years ago. They do not appear, however, to have consisted of any regular fortifications, but merely strong earthen ramparts and a deep fosse. To the custody of Hugh Mac Neil Oge, of Clan-hugh-boy, the castle was soon after confided, upon his swearing allegiance to the Crown of England; but he having soon after lost his life in a conflict which took place with a body of Scots, who made a predatory descent on the neighbouring coast, Randolphus Lane, an Englishman, was next appointed to the command of the castle; but the possession of the surrounding territory by the descendants of O'Neil, continued until in 1571, Elizabeth made a grant to Sir Thomas Smith and Thomas Smith his son, of a considerable tract of country, within the territories of Claneboy and the Great Ards, which had been vested in the Crown by act of parliament for the attainder of Shane O'Neil. Of this grant, the particulars are fully given in a valuable manuscript called -- "The Grand Inquisition of the County of Down," taken in 1621. In it the castle of Belfast is included with several others. The inquisition recites that "in the Queen's Earldom of Ulster, there be divers parcels of land that be waste, or inhabited with a wicked, barbarous, and uncivil people, some Scottish, and some wild Irish;" and that "the Smiths, with a power of Englishmen, agree to subdue all, and them plant with faithful subjects." It then recites various covenants on the part of the Smiths, to the effect, that all the adventurers who accompanied them should have certain portions of land, on certain tenures; that they (the Smiths) should have for every plow-land, one able English foot-soldier, well armed and furnished like the men of England; or for every two town-lands, a light English horseman accoutred in the same manner; and that on fifteen days notice they should appear before the Deputy at every general hostings, with a third part of all the horsemen and footmen they were bound to provide; that they should grant; no estate to any of the mere Irish or Scottish Irish, nor intermarry with them without permission. The Inquisition then states that Thomas Smith, the son, did, in 1572, enter the earldom of Ulster, but did not subdue it. It then proceeds to allege the violation of the various covenants in the grant, and the non-payment of the Crown rent; and that, therefore, the whole grant reverted to the King. (James I.)

It is a remarkable proof of the slight importance that Belfast had attained previous to 1586, that in Hollinshed's Chronicle, printed in London, in that year, there is no mention whatever made of it in the enumeration of the chief towns and havens of the Counties of Down and Antrim, among which are mentioned more than one, which at this day are but mere fishing villages.

Many forfeitures having taken place about the close of the 16th century, in the northern counties of Ireland, extensive plans were brought into operation by James I. and his ministers, for the settlement and plantation of them. The Lord Deputy, Sir Arthur Chichester, having been most active in forwarding the King's views, was rewarded by considerable grants of land, and "as a further mark of his Majesty's lasting favour, he did, by letters patent, bearing date at Westminster 23d February, 1612, create him Baron of Belfast." -- In the year following a charter was granted to Belfast, constituting it a corporation, consisting of a sovereign, twelve burgesses, and commonalty, with the privilege of sending two members to Parliament. From this period may Belfast date its rise, not only in political but also in commercial importance; the latter, however, received decisive assistance from the purchase by Lord Strafford, on the part of the Crown, from the Corporation of Carrickfergus, in 1637, of their privilege of receiving one-third of the duties payable on goods imported into that town, and other extensive monopolies which it enjoyed; in consequence of which, the trade of Carrickfergus rapidly transferred itself from thence to Belfast. The unsettled state of the kingdom during the succeeding years, and the well-known rebellion of 1641, greatly retarded the advancing improvement of the town; which was successively occupied, during the contest between Charles I. and his parliament, by the Scottish troops under General Monroe, and the Parliament forces, under the celebrated General Monk. From them it was retaken by the Royalists by stratagem; and shortly after the arrival of Cromwell in Ireland in 1649, and the subsequent reduction of Drogheda, he sent Colonel Venables to reduce Belfast, which, after a resistance of four days, surrendered to him, having thus sustained four sieges, and as many times changed masters, in the lapse; of not more than six years.

In 1688 a new charter was issued hy James the II. in which the number of burgesses, was increased to thirty-five, and the privileges of the Corporation were much abridged; a power being invested in the chief governor and privy council of removing a sovereign, burgess, or other officer at pleasure. Our lips, are, in a great measure, sealed upon the subject of the political part which Belfast took in the great struggle which terminated in the establishment of William the III. upon the throne of these kingdoms. Certain, however, it is that in this town the cause of James was by no means popular, and the arrival of Duke Schomberg, in 1690, was hailed with joy. On the 9th of June following, William himself landed at Carrickfergus, from whence he proceeded immediately to Belfast, where he was received with enthusiasm, and remained there nearly a week, being lodged in the house of Sir William Franklin; the site of which is now occupied by the principal hotel in the town, the Donegal Arms.

The advantages derived from tranquillity soon began to manifest themselves in the increased prosperity of Belfast, which from this period advanced with rapid strides to the place it now holds among the commercial towns of Ireland. Its history, for many succeeding years, presents but few striking incidents; but it is quite obvious that this is by no means inconsistent with advancement in populations in trade, and in wealth. In the spring of 1692, seven arches of the Long Bridge fell in, it having been much shaken by the drawing of the heavy cannon of the Duke of Schomberg over it. This bridge, the foundation of which had been laid in 1682, but the completion of which was delayed for several years after by the unsettled state of the country, is generally supposed to occupy the site of the ancient ford across the Lagan, from which, as we have before mentioned, Belfast is said to have had its origin. The bridge consists of twenty-one arches, and is 2,562 feet in length. It has long been in a tottering condition, and its final removal, and the substitution of a modern one in its place, has long been contemplated. -- In 1708, the castle of Belfast was destroyed by fire, by the carelessness of a servant, and three daughters of Arthur, third earl of Donegal, unfortunately perished in the flames. Till lately some vestiges of the castle were to be seen, but now all trace of it has vanished, and its site is chiefly occupied by a fish and vegetable market. It is thus described by an English gentleman, who visited Ireland in 1635:-- "At Belfast, my Lord Chichester hath a dainty stately palace, which is indeed the glory and beauty of that town, where he is mostly resident."

The descent of the French squadron under Thurot, in 1760, and his occupation of Carrickfergus, naturally excited great alarm in Belfast, which it was his intention to have entered and plundered; but some delay having been fortunately occasioned by a difference of opinion with his colleague, M. Flobert, the inhabitants of the town and the neighbouring district, rapidly got under arms, a body of troops were quickly despatched to their aid, and the excellent Lord Charlemont, as Governor of the County of Armagh, proceeded to take the command of the militia of that county. The result was, that Thurot was obliged to abandon the enterprise, and re-embark; the three frigates composing his little squadron were afterwards captured or dispersed before they could get out of the Irish channel. From the apprehension of a repetition of such attempts upon the part ot the French nation to make descents upon the coast, arose the celebrated military associations known as the Volunteers; but it was not, however, till the year 1778, that these associations assumed a definite shape and name. In their formation Belfast took a leading and distinguished part; and here were held some reviews of the entire Volunteer force of the North of Ireland, upon a scale of great magnitude and splendour. It would be impossible for us now to enter upon the history of this celebrated body, which makes so conspicuous a figure in the annals of this country. We have already alluded, in the biographical memoir of Lord Charlemont in our 33rd Number, to its having effected the removal of various commercial restraints, and afwards [sic] established, in 1782, the independence of the Irish Legislature. This body finally ceased to exist in 1793.

At the earlier period of the memorable French Revolution, a powerful sensation was produced in Belfast, where it was hailed by many as the dawn of a new era in the history of the civil and religious interests of mankind. Imbued with an ardent love of liberty, they were caught by the enthusiasm, of the day, and until undeceived by the frightful scenes of bloodshed which rapidly followed, they hailed the progress of the revolutionists with unrestrained demonstration of the liveliest sympathy and joy. Addresses to the French people, expressive of such feelings, were rapidly prepared, and numerously and respectably signed. The fermented state of the public mind consequent upon these proceedings, afford we think the clue to the formation in Belfast of the secret societies, so well known afterwards by the designation of United Irishmen. But a narrative of their proceedings must not be expected from our columns; in the memoirs of Theobald Wolfe Tone, not long since published, are to be found the details of their objects and plans. The government, whose subversion they sought to effect, took active measures in self-defence, for their suppression, and in consequence Belfast was visited by many of the calamities necessarily resulting from the steps taken to provide against the anticipated conspiracy. Many arrests took place, and martial law was proclaimed. -- At length the rebellion of 1798 broke out; but we learn that to such a state of subjection were the conspirators here reduced by the unremitting vigilance and exertion of the civil and military powers, that, while insurrection was blazing forth in various parts of Ireland, not the slightest commotion betrayed itself here. The lapse of a few years restored peace to this distracted country; and Belfast once more restored her rapid advance to her present state or commercial prosperity, which no untoward events have since occurred to interrupt.

Having already much exceeded the limits to which we had intended to have restricted ourselves for the article, we are compelled to postpone our notice of the present state of Belfast, with regard to its trade, manufactures, public institutions, &c. to a future number.


This article is reproduced from The Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 44 (Apr. 27, 1833), pp.349-350

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.

Friday 31 October 2014


For Pauline...

E'en as the ray that decks the lucid tear,
Which, in the summer's morn, bedews each tree;
My little girl -- as sweet, as mild, as dear --
The smiles of innocence we owe to thee:
May they adorn thee when thy childhood's past --
Thy loving parents pride and hope, to see,
And that those smiles we gaze on then may last,
Are all, sweet little one, we wish for thee.

Text: The Dublin Penny Journal 28 Feb 1835.
Image: Angel painting by Joyce Birkenstock.

Thursday 30 October 2014

The Tale of Teeling's Ghost

It was the night of the festival of All Hallows, when every peasant implicitly believes that the fairies and other supernatural beings have double power over the destinies of mortals; I had been out shooting during the day, and was invited by a small farmer, whose cabin was situated near the top of the long mountain at Glen Cullen, to "cum up in the evenin' an' look at the boys an colleens divartin' themselves;" and of course accepted of his invitation. The principal room, which usually served as kitchen, was the spot where the fun was held; and as I entered, a fine handsome-looking youth, with strong athletic limbs, and a good-humoured blue-eyed girl were dancing away on the door, which was taken off the hinges, and elevated on four sods of turf, as a place "fur footin' id:" all round the room were seats of various kinds, from the high-backed chair of the grandfather, to the three-legged stool of the youngest son; and many "a dacint boy" was seated on the bare earth beside the boss occupied by his "own little colleen," rather than by accepting of a seat be removed to a distance from her, "an' he not knowin' what design the fairies might have on her." -- Large jugs of "raal mountain dew," mixed into punch for the ladies, stood smoking on a table at one extremity, and at the other was the peat fire, blazing brightly, assisted by an occasional poke of granny's crutch, who quietly sucked her "ould pipe," and looked on with much good humour at the pranks of the youngsters. Beside her was seated a thin, pale girl, whose black hair was combed completely back, and fastened with a piece of ribband, and whose brilliant eyes were intently watching two nuts that she had placed in the fire, to burn, as she said, "just for the sake ov thryin' iv her sweetheart id lave her or not." A fair-haired, healthy-looking youth, who was crouched behind her so that she was unaware of bis presence, tried in vain to suppress a laugh, as he saw the motionless eagerness with which she watched their blazing; and when the stiffed "ha, ha, ha," made his presence known, she turned round and laughed too, while a crimson blush, that was doubly vivid from her paleness of feature, mantled o'er her face and neck. When the couple who were dancing on my entrance grew tired, these two took their places, and though I have often seen the jig danced, never did I see any thing like their style: ease, and grace, and activity, all were united and combined in their movements, and the shouts of applause -- the "bravo Larry" -- success, Peggy, asthore -- it's yerself that can do id," that burst from ail those who were standing round, spoke well for the judgment of the lookers-on. By degrees they began to droop, and their place was not taken by another couple when they at length ceased, for the boys then began to help the apples and nuts, with the squares of sweet oaten cake, and the glasses of hot punch, and a cheerful, good-humoured contest took place to determine from whom Peggy, the belle of the room, should take the first apple: but it was soon ended -- for Larry, the handsome youth with whom she had been dancing, was the successful aspirant, and the sweetness with which she received it, and the good-natured smile that sat upon her lips, made her look, as one of those present declared, "as purty, ay an purthier, nor the queen o' beauty."

"Shure, then, Peggy, avourneen," said the aged host, who was father to the youth called Larry, and a famous story-teller, "bud id's yerself needn't be ashamed of showin' thim little pins ov your's on any boord in this counthry side, anyhow; a if I think, whin yer one ov us, between yerself an' Larry, an' the sisthers, they'll want a fine back that 'ill bate us at the dancin'."

Peggy blushed at his allusion to her approaching union with his son, and smiled when she felt her hand softly pressed by his as he sat at her side.

"She's the purthiest heel an' toe step I ever seen wid any one, barrin' Biddy Daly beyant in the glin," quietly remarked an old man, who was sitting by the fire; upon which Larry, fancying this deteriorated from her merit, hastily exclaimed --

"Shure enough, thin, Misthur Cullen, I'll back Peggy any day to tire down an' bate out a dozen Biddy Daly's."

A smile mantled on the father's features at the son's warmth; and, plucking his pipe from his mouth, and depositing it carefully in his waistcoat pocket, he exclaimed,

"Why, thin, Larry, agra, bud I believe you have a dhrop ov the ould hot blood in you afther all. I myself was just such another at the time I met with Teeling's ghost below at the river."

"Whin was that -- tell us about, Sur -- do Misthur Mullen," here simultaneously exclaimed all, both boys and girls, and the aged host drew closer to the fire, and every one having given their seat a chuck in, after the fashion of playing the interesting game of cutchecutchoo, he laid his brawny hands on his knees, and looking complacently on his circle of listeners, commenced.

"Yez must know, boys and girls, that ould Teeling had possession of this house an' bit o' land afore I cum to take id, an' it was said that he berred money some where hereabouts, bud that's more nor I believe; fur why id a man die as he did in this very room (many a head here looked suspiciously round; and they closed in with one accord to a smaller circle) athout lavin' not only as much as id give him a dacint berrin, an all that, bud also what id get a few pipes an a taste o' whiskey, wid a thrifle of baccy, an' so forth, for his sorrowing neighbours. -- Well, whin I cum to take the land, be shure I was tould on all sides that the house wasn't quiet, bud sorra bit of me ever seen a ghost since I cum to the place."

"Did you ever see one before in the house, daddy?" interrupted an inquisitive scion of the house of Mullen, greatly to his father's annoyance, as he was trying to gloss over that part, as if there was foundation in the report: however this was a poser, so he answered --

"Why no, Tom, a hagur, I can't say exactly that I did, bud they spoke ov id anyhow, an' it was generally believed; bud that's naither here nor there as far as is consarnin' the present story. One evenin' about dusk I was lavin' the fair ov Rafarnam, intendin' to walk home quietly through the mountains, whin I met a frind who insisted on my goen in to take a sup wid him afore I'd start. -- Well, sorra one of my whole breed, seed, or gineration evir had the black drop in thim, in the regard o' the licker, an so be coorse I couldn't refuse, an' I went in, an' we had a naggin -- quiet; you young rascal -- don't be pullin' your brother's hair;" this last order was addressed to the same snub nosed urchin who had a moment before been so inquisitive, and who was now industriously employed in chucking single hairs out of his brother's head, who lay asleep in his mother's lap. Well, where was I?" continued the veracious narrator -- "oh, ay, we finished our dhrop, an' parted wid a warm shake of the hand; fur he was a chap I had a regard for; his sowl's in glory now I hope; an' off I sets by myself, wid the moon shinin' brightly on the path, and the stars twinklin' an brilliant as diamonds. It's no thrifle of a step, as yez all know, from the fair green to where you enthir on the path through the valley, near where you go up to Misthur White's, an' besides it's all up hill, bud I was young an' active thin, an' didn't mind it, no more nor iv id had been only a couple o' parches. I was whistling cheerily as I wint along beside ov the little throut-strame, an' saw nothin' fur a man to dhread till I cum betune the two great hills where the goiants used to be playin' quoits long ago (They show a spot on the mountain top here, where they say the giants used to play quoits to the opposite hill) thin it grew mighty dark all ov a suddent, fur a big, ugly black cloud slipped across the moon, an' hid her silver face, an' it was only be the light of the stars I was guided, an' that was no great shakes; an' jist as I was steppin' across an ould wall, what did I see on the other side bud the ghost of ould Teeling, wid a face like milk, an two blazin' eyes, and a horrid grinnin' mouth -- "

"Mercy on us," shudderingly exclaimed one or two of his auditors, while the others listened without daring to breathe.

"He was mounted on his ould black mare, that died long afore him, an' the baste didn't look like the ghost of itself at all at all, fur its skip was smooth, an' it was fatther nor evir. Well, I didn't know what to say or do, fur the tongue o' me stuck to my cheek, and my heart kep' rappin' an hammerin' away as iv id wanted to brake out, bud at last I plucked up courage, an', sis I, --

"Thin you spoke to id, did you?" interrupted his son.

"Yis, indeed, Larry a hagur, there was no manner of use in standin' there, glowerin' at him, fur bad cess to the taste of a step he seemed inclined to stir, an' so I made bould, an', sis I,

"'Misthur Teelin', sis I, 'iv you'd be plazed to let me pass,' sis I, 'I'd feel particularly obleeged to you.' sis I.

"Wid that, Sur, he gives the ould mare a skelp ov his naked fist, an' id rattled like a hape of bones, an' up she jumps, an' stands on the side ov the hill, tin feet above the path.

"'Thank you, Sur,' sis I, well pleased at seein' him so condiscindin', bud wondherin', at the same time, that he didn't spake to me at all, an' thin turnin' round, an' takin' off me hat, I made a low bow, an', sis I.

"'Good night, Misthur Teelin', an' safe home to you, Sur,' sis I, an' set off as fast as my two good legs could carry, an' as the crooked, dangerous road id suffer. Well, all was right till I got within about fifty yards ov me own house, whin I dunna what prompted me to turn round, bud, anyhow, I did so, an' there, close behind me, was ould Teelin' again, an' his mare, who was followin' me all the way, though I nevir heerd the fall ov her hoofs. Sorra a use there was in any further parley thin, fur I seen he was about somethin' that wasn't good; so seein' I was so near home, though my heart was all thrimblin' like a lafe in a high wind, I makes a sudden dart off, wishin' sweet bad luck to his dirty ould bones, that wouldn't rest quietly in the grave, bud should be comin' up agin to plague an' tormint honest people, who did him no manner ov harm. At this the baste let a murdherin' big shout or screech out of her, the like ov which I nevir heerd before fur curdlin' the blood, an' though I couldn't hear her runnin' I knew she was afther me like the wind. Every step I tuk was twist as long as I could at any other time; but, howsomdever, jist as I got to my own doore, I feels the cowld hand ov the ghost grippin' me by the neck, an' he lifted me up as iv I wor a child, an flung me down on my face, an' vanished in a flash of lightning. Afther this I was so stunned an' stupified wid fear that I lost all recollection, an' whin I woke there was no mare, nor sign ov one present, an' the sun was shinin' like goold upon the glin, an' me ould dog here lickin' my face; bud the wondher-fullest thing of all was that me ould woman here never heerd the noise, an' thought I had stopped at the fair all the night."

When Mullen had concluded his story, he looked complacently round, as much as to say, "had any o' yez an adventure to bate out that:" and took the various shrugs or wonder with the air of a man who feels certain that he has deserved applause. His pipe was also a second time replenished, and he puffed away with much self-satisfaction, amid the wondering and fearful looks of the superstitious persons who surrounded him.

"Well, Peggy, my darlin'," said his son Larry to the pretty girl at his side, "in all your born days did you evir hear the aquil ov that?"

"Never, indeed, Larry," was the answer; "bud maybe it's not all thrue."

"Not thrue," reiterated his father, getting angry at having his veracity for an instant doubted; "it's as thrue as yer sittin' beside ache other this blessed minute; fur didn't I go in the mornin' to the spot where I furst seen thim, an' climb up to the place where the mare jumped whin I civilly axed him to lave the way, an wasn't the grass all scorched an' withered up, let alone bein' thrampled; an' can't I show yez it any time at all, as id never grew green from that day to this, an' its twenty-five good years sence, an' more, an' iv that's not a convincin' proof, an' you refuse to believe id, why put me down as bein' dotin', that's all."

If there were any persons in the group that had an instant's doubt, this positive proof soon banished it, and the aged hero of the tale was viewed with double respect and awe.

By and by various harmless tricks were played off at each other's expense; all the innocent spells too were put into requisition, and the kale stalks were pulled, and much laughter caused by those who were so unfortunate as to get a crooked one.

When the plates containing salt and sand, and pure water, and one a ring, were brought out, much bustle and mystery took place. The maidens tried to find the ring, but did not succeed; and the youths tried sedulously to avoid the sand or earth, as if their lives really depended on it. When it came to Peggy's turn, her hand, as if by some spell, went straight into the plate that contained the ring; and oh Larry also advancing, his did the same. -- This was instantly prophesied into their being united before the year would be out, and displayed considerable foresight, and prophetic powers on the part of the soothsayers, as the day had been already appointed, and was not more than three weeks oft.

None of those charms which are wrought in the name of the Devil were attempted, for though they are often spoken of as being effected, I think they are seldom tried, as the majority of the Irish peasantry have an awe of those conjurations, which nothing can remove. It was morning ere we parted, and the genuine "good wishes" which followed me on my retirement, came more gratefully to my heart than all the courtly phrases that politeness has invented to take place of sincerity; The pleasure was considerably enhanced from having, thus had an opportunity of witnessing the manner in which an evening, pregnant with so much of merriment and sport in the "Land of Cakes," is spent by the Irish peasant.


The text of this article was originally published under the title of 'The Irish Peasants: Halloween' in the Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 3, No. 121 (Oct. 25, 1834), pp. 129-131.

Thursday 23 October 2014

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

THE following Annals were compiled in the summer of 1857, during a brief residence in the vicinity of Glenariff, the most beautiful of the glens of Antrim.

Thackeray, in his Irish tour, says of this glen -- "Every such scene of beauty and magnificence seems to warn us that it is not made to talk about, but to think of, and love, and be thankful for."

In "The Lady's Dream," in Household Words for July, 1858, some such scene must have been pictured on the mind of the writer, who thus describes it --
Ah me! I said, how beautiful and glad,
This sylvan scene might be,
Peopled with shapes too holy to be sad.
Shapes lovely as the fabled fore world had.
When Fancy yet was free. 
Some pastoral quaint of ancient Greece were fit
To be enacted here;
Or haply here the Fairy Court may sit,
Or Fairy children flowery garlands knit.
To lead the silk-neck'd steer.
On making the usual inquiries about the "Gentle People" from a poor but respectable-looking old woman, who resides in the vicinity of Cushendall, she first gave a sketch of her own history, to the effect "that she had attended one of the best schools in the country for long enough, and when she grew up a little, she went to service in Shane's Castle, just at the time Lord O'Neill was killed in the Rebellion. Lord O'Neill was warned not to go out the day he met his death; some of the family believed in these warnings, but some disbelieved, and that lord was one. Nothing ever happened in the way of death or misfortune in the O'Neill family that the Banshee was not heard bewailing before it took place." "What is the Banshee?" I asked, "and what is it like?" "It's a warnin' spirit that follows the O'Neills and other ancient Irish families; it is like an aged woman, short in stature, with a mournful cry always when it is heard; the one at Shane's Castle is called Nein Roe, her hair is red -- the hair of all the Banshees is of that colour. One of the old lords of Shane's Castle went to Bath at one time on account of his health, and took no servant but his own gentleman with him; he took a fine house for the season in Bath, and a garden belonging to it, with a draw-well of the purest water in the middle of it, walled in. The gentleman went one day, shortly after they arrived, to draw some water for his lordship, but he couldn't get near the well for an old woman sittin' beside it crying bitterly, and tearing her hair like as if in despair. The gentleman asked what ailed her, but got no answer: he offered her any help she stood in need of, if she would leave that; but she kept on lamentin' and never spoke. The gentleman got frightened, and went away without the water, and told Lord O'Neill what he had seen. 'We must leave Bath at once,' said his lordship, 'and get home to Shane's Castle without delay; it's the warning.' And so it was: he died on the journey home, and was greatly lamented, for he was one of the best of the O'Neills."d

"There was one of the lords in the old times that married a beautiful lady abroad, when he was on his travels, and brought her to Shane's Castle. Every one that saw her knew she wasn't of this world; she never smiled, but pined from ever she came, though she had no cause for that, for Lord O'Neill loved the ground she walked on: she was more like a spirit than a mortal, and wasn't made for this world at any rate, for she died, it was said -- but if she did, no human eyes ever saw the corp'; there was a grand funeral -- the O'Neill's always had that -- but the lady wasn't in it: her own Gentle people took her to themselves, and had her in their own dominions before that, as every one in the castle knew well enough at the time.

"The late Lord O'Neill had the castle burnt to the ground through his own fault. He had bought a state-bed of the grandest sort, and nothing would do him but to put it in Nein Roe's room, the room in the castle that she always fancied. The state-bed was put up, and everything left in order for any company to use it; but that wasn't allowed: the flames broke out in that same room the very night it was fixed, and Lord O'Neill had his castle in ashes before mornin'. The housemaid, when I lived there, was more careful about Nein Roe's room than any she had charge of; it would have been well for Lord O'Neill if he hadn't disregarded the Banshee, and meddled with her room the way he did.

"Before I went to service in Shane's Castle, we lived in Kilmore, where we had some land, and a garden at the end of the house. I had a sister Mary, the best-lookin' of any of us, she was about thirteen years old at the time I speak of, and one very warm day in summer she crept under some bucky briars ia a corner of the garden, to be out of the heat, and fell asleep. That was the beginning of our troubles. When she wakened, the whole town couldn't command her -- she was past the management of any of us: her senses had left her entirely; we sent for the priest, and he gev a Gospel to put round her neck, but it wouldn't do; we fetched the doctor, and he ordered bottle after bottle -- no use, for she got the longer the worse; the priest renewed the Gospel, but that brought no sense to Mary. She wrought on for two years the same way, and then got a stroke -- she lost the use of her limbs, but then her head got settled, and she lingered on for five years more and died. She had intruded that day on "the Quality's" ground to sleep; the bushes was gentle bushes that she got under to be out of the sun; and may the holy saints keep us from harm, that's what cum of doing what she did." --

"What do you think the Fairies are," I asked. "They are the fallen angels that was transported out of Heaven for disobeyin' the Most High. They have habitations under the earth, and above ground, and can take to the air or the water as they please. They had power in Heaven before they were banished, and they have it yet for good or evil, as it falls out; there's enough of them to overrun the country and overcome us, but they hope for salvation when the great judgment comes, and the fear of lossin' that keeps them down. The blessed Saviour preached to them in their prisons, and ever since that, the Gospel is too strong for them; " but it will save them yet, all in God's good time. --

"There was a blacksmith lived in the Glens, a covenanter, and that's the sort of people that keeps the Sabbath rightly. He was sittin' readin' one Sunday evening at his door, when a gentleman dressed in green, and ridin' on a beautiful grey baste,f rode up and asked for his horse to be shod. The blacksmith said he would break the Sabbath for no man livin'. 'You must shoe my horse,' says the gentleman, 'at any cost.' 'I can't work on the Sabbath, cost or no cost,' says the blacksmith. 'I must be in Scotland this night before twelve o'clock,' says the gentleman, 'on business that consarns you more than myself; so, if you plase, shoe my horse at once't.' The smith considered there was something on hand past common, and at long and last, he shod the horse. The gentleman mounted, and, as he was riding off, says he to the smith, 'I won't pay you till I come back.' 'All the better,' says the smith, 'for I could take no money, at any rate, for Sunday work;' so the green gentleman went out of sight.

"That day seven weeks he rode up to the blacksmith's door again, and says he, 'I have done the job I had in han', and now, for seven years to come, there will be no scarcity in this country, and here's payment for your trouble. The smith scrupled at takin' so much money, but the gentleman insisted, and at last he did; 'besides that,' says the gentleman, 'I wish you to buy all the bastes of the same colour as the one I'm ridin', that you can happen on, and I'll pay you your price.' 'Very good,' says the smith, 'I can do that, if I knew where to take them.' 'Fetch them to the Mouth of Kilrea,' says the gentleman, 'and I'll be sure to be there.' So accordingly, the smith bought all the grey horses that came his road, and took them to the open of Kilrea, as he was directed, and was paid his price, fair and honest, by the gentleman. At last, one time, the gentleman says to him, 'Come in' says he, 'and I'll show you the use I have for the horses you're bringin' me.' The smith followed the gentleman into an open in the side of the hills of Kilrea, and he saw rigiment on the top of rigiment of the warriors of the Gentry lying sound asleep with all their accoutrements beside them, and their grey horses lying fornenst them, saddled and bridled, ready for action, but all sleeping, the same as the Gentry. 'Don't lay a finger on one of these rigiments,' says the gentleman, 'nor touch a horse for your life, for it wouldn't be aisy to put them in the same way again.' As soon as the gentleman turned his back, the smith catched one of the little warriors by the arm, and wakened him, when up they all started till their feet, thousands upon thousands of them, all shoutin' 'where's the battle -- where are we to fight,' all makin' for their horses. 'What's this you have done, after me forbiddin' you,' says the gentleman to the smith. 'I touched only the one nixt me,' says the smith, 'without thinking, and they all riz, horse and foot.' 'You can be of no sarvice to me in settlin' this commotion, so be aff, while the life's left in you,' says the gentleman, 'and niver do the like again.' 'No more I will,' says the smith; and while the gentleman was goin' up and down the ranks, pacifying his men, the smith made aff full speed, niver lookin' behind him till he got to his own forge, and then layin' a bar of iron across the door, red-hot, as soon as he got in. Iron's lucky at all times, and when it's red, nothing can cross it to harm you.

"The gentleman in green had took all his forces to Scotland on that occasion, to war with the Gentry of that country: they want to get the upper han' in Ireland, if they can, and still did, and to rule the markets before all; but -- glory be to God -- we bate them in general, and they find us too many for them every seven years, when the battle takes place. Sometimes they come over to fight our Quality on their own ground. Not long ago, my brother saw their ships one day as he was sittin' on the ould castle hill at Red Bay, sailin' in the air, and some on the sea with sails set, and thousands of the Gentry, visible at times and then disappearing, on the decks and about the masts and rigging'.g He watched them comin' nearder and nearder, till they sailed in at the far side of Red Bay, past Galbally Point, and then the mist came on, and they wint up Glenariff in it; so, whiles he saw them and whiles he didn't, till he lost sight of them entirely. May the saints be good to us if there wasn't fightin' in Glenariff and through Glen Dun that night -- the scrog in places was all levelled, trees broke and left without a branch on them, the ground in some places ploughed up like with artillery, and the sward tramped till there wasn't a green blade to be seen. For all that, they had the worst of it; they are mostly bate in any great engagement, both in this country and their own. --

"When I was a lump of a girl, I was sent to school for longer than any of the neighbours' childer. My father was set on giving us all the teachin' he could, and we had a right master at the time in Kilmore, far before any of the 'nationals' that's goin' at present; troth he had wit enough for a college, and nothing cum wrong to him. I was playin', away a good piece from the school one Saturday, whin we got lave early, among the ould walls of an ancient building in the grave-yard, that was there before the ouldest in the town was born, and I spies a book lyin' on the sill of the place where there had been a window at one time. I lifted the book, proud enough at findin' it, and consaited at the notion of shewin' it to the scholars, but I darn't take it home for fear of gettin' a cuttin' from my mother for liftin' what didn't belong to me, I took it to Glenariff the next day, and show'd it to two or three knowledgeable men comin' home from chapel, but they could make nothing of it. The letters was red, and a different shape from ours, and there was like bits of gold on the outside. I kep' it hid for a time, and then gev it to the master, tellin' him all about it. It bate him, as well as the rest; he studied to make it out, but he could make neither top nor tail of it. 'It's in a forrin tongue, Peggy,' says he, 'and you'd best lave it where you got it.' I had no courage to go back by myself, and a boy in the school went with me to the walls, and I put it down in its own place, trimlin' with fear. The boy and me went a piece off to watch if any body would lift it: we watched on till it was near dark, and when we looked if it was there, it was away.h

It was Nein Roe's book; she had been seen frequentin' the walls in my day, and before I was born, and she's there yet. She haunts all the ould castles and ruins in Antrim, and is heard about many a house lamentin' and moanin' before a death takes place. She's the Warnin' Spirit, and different from the Gentle People -- they play tricks and mischief for sport, but the Banshee is ever mournin' and cryin'. --


                    "The night it is gude Hallowe'en,
                      When Fairy-folk will ride." -- Scott.

"There was no sport in what happened to a brother I had, that's dead and in Heaven I trust. He was comin' home from Cushendall one Holly-eve night, and he hears a sound behind him of people travellin' with great speed, and sure enough he sees troops upon troops of the Quality ricin'i on all sorts, some double, some single, bound for Tieveboulia and Tiverah, to keep the night: that and midsummer night is the times they enjoy the greatest liberty. The hindmost rider says to him, 'Go home and fetch the dress I was to be married in, and come after us to Tieveboulia, and you'll see me.' He thought he knew the voice, but he couldn't see the face, it was so dark. My eldest sister was engaged to be married about two years before that time to a boy from Glenarm, but he deceived her, and went off to Scotland with another girl. She disappeared, and we searched and inquired after her far and near, but all in vain, we never saw her more; the neighbour's thought she had followed the boy to Scotland, but nobody knew for certain. She took nothing with her but the clothes she had on; and a grieved heart we all had about her for many a day. She was a good quiet girl, everybody liked her. My brother scrupled in his mind when he cum home about what he heard on the road, but he made no mention of it to any of us, and at long and last took the gown from the chist and wint aff with it to Tieveboulia. When he got there, he saw a light on the slope of the hill next Glen Dun, and made for it at once: he was at no short for courage, he was fit to face anything, and was a brave, bould boy, any way, at all times.

"When he cum up to the light, he sees a great party of the Gentry playin' at all sorts of games: there was great dancin', and elegant music; but before all there was cookin' goin' on, at the lower end of the slope, and who did he see but his sister, helpin' to make ready the mate. He took the gown from under his coat, and slopin' aff from where the dancin' was goin' on, he got round to his sister, and says he, 'Mary, was it you bid me bring you the gown.' 'It was, Jemmy dear,' says she, 'and if you had'nt fetched it, you couldn't have seen me;' so she was lookin' sorrowfully at the gown, when she says, 'Jemmy, for your life, take nothin' that's offered to you in regard of mate or drink, or you're sould to them that gives it, and don't let on that you know I'm here." So Jemmy watched the divarsion that was goin' on, and listened to the music, that was far before any ever he heard, but between all he lost sight of Mary, and niver saw her again. So up comes a party of the Gentry, and insisted on his atin' with them, and takin' share of what was goin'. Jemmy thanked the Quality for their kindness, and said he had got his supper before he cum, and had no occasion; they insisted, but Jemmy refused on and on, and said he must be goin', as it was gettin' late. 'Well,' says the Gentry, 'we'll not part good company that way, and we'll convoy you home.' So a party, with the music headin' it, and lights shinin' as bright as day, set aff with Jemmy to see him home. A forby journey he had that blissed Holly-eve night: he was over every ditch and hedge, and in every bog and shugh and mire between Kilmore and Tieveboulia, and kilt out when he cum home; but nothin' mislists the gentle people: they were playin' their music and goin' on with their antics, niver mindin' Jemmy, till they disappeared all at once in the loanin' leadin' up to the house, puttin' out the light, but playin' the music till he cum in. Jemmy minded that night the longest day he lived."j


                    ----------- "A fairy thee unwecting reft,
                    There as thou slept in tender swadling band,
                    And her base elfin brood there for thee left:
                    Such men do changelings call, so changed by Fairies' theft."
Spenser's Faery Queene, Book i., canto 10.

"The Fairies doesn't attend now in these parts as they used to do," said an old woman, whom we asked if she knew anything about the Gentle people; "they wint aff from the Glens in great numbers to Scotland, on account of their bushes being cut down one year, when the people couldn't help it, for there was no firin' to be had for love or money; and the meal and potatoes both malted on account of the constant wet: but before they wint, I'll tell you what happened to a tailor, in my mother's time. He was makin' a suit of clothes for a neighbour man, and the woman of the house told the tailor she had no life with the child, for the cry of it never ceased, and it wint on whingin' night and day, till her heart was broke with it; a better nor a quieter child the sun niver shined on than it was at first, but all of a suddent it grew fractious, and she didn't know what to do with it.

"She wint out, lavin' the tailor workin' sittin' on his boord, and the child in the cradle, whin the thing spoke out and axed the tailor 'if the ould hag was from about the place,' and the tailor spoke it fair, and said 'she was.' The thing began to fistle among the straw in the cradle, and pulled out a set of little pipes, and commenced playin' music. The mother came back before it had done, and wint up to it and says: 'Now, I know what you are, and I'll have my revenge.' 'Very well,' says the thing, 'take your remedy.' With that she lifted it out of the cradle, and carried it to the river, intinding to try if she could drown it; but in place of that, in she wint herself, and was drownded dead, and the thing made aff, laughin'. --

Though the Gentle people's seldom seen here at present, there's plinty of people knows how they work. They seldom harm any one that doesn't harm them. One night, many a long year ago, two of my brothers wint to a house at the foot of Lurig [Lurgeadon], where there was some divarsion goin' on, and as they cum home late they saw a great blaze beside the pad they had to travel; sometimes they saw the blaze risin' up high, then it would get low, and they saw a space, black like, in the middle, and a party of Gintry sportin' on it, and dancin' all sorts.k They watched thim till they got feared, and wint aff without spakin.' The next mornin' one of the boys went in that direction to see about a young mare we had grazin', with the fetters on, and when he cum to the field, he saw her on the top of the big rock you may see as you come across from Lurig, standin' by itself in the middle of the field. How she got up no mortial could tell; all the men in Cushendall could'nt have put her there nor brought her down and the fetters still on: so my brother says to himself, 'them that put her there can bring her aff,' and cum home, niver lettin' on. The nixt day the mare was grazin' as usual in the field, and nothin' wrong with her: so he knew by that, his brother and him had done right not to spake when they saw the Gintry in the fire; if they had, the mare wouldn't have been long to the fore: but they had owed them a grudge for standin' lookin' at them as they did." --

To be continued...

[d] Connected with the Irish "Banshee," is the belief of the people that spirits, in their middle state, preparatory to their entrance into Heaven, are still visitants of this earth.
One of the most beautiful of Moore's Melodies* celebrates this remnant of the elder creed of all lands; and the poet adds in a note -- "Paul Zealand mentions that there is a mountain in some part of Iceland where the ghosts of persons who have died in foreign lands walk about and converse with those they meet, like living people. If asked why they do not return to their houses, they say they are obliged to go to Mount Hecla, and disappear immediately." -- [Occult Sciences, article "Banshees."]

* The following are the lines of Moore referred to:--

Oh ye dead! oh ye dead! whom we know by the light you give
From your cold gleaming eyes, though you move like men who live,
Why leave you thus your graves
In far off fields and waves, o'er,
Where the worm and the sea-bird only know your bed,
To haunt the spot where all
Whose eyes that wept your fall,
And the hearts that wailed you, like your own, lie dead?

It is true, it is true, we are shadows cold and wan,
And the fair and the brave whom we loved on earth are gone;
But still thus ev'n in death,
So sweet the living breath
Of the fields and the flowers in our youth we wandered
That ere condemned we go
To freeze 'mid Hecla's snow,
We would taste it a while, and think we live once more."

[e] "The Church of Rome once deserved the homage of humanity as the conservator of the little knowledge that burnt feebly as an expiring torch, around whose dim and flickering light the darkness seemed to press; for she tempered by superior wisdom the brutality of barbarian conquerors, and at last reduced them to spiritual vassalage, by boldly preaching a religion which proved too strong alike for the wild mythology of the northern Valhalla and for the Greek divinities which had been worshipped at nobler shrines than have yet been consecrated to a holier faith." -- Westminster Review: article on "the Catholic Church," July, 1858.

[f] Like the " field-elfen" of the Saxons, the usual dress of the Fairies is green. They often ride in invisible procession, when their presence is discovered by the shrill ringing of their bridles. Sometimes they borrow mortal steeds; and when such are found panting and fatigued in their stalls, the grooms find this a convenient excuse for their situation. According to Waldron, the Fairies sometimes take more legitimate modes of procuring horses. A person of the utmost integrity informed him that, having occasion to sell a horse, he was accosted among the mountains by a little gentleman, plainly dressed, who priced his horse, cheapened him, and after some chaffering, finally purchased him. No sooner had the buyer mounted and paid the price, than he sank through the earth, horse and man, to the astonishment and terror of the seller, who, however, experienced no inconvenience from dealing with so extraordinary a purchaser. -- Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, vol. ii.

[g] In the Autumn of 1857, the writer was so fortunate to see the mirage, or "Fata Morgana," off Galbally Point, in the vicinity of Red Bay (Co. Antrim), similar in some respects to that described in the story. There had been a thunderstorm during the day, which ceased about four o'clock in the afternoon, at which time seven yachts, masts, and white sails, with what appeared to be a confused mass of other vessels behind them, became suddenly and distinctly visible off the point above mentioned. So perfect was the appearance, that the writer asked a person who happened to be near, if as there was a regatta at Larne or Glenarm: he went into his house for a telescope, but before he returned, yachts and all had disappeared; a heavy mass of black clouds on the verge of the horizon had in the meantime assumed the appearance of stupendous ruins, irregular in outline, but the angles of the walls sharp and clearly defined: this also melted away, leaving a blue and cloudless sky, and not a vessel in sight on the calm sea beneath, The aerial warlike "gentry" seen by the "brother," on the decks and about the masts and riggin' of the vessels he saw, might not have been accompaniments created solely by the "faith that was in him," as a sceptic might affirm. It is recorded that "a gentleman of undoubted veracity, the commander of a corps of yeomanry, being at some distance from the shore with a party in his pleasure boat, distinctly saw a body of armed men going through their exercises on the beach on the Antrim coast; and so complete was the deception that he supposed it had been a field day which he had forgotten." [Notes to Drummond's Giants' Causeway].

[h] On reading a work a few weeks since, entitled "Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland, or the Traditional History of Cromarty, by Hugh Miller," I was surprised to find that the author had heard, from a very old woman, an account of a volume identical in some respects with that which is described in our story as belonging to the Banshee. The coincidence is strange, and difficult to be accounted for. I am inclined to place confidence in the old woman of Glenariff, much of whose personal natural history, as told by herself, was corroborated by one of the most respectable inhabitants of Cushendall, who had known her long and intimately. The story is told by Miller as follows: "The least dilapidated of the chapels was dedicated to St. Regulus, and there is a tradition that at the Reformation, a valuable historical record belonging to it, the work probably of some literary monk or hermit, was carried away to France by priest. I remember a very old woman, who used to relate that when a little girl, she chanced, when playing one day among the ruins with a boy a few years older than herself, to discover a small square recess in the wall, in which there was a book; she had only time to remark that the volume was a tattered one, and apparently very old, and that there were beautiful red letters in it, when the boy, laying claim to it, forced it from her. What became of it afterwards she did not know, and, unconscious of the interest which might have attached to it, never thought of making inquiries." (K.)

[i] Reginald Scott, in his "Discovery of Witchcraft" 1665, has left us as luminous an account of the fairies as can anywhere be found:-- "They do principally inhabit the mountains and caverns of the earth; their nature is to make strange apparitions on the earth, in meadows, and in mountains, being like men and women, souldiers, kings, and ladyes, children and horsemen, clothed in green, to which purpose they do in the night steal hempen stalks from the fields where they grow, to convert them into horses, as the story goes."

[j] "The fairies of French, Spanish, and Italian romance are inferior spirits, in a beautiful female form, possessing many of the qualities of the Oriental Peri, even if not derived from them.* Among ourselves, and especially in Scotland, this spiritual race has sometimes been less fortunate. From the Gothic elves the British fairies have borrowed a diminutive size, and not unfrequently many mischievous attributes. -- "The Occult Sciences, article "Fairies," page 20.

* The Spaniards derived their fairy lore from the Moors, with whose beautiful legends were mingled the tales of the Visigoths, settled in that country. This national faith was, probably, at a later period imparted to the Irish, who had considerable intercourse with the Spaniards. As a general rule, the primitive fairy traditions were modified both by the character of the people and the romance peculiar to each district in which they were received.

[k] The Scottish fairies are represented by Sir Walter Scott as still retaining much that is harsh and terrific in their character; and, notwithstanding their Highland name, "Daoine Shie" (men of peace), they are, after all, but peevish and envious beings. As they are always invisibly present, it is not wise to speak of them otherwise than with respect. As for speaking to them, woe to the silly wight who makes such venture, especially on Fridays, on which days their influence is most powerful. Falstaff, indeed says, even of the gentler Southern fairies, that "he that speaks to them shall die."
Their form is diminutive; they inhabit the interior of green hills, called in Gaelic sighan, on the surface of which the rings which mark their moonlight dances may be traced. They dress in green, in heath brown, or grey. They are particularly fond of horse exercise, and their invisible steeds may be discovered by the ringing of their bridles. Now and then, however, especially during the night, they borrow horses of flesh and blood, whose speed they are known not to spare. Their movements are sometimes accompanied by huge eddies of sand, and a cry of "horse and hattock" may be heard at the same time. Aubrey (Miscellanies, 200) recounts, on the authority of a learned friend ia Scotland whose letter to him is dated March 25, 1695, that an ancestor of the noble house of Duffus, once walking in the fields, and hearing this shout, had the hardihood to join in it. He had the good luck to be transported by the fairies into no worse place than the royal cellar in Paris; where, having drank to his heart's content, he was found on the following morning with a silver cup in his hand, with which the King, on hearing his marvellous narrative, presented him!!
The existing Lord Duffus acknowledged the genuineness of this tradition, but thought that the circumstances to which it related were fabulous, notwithstanding that among the family plate was an ancient silver cup called the Fairy Cup.
The munificence of the Scotch fairies calls for further observation, as well as their supposed skill in the fabrication of arms, and the cheerful accounts we have of their cavalcades and hunting excursions. They were also able to surround themselves with illusory splendour, and so enchant the eyes of mortals whom they wished to deceive, that their gloomy haunts and personal deformity were concealed until their purpose was accomplished. Their object in these deceptions was to recruit their failing numbers from the ranks of mortals, for which purpose also they stole the children of earthly parents. This kind of necessity is assigned as the reason for their frequenting streams and fountains, by Fletcher, whose words are cited by Scott in his introduction to "Tamlane" --
  "A virtuous well, about whose flowery banks
The nimble-footed fairies dance their rounds.
By the pale moonshine, dipping oftentimes
Their stolen children, so to make them free
From dying flesh and dull mortality."
    This is beautifully imagined.

The above article is reproduced from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. 7, 1859.