Friday 21 March 2014

The French Settlers In Ireland - No. 8 (pt2)

The Huguenot Colony of Portarlington

(Continued from vol. 3, page 231)

by Sir Erasmus D. Borrowes, Bart.

The gentry of Ireland maybe said to have taken a lively interest in the prosperity of the French colony. We have abundant evidence that the state of society in Ireland, at the period referred to, required improvement. The association of the gentry, therefore, with the Huguenots, was not likely to prove detrimental. It was then a common practice to send abroad with a tutor the elder sons of men of fortune, to learn foreign languages; but the schools originating here with the French, as we shall presently shew and the French revolution obviated the necessity of such a practice. Caillard, the French clergyman already referred to, had a perfect knowledge of German literature, of which we have specimens in his translation of French letters into German. As the colony became settled, and its inhabitants increased by a gradual influx of military men from the disbanded French regiments of William III., some of these being officers of high rank, whose services in the field were rewarded with liberal pensions, a nucleus of attraction arose, inducing a constant social intercourse with the better educated of other French settlements, and with the Irish gentry of the neighbouring counties: the past history and prestige of the Huguenots never failing to warm the hearts and win the favour of the hospitable native gentry. An old account-book, now before us, shows the system of mutual aid which adorned so gracefully the character of the Refugees. A French officer of distinction, Major De C------------ , owed a sum of money to the late husband of Madame D'Arrabin. Instating the different payments, he adds as follows:-- "Delivered to Mrs. D'Arrabin some time in August, 1715, a large burned china pounch Boull, valewd att tenn pounds, on account of what I ow'd to her late husband. October the 3rd, 1722, by settled account with Mrs. D'Arrabin, she allowed me six pounds more for ye above said boull, which perfected the full interest to that day," &c. Thus, this generous lady allowed £16 for "the boull" which was tendered to her for £10. And again, in 1724, Mrs. D'Arrabin reduces the interest by £11. 12s. 6d. on his bond, -- "whether I would or not." The gallant officer himself lends Mesdemoiselles De Champloriers two guineas, and also supplies them with "eight car-loads of hay, at half-a-crown per load." Annexed to this entry is this note -- "Mlles Champloriers pd me two guineas against my will, but accepted of the hay." He knew the text, "La charite est d'un esprit patient: elle se montre benigne."

The same book contains a long account with the far-famed Colonel Cavallier, the l'enowned hero of the wars of the Cevennes. Major C---------- had lent Colonel Cavallier £50, and various other sums; the former, visiting the Hague in 1723, purchases for Me Cavallier, "18¾ Duch ells of narrow lease," some cambrick, and holland, "which, in Ireis money, comes to two pounds and nine shelings." It appears that the brilliant career of her gallant husband could not save the family from want, for, in the same year, Major C--------- "lent to Me Cavallier, at her going to Dublin, 14s. 2½d.; and, in 1724, he "pd to Lieut Ducas for Col Cavallier to release Me Cavallier's gould watch, which was returned to her, twelve pounds sterling, for which the Col gave me his note on Monr Puichinen." Various loans of moydores to Me Cavallier are recounted, and for another "georny to Dubin," one moydorc. Major C---------- gives Col Cavallier credit for £1. 7s. 1d. received from five individuals named, being " five sh. and five pce each for one "book," of which we subjoin the title.d In 1721, Major C--------- "paid to Mr. Wilkinson, for grasing Me Cavallier's yong maire
000. 04s. 00." The account with this remarkable man closes thus:-- "Memorandum. Ye Coll ows me tor a horse which he borrow'd from me, and never returned, valew'd four or five pounds." "Mais toutes choses étoient communes entr' eux."

To give even a sketch of Cavallier's daring military exploits would exceed the limits of this paper: we shall, however, glance at his interview with the great and powerful monarch Louis Quatorze. The gallant leader of the wars of the Cevennes, having come to a cessation of arms with Marshal Villars, on terms satisfactory to himself and his brave little band, sought an interview with the king. This request was granted, and he was conducted into the presence of his Majesty at Versailles by the Secretary of State.--

"The king was at mass when Mon. Chamiliard came to him, and I was introduced into his closet till it was over, and when his Majesty came to us, 'Sir,' said Monsieur Chamiliard, 'this is Cavallier, chief of the rebells, who comes to implore your majesty's clemency.' I made a very low bow, but was terribly frightened by the speech of my introductor. I remained for some time confused and astonished, and the king having asked me 'what it was I had to say to him, and what was our reasons for rising in arms against him?' Cavallier, recollecting himself, recounts to his majesty in an eloquent speech the horrors of the persecution; that these measures had driven them to despair and to the assumption of arms; that all avenues by which justice might have been claimed from the crown had been closed; that his majesty had been deceived, and that they were persuaded these things were not done by his majesty's orders or permission. 'Finding he heard me very patiently, I went on.' After a little, Cavallier said, 'If you would be pleased to confirm the promises made to us by the Marshal Villars, and in your royal clemency forgive us all that is past, we are ready to shed the last drop of our blood for your service.' Here he interrupted me, and, with an angry voice, he said, 'I order you not to speak one word of that treaty, on pain of incurring my indignation; if the rest of the rebells will submit, I will consider what may be done with the prisoners and gallerians.' He asked me if the Duke of Savoy or any other of his allies sent me money or arms? I answered that I never received either from the Duke of Savoy or anybody else. 'Where, then, did you get them?' said the king. 'Sir,' said I, 'we took care to attack none of your troops but them we were much superior in number to; and having overcome them, especially in the beginning, it was from them we provided ourselves.' He asked me how many of his troops I thought had been destroyed during all that time? I answered that I did not know, but that his generals could inform him better than I. He charged me with a great many outrages, such as burning of churches and murdering of priests and other ecclesiastics. Cavallier proceeds to rebut these charges, and details to his majesty the cruelties of the Intendant Montrevel, who had a young lady of Nismes murdered in his presence, whom one of the king's pages was protecting; the page himself having with difficulty escaped hanging. For the truth of his statement of the aggravated circumstances attending this barbarous murder Cavallier was ready to appeal to the Roman Catholics of Nismes. 'The king then turned to Monsieur Chamiliard and asked him if he knew anything of that affair?' Chamiliard did not deny the fact, but endeavoured to soften down its revolting features. After a few words more from Cavallier in justification of the course which he and his companions had been compelled to adopt, he adds, 'I observed that he seemed a little moved at this relation, and then asked me if I would become a good Catholic? To which I made answer that my life was in his hands, and that I was ready to lay it down for his service; but us for my religion, I resolved not to change it for any consideration this world could afford.' 'Well,' said the king, 'go and be wiser in future, and it will be better for you.' Having made a low bow, I retired with Monsieur Chamiliard into his apartment, where I received a terrible reprimand for talking as I had done against the Mareschal de Montrevel, and especially for refusing the honour of being the king's convert; he exhorted me to make use of the opportunity. I smiled when he continued to tell me that, though I did not believe everything that the church teaches, I might pretend I did, and act as a great many others; that I might do as if I were at a play -- gaze and laugh without taking any other notice; 'when you are at mass you may pray to the devil if you please. Let the king see you there twice or thrice, and your business is done; you shall have a pension of 1,500 crowns a-year for life, another for your father, besides being made brigadier in his army.' I answered him that, when Moses was come to age, he chose rather to suffer adversity with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of a court for a season; at which he laughed, saying, 'Where have you got this old woman's story?"' The controversy was proceeding, when it was cut short by Chamiliard telling him he was "an obstinate Huguenot, and that he might take his own way." He, however, dismissed him civilly, ordering Monsieur La Vallée to show him the curiosities of Versailles. "It happened to be the very day that the Dutchess of Burgundy saw company after lying-in. All the water-works were set agoing, and the court in the utmost joy and magnificence, which gave me an opportunity, under the conduct of my guide, to see all the princes and princesses of the blood, and foreign ministers, who were come to make their compliments on the occasion. I was astonished at the beauties of the place, which, after the woods and mountains I had been used to, seemed like an enchanted palace."e

Cavallier and his party having made their escape from France, their services were gladly engaged by Victor Amadeus, Duke of Savoy. The hero of the Cevennes subsequently retired to the Hague, and afterwards came to Ireland. In 1727, Primate Boulter strongly recommended him to the Duke of Newcastle for an appointment in the new levies, then about to be raised. A note to the Primate's letter states that "this is that Colonel Cavallier who made so great a figure in the Cevennes against the powerful armies of France; he was, in some respects, the Paoli of those days."

Among the refugees of note residing in Portarlington, the family of Des Vignoles claims attention. They possessed large estates in Languedoc, and were lineally descended from the celebrated warrior, Estienne Des Vignoles, commonly called La Hire, who signalized himself in the wars of Charles the Seventh of France, obliged the Duke of Bedford to raise the siege of Montargis, and accompanied Joan of Arc, the famous Maid of Orleans, to the siege of that city in 1427. Two convoys were at length forced into the fortress by

"La Hire, the merriest man
That ever yet did win his soldiers' love,
And, over all for hardihood renowned,
The bastard Orleans,"

thus, with Dunois, compelling the English to raise the siege, which had lasted nine months. The prayer of La Hire before battle ran thus:-- "Dieuf je te prie, que tu fasses aujourd'hui pour La Hire, autant que tu voudrois que La Hire fit pour toi, s'il étoit Dieu et tu fusses La Hire." At the coronation of Charles, in the cathedral of Rheims,

"The courtier throng
Were there, and they in Orleans who endur'd
The siege right bravely; Gaucour and La Hire,
The gallant Xaintraillers, Boussac, and Chabannes."

From Estienne Des Vignoles (La Hire) descended "Noble Estienne Des Vignoles," living in the sixteenth century, from whom the late Rev. John Vignoles was sixth in descent; he had been twenty-four years minister of the French church in Portarlington, having been previously a major in the army; and was succeeded in 1817 by his son, the Yery Rev. Charles Vignoles, present Dean of Ossory. Alphonse Des Vignoles, grand-uncle of the Rev. J. Vignoles, was a distinguished ecclesiastic in Bas Languedoc, and author of "Chronologie de l' Histoire Sainte," of which is recorded in La Dictionnaire des Grands Hommes -- "Ce livre suppose une victoire prodigieuse, un travail incroyable, et les plus profondes recherches." In 1685, he escaped from France; his library and papers were confiscated; all he could recover of the latter were a few loose leaves, because they were considered as waste paper -- "mais où je trouvai pourtant presque tout ce que j'avois écrit touchant les Rois de Juda et d'Israel."

The individual referred to in the following abstract from the Chancery Rolls was probably the first Huguenot clergyman who came to Ireland:-- "The king, in 1668, in consideration that James Hierome, clerk, had brought the French congregation at the Savoy to conform to the Church of England; and, in consideration of his learning, piety, and being a stranger, presents him to the vicarage of Chapel Izod, with liberty to graze two horses and eight cows in the Phoenix Park, free," &c.

The French families, within the present century resident in Portarlington, were those of Dean Champagné, Sir Charles Desvoux, Bart., Colonel Mercier, Major Mercier, Colonel De la Cour, &c.

Many of the upper class of refugees were "sovereigns" of the town; the authority and duties of which office were somewhat calculated to excite a painful reminiscence of the extensive feudal privileges of their seigneuries, so nobly forfeited. Major C---------- filled the office three years in succession; Micheau, his tenant from the seigneury of Berneré in Saintonge, acting as Portrieve.

A favourite amusement of our interesting foreigners in the summer evenings was to assemble in the cool shade of the primaeval oaks of the O'Dempsey's, which had not yet been cleared away from the market-place, and still proclaimed its ancient name, "Cooltouderrie," or the woody nook; there they sipped their tea, as a bonne bouche, in Lilliputian china cups -- the precious beverage in that day costing from twelve to twenty shillings a pound, when money was comparatively scarce. Prior to the middle of last century, horse-races had been established on the common-lands of the town.g On such occasions, balls, ordinaries, and ridottos enlivened the sportive meetings. The higher class of colonists, who had been men of landed property, laid aside their patronymic, and adopted the designation of their chief seigneury, or added to it the family surname; doubtless, from a desire to perpetuate a record identifying their name and race with the territory to which they originally belonged, and which they had been recently forced to relinquish. Hence we find the Chevalier De Robillard signing himself "Champagné;" Messire David de Proisy, Chevalier, Seigneur Chatelain d'Eppe, Cappne de Cavalerie, writes "Proisy D'Eppe;" Messire Daniel Le Grand, Chevalier, Seigneur du Petit Bose, becomes, "Du Petit Bose," &c.

We have still some reminiscences of the military colonists. The scarlet cloak seems to have been a favourite garb. The Viscomte de Laval was in the habit of wearing a cloak of scarlet cloth, lined with ermine, a sword, knee-, shoe-, and stock-buckles of silver, set with diamonds; and he always carried his hat under his arm. While on the subject of dress, we may notice the curious fact of a French officer employing a tailor to make his maid-servant's gown; and the Brigadier D'Apremon bequeathing to his servant, among other things, his "scarlet cloak and wigs," but these were the

                  "Wigs of Marlborough's martial fold,
           Huger than twelve of our degenerate breed."

It was the habit of the clergy to walk in their canonicals, without hats, through the town to the church, undergoing the "capital punishment" of the great wig in lieu of the ordinary covering of the head. While we trace this sketch, the portraits of the Huguenot heroes of "the Boyne" grace the walls of our own abode. Schomberg, the veteran marshal, a captain of Scravemore's Blue Dutch Guards, and a youthful ensign of Le Mellonier's corps, with others, are all present there. They all wear the demi-suit of armour, the flowing wig, and the neck-scarf tied in the well-known knot of the days of Louis Quatorze. Time has changed the features of the long departed warriors. Their wan aspects

          "Look living in the moon, and, as you turn
              Backward and forward to the echoes faint
           Of your own footsteps, voices from the urn
              Appear to wake, and shadows wild and quaint
           Start from the frames which fence their aspects stern;
              As if to ask how can you dare to keep
              A vigil there, where all but death should sleep."
Fair fugitives from Saintonge grace the group; the white-laced lappets of France mark the country of a widowed mother, whose sable robe tells the loss of her gallant husband, a captain of dragoons, who, having been deputed by his brother officers, before leaving London, to solicit aid from the government, died at Belfast, in October, 1688, from fatigue encountered in his efforts to rejoin his regiment. The black tresses and dark eyes of the handsome daughters are still vivid, and speak of the sunny clime of southern France; while the pallid cheek and faded features tell the sad tale of trials nobly endured--

            "The pale smile of beauties in the grave,
                The charms of other days, in starlight gleams,
             Glimmer on high; their buried locks still wave
                Along the canvas; their eyes glance like dreams
            On ours, as spars within some dusky cave;
                But death is imaged in their shadowy beams."
The principal proprietors of land under Lord Galway were the Baron de Virazel, and Jean Nicolas, "ey-devant Lieutenant de cavalerie dans le regiment de Galuuai;" the latter occupying 2,000 acres about the old castle of Lea, at £60 a-year, from which Captainh Richard Borrowes had been forcibly expelled in 1641 by the O'Dempseys and MacDonnells, having been plundered to the amount of £3,440.

To be continued...

[d] Memoires of the Wars of the Cevennes, under Col. Cavallier in defence of the Protestants persecuted in that country; And of the peace concluded between him and the Mareschal D. of Villars: Of his conference with the King of France, after the conclusion of the Peace: With letters relating thereto from Mareshal Villars and Chamiliard, Secretary of State. As also a map describing the places mentioned in the Book. Written in French, by Colonel Cavallier, and translated into English. Dublin: Printed by J. Carson, in Coghill's-Court, for the author, and are to be sold by William Smith, Bookseller, in Dame-street. 1726."

[e] In the "Tableau de Nismes par Frossard," the following account is given of the conference between Cavallier, Marshal de Villars, and the Intendant de Basville, in the garden of the nunnery of the Recollects, near Nismes:-- "On the morning of the 16th May, 1704, the chief brought his troops into the neighbourhood; his cavalry he stationed within musket-shot of the place of conference, and, having posted videttes in positions to communicate with himself and his army, he proceeded to enter the appointed place of conference. Multitudes had gathered from all parts to catch a glance of a person who had so long, and with such feeble means, kept the country in a state of civil war. They beheld him approach, mounted on a grey galloway, unaccompanied, but by an escort of eighteen of his horsemen, headed by one of his officers. Upon his arrival before the convent, he cast up his eyes to the windows, which were filled with nuns, equally curious, with others, to catch a sight of him. Cavallier cautiously surveyed the walls of the mansion, and especially a tower belonging to it, pierced with loop-holes, which gave it the appearance of a castle, and observing that the guard of the M. De Villars occupied the corridor on one side of the gate of entrance, he immediately gave orders for his own guard to arrange themselves on the other side. Upon dismounting from his horse, he walked with a firm step towards the Marshal, who, with the Intendant de Basville, and General la Lande, waited for him in the garden. The delegates of the king, struck with his youthful diminutive appearance, hesitated a few moments; whereupon, the Marshal breaking the silence, approached Cavallier with a gracious smile, saying, 'welcome, M. Cavallier! I have received your letters. I have been waiting for you, but, surely, upon seeing you, I Cannot help believing that you count more victories than years.' Cavallier -- 'Mareschal, I know not the language of court, and your's confounds me. Without pretending to reply in a similar manner, I only remark, that I have always thought you to be as loyal as you are brave, and here I am at your service.' De Basville -- 'Stop, sir: listen in silence to our orders: for the king, my master, must be extremely merciful to be willing to treat with a rebel.' Cavallier -- 'M. l'Intendant! It is not with you that I am engaged to confer. If this is all that I am to hear in this place, then allow me to retire. Rebels! It is you who, by your tyranny and cruelties, have alienated the subjects of the king; and had it not been for you, we should never ----------.' M. Villars -- 'Gentlemen, I have not come up to open recent wounds afresh, but to bind them up for ever. Delegated by a merciful sovereign, I come to announce to you, that he wishes to spare the blood of his subjects, and to enter with them into amicable terms. What, M. Cavallier, what are your pretensions?' Cavallier -- 'I have already given them in writing; I will now repeat them, and although the sentiments of a young man, they are not less just and incontrovertible. M. le M., the subjects of the king unjustly suffer. Our temples are destroyed: your tower of Constance echoes with the groans of our wives and daughters: our young men are tracked like wild beasts upon the mountains; our old men are suffocated in cells: our praises, and our prayers, and our acts of religious worship are profaned and prohibited:- these are our miseries and our crimes; the redress of these, what you call my pretensions.' He was again interrupted by the imperious De Basville, and again the Marshal interposed, and suggested a moderation of language more suited to the importance of the negotiation with which he was charged. The conference lasted two hours. The 'Lion of Cevennes,' as he was called, again mounted his galloway, and retired amidst the astonished gaze of a vast crowd of spectators: recognising at every step, by the moving of his cap, which he held in his hand, the salutations of his friends.

[f] Southey.

[g] At the same time, races for the Queen's County were held on the great heath of Maryborough, as advertised in the newspaper called "Pue's Occurrences," of October, 1736. We shall barely glance at the advertisements, to give some idea of the depraved taste of that period. A ten-pound purse was to he given for fox-hunters; £5 for all galloways. All horses from the Curragh to be excluded. On the second day there was to be a foot-race by unmarried women of an unfortunate class; the prize was for a piece of Queen's County "flanning" (flannel); two-thirds to the winner; the remainder to the next competitor. "All crossing, jostling, pulling, dragging, to be allowed to the foremost women fertile flanning suite." Some days before the race, each woman was required to furnish the keeper of the match-book with her name, and the colour of her hair and eyes. Other conditions and particular information, which we must not detail, were also required. It is our native county, and we would veil the foibles of her earlier day, and be
         "To her faults a little blind.
         And to her virtues very kind."

[h] Son of Henry Borrowes, of Giltown, and brother of Sir Erasmus.

The above article is reproduced from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. 6, 1858.

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