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Title: The Old Irish World
Author: Green, Alice Stopford
Language: English
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                          THE OLD IRISH WORLD

                          THE OLD IRISH WORLD


                         ALICE STOPFORD GREEN

          _Author of “The Making of Ireland and its Undoing”
                       “Irish Nationality,” &c._

                        M. H. GILL & SON, LTD.
                         MACMILLAN & CO., LTD.



SOME Irish friends have asked me to print certain lectures concerning
Ireland to which they had listened with indulgence; and to reprint also
former papers in a manner more convenient for country readers. This
volume is the answer to their request. It will be seen that I have not
attempted to alter the lectures from their first purpose and form.

The various studies, thus accidentally united, have a connecting link
in such evidences as they may contain of civilisation in the old Irish
world. A hundred years ago, in 1821, Dr. Petrie noted that while the
historians of ancient native origin were unable in their poverty and
degradation to pursue the laborious study of antiquities, there were
others of a different class and origin who had taken up the subject to
bring it into contempt; and these indeed succeeded in the cause for
which they, unworthily, laboured. Forty years later he recognised the
same influences at work. It would appear, he said in a letter written
to Lord Dunraven shortly before his death in 1865, to be considered
derogatory to the feeling of superiority in the English mind to accept
the belief that Celts of Ireland or Scotland could have been equal, not
to say superior in civilisation to their more potent conquerors, or
that they could have known the arts of civilised life till these were
taught them by the Anglo-Normans. After the lapse of half a century we
can still trace the same spirit--so powerful have been the hindrances
to serious and impartial enquiry--so slow has been the decline of
racial prejudice and political complacency. But in these latter days
a great change has silently passed over the peoples. The difficulties
of historical research and instruction do indeed remain as great as
ever; but in the new society which we see shaping itself in Ireland on
natural and no longer on purely artificial lines, there is no reason
to fear truth as dangerous or to neglect it as unnecessary. There is
now a public ready to be interested not only in Danish and Norman
civilisation in Ireland, but also in the Gaelic culture which embraced
these and made them its own.

I cannot adequately thank Professor Eoin MacNeill for generously
allowing me to embody in my first chapter some of his researches on
the history of the Scot wanderings between Scotland and Ireland; it is
earnestly to be hoped that he will publish before long the results of
his original work.

I owe my warm thanks also to Mr. F. J. Bigger for his unstinted help
in references and suggestions out of the stores of his topographical
knowledge. I may mention as an instance the grave-stone in Kilclief
churchyard carved with a Celtic cross, which he discovered while these
pages were going through the press, so that I have been able to note it
for the first time among Lecale antiquities.

Mr. R. I. Best has rendered me more services than I can here tell,
however gratefully I acknowledge them.

The account of Ardglass has been re-printed with additions, by the kind
permission of the Editor of the _Nation_. I have to thank the Editor of
the _Nineteenth Century_ for leave to add the article on Tradition in
History, which is inserted at the request of readers in Ireland.

To prevent mistake I may add a word of explanation that the map, or
rather diagram, which is entitled Scandinavian Trade Routes, contains
not only those lines of sea-commerce, but also an indication of the
ways across Europe which were used by Irish travellers from earlier
times. The difference between these routes is clearly indicated in the


  _April 25, 1912._

                             IN MEMORY OF
                            THE IRISH DEAD



           I. THE WAY OF HISTORY IN IRELAND                 1

          II. THE TRADE ROUTES OF IRELAND                  63

         III. A GREAT IRISH LADY                          100

          IV. A CASTLE AT ARDGLASS                        130

           V.  TRADITION IN IRISH HISTORY                 168

                          THE OLD IRISH WORLD



IN all the countries of Europe the study of history for a citizen of
the State is taken for granted, as the study of tides and currents
might be held necessary for a mariner, or of the winds for an air-man,
or that of the map for a merchant. It is only a dozen years ago,
however, that its study was made compulsory in elementary schools
in England, and in that country men are still discussing, by way of
lectures and so forth, “What is the Use of History.” The historical
instinct among the English people has indeed never been very keen,
so that, as learned men tell us, it would be more difficult to form
a folk-museum in England than in any other country, so few are the
objects of a distinctly national character that have survived. The past
is rapidly overlaid among men who live intensely in the present and
the immediate future. A great gulf separates them from a race like the
Irish, to whom the far past and the far future are part of the eternal
present, the very condition of thought, the furniture without which the
mind is bare.

The Irish, nevertheless, have by long effort been brought under
authority to the English mind in history, and an Anglicised Ireland
now lies in the wake of England, a laggard in the trough of the wave,
rocked by the old commonplaces of the early Victorian age. The hope
that our people may win out of that trough lies to a great extent in
the new sails set by the National University, if they may at last
catch the fresh breezes of Heaven, and be swept into the open sea of
free knowledge and candid thinking. In Ireland, as in England, history
has been made compulsory in a sense--a sense, we might irreverently
say, of the “United Kingdom.” It has been made a department of English
Grammar, and has further been portioned out to Irishmen as a fragment
of English history, strictly confined within dates fixed for that
history in the schools of England. The Irish story is thus shut up as
it were like criminals of old in the Tower prison of Little Ease--a
narrow place where no man could stand or lie at length. And Irishmen
are still driven to discuss in belated fashion the question that all
Europe settled long ago--Why should we make the History of our country
our serious study?

The reason of Nature for this study is indeed as profound as the being
of man. There is no other creature on this planet that can create
a history of its kind. To man alone belongs the faculty of looking
“before and after,” and considering the story of his race from the
first human being that walked the earth. Our first forefather brought
with him something new--the power to store up and to celebrate memories
of the great dead. His elemental pieties have become part of the whole
tradition of our humanity; and that history which he began, and to
which we add day by day, is our witness to the separateness of man from
the other creatures of this world. When we cherish this study we are
proclaiming our pre-eminence among all the living beings that we know.
When we let this history fall from us we are sinking to the level of
the dumb beasts. As living men, therefore, “let us enjoy, whenever we
have an opportunity, the delight of admiration, and perform the duties
of reverence.”

There is a practical reason, too, for the knowledge of history. The
individual man left to himself is helpless to stand against the powers
of the world. Alone he can do nothing. His strength lies in the
generations and associations of man behind him, linked by an endless
tradition, who have made for him his art, religion, science, politics,
social laws. It is only in communion with that company of workers that
he can take a step forward. The soul of a country is bound up with the
heroes who still

  “... people the steep rocks and river banks,
  Her natural sanctuaries, with a local soul,
  Of independence and stern liberty.”

Rulers and commanders have known this well. When they have wanted to
exalt peoples or armies under them, they have opened out to them the
glories of their history, and called on them to admit into their souls
the spirit of their fathers.

  “Up! up! and drink the spirit breathed
  From dead men to their kind.”

When they have wished to depress and subjugate a race they have slammed
the doors of their history on them, and left them alone, spiritless and
forlorn, passed by and forgotten by the Ages, despised of themselves
and of their neighbours.

Whether therefore as men of a reasonable nature, or as members of a
nation, we are bound to make History our all-important study. There is
no question about this in any self-respecting nation in Europe. How
does the case stand with us in Ireland?

When I first began the study of Irish History, I was dissuaded from it
by a man of exceedingly acute mind and wide reading. His argument, I
imagine, is a common one, and shows the kind of scruples that are set
to bar our way to Irish history--as some primeval race once planted the
slope of Cahir Mor on Aran with a forest of jagged standing-stones, to
forbid all entrance to the fortress uplifted there above the expanse
of the Ocean in its freedom. Why, said my typical objector, should we
turn away from the great highways of the world’s progress, with their
sweeping procession of Empires and great Dominions, to lose ourselves
in the maze where humble and unsuccessful nationalities walk obscurely.
Stimulate the spirit of young men by giving them the examples of heroes
whose fame has sounded through the earth, and societies that have been
adorned by triumph. Let the men of local fame, the guardians of smaller
nationalities, rest in darkness, and let us follow the sun in its

We may remember one of the snares laid by the Prince of Evil for the
Son of Man, when he set Him on a high place above the kingdoms of
the world, to bend His soul before their ostentatious glory. From
the mountain Satan displayed the emblems of their pride, palaces and
towers and treasuries, “knowing that it was by those alone that he
himself could have been so utterly lost to rectitude and beatitude. Our
Saviour spurned the temptation, and the greatest of His miracles was
accomplished.” England was just at the outset of her imperial career
when Milton, in his “Paradise Regained,” pictured that tremendous
scene, the passing of the empires in their state before the judgment of
the Divine Reason. The prodigious procession was marshalled from the
very dawn of history, powers and dominions sweeping over the earth,
and disappearing with the suddenness with which they rose. Not one has
survived. In the shifting scene forms of states move and stir dimly
like the fallen angels from “Paradise Lost” as they lay prone, extended
on the flood of ruin and combustion. One scheme of government after
another is lifted up to be cast down--tyranny, oligarchy, slavery,
commercialism, communism, parliaments, theocracies. The great warriors
and the great statesmen are alike entombed in the ruins of their
empires. “Head and crown drop together, and are overlooked.” On the
other hand, when empires have fallen, the nationalities have not always
perished. They die only with the utter extermination of the people. So
long as the old stock lingers on the soil, there is a spirit that can
outlive all empires, form the scourge of conquerors, and set the last
barrier to pride of dominion. We know how peoples enclosed within small
states, fed from deep sources of heritage and tradition, have given
the impress of their local passion to their art. Out of the intensity
of national life have come those high inspirations that have given
to us all that is best of literature, poetry, painting, sculpture,
music, and however deeply the artist has felt the influence of the
world outside, his ultimate power lies in the spirit which has entered
into him from his native state and the race of which he sprang. The
generous influences of local patriotism were recognised by the greatest
political thinker that modern Ireland has sent out: “To be attached,”
said Burke, “to the sub-division, to love the little platoon we belong
to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public

Perhaps, we might also suggest to our objector, the lesser
nationalities are even now, in these days of triumphant Imperialism,
beginning to have their revenge. The study of small societies seems to
become fashionable among the new reformers. Do we not hear from all
sides of the education, discipline, and public spirit of countries
compassed within bounds suited to man’s apprehension? With what
respect do not Unionists extol the industrial success of States such
as Holland and Denmark, for example. Even now do we not hear English
Imperialists crying out that perhaps Switzerland has got the secret
of the democratic mind, or Norway, or New South Wales, or Arizona;
might not England take a lesson from some little self-contained and
thrifty community on the use of the referendum? It would seem that the
influence of small commonwealths is not yet extinct among us.

It is very certain that Ireland of all countries, if left to itself,
would never of its own will allow history to lie in a backwater among
the flotsam of the current. History was the early study of the Irish,
the inspiration of their poets and writers. Every tribesman of old
knew, not only the great deeds and the famous places of his own clan,
but of the whole of Ireland. In the lowliest cabin the songs of Irish
poets lived on for hundreds of years, and dying fathers left to sons
as their chief inheritance the story of their race. When war, poverty,
the oppression of the stranger, hindered the printing of Irish records,
there was not a territory in all Ireland that did not give men to make
copies of them, hundreds of thousands of pages, over and over again,
finely written after the manner of their fathers. Through centuries of
suffering down to within living memory the long procession of scribes
was never broken, men tilling small farms, labouring in the fields,
working at a blacksmith’s forge. And this among a people of whom Burke
records that in two hundred thousand houses for their exceeding poverty
a candle, on which a tax lay, was never lighted. As we follow the lines
and count the pages of such manuscripts, we see the miracle of the
passion in these men’s hearts. No relics in Ireland are more touching
than these volumes, and none should be more reverently collected and
preserved. They form a singular treasure such as no country in all
Europe possesses.

But now, in spite of this tradition, history is more backward in
Ireland than in any other country. Here alone there is a public opinion
which resents its being freely written, and there is an opinion, public
or official, I scarcely know which to call it, which prevents its being
freely taught. And between the two, history has a hard fight for life.

Take the question of writing. History may conceivably be treated as
a science. Or it may be interpreted as a majestic natural drama or
poem. Either way has much to be said for it. Both ways have been nobly
attempted in other countries. But neither of these courses is thought
of in Ireland. Here history has a peculiar doom. It is enslaved in the
chains of the Moral Tale--the good man (English) who prospered, and the
bad man (Irish) who came to a shocking end--the kind of ethical formula
which, for all our tutors and teachers could do, never deceived the
generosity of childhood. The good man in the moral tale of Ireland is
not even a fiction of Philosophy or of History. He is, oddly enough,
the offspring of Grammar alone, and carries the traces of his dry
and uninspired pedigree. He owes his being, in fact, to the English
dislike for a foreign language. The Gael, as we know, ever faithful
to the tradition of his race, while he sang and recited and wrote and
copied his story with an undying passion, did these things in his own
speech. The Norman or “Frank” settlers, true “citizens of the world,”
adopted his tongue, his poetry, and his patriotic enthusiasm. When the
English arrived, however, they according to their constant insular
tradition refused to learn a strange language, so that the only history
of Ireland they could discern was that part of it which was written
in English--that is, the history of the English colonists told by
themselves. On this contracted record they have worked with industry
and self-congratulation. They have laid down the lines of a story in
which the historian’s view is constantly fixed on England. All that the
Irish had to tell of themselves remained obscured in an unknown tongue.
The story of the whole Irish population thus came to be looked on as
merely a murky prelude to the civilizing work of England--a preface
savage, transitory, and of no permanent interest, to be rapidly passed
over till we come to the English pages of the book. Thus two separate
stories went on side by side. The Irish did not know the language
which held the legend of English virtue and consequent wealth. The
English could not translate the subterranean legend of Irish poetry,
passion, and fidelity. Religion added new distinctions. Virtues were
Protestant, the sins of the prodigal were Catholic. Finally, class
feeling had its word. The upper class went to their university, and
their manners and caste instincts entitled them as of course to the
entire credence of their own social world; the lower class were alleged
to be men whose manners were common and their prejudices vulgar.

In this way there grew up an orthodox history based on sources in the
English tongue alone. The Colonists laid down by authority its dogmas
and axioms. All that agreed with this conventional history was reputed
serious and scholarly: whatever diverged from it was partial, partizan,
or prejudiced. “Impartiality” and “loyalty” became technical terms,
with a special meaning for Ireland. The two words were held also to be
interchangeable. A strictly “impartial” writer must not let his “loyal”
eye swerve from the fixed point, England. As a judicious Englishman
said of his compatriots, they only think a man impartial when he has
gone over to the opposite side.

The results of this system are conspicuous. A Frenchman may unreproved
write with affection and ardour of France, and an Englishman of
England. An Irishman, however, is in another case. He must have no
patriotic fire for his own people. He must not acclaim their victories
nor mourn their defeats. Take an illustration of this temper. A
clergyman has lately written to the _Church of Ireland Gazette_ to
condemn history readers “written from an anti-English and anti-Church
point of view”; he complains that the writer describes the battle of
the Blackwater in 1598, where the English were routed, as “a glorious
victory for the O’Neill.” Such a phrase as this cannot be allowed to
Irishmen. Or as a writer to the _Irish Times_ puts a similar argument:
“If the Nationalists want for ever to live in the glories of the past
and to harp upon them, why do they not go far enough back ... to the
time when they ate their grandmothers ... and indulged in all sorts of
hellish rites.”

In fact, as we trudge along the dull beaten road of the orthodox
history we never escape, not for a moment, from the monotonous
running commentary which sounds continually at our side. “Nomadic,”
“primitive,” “wigwam,” “aboriginal,” “savage,” “barbarous,”
“lawless”--the words are always at hand. In the moral tale the
accustomed stream of precept and delation never runs dry. It follows
us through all the strictly “impartial” writers. The Irishman was a
“kerne.” The Irish word cethern (kerne) meaning a troop or company of
soldiers, probably foot soldiers, is as old as the Latin _caterva_
with which it is cognate, or the Umbrian _kateramu_, and so is of quite
respectable lineage; but being a foreign word to the Englishman, he
used it as a natural term of contempt, as though a Chinese should cry
“sailor” or “merchant” when he meant to say “English devil.” More than
that, the Irishman was a “nomad,” apparently because he sent his cattle
to graze on the hills in summer--a custom which in modern Switzerland
is held to be quite respectable by admirers of Federalism. This “nomad”
idea is familiarly handed about from one writer to another. One of
the most esteemed historians in Dublin was Mr. Litton Falkiner, who
has added some notable pages to later Anglo-Irish history. Yet he was
satisfied to dismiss the Irish population of mediæval times in one
terse phrase: “the pastoral, and in great measure nomadic Celts, who
stood for the Irish people before the 12th century”--in other words,
before the Norman invasion. This absurd sentence seems to pass current;
no objection has been made to it. What would educated Englishmen think
of a leading historian who dismissed the pre-Norman population of that
island as “boorish Low-Dutch, hut-dwellers round a common field cut
into strips after their barbarous manner, _who stood for the English
people before the Norman Conquest_?” Trivialities and ignorances of
this sort are not in fashion in English history, and it is time that
they were out of fashion in Ireland.

Irishmen of the north still preserved, Mr. Falkiner told us, even to
the end of the 17th century, “all the primitive characteristics of
the scarcely more than nomadic civilisation of Ulster.” With summary
contempt he pretended to dispose of what he fancifully termed “the
lawless banditti who commonly formed the body-guard of an Irish
chief”; and in the orthodox manner confronts “Irish law” and “Irish
lawlessness” under what he called “the English ownership of Ireland.”
The great Hugh of Tyrone is described as looking “on the onward
march of English institutions with feelings not very different from
those with which the aborigines of the American continent beheld the
advance of the stranger from the east.” In the same spirit he informed
Englishmen that Ireland was sadly deficient in the wealth of historical
and literary associations which form the romantic charm of England.
“Cathedral cities, in the sense in which the term is understood in
England, Ireland may be almost said to be without. A few of the towns,”
he generously admitted, “contain, indeed, the remains of ecclesiastical
and monastic buildings. But even where these exist they are, with
one or two exceptions, sadly deficient in human interest.” It is a
cheap method, even if it is one out of date elsewhere, to deny human
interest to a subject which one has learned to ignore, and may desire
to see forgotten. Can no human interest touch the heart in Dromahair
or Donegal or Glendalough? There is a remote and little-known road in
the plains of Mayo where a singular sight may be seen. Near it stand
the ruins of a majestic abbey founded over seven hundred years ago
(1189-1190), by Cathal O’Connor (whose foster-father’s tomb has lately
been found at Knockmoy with its Irish inscription). Nave and transepts
were laid bare and open from their immense gable ends, and the tower
flung from the four splendid arches that supported it, but the old
vaulted roof of the choir still remains; and here, it is said, in this
remoteness, is the only ancient church of the Irish where, amid the
universal destruction and confiscation, they have been able to carry
on their old worship from the old days till now. In this land of the
banished--“to hell or Connacht”--mass was without ceasing celebrated
in the choir; and from the hearts of the worshippers kneeling in the
nave and transepts under the open sky a prophecy arose that when the
church was roofed once more Ireland would be freed. Songs still sung
among Connacht peasants tell of such services amid ruins of their holy
places, the priests wet with the rain, the women’s clothes bedraggled,
the men carrying small stone flags so as to have a dry spot for their
knees. Not in any way was such a place like an English cathedral, but
if brave men’s vows and prayers and tears for seven centuries can
confer human interest the stones of Ballintober are precious.

The problem remains, however (for insoluble problems beset every false
position) that according to Mr. Falkiner’s theory the history of towns
and cathedrals only began with “the English ownership.” How was it
that these Englishmen left none of their “romantic charm” there? What
strange history lies hidden behind this saying?

Another historian takes up the same taunt--a true scholar and worker
who has added to our knowledge of the close of Stuart rule in Ireland.
“The Irish,” says Dr. Murray, “are indeed a strange race.... No
monument marks the site where the Irish hero and the Irish thinker
repose.... The graves of a patriot like Owen Roe O’Neill, and of a
statesman like Archbishop King ... are unknown. The thrill that an
Englishman feels in Westminster Abbey when he enters the presence
of the mighty dead is denied an Irishman, for he has not taken care
of the dust of his immortals.” A memorial by the defeated Irish to
Archbishop King of Dublin, ardent supporter of the Dutch conqueror,
passionate worker for the Protestant succession, four times Lord
Justice for the government of Ireland under William in those days of
agony and despair--this is a lofty counsel of perfection, such as we
give to others. The Irish raised no monument to Owen Roe O’Neill--no
monument, with Cromwell’s soldiers abroad in the land, to the general
proclaimed by the English Government “traitor, rebel, disturber of the
common peace”--is that the charge? Alas! I wonder from that day to this
what welcome would have been given in a Protestant churchyard, guarded
by the conquerors, to an Irish memorial over the grave of Owen Roe
O’Neill. The dust of the Irish immortals lies indeed far scattered. Has
Dr. Murray ever stood in the solitary burial places of Rath Croghan,
of Iniscaltra, of Clonmacnois? Has he counted the stones in Athenry
or those heaped up in Burris? Has he seen the bones of the martyrs
strewn from sea to sea? Surely he himself has told us that “the Irish
custom of burying their dead in an old ruined church or monastery
was forbidden,” and that not by the Irish, but by the Church of the
English. From the Reformation until eighty-two years ago every Irish
Catholic was needs carried at death to a Protestant cemetery, and it is
only within the life-time of men now living that, when Catholic prayers
at the grave were denied, the Irish people at last secured in 1829 a
burying place of their own.

This fiction of a “strange race” has become a kind of special
philosophy which is dragged in to interpret the most ordinary actions
of the Irish. For example, “the march of the soldiery upset the balance
of the excitable Irish farmer, and he neglected his land”--a fact
which in any other country would need no “race” explanation. Through
the story of that war, whose end was to transfer the soil of Ireland,
five-sixths of it, to lords of another race and religion, the old
inhabitants of two thousand years’ possession are made to appear as
“the Irish factions”; their vice is patent, while English crimes are
accidental, inadvertent, or high-spirited. If we want to know why the
Irish people lost faith in the Stuarts who had betrayed and outraged
them at every turn, we are referred to the simple habits of a strange
and childish race. “The Celt wants to see a sovereign regularly in
order to adore him”: “A principle must be set forth by a person, and
the more attractive the person the stronger the hold of the principle.”
As we watch the strong ceaseless current of Irish life such theories
are swept beyond our sight. The Irish poet told his people another tale:

  “It is the coming of King James that took Ireland from us,
  With his one shoe English and his one shoe Irish
  He would neither strike a blow nor would he come to terms,
  And that has left, so long as they shall exist, misfortune
        upon the Gaels.”

In his laborious work on the Norman settlement, Mr. Orpen deals with
the Irish in the usual conventional manner:--“The members of this
family were always killing one another.” “The chieftain ... had no
higher conception of duty than to increase the power of his clan;
with this object in view, he was stayed by no scruples”; as for the
clansman, “the sentiment for ‘country’ in any sense more extended than
that of his own tribal territory, was alike to him and to his chief
unknown.” This description, like the terms “tribal” and “nomad,” has
long been habitual, and accepted with as little enquiry as those words.
Mr. Orpen’s clients, the “Normans,” we may assume to have been nobly
free from any such barbarous notions of individual aggrandisement,
regardless of “their country’s” claims.

Mr. Bagwell, the leading historian of the English occupation under
Tudors and Stuarts, throws his searchlight on the Irish:--“They were
barbarous, but they could appreciate virtue.” “The Irish were subtle,
fond of license, and ready for anything as long as it was not for
their good.” May we remember the saying of the Irish themselves in
those days:--“Ask for nothing that you would not deem a benefit to
you, and before all praise God.” Again, according to Mr. Bagwell, “the
people had no other idea of trade than to extort exorbitant prices.”
This quality scarcely seems to need a racial explanation; it has
been found elsewhere in time of war. But under all circumstances the
“primeval” theory of Irishmen must be maintained. The character of
the “natives”--using this word with its “savage” implication--plays a
great part in our history. Thus, when a boat load of treasure from the
Armada was washed on shore Mr. Bagwell notes that “such unaccustomed
wares as velvet and cloth of gold, fell into the hands of the natives.”
Cloth of gold and velvet had for centuries been known to the wealthy
Irish; even in England they were not the clothing of the “natives,”
if such a term could be applied to Englishmen. Again we are told that
“the Irish, by being held always at arm’s length, had become more Irish
and less civilised than ever”; _held at arm’s length_ is an ingenious
phrase for evicting a people from their homes, and throwing them out
on bogs and mountains. The hardships of hunted famine-stricken outlaws
hanging round their old homes, is represented in this kind of history
as the life which would be naturally chosen by wild Irish “nomads.”
“True children of the mist, they [the O’Tooles] either bivouacked in
the open or crept into wretched huts to which Englishmen hesitated to
give the name of houses. They cultivated no land.” “Thus one by one
did the chiefs of tribal Ireland devour each other.” As for “the men
of free blood, whose business had always been fighting, and who would
never work ... when the chiefs were gone they had nothing to do but to
plunder, or to live at the expense of their more industrious, but less
noble, neighbours.” “The island was poor and the people barbarous, and
no revenue could be expected.” It is true, indeed, that the wealth did
not go the way of the Crown; officials had other uses for it.

In the same way Mr. Chart, in his study of Irish life during the
dark years after the Union--years of acute suffering, hunger,
disillusionment and despair--discovers “a sullen discontent which,
as usually happens in Ireland, broke out occasionally into acts of
lawlessness and barbarity,” as if some special form of iniquity had its
home in Ireland. At a time when the whole people in England were in a
turmoil of revolt, on the verge of revolution, he mourns “the fatal
Irish tendency to rush into extremes,” and that magistrates and police
had to accustom “a hot-headed and violent-tempered race to curb itself
within legal limits”--as if this was an unusual fact, peculiar to this
one race of the world, predestinate to evil. It would seem that in
Ireland alone it is not safe to give any man “full and unconstrained
control over his personal and political enemies,” and therefore
“Ireland is no country for a volunteer police.”

I suppose there is not another history in the world in which this
free slinging of blame and advice is continuously kept up at so fine
a pitch. If a problem in Irish life lifts its head, some puzzling
fact or tendency that demands explanation, a stone is ready in the
orthodox historian’s sling: the dilemma is ended by one of the useful
words--“primitive,” “tribal,” “kerne,” “nomad,” “barbarous,” “Celtic.”
By constant reiteration I fancy writer and reader now scarcely notice
them, so much have they become the symbols of Irish history, and so
deeply have they sunk into the public mind.

Thus the stream of calumny still flows on. The latest voice from
Trinity College, that of Professor Mahaffy, in his Introduction to the
third volume of the “Georgian Society,” is of the old familiar type.
It should be, he explains, “the interest and duty” of historians to
maintain certain desirable opinions--this, according to Dr. Mahaffy,
adds to their credibility. Once more, therefore, we have from him
“the elements of primeval savagery which still existed in the Irish
people, and which they had in common with almost all primitive races
and societies” (and this by the way, in the 18th century, after six
hundred years of English compulsion). How well we know the old battered
and time-exhausted phrase! Of course we have again our old friend,
the story of O’Cahan sitting with the naked women, served up as the
ever-repeated type of all the generations of Irish in their habitual
squalor. For, we are told, “since the earliest times the greater part
of the Irish ... have not found any discomfort in squalor.” But for
English law this singular people would apparently never put on clothes
at all, winter or summer, good or bad weather, in any northern gale
from the Arctic ice. Ulstermen now-a-days are certainly a degenerate
race in physical endurance.

It is interesting to follow this story of O’Cahan.

The story begins with a Bohemian baron, name unknown, whom Foynes
Moryson, an Englishman, saw on one occasion. Here is the exact
tale:--“The foresaid Bohemian baron, coming out of Scotland to us by
the north parts of the wild Irish, told me in great earnestness (when
I attended him at the Lord Deputy’s command), that he coming to the
house of the O’Cane, a great lord among them, was met at the door with
sixteen women, all naked, excepting their loose mantles; whereof eight
or ten were very fair, and two seemed very nymphs; with which strange
sight his eyes being dazzled, they led him into the house, and there
sitting down by the fire with crossed legs like tailors, and so low as
could not but offend chaste eyes, desired him to sit down with them.
Soon after O’Kane, the lord of the country, came in all naked excepting
a loose mantle and shoes, which he put off as soon as he came in, and
entertaining the baron after his best manner in the Latin tongue,
desired him to put off his apparel, which he thought to be a burden to
him, and to sit naked by the fire with his naked company.”

Now on this tale let me make two or three remarks.

We may ask, in the first place, why this one story is repeated on every
occasion by historians of what I might call the “savage” type; why,
omitting all other accounts, it is singled out as the typical instance
of daily life in Ireland. Is this one of the views which, according
to Dr. Mahaffy, it should be “the interest and duty” of impartial and
loyal historians to maintain?

The story originated with a “Bohemian baron,” of whom we know nothing;
it was reported by the English secretary of Mountjoy, whom he praises
for the number of “rebels” he had “brought to their last home”; to both
of them the Irish were nothing more than savages of a low type. We may
remember that this is the only story of the kind cited from Ulster. A
Spanish captain, escaped from the Armada, travelled through Connacht
and Ulster and the O’Cahan country for several months of hiding from
English soldiers; he too talked Latin in the many Irish houses which
gave him shelter, but in the book of his wanderings there is no such
incident as this.

There would seem to be need of some strictness of enquiry--some caution
in discussing the tale. At the best the outlines of the baron’s story
are vague. What decorations he himself may have introduced into it,
and what further ornaments Fynes Moryson may have added, we do not
know. We may, perhaps, judge by the embellishments which later writers
have introduced. It is possible that the baron and the secretary,
not inferior to their successors in contempt of the Irish, may have
equalled them also in literary skill and the gift of embroidering a
narrative. Let us see, therefore, some of these decorations.

Froude takes up the tale:--“If Fynes Moryson may be believed, the
daughters of distinguished Ulster chiefs squatted on the pavement
round the hall fires of their father’s castles, in the presence of
strangers, as bare of clothing as if Adam had never sinned.” Here we
see the “women,” who, for all the original story has to tell us, might
be servants, dependants, or refugees gathered in from the war and
pillage by which O’Cahan’s country was then ravaged, are transformed
into “daughters of chiefs,” the “house” turns into “pavements” by the
“hall-fires of castles,” and the incident has become a universal custom.

Then Professor Mahaffy arrives with a series of versions. “O’Cahan,
though living in a hovel, could speak Latin.” More particularly, it
was a shantie of mud and wattles, without rafters, and the cattle
and swine occupied the same room as the masters; so he explains in a
lecture on “Elizabethan Ireland.” A more circumstantial account appears
in “An Epoch in Irish History.” In this the traveller is received by
the “ladies of the chieftain’s household.” “They brought him into the
thatched cabin which was their residence,” and throwing off their
mantles invited him to do likewise before the chief came in--an
invitation which the unknown “women” of the baron’s tale did not give.
The baron’s “house” has already changed into castles with pavements,
then into a hovel, and a thatched cabin, but the picture of savagery
is not yet lurid enough, and there is a further transformation which,
possibly from its supposed importance, is dragged into a description of
society in the Dublin Georgian houses of the 18th century. “The O’Cahan
in his wigwam, surrounded by his stark naked wives (why not squaws?)
and daughters, addressed the astonished foreign visitor in fluent
Latin.” The “wigwam” and the “wives” show the unimpaired fertility
of Professor Mahaffy’s imagination. His pronouncements, the _Irish
Times_ assures us of this essay, “carry historical value of the highest
degree.” It will be interesting to watch his further adornments of his
favourite tale. It will also be interesting to see how long professors
of Trinity College will still invite Irish students to enter there by
offering this curious bait of conventional insults to their race and
country, and new varieties of old slanders.

We might remember the scene in Galway a few years later, where
high-born ladies, plundered of all their property by the rapacious
soldiers, sinking with shame before the gaze of the public in their
ragged clothes, covered themselves with embroidered table-covers,
or a strip of tapestry taken from the walls, or lappets cut from
the bed-curtains, or with blankets, sheets, or table-cloths. “You
would have taken your oath,” says the contemporary writer, “that all
Galway was a masquerade, the unrivalled home of scenic buffoons, so
irresistibly ludicrous were the varied dresses of the poor women.” Why
do not the Colonial historians give this scene as showing the habitual
taste and pleasure of the Galway ladies?

Dr. Mahaffy has some other lights to throw on Irish history. “The
contempt for traders as such ... is,” he says, “like all such
prejudice in Ireland, the survival of the contempt which the meanest
members of any Irish clan felt for any profession save that of arms,
and the preying on the churl.” The despisers of trade whom he is
describing in this passage are the English landowners of the Williamite
settlement, who had finally ousted the Irish from their lands, and
taken them over as Protestant Englishmen, men of “a better race.” This
conquering class naturally felt a contempt for their victims, the
evicted Catholic Irish, who were allowed for the benefit of their lords
and rulers to plough and to trade, while deprived of civil and social
rights. But I do not know how those lordly squires would like to have
heard that they represented the prejudices of “the meanest member of an
Irish clan,” accustomed to prey on “the churl,” whoever he was. As for
the Irish clansman who is supposed to look on traders as outcasts, he
appears to be a fiction of the essayist’s fancy. Where in Irish records
will proofs be found of contempt for a trader? Their story seems to be
quite the other way. It may be convenient, however, for the defaming of
the Irish to despise and ignore those records. Moreover, since Irish
abbeys and cathedrals have been pronounced by Mr. Litton Falkiner not
to be like the English ones, why need an Irish writer stoop into their
ruins to seek out the story written there? No, it is easier to keep
the slander running, to swell its volume, and to increase its violence.
Yet in those ruins any man who will may look upon the countless tombs
of Irishmen who (so long as the conqueror’s law allowed their desolate
companies to enter the ancient shrines) were borne by their friends
to rest in the roofless nave or before the high altar under great
slabs with the signs of their trade, the tailor’s instruments, the
carpenter’s tools, and the mason’s, the labourer’s plough, and the
trader’s ship, deeply graven beside their names--no emblems of shame in
those last sanctuaries of the Irish people.

Social life in Ireland, through all the ages, Dr. Mahaffy describes as
especially immoral. The young girls, he says, were generally accessible
to the squire and his sons all through Irish history, and suffered
no disgrace, but married all the better for such an adventure. “All
through Irish history” is a liberal and characteristic phrase to use
of English squires and their sons. The tradition of absolute landlord
power still lives in the Irish country-side, when girls were told the
price at which they might save their family from being driven out
of the home held by their ancestors for hundreds of years, and left
to die on the roadside of hunger, or in the coffin-ship of plague.
With security of tenure for the Irish poor such ordeals have passed
into history. As for reports of English tourists, they resemble the
travellers’ tales which everywhere and at all times various countries
have heard on the manners of their neighbours. It is well to remember
Gibbon’s reflection on general charges of this sort. Manuel, Emperor
of the East, visited England in 1400, and coming from Constantinople
was shocked at English conduct:--“The most singular circumstance of
their manners,” he reported, “is their disregard of conjugal honour
and of female chastity. In their mutual visits, as the first act of
hospitality, the guest is welcomed in the embraces of their wives and
daughters; among friends they are lent and borrowed without shame; nor
are the islanders offended at this strange commerce.” “We may smile at
the credulity, or resent the injustice of the Greek,” Gibbon reflects,
“but his credulity and injustice may teach an important lesson; to
distrust the accounts of foreign and remote nations, and to suspend
our belief of every tale that deviates from the laws of nature and the
character of man.”

English writers have forgotten a grave disadvantage to themselves in
the moral tale of the good and bad man (besides its incredibility
and its dullness). In this version of Irish history the Englishman’s
triumph remains a poor thing, destitute of interest or value, where
the fame of the victor is abased and confounded by the worthlessness
of his foe. The Irish warriors are mostly described as drunkards,
cowards, and barbarians. Dr. Mahaffy likens Shane O’Neill to a Moor
or a Zulu. Hugh of Tyrone “was a polished courtier on the surface,
with a barbarous core.” Here is Mr. Bagwell’s portrait of Shane,
whose organisation and defence of Ulster cost Elizabeth over £147,000
of English money (in modern money probably over £1,500,000) without
counting the enormous cesses laid on the country, and three thousand
five hundred of her soldiers slain. “He is said to have been a
glutton, and was certainly a drunkard.” The story of drunkenness
seems to have originated in his mud-baths, such as are now commonly
ordered for rheumatism. Once started, the fable was persistent. “That
drunken brain was, nevertheless, clear enough to baffle Elizabeth for
a long time.” His conduct of a war which cost Elizabeth so much is
described:--“Shane, who had been indulging as usual in wine or whisky,
came up at the moment.” “Shane, who was never remarkable for dashing
courage, retired into the wood.” “Shane, whose reputation for courage
is not high, slipped out at the back of his tent.” So, I believe, did
de Wet, instead of waiting to be killed. At the last, “the love of
liquor probably caused his death”; here indeed Mr. Bagwell contradicts
the Lord Deputy Sidney himself, who boasts that Shane was tricked
and murdered by a Scotsman in Sidney’s pay, the last of a series of
attempts at assassination. From the point of view that “barbarians”
are usually childish, Mr. Bagwell tells how the important chiefs,
MacWilliam Burke and MacGillapatrick, were given titles and robes of
Earl and Baron, “in the belief that titles and little acts of civility
would weigh more with these rude men than a display of force.” He
complains that the best-laid English military plans of occupation of
this country, instead of proceeding without interruption from the
natives, might be “frustrated by one of those unexpected acts of
treachery in which Irish history abounds.” However, even in treachery
the Irish were incompetent. “Irish plots are commonly woven in sand.”
“In this, as in so many other Irish insurrections, there was no want of
double traitors; of men who had neither the constancy to remain loyal,
nor the courage to persevere in rebellion.”

With such a rabble we can only wonder that there was any need of an
English army at all; or how the conflict could last a year (not to
say a few hundreds of them); or why England should have sent over her
very best generals, her stoutest governors, and a prodigious deal
of her gold. It was the bogs, apparently, that swallowed up those
inconceivable hosts and coins.

Under the “savage” theory military matters lose all interest; but
they are given to us with pitiless detail. Expeditions of soldiers
against famine-stricken peasants without arms, raids of mere slaughter,
the chasing of outlaws from a lake island, are described with the
minuteness of a genuine campaign. These things, no doubt, are in the
books. There are plenty of reports from officials, very humanly anxious
to justify themselves or to magnify their feats. But history after all
claims some revising power, and we need another standard of proportion
than the vanity of a lieutenant. It is impossible to give vitality to
a story in which highly armed and civilised Englishmen are represented
as wiping out with cannon and gunpowder a savage and unarmed crowd
of peasants--in which honour, courage, and progress are supposed to
be eternally confronted with chicanery, barbarity, and treachery. No
one wants to hear that tale. Such a history turns to inconceivable
tediousness, of no use to any living soul.

Meanwhile vast tracts of history have been set aside as apparently
not worth exploring. Where, for example, shall we find a serious
account, with the guidance of modern scholarship, of the hundred and
fifty years between the battle of Clontarf and the landing of the
Norman barons. The people were no longer in the tribal state. The
change to a kind of feudalism had come. What was the form of that
feudalism? How did it differ from the system that had grown out of
other conditions elsewhere? There is not so much as a chapter in any
book, or a pamphlet, occupied with the land system of the earlier
middle ages, what changes the Norman settlement brought, or what forms
of social life did actually exist. The campaign of Edward Bruce is
usually said to be a central turning point in Irish history, but who
will guide us to any adequate study of it? There are no monographs on
Desmonds, O’Neills, O’Donnells, Fitzgeralds, Butlers, Clanrickards,
and so on. No annals of the provinces or kingdoms have been compiled,
nor chronologies. The work of the two great Earls of Kildare is one
of the most critical periods of Irish history: it still awaits a
historian. Who has examined the history of the schools and education?
Who has worked out the industrial development? How can we learn what
were the negotiations by which Henry VIII. carried the claim to be King
of Ireland? Here are fields too long deserted waiting for workers.
Here are a few of the immense voids, into which our writers fling,
like bundles of dried straw, their vain words--“savage,” “primeval,”
“lawless,” “brutish,” and the rest. In the history of Ireland nothing
has been completed. That which is unknown disturbs, and may overturn
the vulgar conclusions from the fragments known. We are for ever
walking through a country unmapped. To be sure it is full of sign-posts
put up at hazard--“To English Civilisation.” Where every road is marked
to lead to the same inn, why should travellers discuss, debate, and ask
questions? What reason can there be to loiter by the way? The English
fingerpost is always there.

Some day perhaps the Irish race in this island will no longer seem to
lie beyond the need, and below the honour, of the historical method.
Ireland will have a history like other nations. It is possible to
conceive that out of its peoples, English or Irish, there may arise
some great thinker or poet who will set before us the two civilizations
that have met here; in other words, the efforts by which two highly
endowed races endeavoured to solve the problem that has perplexed
every people that has ever yet appeared in this world--how to shape a
community where men may live in safety, freedom, and happiness. The
Celts had waged the fight for their civilization to the walls of Rome
itself. They had left the valleys of the Danube and the Rhine and the
plains of Gaul red with their blood. Now, on the outermost border of
the world their last conflict awaited them. Within the mountain rim
of Ireland, with silent Nature to keep the lists, two peoples met to
fight out the last issues on that fatal soil. Here, imprisoned by
the Ocean, the antagonists stood for centuries to their battle: every
passion exalted, the splendours of courage, the majesty of despair,
all skill of surprises, all glory of chivalry, triumph and sorrow,
Christian pieties, and the surging up amid the upheaval of human
nature of the mysterious superstitions of elemental man, and of his
ferocities. What affections of race lay behind such a struggle? What
was its meaning? What of beauty, of happiness, or of virtue did each
civilization in fact offer to man? What was gained, what was lost? Here
would have been a history of fire and flame, a new outlook on the fate
of commonwealths, a theme worthy of an English or an Irish patriot.

In the long task of giving its true balance to the history of Ireland,
by the discovery of all the facts, and the adjudging of their place,
controversy will be lively. Every Irishman for certain will be ready
for a battle of wits. But let us keep our intelligence perfectly
clear on one point. We shall hear a great deal of “impartiality” and
a “judicial mind.” Here we must make no mistake. Impartiality of
intellect need not mean insensibility of heart. Let us suppose that the
intellect should have no pre-possession at all, not even in favour of
English civilization, nor of the idol of the market-place, “the Wealth
of Nations”--its delicate balance should drop now on this side, now on
that, without a shadow of prejudice or a hint of obstinacy, abhorrent
of convention, with never a predilection. But impartiality of the
heart--that is another matter. Who will pretend to comprehend human
life who has no great affection of the soul? The generous heart knows
no balancing hesitation between the man who deserts his country and the
man who defends it; he alone can interpret the hero in whose soul some
answering passion flames; and I suppose that the understanding of a
commonwealth will best come to him who is most responsive to a variety
of human emotions. I think we could do with a change of partialities in
Ireland--fewer orthodox predilections of the head, if it might be so,
and some illumination from the heart.

A new examination of Irish history is indeed of the utmost importance
to our people. The leading reviews, text-books, and histories in
England with one accord have presented Ireland to the English people
under the “savage” aspect, and their statements have been too
frequently accepted. Hear the common opinion as Tennyson put it:
“Kelts are all made furious fools.... They live in a horrible island,
and have no history of their own worth the least notice. Could not
anyone blow up that horrible island with dynamite and carry it off
in pieces--a long way off?” The same gloomy picture is still spread
before England. Mr. Fletcher, a Fellow of All Souls, records that “it
was quite common to bleed a cow for a refreshing drink of blood,” and
that “there were no exports save the said cow-skins,” though with these
the Irish apparently managed to buy “red seas of claret.” Shane O’Neill
was killed “by his own people whom he was plundering!” Degradation
was universal, as we learn from a sentence absolutely amazing in its
colossal and unscrupulous ignorance--“though his name had once been
FitzNigel or de Burgh, it gradually became O’Neill or O’Bourke!” Mr.
Rudyard Kipling joins Mr. Fletcher in declaring that Irish history
“was all broken heads and stolen cows, as it had been for a thousand
years,” and that Irishmen had no interest or care for their religion
till they discovered a use for it as a warcry against England. Accounts
of Ireland equally contrary to fact and common sense serve in political
controversy. English politicians assert on platforms that Irishmen
of themselves had never any national life or duty at all, that the
first gleam of true patriotism was taught them by England since the
Union, that Ireland had no conception of a Parliament till England
gave it to her people, when the boon was so misused and misunderstood
by an incompetent race (the English in Ireland, be it remembered)
that in the higher interests of man it had to be withdrawn. As for
the desire of self-government, “some people said it was a matter of
historical sentiment. The humour of it was that there never was a real
Irish kingdom at all. The Parliament which it was sought to restore
to Ireland was given to it by England. The historical sentiment and
loyalty which Mr. John Redmond was talking was the greatest humbug that
was ever preached.” There are others who argue, Dr. Mahaffy among them,
that practically there is not any more a Celtic race in Ireland, but
one so mixed in blood that it no longer, if it ever did, contains the
materials of a nation. The Celtic people, to their honour, have never
denied a national brotherhood to Danes, Normans, English, or Palatines,
who loyally entered into the Irish commonwealth. But as to political
theories of the vanishing of the race, we have only to examine them
by known facts, and turn to the Report of the Registrar-General in
1909 for proof that in the mingling of peoples the Celtic is still the
predominant element over all the rest; and if this proof is conclusive,
even in the register of merely Irish names, how enormous would be its
increased weight if we could reckon in Celtic families the change from
Irish names which has gone on ceaselessly since the thirteenth century,
and is still constantly occurring at this moment--a change which,
however lamentable, cannot alter the blood and the inheritance.

Irishmen are often warned to waste no time in looking back at the past.
But if England draws the moral from her interpretation of history,
we must learn our lesson too--only it must be a lesson more serious,
exact, and worthy of an educated people. We have had experience of
how profound and vicious may be the practical effect of a history
unscientific, irresponsible, prejudiced, and incomplete. Out of
ignorance of the past, what sound policy can grow for the future? I
suppose that in civilized Europe, among the speeches on State affairs
of prominent statesmen, we could find no parallel to historical
verdicts so crude and unsubstantial as those which are given to us by a
certain group of political leaders and writers in England, concerning
the Irish portion of the “Empire” of which they make their boast.
How many are the ignorances and negligences which still do service
unreproved among those who claim to be the chief upholders of a “United
Kingdom,” and exponents of the “Imperial” faith.

In Ireland we have still indeed a heavy road to travel. When history
has been written, what about the teaching of it, or the learning, in
this country? Who will make the way free for that?

Let me put this matter before you by way of contrast. You have heard
the fame of Sparta, the land of heroes who won at the Thermopylæ a
far-shining glory that will ever stir the hearts of men. Montaigne
reminds us that in the matchless policy of Sparta to build up a noble
State, it is worthy of great consideration that the education of the
children was the first and principal charge. “And, therefore, was it
not strange,” he says, “if Antipater requiring fifty of their children
for hostages, they answered clean contrary to what we would do, ‘that
they would rather deliver him twice so many men’; so much did they
value and esteem the loss of their country’s education.” Now in this
training up of men to be citizens of the finest quality, the only one
book-study absolutely enforced in Sparta was History--to the mockery
and contempt of neighbouring Doctors of letters and literature of the
time. “Idiots and foolish people,” scoffed the high-class Athenian
professor, adept in polite languages and fine phrasing and the
elegancies of culture, and not neglectful of the profits to be got by
professing them; “idiots and foolish people, who only amuse themselves
to know the succession of kings, and establishing and declination of
estates, and such-like trash of flim-flam tales.” Socrates, you may be
sure, did not join in these sarcasms. Sparta had shown the honour and
manhood that history can teach, and how it can make of men champions of
their country, keepers of their forefathers’ fame, and rivals of their
own ancient heroes.

Side by side with this ancient instance we may put one of our own day.
There is a country which has suddenly risen to great eminence in war
and organisation, as it had long been famous in the arts, with which
England hastened to make alliance. That country is Japan. In Japan,
when the eldest son comes of age, it is the custom for his father to
take him a tour on foot round the country, visiting every place of fame
in its history, so that the youth may enter on man’s estate as a worthy
citizen of the State that bred him. These honourable pilgrims can be
met on every road. They have known, like the men of Sparta, the power
of history to fortify the mind and expand the soul. Every Japanese man
of character will tell you that in any serious enterprise he is in the
presence, in the company of the great Dead of his people. That by them
his purpose is ennobled, his courage uplifted, his solitude changed
into a great communion. We have seen how that spirit has exalted a

With such instances in our minds we may ask what we are doing in
Ireland. What kind of citizens are we building up for our own land?

As in England, so in Ireland, history has in the last dozen years been
made compulsory in the schools. But there is a difference. For Ireland
history is not a subject in itself. In our primary and intermediate
education Irish history is now a department of English language and
literature. At the age when impressions made on a youth’s mind are
certain to become the all-compelling habits of his later life, it is
suggested to him that the history of his country is less important
than the rules of English grammar, and that the achievements of his
father may at the best rank with the model sentences in which English
essayists write of Friendship and Gardens and Christmas. The student
for honours under the Intermediate system may, at his own will, prefer
a continental language to history. A pass-student might choose to gain
all the necessary marks in English grammar and composition alone; if he
has drunk in all that the amiable and unimportant Alexander Smith can
tell him “Of the Importance of a Man to Himself,” he may omit all that
the world can tell him “Of the Importance of a Man to his Country,” or
of his Country to him. Such knowledge may be left to the “idiots and
foolish people, who only amuse themselves to know the succession of
kings, and establishing and declination of estates, and such-like trash
of flim-flam tales.”

Nor is this the worst of the matter. Suppose that an Irish boy has
been stirred by what he has seen in his country home. There was,
perhaps, beside it a Danes’ Fort, a Giants’ Ring, one of the two
thousand mounds piled up in Ireland by human hands, a Rathcroghan, or
a mighty Ailech of the kings where legendary monarchs sleep on their
horses waiting for the day that shall call them to ride out. He may
have lived by a solemn burial place of great chiefs, by a round tower,
by a high cross deeply carved, by some island of saints rich in ruins
and sculptured slabs. He may have been taken to the Irish Academy and
seen the Psalter of Columcille; or to Trinity College to look on the
book of Kells; or to the National Museum to be turned loose among the
carved rocks, the copper cauldrons, the golden diadems and torques,
the mighty horns of bronze, the heavy Danish swords, the weights for
commerce, the marvels in metal and enamel work, the Tara brooch, the
Ardagh chalice, the Cross of Cong, the long array of crosiers and bells
and shrines and book-covers. He may learn by chance that his country
is the wonder of Europe for the wealth and beauty of its relics of the
past. Desire may come on him to know the story of a land so astonishing
in the visible records left by his ancestors. Descended from a race who
had history in their very blood and the glorious tradition of their
fathers, he may feel that old hereditary passion burn in his heart. He
will add history to his study of the English language and the essays of

But even in that case, once entered on the course of education provided
for him by the Intermediate Board, he will find through the whole of
his pass work or of his honour work not one word to tell him who made
the marvels he has seen. For in Anglicised Ireland it is ordered that
history shall begin in 1066. The Irish annals record a comet in that
year. But it is not for the comet the year is chosen, but because
the date of the Norman Conquest of England is to mark the beginning
of history for Ireland. From the first the student is caught by the
pleasant fiction which is now proclaimed on every Unionist platform
that Ireland “under the English ownership,” has no life save that which
England gives. Irish history is not to be the story of Ireland, but
of the “United Kingdom.” It is to travel with the fortunes of England
step by step. An exact care conducts the student through the centuries.
All dates are ruled by English text-books, never by periods of change
in Ireland. According to the step by step theory, if the Irish student
must begin his story of Ireland with William’s Conquest of England, he
must pause at the end of the English Wars of the Roses. What matter
if that close of a period in England happens in Ireland to be in full
midway of a very extraordinary racial and constitutional movement full
of vital energy? The teacher must by order cut his story in half,
and start again to pull up his next course sharply at the death of
Elizabeth, a merely nominal date in Ireland, which ended or began
nothing. There the next period opens by order, and ended this present
year at a date (1784) when it would be absolutely impossible for an
Irish teacher to call a halt except by stopping in the middle of a
sentence; and for the coming year is to close at 1760, before the first
movement for the emancipation of the Irish Parliament. Not a word will
the Irish youth hear of the Irish kingdoms and schools and craftsmen
and merchants, nor of the Danes and their fleets, nor of the Irish
culture spread over Europe. He would know nothing of Columcille and the
work of Iona, nor of Columbanus and the work of St. Gall and of Bobio.
Nothing will be told of St. Brendan and his sailing to the west; nor
of learned Fergil the Geometer, who in spite of the orthodox theories
of an impassable equator, alone maintained that there were living men
at the antipodes; nor of the Irish goldsmiths and builders. Cormac’s
chapel must go. The very name of Brian Boru is expunged. There can be
no mention of the five hundred years of Irishmen’s fame in Europe as
classical scholars, philosophers, saints, merchants, or travellers.
The centuries of Ireland’s history as a free and independent country
are blotted out, and he may catch no glimpse of his people save in
the various phases of their material subjugation. During his entire
course he can turn no wandering eye on an Ireland that had any art,
literature, or industry of its own--a place where anything may have
happened on its own account, or where any interest may lie detached
from an English book of chronology.

This disastrous conception of the “Union” as a kind of amalgamation
of countries in which all national limits are submerged and lost
follows the Irishman at home and abroad. He can scarcely set foot in
Europe save in the track of Irish wanderers of every age whose fame
should be his glory. But the shadow of this distorted notion hangs
round him--the shadow of the predominant sharer of all the effort
and fortune of his people. In the published Catalogue of the MSS. in
the Royal Library at Brussels, he must look for the Irish Annals and
historical documents under the one heading _Angleterre_, without even a
sub-heading _Irlande_. In Switzerland, surrounded by relics of the six
hundred and thirteen dependent houses of St. Gall, whence Irish monks
restored civilization to that land, he will be told at S. Beatenberg by
the guide-books that S. Beatus was _British_, and by local tradition
that he was Scotch. At the shrine of San Pellegrino in the Apennines,
he will hear praises of a _Scotch_ king’s son. In Rome he will learn
that _England_ was “the Isle of Saints.” Against these ignorances his
training in Ireland gives him no protection. Similar fallacies pursue
him across the Atlantic. Let him go to America, and Washington Irving
will tell him of the mariner whose story was one of the moving causes
that led Columbus to enquire of the land beyond the Ocean, and will
inform him that this famous St. Brendan was a _Scotch_ monk. Many
others he will find ignorant of history, and above all anxious not to
identify Ireland with any of her children that have done great things.
Mr. Whitelaw Reid will explain to him that the emigrants from Ulster to
America, the Ulster-born leaders who fought for American independence
in counsel, in convention, and in the field; the “Sons of St. Patrick”
who poured out their money and their blood for Washington--that all
these were _Scotchmen_, of no Irish kin or race, whose followers and
descendants have manfully rejected the term “Scotch-Irish” because it
“confused the race with the accident of birth,” and called themselves
“Ulster Scots” to show they had no part or lot with the Irish by blood
(_Celtic Review_, Jan., 1912). He apparently sees in the Presbyterian
religion of the “Ulster Scot” some subtle evidence of a nobler and
more distinguished origin than the “Scotch Irish,” some guarantee of
Low-German or English stock.

The new school of American Irish, who under the influence of the
“Anglo-Saxon” enthusiasm, or with a desire to be on the winning side,
lay claim to a “Scotch” descent, ignore the historical meaning of the
word “Scot,” or the origin of the name “Scotland.” In vain for them
authentic history may tell of the ceaseless wanderings of the Gaelic
people across the narrow seas. From Ireland the Scots in early times
spread over the Hebrides and western Highlands, and carried their
settlements and speech over the Lowlands of the Picts and Britons
to the very borders of the little English colony of the Lothians,
leaving the western and middle Lowlands the most Celtic region in
Scotland. Irish folk settled freely in Scotland until the confiscation
of Ulster; as for example when the Monroes and Currys crossed the
sea, about 1300, with a number of other noble families who obtained
grants of land. Inter-marriage was very frequent at all times. Back
to Ireland again came streams of immigrants from the “Scot” or Irish
settlements across the water. The mingled race of Celts and Norse from
the Hebrides and the Highlands, all alike talking Irish and claiming
Irish descent, poured colonies into Ireland without ceasing from 1250
to 1600, forefathers of hundreds of thousands to-day of Irish family.
The western and middle Lowlands (along with the Highlands) sent from
1600 the main body of settlers of the Ulster Plantation, chiefly
of Picto-Celtic stock; most of the first settlers must have been
bi-lingual, speaking not only “Broad Scots” but their native Gaelic,
which in 1589 was still the chief language of Galloway. Scots and Irish
were the same to Henry VIII., whose servant Alen protested in 1549
against any “liberty” for the Irish, which, he said, was “the only
thing that Scots and wild Irish constantly contended for.” The Scots
of the Isles were known to Elizabeth as “those Yrishe people,” “the
Yrishes”; the “English Scots” whom she employed in her Irish wars were
so called from their political faction and Protestant religion, not
from any difference of blood from their brethren. In 1630 the scholar
Bedell included Irish and Scots in one single group; “and surely it
was a work agreeable to the mind of God that the poor Irish, being a
very numerous nation, besides the greater half of Scotland, and all
those islands called Hebrides, that lie in the Irish Sea, and many of
the Orcades also that speak Irish, should be enabled to search the
Scriptures.” The old Irish of Ulster in 1641 excepted the Scots from
their hostile measures as being of their own race, and this only a
generation after the Plantation, when most of the evicted Irish must
have been still alive. Jeremy Taylor in 1667 describes the Scots and
Irish of north-east Ulster as “_populus unius labii_ and unmingled with
others.” Over whole districts, where half the population at least were
Presbyterian descendants of Scottish immigrants, the speech of the
people even in the eighteenth century was Gaelic. For some fourteen
centuries indeed common schools of learning, a common literature,
common national festivals, maintained the unbroken tradition of unity
of race; it was from Ireland, in an Irish translation, that the Bible
reached the Highlands. The kings of Scotland long kept the remembrance
of their connexion with the remote generations of the race of Gaedhel
Glas. Dr. Norman Moore in his “Medicine in the British Isles,” (149)
has preserved a Highland tradition told him by Field-Marshal Sir
Patrick Grant whose memory was full of the old Gaelic stories and
verses; that at the Scottish coronation of Charles I. ancient Gaelic
phrases of installation were used for the last time.

Among the men whom Mr. Whitelaw Reid selects to give glory to the
“Scotch” race as distinguished from the Irish, we may take at chance
three examples. President MacKinlay came of the Hebridean race of
Gaelic Scots with a strong infusion of Norse blood, who, Norsemen and
Scots alike, boasted of Irish descent; they settled in Ireland about
1400 A.D., nor did the Antrim MacKinlays in later days ever speak of
themselves save as Irish. President Monroe belonged to an Irish Gaelic
family which had crossed to Scotland with a number of other noble
families about 1300, and obtained grants of land among their kin there.
Patrick Henry, whether he was of old Ulster race or of the Scottish
lowlands, unless clear proof to the contrary can be given by a detailed
pedigree, must be counted as a Celt or a Picto-Celt: one group of
Henrys in Ulster is descended from the MacHenry sept of the O’Neills
who lived on the Bann-side at the time of the Plantation; another
family, more ancient and probably more numerous, O h-Inneirghe, whose
surname is now written Henry, was the ruling sept of a district in the
south of Derry country. No one, unless he proves his case by direct
evidence, could truthfully and with knowledge assert that Patrick
Henry, or President Monroe, or President MacKinlay, were other than
representative Celts by race.

It would have been a strange doctrine to the Irish emigrants themselves
to tell them that they were Scotch. From 1720 they swarmed over to
people Pennsylvania, as if, men said at the time, Ireland was sending
out all its inhabitants--in one year alone (1729) no less than 5,655
Irish, to 267 English and Welsh, and 43 Scotch. There was a Scotch
Society of St. Andrew’s in Philadelphia (1749); but the emigrants from
Ireland, Catholic and Presbyterian alike, looked on themselves as plain
Irishmen, not Scotch; they gave to their settlements Irish names; the
wealthier men among them established in 1765 an “Irish Club”; out of
this they formed in 1771 the leading Irish organisation before and
during the Revolution--the famous Society of the “Friendly Sons of St.
Patrick.” There were at first but three Catholics in the Society, but
the Irish Presbyterians and Episcopalians of that day chose for their
patron the Saint of Ireland, not of Scotland, and for their President
a Catholic, Moylan, certainly not a Scotchman; they met on St.
Patrick’s Day; their medal bore figures of _Hibernia_ with a harp, and
_St. Patrick_ carrying a cross and trampling on a snake. The heroic
services of that devoted Society of Irishmen cannot be told here. After
the war it founded and became merged in the _Hibernian_ Society of “the
natives of Ireland or descendants of Irishmen” (so little did they fear
the name), for the relief of emigrants from Ireland. These Irishmen had
not yet learned to despise their race and country, and to invent for
themselves a new nation without any root in history.

In English history, where certain general lines of knowledge have
been laid down as the common property of educated men, serious lapses
are held a reproach: in Irish history an ambassador from the United
States to Great Britain and Ireland can allow himself to tell us that
an “Ulster Scot” is no more an Irishman than a man would be a horse if
born in a stable.

The imaginations of a mock “Imperial history,” by which all treasure
found is thrown “impartially” into the common stock of the United
Kingdom, in other words of Great Britain, leaving Ireland bare, belong
not to science but to politics. By such a perverted history the
honourable pride of a people may be transformed into humiliation and
self-distrust. They are made to stand before Europe with the appearance
of defeat, ruin, and rebuke; a race without the dignity of ever having
had a true civilization, incapable of development in the land they
wasted. What vigour or self-respect can grow out of a maimed history
such as this? Or can any promise of material advancement serve as
the substitute for a good reputation, or consolation for spiritual

We may take one notable instance of how since the Union ignorance of
Irish history has been officially fostered. In 1828 a lofty enterprise
was opened by Sir Thomas Larcom, director of the central office of
the newly-appointed Irish Ordnance Survey. The Survey maps were to be
constructed on such a scale as to be of use in correcting the unequal
pressure of taxation, and to serve as guides for local improvement.
Enquiry indeed was needed into the resources and conditions of a
country which Petrie describes--“the habitations of the people
miserable and comfortless, and the people themselves the most wretched
in the world. Joy will never brighten the prospect, misery never
disappear.” To carry out these orders Larcom planned a scheme on
noble lines. He held it necessary to complete the maps by making a
study in each parish of the state in which Nature had placed it, the
condition to which it had been brought by art, and the uses now made
by the people of their combination; in other words, there must be an
exact knowledge of the natural products of the country, its history
and antiquities, and its economic state and social condition. In this
scheme of elevated science an enquiry into past history was considered
necessary as a prelude to the proper understanding of the present
state--an enquiry which was to include all monuments of the past, Pagan
and Christian, all the traditions and accounts of them that remained,
the state of society in which they arose, the earliest history of the
people whose descendants might still inhabit the district, and the
changes which led to the present establishments for government.

The opportunity for carrying out this work was as surprising as its
conception. The great scholar Petrie, who was at the time founding the
museum of the Royal Irish Academy and in great measure founding too
its library, was in 1833 set at the head of the historical department
of the Survey, and charged with the task of collecting the true names
of baronies, townlands, and parishes, and the investigation of ancient
monuments. He gathered round him a staff of Irish scholars--men of the
soil, heirs of the Irish tradition--John O’Donovan, Eugene O’Curry, J.
O’Connor, P. O’Keefe, along with Clarence Mangan, Du Noyer, Wakeman,
and others, all filled with the same spirit, and fired with the
desire of producing a perfect work. Never perhaps had there been such
a combination of talent directed to the one end of restoring Irish
knowledge. For the first time during centuries of exclusion, Irish
students were brought into close and constant communication in their
own country with men of trained intelligence, and encouraged to use
their skill for the benefit of their country. Once more Ireland had
such a school as those which in the periods of her great revivals
in the twelfth and fifteenth centuries gathered up and left to us
all the relics of Irish history that we possess. Once more a kind of
peripatetic University was set up, in the very spirit of the older
Irish life.

The astonishing enthusiasm of these zealots is shown by the almost
incredible record of their work in half a dozen years. It is such
things as these that reveal to us the soul of Irish Nationality and
the might of its repression. We can but stand astonished before the
unstinted labour, before the miraculous accomplishment, of that
company of workers. The work was new, travel was slow, and hardship
frequent: but every difficulty vanished before their consuming ardour.
Petrie’s band has left, besides maps, sketches, and documents of a
general nature, not less than four hundred and sixty-eight large
volumes of documents relating to Irish topography, language, history,
and antiquities. A collection was made of over sixty thousand names,
of their mutations, their various spellings, their meanings, and
translations in English; when this work was completed a skilled Irish
scholar was sent to every district to learn there from Irish speakers
the vernacular name, and to collect traditions and legends, and note
any antiquities that had been omitted. The traditions of Ireland at
that time had not been wholly broken. In Petrie’s writings we can still
see the Irish multitudes who in the depth of their poverty preserved
the memories of their race and their holy places, and the national
pilgrims gathering round their old shrines “with the utmost fervency
of devotion, and in all their movements an abstracted intensity of
feeling that carries the mind back to remote times.” In spite of much
destruction, in spite of the lamentable absence in the new landlords
of Ireland of proper pride and national feeling, there still remained
a mass of ancient monuments preserved by the pious memories of the
people, crosses, graveyards, old paths, and names and histories; which
have been since swept away in the horrors of famine and emigration and
the devastating land commercialism let loose by the Encumbered Estates

The first memoir published by the Ordnance Survey in 1837, the account
of Derry, was hailed with universal enthusiasm. “Irishmen of all sects
and parties felt that in such work as this they would have for the
first time the materials for a true history of their country.” But
the Government interfered. The Topographical Survey was closed, the
staff discharged, and the vast mass of material, comprising among
other things upwards of four hundred quarto volumes of letters and
documents relating to the topography, language, history, antiquities,
productions, and social state of almost every county in Ireland, were
ordered to be kept, idle and useless, in the Survey Office at Mountjoy
barracks. The reason given was the cost. At this time England was
drawing from Ireland to her own use some three millions a year above
her expenditure there. It was shown that the sale of the memoir
was such as would probably defray the whole expense. The Government
objected to treating history and political economy as subjects which
might re-open questions of Irish party divisions: it was answered that
the events of history could not be buried in oblivion, since they had
occurred and their effects continue, and it was well for the public to
have a plain impartial record of bare facts, since on neither side were
the facts yet known.

In answer to the vehement protests of all Ireland, a Commission
was appointed under a new Government in 1843. It advised that the
work should be continued, and urged the importance of the time,
for monuments and language were alike disappearing: it recommended
that the vast mass of collected material now lying waste should
be published, since “no enquirer until the officers of the Survey
commenced their labours, has ever brought an equal amount of local
knowledge, sound criticism, and accurate acquaintance with the Irish
language to bear upon it.” The Government took no notice. It was
believed by the best-informed that some strong concealed influence
urged on ministers that it was dangerous to open up to the people the
memory of their fathers and their old society, or remind them of the
boundaries of their clans and families. In vain the best Irishmen of
the day, of every race and religion, pleaded for a braver view of
truth and statesmanship. Political influences, the fears of absentee
landlords or of a Protestant ascendancy, prevailed in London. English
rulers dreaded the knowledge of the Irish more than they dreaded their
ignorance; and the door was shut on history, science, and truth, with
the results that we have seen in succeeding generations.

By this act much knowledge was finally obliterated: no such opportunity
can ever occur again. Much more was set back for a hundred years, and
ignorance still left enthroned. We may still hear men professing, as
though time had stood still, the doctrines Petrie reported in vogue a
century ago: “The history and antiquities of Ireland previous to the
English Invasion, are wholly unworthy of notice, or, at best, involved
in obscurity and darkness such as no sane mind would venture to
penetrate.” Irish history, buried by two Governments, was supposed to
have no resurrection: instead of the serious enquiry inaugurated by the
old Survey, modern statesmen will assure us through Mr. Balfour that
for talk of Irish ideas and institutions, “there is no historic basis

The Royal Irish Academy applied for the custody of a part of the Survey
records, which were given to its keeping in 1860; and have there been
consulted for local or county histories. Meanwhile the Survey was
continued in an innocuous form without the historic virus. Directed
from Southampton, English “division officers” in Dublin, Belfast and
Cork conduct the Irish Survey. Their maps may serve practical purposes
of buying and selling land, and even present accurately all modern
features, police barracks and the like. But they offer doubtful help to
the curious historian on the road of scientific enquiry. The spirit and
purpose of the older research has been banished. Irish antiquities are
no longer objects of interest or of skilled observation; Irish names
are treated in many cases as an insurmountable difficulty; any ordered
attempt at their right spelling is abandoned. The ancient fort of
Lisnalinchy in Antrim has been allotted the happy name of _Silentia_,
as if to give to a deep-buried Irish history the respectability of a
mock Roman tombstone. Port-na-veadog, the port of the plover, appears
as Dog’s Bay. Professor Macalister, examining the ancient ruins on the
Carrowkeel mountain in Co. Sligo, has reported there the remarkable
site of one of the oldest village settlements in northern Europe,
with remains of over forty-seven structures; and hard by an ancient
cemetery with fourteen carns left by the old builders. The Survey
has been there, and has marked the height of the beacon it erected
on one of the finest of the carns, but has left on the map no record
of this conspicuous and striking carn as an ancient monument. The
most important of the structures, eighty-seven feet in diameter and
twenty-five in height, is marked by an indefinite symbol, and not
as having any character of antiquity. While nearly all the chief
carns were omitted, by some chance or curious scruple of conscience
one or two of the smaller examples have been noted. Of twenty-three
place names in the square mile of country only nine are recorded.
Names here and elsewhere are set down in an Anglicised and phonetic
spelling, often atrocious in form. As Professor Macalister observes,
nothing could more clearly prove than this characteristic effort of
the Ordnance Survey in Ireland the absolute necessity of a thorough
re-survey, under expert superintendence, of the archæology and place
names of the country. All historians, all Irishmen alike, must ardently
join in such an entreaty, for the honour of their land. Is it too much
to hope that this national work may not be for ever left to indifferent
hands, but that Irish scholars may yet be given the patriotic task of
saving what yet remains on Irish soil of the inheritance of her people.

Of one thing, however, we may be sure. The reform of Irish history
must begin in our own country, among our own people. Since it is
public opinion that at the last decides what our people shall learn of
their father-land, we ourselves must be the keepers of our fame and
the makers of our history. Let us in Ireland therefore remember that
we have an ancestry on which there is no need for us to cry shame.
Chivalry, learning, patriotism, poetry, have been found there, even “in
huts to which an Englishman would have hesitated to give the name of a
house.” No people have ever surpassed them in exaltation or intensity
of spiritual life. The sun has risen and set in that land on lives
of courage, honour, and beauty. The seasons have watched the undying
effort to make Ireland the honoured home of a united people. Not a
field that has not drunk in the blood of men and women poured out for
the homes of their fathers. Why should not we, the sons and daughters
of Ireland, take our rich inheritance? “Let us enjoy, whenever we have
an opportunity, the delight of admiration, and perform the duties of
reverence.” So long as the Spirit of life is over us, I do not know,
and I hope you do not know, why we in this country should not be worthy
of our dead.




A DISCUSSION of the Trade Routes of Ireland may seem to some a
superfluous and barren task. It has long been a fashion to look on the
country as an island, “remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow.” Writers
have pictured it as lying through the centuries in primitive barbarism,
an outlying desolation of poverty and disorder. The blame of this
desolation is sometimes laid on the savagery of the people, sometimes
on the position of the island, at the very “ends of the earth.” No
doubt there has been a certain political convenience in the very usual
argument that the geographical position of Ireland, lying so near to
Great Britain, makes it immediately dependent on that country alone, so
that it could by nature have no real converse with Europe, and no door
of civilisation save through England. An island beyond an island--such
is reputed the forlorn position of Ireland. We all naturally believe
that which we constantly hear or frequently repeat: and it is well
from time to time to ask ourselves what reason may lie behind common
tradition--in this special case to enquire what geography and history
may have to tell us of the natural trade routes of Ireland and of
England in former times.

From the map it is plain that the two islands have a very different
outlook. Michelet has pictured Europe with all her main rivers and
harbours opening to the west, and the island of Great Britain alone
lying as a mighty ship poised on the ocean with her prow fronting the
orient. The Thames opens its harbour to the east, the capital looks to
the east, and the early trading centres, the Cinque Ports, turn to the
sunrising. Thus the natural way of trade and travel from England to
the Continent has always been by the narrow seas--across the Channel
or the North Sea to the convenient river-mouths and harbours of the
north European plain. Ireland was in a different case. If the opposite
British coast, for the most part inhospitable mountain and forest,
offered to her in early times a slender trade and a harsh welcome, she
on her side did not turn to it her best natural ports. Those on the
east coast from Waterford to Belfast are few; Dublin, left to itself,
is a poor harbour; and from thence to Belfast there is only one small
port, Ardglass, where the entrance is safe at low tide. The chief
harbours of Ireland in fact were those that swelled with the waves of
the Atlantic Ocean. Her outlook was across its stormy waters, and her
earliest traffic through the perils of the Gaulish sea. The English
were concerned with the north and east of Europe, the Irish with the
south and west, and their paths did not cross.

For Ireland, therefore, the road to Europe did not lie across Great
Britain. As far back as we can see into the primitive darkness the
inhabitants of the island were all in turn out on the great seas. An
old myth or legend tells of the ancient Manannan Mac Lir, “Son of the
Sea,” who was the best pilot that was in the west of Europe, and the
greatest reader of the sky and weather: or who in another tale appears
a sea-god triumphant over the ocean as his boat raced under him on the
immensity of the waters like a chariot on the summer fields, while
he sang in his joy--“That is to me a happy plain with a profusion of
flowers, looking from the chariot of two wheels.” Ireland, in times
beyond the reach of history, lay on the high-road of an ancient trade
between the countries we know as Scandinavia and Gaul. Even in the
Stone age its people cut some of their flint arrows after the fashion
of Portugal, or carried them from that peninsula across the Bay of
Biscay; and fragments of stone cups have been found in Ireland, as in
Britain, which are said to have come from the Mediterranean by the
Gaulish sea. As for the northern traffic, we have traces of it more
than a thousand years before the Christian era in burial mounds of the
Bronze age, where there are stones carved with a form of ornament which
in western Europe is only found in Scandinavia and Ireland.

It was during the Bronze age that the first Gaelic or Goidelic invaders
entered Ireland, coming not through Britain but over-sea from Spain
and Gaul, from the openings of the Garonne and the Loire, or from the
ports of Brittany. And by that open highway sailed also later settlers
from southern and northern Gaul. Some relics of these conquering
tribes, fine rivetted trumpets of bronze made after the fashion of the
continent, of the same pattern as those used in central France about
the Loire, show that they kept up intercourse with their people abroad.
For centuries, in fact, this intercourse can be traced. An invasion
of the Gauls in the third century B.C. left to Leinster its old name
of Laigen, from the broad-headed lances which they carried; and five
hundred years later, in the second century A.D., Irish princes used to
send to Gaul for soldiers to serve in their wars.

In the time of the Roman Empire therefore Irish trade with Europe was
already well established. Tacitus (A.D. 98) tells that its ports and
harbours were well known to merchants; and in the second century the
geographer Ptolemy of Alexandria gave a list, very surprising for the
time, of the river-mouths, mountains, and port towns of Ireland, and
its sea-coast tribes--a knowledge he may have gained from Marinus
of Tyre, or the Syrian traders who conducted the traffic from Asia
Minor to the Rhone, and thence across the Gaulish Sea. Italy exported
her wine in the second century B.C.; and in the second century A.D.,
four hundred years later, when wine was grown on the hill sides of
Provence it may have reached Irish ports, transported by merchants
of Marseilles to the Garonne, or by the valleys of the Rhone and the
Loire, and thence across the sea. They travelled in ships built to
confront Atlantic gales, with high poops standing out of the water
like castles, and great leathern sails--stout hulls that were steered
and worked by the born sailors of the Breton coast. From Brittany the
passage to Ireland could be made in three days. From the Loire it was
two days longer, as we may see from a later Irish story of the sixth
century which tells how a ship-load of strangers, five decades of them,
came sailing from the lands of Latium on pilgrimage to Ireland. Each
decade of pilgrims took with them an Irish saint to guide and protect
the vessel, every one in his turn for a day and a night, which gives a
voyage of five days and nights. As they neared the Irish coast a fierce
storm arose, and St. Senan, who was that day guardian of the company,
rose from dinner with a thigh-bone in his hand, and blessing the air
with the bone brought the pilgrims safe into Cork harbour. The saint
was a practical sailor and pilot, and he had been allotted the best
joint, the portion which by Irish law was given to the king or the high

But while traders of the Empire sailed to Ireland, the armies of Rome
never crossed the Irish Sea. Ireland therefore lay outside the Roman
Empire, while it lay within the circle of imperial civilisation and
commerce. Christianity first came from across the Gaulish Sea, and
the art of writing, and new forms of ornament. From Gaul the Irish
learned to divide tribe-land into private property marked by boundary
stones. Roman-Hellenistic learning, which spread from northern Italy
to Marseilles, crossed the Irish seas with the merchants of Aquitaine
carrying the wine of Bordeaux; or it was brought home by Irish scholars
of the fourth century who went to seek learning in Narbonne, where
Greek was spoken as a living tongue. The Irish Pelagius, who went to
Italy in 400, was able to carry on a discussion in Jerusalem in 415
with Orosius the Spaniard, in which he spoke Greek while Orosius needed
an interpreter: if he had not learned Greek in Ireland, Zimmer reminds
us, he would not have been able to learn it in Rome. Nearly two hundred
years later, in 595, the Irish saint Columbanus and his companions knew
Greek, but Gregory the Great did not know it, though he had twice been
Papal nuncio in Constantinople. Ovid and Vergil were known and read in
Ireland, where scholars seem to have taken all that Rome had to give of
classical culture and philosophy.

It is often assumed that to share in the benefits of an empire it is
necessary to be a subject country, lying within its police control, and
that the Irish suffered by never having been forced under the authority
of Rome. Perhaps, however, we might learn here another lesson--that
in matters of civilisation what is really needed is not subjection
to force, but free human converse and the willing intercourse of
men. We have the spectacle of an island beyond the military rule,
the police control, the law, of the Roman empire, willingly adopting
all the spiritual good which Rome could give it, and the culture
that the intelligence of its people found to suit them. Free to keep
her own customs, Ireland could gain this new learning without losing
her own civilization and her pride of language, history, and law. It
was in seas of blood that such national pride was wiped out by Roman
conquerors from the plains of Gaul. But for the Irish at that time
there was no violent breach with the traditions of their race, nor any
humiliation or bondage to darken their high spirit; and in the joyful
and brilliant activity of the succeeding centuries they illustrated the
free and peaceful union of two civilizations.

Ireland had another advantage from her place of freedom on the open
highways of the sea. For lying outside the Empire she was saved from
the economic ruin that fell on all the Roman dominions when, by the
fatal policy of the Empire, enterprise and wealth were sucked to the
centre and capital, draining the provinces bare; so that, for example,
witnesses of that time describe the once wealthy port of Cadiz as a
town of great empty warehouses, silent and deserted, save for a few
poor old men and women creeping about its melancholy streets. Her
position saved her too when the barbarians swept over the Empire. As
she had been unconquered by the Romans so she remained unconquered by
Teuton or English. Her learning did not perish before invaders; and if
on the mainland every old line of communication was closed or broken,
her way of the ocean was still free. It is true that the wars of the
English invaders of Britain for some hundred and fifty years (449-597)
barred all passage through it to the Continent. But that route had
never been of any real consequence. A way to Europe across Britain was
no doubt known to the Irish in Roman times, and some pilgrims journeyed
by that way across the Empire. But this was not the main route for
travellers from Ireland, and it was never the line of their continental
trade. There seems to have been little communication on the whole with
Britain. Settlers went over from Ireland to Scotland, to Wales, to the
Cornish peninsula, and founded Irish colonies. But in the main the
Irish troubled themselves very little about Britain at all. In fact
from the third century onwards they were accustomed to give to all
strangers the name of “Galls,” from Gallos, the people of Gaul, the
chief visitors they knew.

To the Irish the important thing therefore was that the way of the
sea was still open. Traders from Gaul sailed along the western coast,
and up the Shannon to Roscommon and Loch Cé, and on the eastern side
their ships passed by the Irish Sea to what is now Down and Antrim, to
Iona, and Cantyre. They still as of old carried the wine of Provence in
great wooden tuns, in one of which three men could stand upright; there
still came men speaking Greek, and scholars of the east, and artists of
Gaul. At this time indeed the Irish were no recluse people, living in a
backwater or severed from the great world. An Old Irish poem tells of
the traditions of Leinster under its ancient kings--“The sweet strain
heard there at every hour; its wine-barque upon the purple flood; its
shower of silver of great splendour; its torques of gold from the
lands of the Gaul.” The metropolis of Columcille’s church organization
at Iona, the established centre of Irish learning at Bangor in Down,
both alike lay in the track of the sailing ships, and in frequent
communication with Europe. News of the destruction by earthquake of
Citta Nuova in Istria was brought to Columcille that same year by
Gaulish mariners. Columbanus and his companions could take ship from
Bangor to Nantes on their mission to Europe (589). Northwards Irishmen
sailed to the Hebrides, the Orkneys, the Shetlands. They seem to have
traded and married with Scandinavians a century before the invasion
of Ireland by the Wikings. Moreover Irishmen had travelled as far as
Iceland in 795, where Nadoddr the Norseman heard of them some sixty
years later.

Thus the old civilization, rudely interrupted elsewhere, was carried
on unbroken in Ireland. Now was the time (500-1000) when the island
began to give back to Europe the treasures of learning which she had
stored up in the time of the Roman Empire, and had kept safely through
the barbarian wars. Missionaries and scholars from Iona and Ireland
carried letters and Christian teaching to every part of England,
while ship-loads of Englishmen went to Ireland for instruction. Other
Irishmen sailed to Brittany, and journeyed east over northern France
beyond the Rhine. A greater number travelled by Nantes, Angers, Tours,
past the monastery of Columbanus at Lisieux, and thence over middle
Europe, or by St. Gall southward through Italy as far as Tarentum,
and to the Holy Land. Occasionally pilgrims and missionaries took
the road to Europe through Britain, when with the settlement of the
English kingdoms and the coming of Augustine (597) a new intercourse
had opened between the English and the continental peoples. That is,
some few travellers went this way, but merchants still kept to the old
sea route, and the greater number of Irish pilgrims and scholars. It
was by that way, for example, according to the old story by a monk of
St. Gall, that two Scots from Ireland sailed to Gaul in the early days
of Charles the Great, and in the market-place, where the merchants
trafficked with the crowds, raised their cry of an Irish trade:--“If
anyone is desirous of wisdom, let him come to us and receive it, for
we have it to sell.” At last they were brought to Charles himself, who
asked what payment they would need; nothing more, they answered, than
convenient situations, ingenious minds, and as living in a foreign
country to be supplied with food and raiment; and the king formed a
school for one of them in France, and set the other at the head of
the great school at Pavia. Irish monasteries, one after another in
rapid order, rose along the main highways of travel, among the ruined
heaps of Roman towns where wild beasts alone found shelter, in forest
and desert and mountain. Every school had Irish teachers and Irish
manuscripts, relics of which still remain in continental libraries.
Ireland became the source of culture to all Germanic nations: indeed
wherever in the seventh and following centuries education or knowledge
is found it may be traced directly or indirectly to Irish influence.
It has been justly said that at the time of Charles the Bald every one
who spoke Greek on the Continent was almost certainly an Irishman,
or taught by an Irishman. By degrees Irish monasteries, built and
supported by Irish money, spread over Europe from Holland to Tarentum,
from Gaul to Bulgaria.

The Continent was therefore well known to Ireland when about 800 A.D. a
new revolution passed over Europe.

Continental trade, as we have seen, had perished with the Roman Empire.
Commerce had fallen to its lowest point. There was scarcely any money,
nor in any country, neither England, nor France, nor Germany, a native
class of merchants; wandering Jews and Greeks and Syrians, and later
Italians, carried on what little buying and selling still survived. On
the shores of the North Sea, however, the Frisians had made their town
of Duurstede, near the mouth of the Rhine, a centre for traffic carried
down the river; and in their stout, flat-bottomed, high-boarded sailing
ships traded across the North Sea and the Baltic. Duurstede became for
a time the chief port of western Europe. There Charles the Great coined
money, and the lines along which the Frisian traders carried their
wares may still be traced by the finding of the Duurstede coins. But
even in the time of the Emperor Charles came the change which was to
sweep away the Frisian traders. This was the rise of the new lords of
the sea--the Scandinavians--who were to wrest commerce from Frisians
and Gauls, and open a new trade for northern Europe.

The Scandinavians got their training in a hard school. They had a
thousand miles of stormy shores to practice seamanship, fishing along
their mountain coasts, and sailing against Arctic tempests round the
North Cape. They had to build better ships than anyone else, and to
sail them better. They invented a new kind of vessel where both oars
and sails were used. And in a short time the Frisians were outdone both
in seamanship and in trade.

East and west the Scandinavians sailed. As early as the eight century
colonies of Swedes were passing by the Baltic and the gulf of
Finland to settle on the opposite coast about Novgorod and along the
Dnieper--the East way, as they called it. They left Scandinavian names
along the rapids of the river as their travellers pushed forward,
till in 839 they came in contact with the Greeks, and Swedes who had
journeyed by the Dnieper were introduced by the Emperor of the East
to the Western Emperor Louis the Pious. Their ships were soon the
terror of the Black Sea shores--laden with warriors tall like palm
trees, ruddy, fairhaired, who were in turn traders and plunderers,
conquerors and slave-dealers. In 865 two hundred of their vessels
appeared before Constantinople; in 880 they had reached the Sea of
Azof, the Don and the Volga; in 913 they had five hundred ships, each
carrying a hundred men, in the Caspian. Novgorod was the mart of their
vast eastern commerce. There have been found in Sweden nearly twenty
thousand Arabian coins, dating from 698 to 1002 A.D., carried across
the Baltic by home-going merchants. Gothland became the general centre
of exchange for the Eastway trade, where Danes sailed from their
settlements on the Mecklenburg coast and the mouth of the Oder, to buy
Russian furs, Greek and Arabian silks, and Indian spices, and here
have been discovered thirteen thousand coins of the tenth and eleventh
centuries--Byzantine, Arabian, and from central Asia.

Other adventurers from Norway and Denmark turned towards the Atlantic
Ocean, trading and plundering in every harbour of the west, as far as
Seville and the Spanish coasts. Northward they peopled Iceland and the
Orkneys, and in time rounded the North Cape. They fished the Ocean for
whales, and opened a trade in whale-meat and in the furs and cod of
the White Sea with Normandy and England. The English liked better to
buy than to catch whales. “Can you take a whale?” we read in an old
West-Saxon dialogue. “Many,” says the home-loving Englishman, “take
whales without danger, and then they get a great price, but I dare not
from the fearfulness of my mind.”

Besides opening out this world-wide trade, the Scandinavians made a
revolution also in the manner of trading. Up to this time buying and
selling had been carried on by travelling dealers, Syrian and Italian.
Now however Norsemen and Danes, who had no towns in their own lands,
planted themselves in their new countries in fortified cities; and, for
example, showed their enterprise by forming in the Five Danish Burghs
in England the earliest federation of towns known outside Italy.
In the new towns a settled class of merchants was established, who
learned to group themselves according to the English system of guilds.
The Scandinavians learned also to strike coins after the manner of
the Frisians. In all these ways, by their new ships, their new trade
routes, their money, their guilds, and their settled merchants in
towns, the Scandinavians won a pre-eminence on the sea, which they were
to hold in their own hands for some two hundred years.

What was the effect in Ireland of this new peril, an attack on Europe
from the sea? In the first place the highways of the sea, never before
closed, were barred by the Scandinavian free-booters. A few Irish
travellers (even from Leinster) did even in 800 and 850 take the old
accustomed journey to the Loire and so across France to Germany;
but the passage was now dangerous. The terrors of the sea journey
drove travellers to the land route, and the way across England to
the Continent became so important that clerics of the tenth century
could not imagine that any other way had ever been possible. The new
sea-kings, moreover, were not the people to forget the ancient and
profitable trade routes of the wine commerce, or the Irish harbours
into which trading ships from north and south had sailed for the
last two thousand years, or the gold that had been dug from Irish
mines in old days. They seized every harbour, sent their boats up
every creek and river, plundered the monasteries and wealthy houses,
broke into every burial mound for treasure, and put a poll-tax on the
men. Scholars and Christian monks fled from the heathen barbarians,
carrying to Europe their treasures and manuscripts. The time of mere
destruction, however, was not long. The Scandinavians were practical
men of affairs, and Norsemen and Danes had settled in Ireland for
business. The “Great Island,” as they called it, was a natural centre
of their new world-wide commerce; lying within the trade circle
formed by the ships that swept from the Orkneys and Hebrides round
the Atlantic coast to the Loire and the Garonne, or that traversed
the Irish Sea from Cantyre to Devonshire and Brittany. It was the
shelter of voyaging ships, the recruiting ground of raiders, the
winter-quarters of fleets; its commerce fell in naturally with the
traffic of the western world. Danes and Irish were presently to the
full as busy in trading as in fighting. Ireland became a commercial
centre, a meeting place of the peoples. There came Grett with the
Greek hat to buy captives for the Iceland market. A host of Saxons
and Britons were brought over by Olaf and Ivar in 871. Almost every
king of Norway sailed his fleet into Irish harbours, to drive off the
rival Danish merchants, to broaden his traffic, to spy out some new
store of gold, to load up with corn, to sweep the cattle down to the
seashore for the “strand-hewing” that was to provision his crews with
meat, fresh and salt, for their ocean course. Traders bargained then
just as they bargain now. There is a harbour of Ardglass on the coast
of County Down where a castle was built many centuries ago to protect
the commerce of the port. The other day an Irishman repaired its
ruins, and for a sign flew from it the flag of one of the Irish lords
of the country, the Red Right Hand of O’Neill. At that very moment a
light schooner sailed into the offing and at once flew in answer the
Danish flag. The vessel was from Marsthal. Getting into port the crew
bargained for herrings, counting out a hundred and ninety-five barrels
of them by “chequers,” while the Ardglass men checked the number on
notched sticks. Neither knew one word of the other’s tongue. So the
Danes did business and sailed away, exactly as their forefathers had
done a thousand years ago.

Between plundering and trading and marriages and alliances Norse and
Irish got to know each other well, as we may see by the story of king
Olaf Tryggwason and his dog. Olaf the Magnificent, most glorious and
far-shining of sea-kings, famed beyond all others for the surpassing
perfection of his warships, being married to Gytha sister of Olaf
Kuaran king of Dublin, abode in England and occasionally in Ireland.
“He happened once,” says the Saga, “to be present in Ireland with
a large naval force engaged in war. A foray to get stores being
necessary, the men went on land and drove towards the shore a multitude
of sheep and cattle; and there followed them a yeoman, who begged Olaf
to give him back his cows from among the flock that they were driving
off. King Olaf answered: ‘Take your cows if you know them, and are
able to separate them from the rest without delaying our journey; but,
I think, neither you nor any other man can do that feat among so many
hundred cattle as are in the drove.’ The yeoman had a big cattle dog
with him. So he sent the dog among the herd as they were driven off
together, and the dog ran up and down among them all, and soon picked
out and put aside as many of the man’s cattle as in the yeoman’s
opinion were there. As these were all marked with one and the same
mark, it was evident that the dog must have had a perfect knowledge of
them. Then the King said: ‘Wonderfully clever is your dog, yeoman; will
you give him to me?’ And the man answered: ‘I will gladly do so.’ Then
the King straightway, in return, gave the yeoman a large gold bracelet,
and promised him his friendship therewith. This dog, the best and most
sensible of all dogs, was named Wigi, and Olaf had him for a long time
afterwards.” There came a day later when Olaf was entrapped by his
enemies in the Baltic, sailing with his fleet on the far-famed Long
Serpent--“never warship has been built in Northern lands its equal for
beauty and size.” “Right and proper is it,” said Earl Eric, “that such
a noble ship should belong to Olaf Tryggwason, for he is truly said to
surpass other kings as much as the Long Serpent surpasses other ships.”
The King, with shield and helmet overlaid with gold, and red silken
kirtle, stood on the ship’s prow, a great dragon’s head ornamented so
that it seemed of gold, and when it gleamed far over the sea as the sun
shone upon it, fear and terror were shot into men’s hearts. “Lay the
big ship more in front. My place in this warlike host is not at the
back of all my men,” he called. “I had the Serpent built of greater
length than other ships that she might stretch the more boldly beyond
them in the battle.” The conflict of heroes raged long. As his enemies
poured over the deck King Olaf, blood falling over his face and arm
from under helmet and mail-sleeve, vanished, no man knew how, in the
waters. The Long Serpent, sinking in the sea, was of no use to its
conquerors. His queen was brought from under the deck weeping bitterly
and so sore wounded with grief that she could neither eat nor drink,
and died in nine days. Throughout the battle the dog Wigi lay without
stirring before the castle of the Short Serpent; it carried him home
along with Einar Thambaskelf, the youth of eighteen, hardest shooter
of his time, who stood by the King in the Long Serpent, who when his
own bow was broken stretched the King’s beyond the arrow head and flung
it away (“Too weak, too weak, the great King’s bow”), who had sprung
after the King into the water, and for his courage was given freedom by
the victors. As they touched land Einar “before going on shore, went
to the dog as he lay there, and said, ‘We’ve no master now, Wigi!’ At
these words the dog sprang up growling, and with a loud yell, as if
seized by anguish of heart, he ran on shore with Einar. There he went
and lay down on the top of a mound, and would take no food from anyone,
though he drove away other dogs, beasts and birds from what was brought
to him. From his eyes, tears coursed one another down his nose, and
thus bewailing the loss of his liege-lord, he lay till he died.” From
that day grief and sorrow lay on Einar. And men remembered the prophecy
of the blind yeoman of Moster that in one voyage Norway should lose
its four most noble things--the king, whose like had never been seen,
the queen, best for sense and goodness that ever came into Norway, the
greatest ship ever built in Norway, and the Irish dog, wiser and more
clever than any other dog in the land.

[Illustration: IRISH TRADE ROUTES]

In Ireland the power of the Scandinavians was shown in the foundation
of two kingdoms, along the two main lines of sea traffic--Dublin on
the eastern sea, and Limerick on the Atlantic. The Norwegian kingdom
on the Liffey had its centre in the mound raised by the river-side
for its Thing or Moot, near where the Dublin Parliament House rose
nine hundred years later. The kingdom stretched over a narrow strip of
shore, the memory of which was preserved for a thousand years, till
a generation ago, in the jurisdiction of the Dublin Corporation over
a long line of coast from the river Delvin below Drogheda to Arklow.
Four fiords--Strangford and Carlingford to the north, and Wexford and
Waterford to the south--lay outside the actual kingdom of Dublin, but
were closely connected with it. Waterford kings were at times of the
same family as the Dublin kings, and in the ninth and tenth centuries
Waterford was sometimes independent and sometimes united to Dublin.

Dublin commanded a double line of commerce--from Scandinavia to Gaul,
and by York to Novgorod and the Eastway. The kingdom was in close
connection with the Danish kingdom of Northumbria, with its capital at
York. For Danish Northumbria, opening on the North Sea by the Humber,
formed the common meeting ground, the link which united the Northmen
of Scandinavia and the Northmen of Ireland. A mighty confederation
grew up. Members of the same house were kings in Dublin, in Man, and
in York. Their descendants were among the chief settlers in Iceland.
The Dublin kings married into the chief houses of Ireland, Scotland,
and the Hebrides. The sea was the common highway which bound the powers
together, and the sea was held by fleets of swift long-ships with from
ninety to a hundred and fifty rowers or fighting men on board. The
Irish Channel swarmed with ships of the Dublin kingdom. It became the
mart of the Scandinavian traders, of Icelandic sailors, and men of
Norway, and merchant princes landing from their cruise to sell their
merchandise or their plunder. “You must this summer make a trading
voyage,” said Earl Hakon to his friend Thori Clack, “as is customary
now with many, and go to Dublin in Ireland.” Far-travelled traders
carried from Dublin and York, deep into the inland of Russia, English
coins and weapons and ornaments such as were used in Great Britain and

“Limerick of the swift ships,” looking out to the Atlantic and the
Gaulish sea, was a rival even to Dublin. The Norwegians first fortified
the town by an earthen or wooden fence, but presently by a wall of
stone, “Limerick of the rivetted stones.” Behind it lay a number of
Norse settlements scattered over Limerick, Kerry, and Tipperary. The
first settlers were from the Hebrides where Irishmen and Norse and
Danes mingled as one people, interchanging names and mingling speech so
that the Norse used Gaelic words for goblets for which they drank their
wine, and the oats for their bread. The name _Maccus_, a later form of
Magnus, was in the tenth century only used by the reigning families
of Limerick, the Hebrides, and the Isle of Man. United by kinship and
by trade, the lords of the Isles and the lords of Limerick constantly
aided one another, and made joint expeditions. Once more the Gaulish
trade was revived, and vessels sailed out from the Shannon to fetch
wine and silks from the harbours of the Loire and the Garonne. From
every bay and river-mouth between Waterford and Lough Foyle streams of
commerce poured into the main current of the Atlantic trade. After a
brief interruption in fact Ireland was once more in the ninth and tenth
century in the full current of European life, and that in a double way.
The lines of merchant vessels carried her trade, while the stream of
her professors and scholars and missionaries brought her fame to every
court in Europe.

King Ælfred has left his record of the three Irishmen who came “in a
boat without oars from Hibernia, whence they had stolen away because
for the love of God they would be on pilgrimage, they recked not where.
The boat in which they fared was wrought of three hides and a half,
and they took with them enough meat for seven nights.” On the seventh
day they drifted ashore at Cornwall, and were taken on to Ælfred whose
captives they had thus become. Perhaps from them that great-hearted and
far-sighted English king learned to honour the Irish. He sent gifts to
monasteries in Ireland. He noted in his Chronicle the death of Suibhne,
anchorite of Clonmacnois, “the most learned teacher among the Scots,”
said Ælfred.

From this story some may have supposed that the “primitive” Irishmen
had not yet got beyond the rude fishing-boats of savage life. But we
have here in fact only an instance of the strange contrasts which make
Irish history so full of wonder, so rich in human interest. In the
midst of a world of furious trade and war, Irish poets and mystics,
obedient to the ancient message of their masters, still went down to
the sea-brink abiding there “the revelation of knowledge.” In the vast
solitude of sea and sky beyond which, in which, waited the revelation,
the seen and the unseen were confounded and limits of space and time
fell away in infinity. The everlasting gates were there, the way of the
soul’s escape from imprisonment in shadows, the opening of the Eternal
Reality. Abandoning will and fear, they cast themselves on Nature and
the God immanent in Nature, and summoned by the silent call went out in
faith, “they recked not where.”

Thus in Ireland old worlds were ever intermixed with new. Pilgrims cast
themselves on the sea in curraghs, and drifted to the Faroes and to
Iceland carrying with them the power of piety and learning. But there
were also Irish traders with business minds. They, like the French,
learned from the Scandinavians to build ships, and like the French,
used Norse words for their new sea-faring vessels, “brown-planked”
warships, and merchant ships, ships large and small, and boats; and
for the planks and sides, bottom-boards, row-benches, taff-rail,
gunwale, the creaking, of the row-bench, the steersman. They learned
too from the Scandinavians their method of raising a navy by dividing
the country into districts, each of which had to equip and man so many
ships which were to assemble at the summons to arms into the united war
fleet--the levy and the fleet both called by Norse words. Sagas of the
Danish time tell of “the fleet of the men of Munster,” of “Munster of
the swift ships,” six or seven score of them ready to sail to Dundalk
or to the Mull of Cantyre at the call of the king of Cashel.

The Irish had also their fleets of merchant ships. An old poem of about
900 A.D. gives a description of the dwellers on the coast from Carn or
Mizen Head to Cork (the Irish clan of the O’Mahoneys chief among them)--

  “High in beauty,
  Whose resolve is quiet prosperity.”

a description which has been generally considered quite unsuited to the
Irish and more naturally reserved for Englishmen. The merchant princes
won for their province the name of “Munster of the great riches.” But
the signs of foreign trade, chains and massive links of silver, and
brooches of Scandinavia and the eastern world, are found all over
Ireland--Belfast, Navan, Monaghan, Limerick, Galway, Cavan, King’s and
Queen’s Counties--the patterns wholly unlike Irish work. There were
enamelled glass beads, and silks and satins and stores of silver,
oriental goods from the Caspian and East Mediterranean, which had been
carried across Russia to Swedish and Danish lands and so to Ireland.

“What is best for a king?” asked an Irish poet of the tenth century.

  “Fish in river-mouths.
  Earth fruitful.
  Inviting barks into harbour
  Importing treasures from over-sea.

  Silken raiment.

  Abundance of wine and mead.

  Let him foster every science.”

Thus it was that the Irish wrested some advantage out of the Danish
wars. They profited by the material skill and knowledge of the
invaders. They were willing to absorb the foreigners, to marry with
them, and even at times to share their wars. They learned from them
to build ships, organise naval forces, advance in trade, and live in
towns; they used Scandinavian words for the parts of a ship and the
streets of a town. The Irish gave proof of a real national vigour. In
outward and material civilization they accepted modern Norse methods,
just as in our days the Japanese accepted modern Western inventions.
But in what the Germans call Culture--in the ordering of society and
law, of life and thought, the Irish like the Japanese never for a
moment abandoned their national loyalty to their own country. During
two centuries of Danish wars they did not loosen hold of their old
civilization. “Concealing ancient lore, to hold any new thing fair,”
they said face to face with the new Scandinavian system, “this is the
way of folly.” They maintained their schools, their art and literature.
They preserved their church. Writers of the ninth century describe the
duty of an Irish king: he had to journey over the land and bring each
chief under law: “let him enslave criminals”: “let him perfect the
proper due of every man of whatever is his on sea or land.” On their
side the tribes were to have for their protection not only “a lawful
lord,” but “a meeting of nobles”; “frequent assemblies”; “an assembly
according to rules”; “a lawful synod.” We read of yet larger Assemblies
for the whole country “to make concord between the men of Ireland.” If
the chief places of the people were captured, they went out into the
bog-lands to elect their kings according to their law. Thus when Cashel
was held by the Danes the seventeen tribes of Munster gathered in a
marshy glen, where the nobles sat in assembly on a mound, and decided
to choose one Cennedig as king. But the queen, Cellachan’s mother,
appeared before them, and in a speech and a lay which she made declared
the right of Cellachan. And when the champions of Munster heard these
great words and the speech of the woman they rose up to make Cellachan
king, “and gave thanks to the true magnificent God for having found him
... and put their hands in his hand, and placed the royal diadem round
his head, and their spirits were raised at the grand sight of him.”

Under the power of this national feeling the Irish learned from the
Danes not only the new trade, but they learned also the new sea
warfare, and understood their lesson so well that they were soon
able to drive back the armies and fleets of the Danes, and to become
themselves the leaders of Danish and Norse troops in war. It was
about 950 A.D. that the Irish won their first famous naval victory.
Cellachan, king of Cashel, had been taken prisoner by the Norse, and
was carried to Sitric’s ship at Dundalk. An army was sent from Munster
across Ireland to rescue him. They demanded to have back their king.
“Give honour to Cellachan in the presence of the men of Munster!”
commanded Sitric in his wrath. “Let him even be bound to the mast! For
he shall not be without pain in honour of them!” “I give you my word,”
said Cellachan, as he was lifted up, “that it is a greater sorrow to me
not to be able to protect Cashel for you, than to be in great torture.”
“It is a place of watching where I am,” he cried, high lifted above
them all. “I see what your champions do not see, since I am at the
mast of the ship.” “Are these your ships that are coming now?” said he.
For on the far horizon rose the masts of his fleet of Munster sailing
into Dundalk harbour, six score of them, the full muster of the ships
gathered from every sea port between Cork and Galway, from the regions
of Bandon and Kinsale, from the land of the O’Driscolls who held the
coast from Bandon across Clear harbour to Crookhaven and the river of
Kenmare, from the Dingle peninsula, from “Kerry of the rushes” on the
Shannon shore, from western Clare, and from Corcomroe and Burren. When
the Irish captains looked on their king bound and fettered to the mast,
their aspect became troubled, their colour changed, and their lips
grew pale. From his place of agony Cellachan watched the onset of his
sailors, and heard the rattle of swords and javelins filling the air,
like the sound that arises from the seashore full of stones trodden by
herds of cattle and racing horses. He saw the Irish fling tough ropes
of hemp over the long prows of the Norse ships to hold them fast,
while the Norsemen threw stout chains of blue iron. He saw his people,
defended only by their “strong enclosures of linen cloth to protect
bodies and necks and noble heads,” as they dashed themselves into
the Norse ships among the mail-clad warriors; he watched the heroic
Failbe springing on the deck of Sitric’s battle-ship, and with a high
and deer-like leap mount on the mast, his right-hand sword swinging
against the crowding enemy, while with the sword in his mighty left
hand he cut the ropes that bound king Cellachan. In the moment of his
king’s salvation Failbe fell dead. As the Norsemen struck off his head
and set it upon the prow of the ship, Failbe’s foster-brother, mad for
revenge, with an eager falcon-like leap sprang into the warship, and
since no weapon of his could pierce the armour of the Norse king, he
fixed his white hands in the bosom of Sitric’s coat of mail and dragged
him down into the water, so that they together reached the gravel and
the sand of the sea and rested there. After six hours’ battle the
remnant of the Scandinavian fleet put out to sea, and, says the old
saga, they carried neither King nor Chieftain with them.

After that battle came other triumphs; the fleet of the kings of Ailech
that carried off plunder and booty from the Hebrides: Brian Boru’s
expedition of the Norsemen of Dublin, Waterford, Wexford, and of the
men of Munster, and of almost all of the men of Erin such of them as
were fit to go to sea, and they levied tribute from Saxons and Britons
as far as the Clyde and Argyle. The spirit of independence rose high,
and victorious warriors established again the rule of the Irish in
their own land.

But the Danes had no mind to let Ireland and her harbours and her sea
routes fall out of their hands. The great conflict of the two peoples
came about sixty years after the victory of Cellachan.

The Danes had now held command of the sea for two hundred years. About
1000 A.D., in the glory of success, their kings, like later monarchs in
Europe, began to think of their “Imperial Destiny.” It seemed time to
perfect the whole business and round off the borders of their State.
So Swein Forkbeard of Denmark proposed to create a Scandinavian Empire
which should extend from the Slavic shores of the Baltic to the rim of
the Atlantic, with the North Sea as a lake of this wide dominion. Swein
overran England, and his son Cnut ruled from the Baltic to the Irish
Channel, lord of Denmark, Norway, England, and the Danes of Dublin
(for he minted coins even there), with London as the chief city of
the new Danish Empire. The imperial plan was not yet complete. Danish
rule was to extend to the outermost land on the Atlantic. But Ireland
blocked the way. The Ireland of King Brian Boru--of men who lived (as
they said) “on the ridge of the world,” men bred in the free air of the
plains and the mountains and the sea--left the Scandinavian Empire with
a ragged edge on the line of the Atlantic commerce. In the spring of
1014 the Danish army gathered in the Bay of Dublin to straighten out
the boundaries of the Empire on the western Ocean. There met a mighty
host under the “Black Raven” of the pagans, woven with heathen spells;
“when the wind blew out the banner it was as though the Raven flapped
his wings for flight.” In that Imperial army there were warriors “from
all the west of Europe,” from Iceland, the Orkneys, the Baltic Islands,
from Norway a thousand men in ringed armour, from Northumbria two
thousand pagans, “not a villain of them who had not polished armour of
iron or brass encasing their bodies from head to foot.” On the night
before the battle Woden himself, the old god of war, rode up through
the dusk men said, on a dapple-grey horse, halbert in hand, to take
counsel with his champions.

But Woden’s last fight was come. The full tide of the morning carried
the pagan host over the level sands to the landing at Clontarf. The
army of King Brian Boru lay before them. From sunrise to sunset on Good
Friday that desperate battle raged, the hair of the warriors flying in
the wind, says the old chronicler, as thick as the sheaves floating
in a field of oats. The Scandinavian scheme of a Northern Empire was
shattered on that day, when with the evening flood-tide the remnant
of the Danish host put out to sea. The work which had been begun by
the fleet of Cellachan in Dundalk harbour sixty-four years before, was
completed by Brian Boru where the Liffey opens into the Bay of Dublin.
For a hundred, and fifty years to come Ireland kept its independence.
England was once again, as in the time of the Roman dominion, made part
of a continental empire. Ireland, as in the days of Rome, still lay
outside the new imperial system.

Clontarf marked the passing of an old age, the beginning of a new. We
may see the advent of the new men in the names of adventurers that
landed with the Danes on that low shore at Clontarf--the first great
drops of the coming storm. There were lords from Normandy, Eoghan Barun
or John the Baron, and Richard, with another, perhaps Robert of Melun.
There was Goistilin Gall, a Frenchman from Gaul. There was somewhere
about that time Walter the Englishman, a leader of mercenaries
from England. In such names we see the heralds of the approaching
change. A revolution in the fortunes of the world had in fact opened.
Scandinavian pre-eminence on the sea was even now passing away, as that
of the Frisians had passed away two hundred years before. New lords of
commerce seized the traffic of sea and land when the Normans, “citizens
of the world,” carried their arms and their cunning from the Moray
Firth to the Straits of Messina, from the Seine to the Euphrates. The
Teutonic peoples that now girded the North Sea--Normans, Germans of
the Hanseatic League, English--were to supersede Danes and Norwegians.
Trade moreover had once more spread over the high roads of Europe, as
in the days of the Roman Empire, and the peoples of the south, Italians
and Gauls, had taken up again their ancient commerce.

In the new commerce as in the old Ireland was to take her full part.
The island lay in the moving life that stirred the great seas, washed
by that whirlpool of activity. From every shore she saw the sails of
busy traffickers bearing the commerce of the known world, and carrying
too its thought and art. The people had not lost their wit. They shared
in the enterprise and the profit of the new commerce. The great routes
were open, from Scandinavia to Gaul, and down the Irish Channel. The
Danish traffic across England was not forgotten, and as the trade of
the German coasts developed, busier lines of commerce were opened from
the Irish harbours of the south eastward to the North Sea and the

It is an unfinished tale I tell. But it may remind us of one gift of
Nature to Ireland--the freedom of Europe by the sea. We have seen the
dim figures of the flint-men, the Bronze-men, the first Gaels, reaching
out hands to Scandinavia and to the Mediterranean lands. We have seen
Ireland on the borders of the Roman Empire, free and unconquered,
busy in trade, busier still in learning, carrying across the Gaulish
Sea treasures of classical knowledge. Again Ireland appeared when the
barbarians had spread over Europe, still unconquered, sending back
across the Ocean the learning she had stored up, the free distributor
on the Continent of the classics and science and Christian teaching. We
have seen the island again on the fringe of the Scandinavian Empire,
even now unconquered, and still in the mid-stream of European traffic.
When a new revolution came, and trade swelled under the Normans, every
Irish port was full. Irishmen sailed every sea. Their fabrics were
sold in every country as far as Russia and Naples. Through the long
centuries they never lost the habit of the sea and of Europe. In the
middle ages Spanish coin was almost the chief currency in Ireland, so
great was the Irish trade with Spain; and in the eighteenth century
the country was still full of Spanish, Portuguese, and French money
in daily use--the moydore, the doubloon, the pistole, the Louis d’or,
the new Portuguese gold coin. So much so that in the Peninsular war
Ireland was ransacked for foreign coins to send to the army in Spain
and Portugal.

But that story is over. Ireland at last was swept within the orbit
of an Empire--not as a free member of a federation, but in full
subjection, with every advantage that complete military and police
control could afford. Natural geography gave place to political
geography, and the way of the Empire ruled out the way of the sea. “I
should not presume,” wrote Richard Cox, Esquire, Recorder of Kinsale,
in dedicating to their Majesties William and Mary a History of Ireland
from the Conquest thereof, which he printed at St. Paul’s Churchyard
in 1689. “I should not presume to lay this treatise at your Royal
feet, but that it concerns a noble Kingdom, which is one of the most
considerable branches of your mighty Empire.

“It is of great Advantage to it, that it is a Subordinate Kingdom of
the Crown of _England_; for it is from that Royal Fountain that the
Streams of Justice, Peace, Civility, Riches and all other Improvements
have been derived to it; so that the Irish are (as Campion says)
beholding to God for being conquered.

“And yet Ireland has been so blind in this Great Point of its true
Interest, that the Natives have managed almost a continual war with
the English ever since the first Conquest thereof; so that it has cost
your Royal Predecessors an unspeakable mass of Blood and Treasure to
preserve it in true Obedience.

“But no cost can be too great where the Prize is of such value; and
whoever considers the Situation, Ports, Plenty, and other Advantages
of Ireland will confess, that it must be retained at what rate soever;
because if it should come into an Enemy’s Hands, England would find it
impossible to _flourish_; and perhaps difficult to _subsist_ without it.

“To demonstrate this assertion, it is enough to say that Ireland lies
in the _Line of Trade_, and that all the English vessels that sail to
the _East_, _West_ and _South_, must, as it were, run the _gauntlet_
between the Harbours of Brest and Baltimore: and I might add that the
Irish Wool, being transported, would soon ruine the English clothing

“Hence it is that all Your Majesties Predecessors have kept close to
this Fundamental Maxim, of retaining Ireland inseperably united to the
Crown of England.”

The house of Hanover ended what the Tudors had begun. Ireland became an
island beyond an island. But the great deep still gives to the country
an abiding unity. In ancient days the Irish had a noble figure by which
they proclaimed the oneness of the land within its Ocean bounds. The
three waves of Erin they said, smote upon the shore with a foreboding
roar when danger threatened the island. One wave called to Munster at
an inlet of Cork; two of them sounded in Ulster, at the mouth of the
Bann and in the bay of Dundrum. The Ocean bore the same fate to Munster
and to Ulster. And in fact so long as the sea surrounds this island, so
long all its peoples must be linked in a common fortune. The deep that
encompasses Ireland has made this country one, gathering together into
the Irish family all races that have entered within its circuit. By the
might of that encircling Ocean the men of Ireland are bound together in
one inheritance, unchanging amid ceaseless change.



WE are often told that the civilization of a people is marked by the
place of its women: a rule by which the Irish stand high. In the
fifteenth century, as at all times, their annals record many noble
ladies “distinguished for knowledge, hospitality, good sense and
piety”; “humane and charitable”; “a nurse to all guests and strangers,
and to all the learned men in Ireland.” Of these Margaret, daughter
of O’Carroll lord of Ely, wife of Calvagh O’Connor Faly lord of
Offaly (lands which lie across the boundaries of the modern King’s
and Queen’s Counties and Kildare), was the most illustrious. She came
of a learned race. The O’Carrolls, in the course of little more than
a century (1253-1373), held the See of Cashel for sixty years; and
O’Carroll had been Archbishop of Tuam; and Margaret’s father, lord
of Ely, was “the general patron of all the learned men of Ireland.”
“This Teige was deservedly a man of greate accompt and fame with the
professors of Poetrye and Musicke of Ireland and Scotland, for his
liberality extended towards them, and every of them in generalle.” So
highly was he esteemed among the chiefs that he was forbidden by the
Irish captains of east Munster to carry out his wish of resigning his
lordship of Ely (1396). He made a pilgrimage, however, that year to
the threshold of the apostles, with his companions O’Brien, Gerald,
and Thomas Calvagh MacMurchadh of the royal race of Leinster; and
coming back through England visited Richard II. at Westminster, who
received him graciously, and being then about to cross to Calais for
his marriage with Isabella of France, and the conclusion of a treaty of
peace with the French king, invited O’Carroll to accompany him in his
retinue. Ten years later he was slain by the English, the boy-prince
Thomas of Lancaster, son of Henry IV., being then Viceroy in Ireland,
and under him the Lord Deputy Scrope. The English army fell on him
unawares at Callan; for whose death indeed the sun stood still, said
their account, to light the Deputy and the fierce Prior of Kilmainham
in the evening surprise and the six miles’ ride of slaughter, where
eight hundred, or some said three thousand, of his people fell. Some
time after the massacre Margaret married the most successful leader in
his day of the Irish, Calvagh O’Connor Faly, son of Murchadh, the “Lord
of Offaly, of the cattle-abounding land,” descended from Conchobar of
the race of Cathair Mór, King of Leinster. Brought up amid the perils
and sorrows of constant war, her fortunes were now transferred to a
country where the conflict with the English knew no interlude. To
understand her story it is necessary to show very briefly the situation
of Offaly.

The land of the O’Connors adjoined that of the O’Carrolls under the
Slieve Bloom mountains. The old Offaly, from Sliabh-Bladhma, now Slieve
Bloom, to the hill of Alenn, and from Sliabh-Cualann in Wicklow to the
Great Heath, is a plain as level as a tranquil sea. On its western
side a long low ridge north of Slieve Bloom had given shelter to the
two St. Sinchealls; a church had risen by the holy well; and the
fair-town of Killeigh on “the field of the long ridge,” profiting by
the traffic from the Shannon to the Liffey. There Murchadh O’Connor
founded for the Franciscans a monastery (1393) said to be the third in
size and importance of the monasteries of Ireland, the burial place
of his race. In what was once the Abbey churchyard, tombstones of the
O’Doynes, deeply sculptured with their armorial bearings, recall a
great family of Offaly. On the eastern side of Offaly Norman settlers
had pushed back the boundary from the Dublin hills to Rathangan, where
a strong fort and church stood at the head of the plain through which
the Barrow and the Slaney flowed south to Waterford and Wexford; and
on that important trade route Thomas O’Connor Faly had founded a
Franciscan monastery (1302), under the walls of Hugh de Lacy’s fort
at Castledermot. To the north lay Meath--“cemetery of the valourous
Gael”--whose colonists had incessant war with Offaly. It was a land
over which the earliest Norman settlers had swept from de Lacy’s fort
of Castledermot to that of Durrow; a land which was again the chief
centre of struggle when the Irish attack drove the English power back
to the plains of Meath, and which in the renewed wars of the English
under the Tudors became the scene of ferocious reprisals and calculated
obliteration of its race and name. From Calvagh’s first battle all his
fighting was on the plains of Meath. Once he made a raid in the land
of the O’Mores; and when his sons grew up they had disputes with Irish
neighbours. But the only war of Calvagh from 1385 to 1458 was a war
against the English.


The family were bitter Irreconcilables; since the days of an older
Calvagh, the “Great Rebel,” who a hundred years before (1307), had been
invited with thirty of the Offaly chiefs to dine at Castle-Carberry on
Trinity Sunday with “the treacherous baron,” Sir Pierce Bermingham,
the “Hunter of the Irish”; and were deceitfully murdered, the Great
Rebel and all, as they rose from table. This new Calvagh fought the
invaders for over sixty years, from youth to old age, with scarcely a
pause--a man of humour as well as courage. Once when the English troops
with their Irish followers had ridden to the very borders of Killeigh
(1406)--the religious and business centre of Offaly--Calvagh with half
a dozen horsemen came upon a body of plundering kerns, one carrying
off on his back a great cauldron which Calvagh had lent his friend
MacMaoilcorra for brewing beer. “There is your caldron with the kerns,”
cried MacMaoilcorra helplessly, “take it and discharge me of my loan.”
“I accept of it where it is,” mocked Calvagh, and flung “the shot of a
stone” which hit the cauldron straight, at the great noise and report
whereof the plunderers cast away their spoil and fled in consternation.
In the great rout of the English that day the Irish won back from them
the chiefest relic of Connacht, the cap or mitre of S. Patrick stolen
from Elphin.

In Calvagh’s days the Irish revival had pushed back the rule of Dublin
Castle to a strip of coast land some twenty miles by thirty. There
flew a tale of panic (1385) that the Irish “were confederate with
Spain,” and that “at this next season, as is likely, there will be
made a conquest of the greater part of the land.” Revenue was falling,
English colonists were flying across the water, and prayers for help
were sent over to the English king. The king’s favourite De Vere,
appointed Marquis of Dublin and Duke of Ireland (1386), got no farther
than Wales, and English pretentions over the island under a confused
series of shifting rulers became the mock of Europe. Stung by the
taunt that he who desired to be made head of the Holy Roman Empire
could not even subdue Ireland, Richard II. made his fantastic journey
across the Irish Channel (1394), carrying a wardrobe of untold cost
in which one jewelled coat alone was worth thirty thousand marks, and
with a following of four thousand squires and thirty thousand archers,
a greater army, some said, than Edward III. commanded at Crecy. Thus
Calvagh had the rare opportunity of seeing the arrival in Ireland of
the only king of England who landed there in the five hundred years
between the coming of Henry II. and John (1171 and 1210), and that of
James II. (1689)--all four driven over by personal necessities, not
by any concern whatever for the Irish people or their well-being. The
English troops were flung back from the O’Connor land and from Ely of
the O’Carrolls, with many men slain and many horses captured, and fresh
supplies were sent for from England. But Richard, unlike any other
king that visited Ireland, was moved by the spirit of the country. The
temper he had shown thirteen years before in the Peasant Revolt--“I
am your King and Lord, good people; what will ye?”--manifested itself
again amid the troubles of his Irish lordship. To the Irish people
he showed the first signs of sympathy and respect. Laying aside the
hostile banners of England, he substituted the golden cross and silver
birds of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor--the only King of
England reported to have any connection with an Irish house, if as some
historians say (on what evidence I do not know) his Queen’s sister
Driella was wife of O’Brien, king of Munster. “To Us and our Council,”
he wrote to England, “it appears that the Irish rebels have rebelled
in consequence of the injustice and grievances practised towards them,
for which they have been afforded no redress.” Peace was made with “his
rebel MacMorrough”; and treaties signed with the chiefs, seventy-five
of them, were sent to England in two hampers, while Richard returned to
Westminster leaving Roger Mortimer, heir to the throne, as Viceroy. The
next year, as we have seen, he received O’Carroll of Ely at his palace
with especial honour.

With his disappearance the policy of peace and reform came to an end.
The meaning of Mortimer’s rule was clear to the Irish. He claimed by
inheritance of Lionel Duke of Clarence, son of Edward III., to be Earl
of Ulster, Lord of Connacht, Trim, Leix, and Ossory, thus threatening
the Ulster chiefs with a war of conquest, and the lord of Offaly and
the middle Irish with the complete encircling of their lands, their
isolation and destruction. Edmund Mortimer, son-in-law of Clarence, had
already appeared as Viceroy (1380-1381), carrying with him the sword
adorned with gold “which had belonged to the good king Edward” the
Confessor, and his great bed of black satin embroidered with the arms
of de Mortimer and Ulster: he sent much spoil and cattle to England,
and died in the midst of his warfare. His son Roger was appointed
Viceroy (1382-1383) a boy of ten; and orders were sent to arrest all
those who by land or water should send or sell horses, salt, armour,
iron, gold, silver, corn, or other provisions, to any of the Irish.
Once more this same Roger Mortimer was Viceroy in 1395, riding to war
for his inheritance in the dress and arms of an Irish chief. Calvagh
captured the earl of Kildare who was held to ransom by his father; and
the Carlow men routed and slew the young Mortimer himself (1398). On
which Richard sent over his half-brother, the Duke of Surrey (1398),
and already forgetful of his Irish compacts of three years before,
granted his favourite lands which by treaty belonged to MacMurchadh.
When war naturally followed the king proposed to subdue the Irish by a
new visit (1399), this time forsaking the tradition of the Confessor
for that of Henry II., and bearing the royal regalia of England and
the miraculous consecrated oil of St. Thomas of Canterbury used at
coronations. Chanting a last collect with the canons of St. George
he set sail for Waterford, bringing with him the Duke of Lancaster
(afterwards Henry V.) a boy of twelve years, to take his first lesson
in war. The army was set to fell MacMurchadh’s woods; a space was
cleared, villages and houses set on fire, and in that scene Richard
made the young Henry knight, even while the Duke of Lancaster was
landing in Yorkshire to seize the English crown. Before July closed
the betrayed king had hurried back to England, there to meet his death
of horror.

So ended the royal dream of chivalry in Ireland, as it had closed
before in England. Whatever imaginative feeling for the Irish, whatever
memories of their old tradition or visions of a reconciliation of the
two civilizations, had stirred Richard II., these disappeared under the
Lancastrian kings. Stern conquest was their creed, as soon as their
wars in England, Wales, Scotland, and France would allow it.

The comings and goings of English governors in Ireland during the
French wars read like the wanderings of the Wiking raiders, now on the
Irish side of the sea, now on the French, as the chances of campaign
might open the best prospects of adventure, plunder and ransom.
Viceroys, deputies, lords justices, of a summer or two, each with his
twelve months’ policy of extortion, slaughter, and vain treaties,
headed brief marches and skirmishes, campaigned on the plan that there
was never a battle to be opened on a Monday or after noonday, hunted
or purchased prisoners not for their defeat but for their ransom, and
in succession sailed away for the better ventures of the French war.
“The most cause of destruction,” the English colonists declared to the
king in 1435, arose because “during thirty years past the Lieutenants
and other Governors did not come here but for a sudden journey or
a hosting.” As their power shrank their salaries and armies were
increased. Governors no longer pretended to control the war, but
returning to the lawless practice of the first adventurers, ordered any
man who could to go out and fight however and wherever he pleased; and
the lords about Dublin, freed from all restraints of law, kept troops
of horse and foot against “Irish enemies,” “English rebels,” and their
own personal foes.

The Lieutenant sent by Henry IV. to rule Ireland (1401) was his son
Thomas of Lancaster twelve years old; and the first in a series of
changing deputies Sir Stephen Scrope, an old soldier trained in French
and Flemish wars, and as ready to serve Henry as Richard. He it was
who slew O’Carroll, Richard’s friend; and against him Murchadh and
Calvagh O’Connor warred victoriously in Meath (1406, 1408). The prior
of Kilmainham being deputy (who had also been on that ride of death
when the sun stood still), the O’Connors captured the sheriff of Meath
(1411) and took a great price for his ransom. The three months’ rule
of Sir John Stanley (1413) first governor of Henry V. was ended by his
death after the curse of the chief bard Niall O’Higgin whom he had
plundered at Usnach--“the second poetical miracle” of this famous bard.
In vain his successor Archbishop Cranley, whose eighty years alone
held him back from battle, gathered his clergy at Castledermot to pray
for English victory: O’Connor and MacGeoghagan routed the English, and
held to ransom prisoners for two thousand six hundred marks besides
other fines (1414). Sir John Talbot Lord Furnival followed (1414),
hovering between Ireland, England, and France--to the English “an
ancient fox and politique captain,” to the French “a very scourge
and daily terror,” to the Irish “a son of curses for his venom and a
devil for his evil.” He called out the troops to active war, slew many
rebels, and gave protection to neither saint nor sanctuary; it was his
policy to “oblige one Irish enemy to serve upon the other,” by forcing
defeated chiefs to swear that they would fight under him against their
countrymen. Still the O’Connors raided Meath for arms, horses, and
prisoners (1417). Calvagh was once treacherously captured by a Meath
lord, from whom Talbot in hope of a ransom purchased him; but the
prisoner escaped that same night. To Talbot succeeded (1420) James the
White Earl of Ormond, back from the French wars. Precepts drawn up to
guide his conduct declared that as “the Irish are false by kind, it
were expedient and a charity to execute upon them wilful and malicious
transgressors the king’s laws somewhat sharply.” He too had been at the
death of O’Carroll, and once again, it was said, the sun miraculously
stood still for three hours, and no pit or bog annoyed horse or man on
his part, while he slaughtered the Irish on “the red moor of Athy.”
Twice every week the clergy of Dublin went in solemn procession praying
for his good success against those disordered persons which now in
every quarter of Ireland had degenerated to their old trade of life,
and repined at the English. The colonists petitioned Henry V. that he
would induce the Pope to proclaim a holy crusade against the Irish,
“in perpetual destruction of those enemies.” It was in the bitterness
of this exasperated conflict that Murchadh O’Connor Faly won a last
victory (1421), before he laid down arms and entered his monastery of
Killeigh to die--“Murchadh of the defeats.”

For thirty-seven years Calvagh now led his people’s fight against
“the English manner of government,” in other words, the destruction
of the Irish. He seized more lords and officers, won more wealth, and
recovered more Irish territory than any lord in Leinster. At this time
the Desmonds, out of favour under Lancastrian kings, had withdrawn to
Munster to build up their dominion in the south, while the Ormonds
and their cousins and rivals the Talbots fought for power. Passing
strangers appeared in Dublin Castle; but with occasional interruptions
the actual authority swung back, now to Ormond and his half-brother
the prior of Kilmainham, now to Talbot and his brother the Archbishop
of Dublin, till each family had held the chief control many times.
The Talbots stood for pure English rule, and excelled in severity
alike towards colonists and natives. They used for their wars and
their rewards Irish taxes, coyn and livery; but at Westminster they
represented Ormond’s iniquity in levying the like taxes, and his faint
and wavering sympathies for his countrymen, as treason of the darkest
hue; his favouring his Irish friends, keeping Irish soldiers for his
following, letting lands slip into Irish hands, making Irishmen knights
of the shire; with a few additions thrown in of his sloth, violence,
and corruption--“courses ruinous and destructive” to the English. In
the midst of this discord Calvagh seems to have leaned to Ormond. His
wife, apparently by a friendly arrangement, was given tribute from an
Ormond lordship in Kildare. He himself held Talbot’s cousin Thomas to
ransom in his prison at Killeigh: he took “blackrent” or tribute from
the English of Meath.

Meanwhile both Ulster and Offaly were set aflame by the coming of a
new Mortimer Viceroy (1423) Edmund, son of Roger of the Irish dress.
When he landed with an English army O’Neill and O’Donnell had already
marched over Louth and Meath (1423), compelling the English to give
hostages and guarantees for their pledge that they would be under
tribute for ever. Edmund called O’Neill and some of the leaders to his
Trim Castle, and made arrangements with him; but they had scarcely left
when he died of plague (1424), and Talbot, then Lord Chief Justice,
pursued the chiefs and carried them prisoners to Dublin, demanding
hostages and ransom. Calvagh on his side raided Meath, where he seized
the Marshal of the English army, the Seneschal of the Viceroy’s manor,
and other squires. But it was now the turn of Ormond, who had lately
come to Ireland bringing a host of Saxons, and adding great strength
to the English wars; and Talbot made terms with Calvagh before the
appointment of the new viceroy. But the peace was brief. Calvagh
entered into alliance with the princes of Ulster. He married his
daughter Finola to O’Donnell, “harrasser and destroyer of the English.”
And when O’Neill with O’Donnell marched a great army to Mullingar
(1431), and on the Moat where O’Melaghlin had in old times ruled and
judged Leinster, gathered the chiefs to take his wages and acknowledge
him leader for the war, Calvagh joined his host in the ravaging of
Westmeath till the English paid a heavy price for the sparing of
their country. Later, when his son-in-law O’Donnell was captured and
imprisoned in Dublin Castle (1434), then sent to England (1435), and
finally to the Isle of Man (1439) to die there in prison, Calvagh
marched, year after year, through Meath to avenge his captivity. The
Justiciary or Deputy himself was taken prisoner by Calvagh’s son, and
kept some time till the English of Dublin ransomed him. In the feuds
of the barons he found allies. The son of MacFheorais, chief of the
Berminghams and heir of “the treacherous baron,” suffered “an abuse”
in the great court of Trim, the Governor’s castle. For as he entered
the court (1443) under the safeguard of Ormond, the son of Barnewell,
Treasurer of Meath, beat a _Caimin_--namely, a stroke of his finger on
the nose of Bermingham’s son. On which he stole out of the town, and
went towards O’Connor Faly, and they joined together, and it is hard
to know that ever was such abuse better revenged than the said Caimin.
They burned and preyed Meath and obtained their full demands--that
Calvagh should have his duties from the English during his life as
Lord of his territory, and that the Clan-Feorais should have all their
hostages freely restored; and not only that but they obtained in this
“war of Caimin” all conditions such as they demanded for holding
peaceable quiet with the English. Ever more formidable, Calvagh now
led his kerns to Moyclare beyond Maynooth and to Tara itself (1446).
Talbot, made Earl of Shrewsbury, was called back from the French wars.
He re-built Castle Carberry, the castle of the old massacre, to defend
Meath against Berminghams and O’Connors, caused Calvagh to make peace,
to ransom his son taken in the wars, and deliver many beeves for
the royal kitchen; and made a statute (1447) that English and Irish
should no more be confounded together by their dress, but that every
Englishman who did not shave in the English manner once at least in two
weeks, should be treated as an Irish enemy--a statute which survived
till the reign of Charles I. His last characteristic outrage was the
treacherous capture of Felim O’Reilly who had gone to Trim at his own
invitation, and the like deceitful seizing of the Savadges. Talbot
seems to have been distinguished for his violated pledges among the
crowd of English officials whose broken faith became a byword. “Thy
safe-guarding,” said the poet, “I confide to God; to Mary’s sweet and
only Son; that He may shelter thee from Anglo-word of Englishmen, and
from the gentiles’ act of violence.” The prisoners all died in Trim
Castle, disappointing the Viceroy of his ransom. After which Talbot
disappeared for the last time to France (1447), followed by the curses
of the Irish--“the learned say there came not from the time of Herod
anyone so wicked in evil deeds.” In his stead came Richard Plantagenet,
Duke of York, heir to the English crown, and to all the earldoms and
lordships of the Mortimers.

No doubt the race of O’Connor Faly was a family of irreconcilables;
men fighting honourably to defend their land and people, each leader
of them in his turn strong to obtain “great rewards from the English
for making peace with them, as had been usual with his predecessors.”
They were the sort of people for whom Dublin Castle for a hundred years
past, and many hundred years to come, had but one name, “the Irish
enemy,” ever bitterly complaining of the “mere Irish, men that are
truly beastly and ignorant,” living under “the wicked and damnable law
called Brehon Law,” “which by reason ought not to be named a law, but
an evil custom.”

There was a good deal however that Dublin Castle did not know or care
to know. In the midst of this desolating war the story of Margaret,
wife of O’Connor, gives us a glimpse into the life of the Irish clans
behind the fastnesses that screened them from English view. It might
seem that amid centuries of conflict, ever-present danger, preyings
and raidings, statutes to shut them out from learning, trade, or
advancement in their church, and torrents of slander to defile their
name, the Irish might in truth have fallen into the nomad barbarism
and the beastly ignorance of which they were accused by the English
from that time to this. In fact however the people, endowed with
an immense vitality, were busily occupied with commerce and with
learning. Irish princes were lively competitors with the English
merchants of the Pale. In all their territories the places of fairs
were thronged with dealers, English and Irish, who did business
together in peace and amity, while profits poured into Irish coffers.
English statutes forbade any Englishman to deal in an Irish market:
English merchants therefore put on Irish dress, rode on Irish saddles,
talked Irish, and went on trading as before. Towns and monasteries of
the colonists forced from the government charters allowing them to
traffic with Irish dealers. The O’Connors lay at the meeting point
of natural trade-routes, with their fair-town at Killeigh, and their
establishments at Rathangan and Castledermot; and Margaret was a patron
of commerce, as she was of learning and religion. “She was the only
woman,” the Annals tell us, “that has made the most of repairing the
highways and erecting bridges, churches, and Mass books, and of all
manner of things profitable to serve God and her soul, and while the
world stands her many gifts to the Irish and Scottish nations shall
never be numbered.”


(From “Grose’s Antiquities,” 1792; destroyed 1799.)]

She was a patron too of the schools of the learned, which under
the Irish revival had sprung into new and vigorous life, training
students in every corner of Ireland, and sending out scholars to all
the universities of Europe. “The company that read all books, they of
the church and of the poets both: such of these as shall be perfect
in knowledge, forsake not thou their intimacy ever”--this, according
to an Irish poet, was the high duty of chiefs, of the noble and
wealthy; and Margaret was faithful to the tradition of her people. Her
friendship for the learned, the royal magnificence of her bounty was
long remembered in Ireland. The year 1433 was a year of trouble. Ormond
ravaged the land of Ely and destroyed the fortresses of the O’Carrolls.
Margaret’s daughter Finola--“the most beautiful and stately, the
most renowned and illustrious woman of her time, her own mother only
excepted,” blessed with “the blessing of guests and strangers, of poets
and philosophers”--only saved Tirconail from the enemies of O’Neill
and of MacDonnell and his Scots by herself going, after the fashion
of the strong-hearted and independent women of Ireland, to meet them
at Inishowen, and there “made peace without leave from O’Donnell.” It
was a year terribly named in Irish tradition, “‘the summer of slight
acquaintance,’ because no one used to recognise friend or relative,”
for the greatness of the famine that lay on the land. Such was the
time of Margaret’s great benevolence. “It is she that twice in one
year proclaimed to and commonly invited (_i.e._, in the dark days
of the year, to wit, on the feast day of Da Sinchell [26 March] in
Killachy), all persons, both Irish and Scottish, or rather Albaines,
to two general feasts of bestowing both meat and moneys, with all
manner of gifts, whereunto gathered to receive gifts the matter of two
thousand and seven hundred persons, besides gamesters and poor men,
as it was recorded in a Roll to that purpose, and that accompt was
made thus, _ut vidimus_--viz., the chief _kins_ of each family of the
learned Irish was by Gilla-na-naemh MacÆgan’s hand, the chief Judge to
O’Connor, written in the Roll, and his adherents and kinsmen, so that
the aforesaid number of 2,700 was listed in that Roll with the Arts of
_Dan_, or poetry, Music, and Antiquity. And Maelin O’Maelconry, one of
the chief learned of Connacht, was the first written in that Roll, and
first paid and dieted, or set to supper, and those of his name after
him, and so forth every one as he was paid he was written in that Roll,
for fear of mistake, and set down to eat afterwards. And Margaret on
the garrots of the great church of Da Sinchell clad in cloth of gold,
her dearest friends about her, her clergy and Judges too. Calvagh
himself on horseback by the church’s outward side, to the end that all
things might be done orderly, and each one served successively. And
first of all she gave two chalices of gold as offerings that day on the
Altar to God Almighty, and she also caused to nurse or foster too [two]
young orphans. But so it was, we never saw nor heard neither the like
of that day nor comparable to its glory and solace. And she gave the
second inviting proclamation (to every one that came not that day) on
the feast day of the Assumption of our Blessed Lady Mary in harvest, at
or in the Rath-Imayn, and so we have been informed that that second day
in Rath-Imayn was nothing inferior to the first day.”

We know something of the manner of these national festivals, for the
Irish were long practised in the organizing of general conventions,
and their poets have left us some curious details. One tells of a
company of the Tyrone poets gathered in 1577 at O’Neill’s house, where
the poets sat ranged along a hall hung with red on either side of the
chief, and standing up beside the host pledged him in ale quaffed from
golden goblets and beakers of horn; and having told their song or story
for a price, took their gifts of honour. Another describes a greater
company, such an assembly as that of Margaret, invited in 1351 to the
castle of William O’Kelly.

“The chroniclers of comely Ireland, it is a gathering of a mighty host,
the company is in the town; where is the street of the chroniclers?

“The fair, generous-hearted host have another spacious avenue of white
houses for the bardic companies and the jugglers.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Such is the arrangement of them, ample roads between them; even as
letters in their lines.

“Each thread of road, bare, smooth, straight, firm, is contained within
two threads of smooth, conical roofed houses.

“The ridge of the bright-furrowed slope is a plain lined with houses,
behind the crowded plain is a fort, as it were a capital letter.”

The castle itself was worthy of one born into the Irish inheritance,
of the great lineage of their race: far off it is recognised, the
star-like mass of stone, its outer smoothness like vellum--a castle
which was the standard of a mighty chieftain; bright is the stone
thereof, ruddy its timber.

“Close is the joining of its timber and its lime-washed stone; there is
no gaping where they touch; the work is a triumph of art.

“There is much artistic ironwork upon the shining timber: on the smooth
part of each brown oaken beam workmen are carving animal figures.

“On the smooth wall of the warm mansion--amazing in its beauty--is the
track of a slender, pointed pen; light, fresh, narrow.

“The bardic companies of pleasant-meadowed Fóla, and those of
Scotland--a distant journey--will be acquainted with one another after
arriving in William’s lofty castle.

“Herein will come the seven grades who form the shape of genuine
poesy; the seven true orders of poets, their entrance is an omen of

“Many coming to the son of Donnchadh from the north, no less from the
south, an assembly of scholars: a billeting from west and east, a
company seeking for cattle.

“There will be jurists, of legal decisions; wizards, and good poets;
the authors of Ireland, those who compose the battle rolls, will be in
his dwelling.

“The musicians of Ireland--vast the flock--the followers of every craft
in general, the flood of companies, side by side--the tryst of all is
to one house.

“In preparation for those who come to the house there has been
built--it is just to boast of it--according to the desire of the master
of the place, a castle fit for apple-treed Emain.

“There are sleeping booths for the company, wrought of woven branches,
on the bright surface of the pleasant hills.

“The poets of the Irish land are prepared to seek O’Kelly. A mighty
company is approaching his house, an avenue of peaked hostels is in
readiness for them.

“Hard by that--pleasant is the aspect--a separate street has been
appointed by William for the musicians, that they may be ready to
perform before him.

“This lofty tower opposite to us is similar to the Tower of Breoghan,
from which the best of spears were cast; from which Ireland was
perceived from Spain.

“By which the mighty progeny of Mil of Spain--a contentious
undertaking--contested the land with sharp spear points, so that they
became men of Ireland.

       *       *       *       *       *

 “From Greece to fair Spain, from Spain to Ireland, such the wanderings
 of the mighty progeny of Mil, the host of the seasoned, finely wrought

Such was the assembly, “the mound of grand convention,” to which
Margaret invited Irish scholars. In such national festivals the passion
of war was exchanged for a nobler pride of life. The chief recognised
his place in the wide commonwealth of the Gaelic people. Each one of
the company of scholars was reminded that whatever lord he served,
Ireland was his country and the fortunes of the race his care. And the
people themselves, sharing the festivities of those joyous assemblies,
and entertained by the best that Ireland could give of music and
literature, could still exult through their successive generations in
the kinship of the whole race, Irish and Scots. Irishmen to-day may
remember that the scholars gathered by Margaret’s munificence were
among those to whom we owe all that we now know of Irish history;
they were of the men who in the Irish revival of the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries spent their lives in searching out, preserving,
copying, the records, laws, and traditions of their people. They were
the lively translators of books from abroad, the students of the modern
sciences, the band of scholars whose powerful influence was drawing
the inhabitants of Ireland, English and Irish, into one culture. Their
spirit is shewn in many sayings of the time.

“If you praise one for nobility praise his father likewise. If you
praise one for his wealth, it is from the world it comes. If you praise
one for his strength, know that sickness will render him weak, and if
you praise a person for his fairness or the beauty of his body, know
that the bloom of youth endures but a short while, and that age will
take it away. But if you praise him for manners or learning, praise him
as much as you will ever praise anyone, for this is the thing which
comes not by heredity or through upbringing, but God bestowed it upon
him as a gift.”

“Wisdom is life and ignorance is death, for of God’s gifts upon earth
there is none which is higher and more comely and pure than wisdom, for
to him who possesses it, wisdom teaches the performance of good things.”

Such were the people whose culture had to be destroyed and their
energies broken in the name of civilization. Twelve years later
(1445) Margaret with a company of patriots--MacGeoghagans and
others--hardened by long fighting, went on pilgrimage to St. James of
Compostella, the shrine most dear to the Irish people, in the “fair
Spain” whence their race had come. These pilgrimages are interesting,
as showing the travel of Irishmen to Europe. In the _Cambridge Modern
History_ Ireland is described as “a mere _terra incognita_,” cut off
by its barbarism, and by its position from the larger influences of
Europe: “of one Irish chieftain it was placed on record that he had
accomplished the hazardous journey to Rome and back.” In this half
century alone (1396-1452) we read of two companies of chiefs and men
of the poorer sort journeying to Compostella (1445, 1452), and of two
companies who travelled to Rome (1396, 1444); and apparently of yet a
third company, who brought back to Ireland tales they had heard of the
French wars “from prisoners at Rome” (1451). By land and sea traders
and scholars were crossing and re-crossing to the Continent, not only
from one part of Ireland but from every province: “Do not repent,” men
said, “for going to acquire knowledge from a wise man, for merchants
fare over the sea to add to their wealth.”

Margaret returned to the distractions of a new conflict and the
treacheries of a false peace (1445). Calvagh and the Berminghams were
again making “a great war” with the English, cutting much corn and
taking many prisoners, “and they made peace afterwards;” on which
MacGeoghagan, just home from his pilgrimage, went with others under
protection of the Baron of Delvin “where the English were”--that is to
the Governor’s castle at Trim. “But the English not regarding any peace
took them all prisoners.” MacGeoghagan was after that set at liberty,
his son being given as hostage. “And Margaret, O’Carroll’s daughter,
went to Trim and gave all the English prisoners for MacGeoghagan’s
son and the son’s son of Art, and that unadvised to Calvagh, and she
brought them home.” It was an act as free and brave as that of her
daughter Finola, who had made peace for the O’Donnell land. Such women
of great soul stand out on the stage of Irish history, nobly praised by
the poets.

  “She is sufficiently distinguished from every side
  By her checking of plunder, her hatred of injustice,
  By her serene countenance, which causes the trees
  To bend with fruit; by her tranquil mind.”

The story of Margaret was closing in sorrow. Finola, “the fairest and
most famous woman in all Ireland beside her own mother,” after the
death of O’Donnell in the fifth year of his captivity in an English
prison, married Aedh Boy O’Neill, “who was thought to be King of
Ireland,” “the most renowned, hospitable, and valourous of the princes
in his time, and who had planted more of the lands of the English in
despite of them than any other man of his day;” he was wounded to death
on Spy-Wednesday (1444), “and we never heard since Christ was betrayed,
on such a day a better man.” A little later Finola, “renouncing all
worldly vanity betook herself into the austere devout life in the
monastery of Killeigh; and the blessing of guests and strangers, and
poor and rich, of both poet-philosophers and archi-poet-philosophers
be on her in that life” (1447). The next year Margaret’s son, Cathal,
was slain by the English of Leinster. Calvagh, leading the Irish of
Leinster in a great army, marched to Killculinn near the hill of Alenn
on the border of the old Offaly, and there, his leg broken, his sword
and helmet torn from him, the English horsemen were about to bring him
into Castlemartin when “Cathal’s son returned courageously and rescued
him forceably.” Another son Felim, heir to the lordship of Offaly, a
man of great fame and renown, lay dying of long decline, on the night
that Margaret herself passed away (1451). “A gracious year this year
was, though the glory and solace of the Irish was set, but the glory of
heaven was amplified and extolled therein.” “The best woman of her time
in Ireland”--such was the Irish record of that lofty and magnanimous
soul. “God’s blessing, the blessing of all saints, and every our
blessing from Jerusalem to Inis Gluair be on her going to Heaven, and
blessed be he that will read and hear this for blessing her soul.”

Margaret left her husband to the gallant and hopeless struggle for the
saving of Irish civilization. The next year he too made pilgrimage to
Compostella (1452). But disaster gathered round him. MacGeoghagan, the
most famous and renowned among the captains of Ireland, was slain, and
his head carried to Trim and Dublin. Two sons of Calvagh were killed
in war. His daughter Mòr, the wife of Clanricard, died of a fall from
her horse; with her ended the system of alliances by which Calvagh
had fortified himself west of the Shannon and in Ulster (1452). His
old enemy Ormond, the best captain of the English in Ireland, he for
whom the sun of old stood still, had come back to the Irish wars. He
had been called to London in 1447 on a charge of treason, for trial
by battle with his chief foe the Prior of Kilmainham--Ormond by the
King’s leave staying at Smithfield “for his breathing and more ease”
while he trained for the fight; the Prior learning “certain points
of arms” from a fishmonger paid by the King. But the royal favour
prevailed, Ormond made clear his desire to exterminate the Irish, and
without trial or battle was declared “whole and untainted in fame.”
He returned to ravage Kildare and Meath in war with the rival house
of the FitzGeralds, earls of Kildare, and to make a last triumphant
march round the bordering Irish tribes. Calvagh was forced to “come
into his house” and make terms of peace (1452). The peace was made
null by Ormond’s death a month later, and Calvagh “went out into the
wilderness of Kildare” where the new deputy with his cavalry surrounded
him unawares. Teige, his son, “most courageously worked to rescue his
father from the English horsemen; but O’Connor’s horse fell thrice
down to the ground, and Teige put him up twice, and O’Connor himself
would not give his consent the third time to go with him, so that
then O’Connor was taken prisoner.” The same year he was released. But
his wars were practically over. In 1458 he was buried by his father
Murchadh and his wife Margaret in Killeigh; defender of his country for
sixty years, and for thirty-seven years lord of Offaly. Last of all,
Finola, after forty-six years of the religious life (1493), rested also
in the splendid abbey of Killeigh.

Of the glories of that abbey, of its rich glass, its gold and silver
work, its sculptured tombs, its organs, nothing now remains but a bare
fragment of wall. In the year that Silken Thomas and his five uncles
were hanged at Tyburn (1537), Lord Leonard Grey wasted the land of
O’Connor Faly, who had married the sister of Earl Thomas; making him
“more like a beggar, than he that ever was a captain or ruler of a
country.” Vast quantities of corn stored up at Killeigh were carried to
the Pale; and from the ruined Abbey Grey furnished out the buildings of
Maynooth, which had been stormed and taken from Earl Thomas two years
before; carrying off from its sack a pair of organs and other necessary
things for the King’s College at Maynooth, and as much glass as was
needed to glaze the windows of the College and of His Grace’s Castle
there. The tombs of the great house of O’Connor Faly were utterly
destroyed so that no trace of them remains.

The destruction of the great abbey was the symbol to the Leinster Irish
of their final desolation, the ruin which submerged the whole people
of Ireland on the fall of the House of Kildare. Then began in the rich
plains of Leinster the ruthless policy of wholesale extirpation of the
Irish old inhabitants, to “plant” the country anew from across the
sea. The fruitful land became to Irish eyes a vast cemetery of their
dead. In their lamentation they remembered that Brian Boru’s grave was
there, and the grave of his son “that bore the brunt of weapon-fight”:
and still the graves were multiplied. “Great are the charges that all
others have against the land of Leinster”--a poet of the O’Byrnes
sang.... “Charges against her all Ireland’s nobles have: that beneath
the salmon-abounding Leinster country’s soil--region of shallow rivers
foamy-waved--there is many a grave of their kings and of their heirs
apparent.” “The red-handed Leinster province” holds the bones of the
long line of O’Connor Faly, men and women who adorned their country
with courage and piety, art and learning.

  “They shall be remembered for ever,
  They shall be speaking for ever,
  The people shall hear them for ever.”



THE “island of Lecale,” as the Elizabethan English called it, lies in
the County of Down, surrounded on three sides by the sea, and on the
fourth bounded by the Quoile and Blackstaff rivers. The northern coast
of the “island” almost closes the mouth of Lough Cuan, now Strangford
Lough, leaving but a narrow strait for boats to pass. On the south it
bounds the Bay of Dundrum, across which rises the huge granite mass of
the Mourne Mountains.



The fruitful plain of Lecale, defended and enriched by the sea, drew to
it inhabitants from the first peopling of Ireland. All Irish history is
reflected there. The in-comers of prehistoric times raised the great
stone circles of Ballyno, that stupendous monument to a great hero and
a solemn worship--none more astonishing in Ireland. On a wide slope,
completely shut off and secluded by the higher ground, the rings of
massive stones lie confronting alone the eminence on which is lifted up
against the heavens the imposing mound of Erenagh, loftiest of the line
of earthworks that surround Dundrum Bay. From the time of an immemorial
Nature worship pilgrims have assembled, even as they gathered down to
our own times, where the streams of Struel pour abundantly from the
rock, to seek cleansing in the bounteous waters on Midsummer Day, and
at the festival of Lughnasadh or Lugh’s fair on the first of August.
The Red Branch of Emain sent its heroes to hold the two main passages
into the “island,” and the inlets of the sea where trade was borne.
On the northern port, known to Ptolemy as Dunum, where the river
Quoile widens to Strangford Lough, Celtchair of the Battles made his
entrenchment of Rath Celtchair or Dun Lethglasse, on a hill rising
from the flat ground and swamps of the river. At the head of Dundrum
Bay, where the sea narrows over a stretch of shoals and shallows to
the inner bay, another Red Branch knight raised on a steep rock his
commanding fort, Dún Rudraidhe, and left his name also to the ocean
tide, Tonn Rudraidhe, whose waters were lifted up into one of the Three
Waves of Ireland that sounded their warning to the land when danger
threatened, or echoed the moan in battle of a dying hero’s shield.
Here, in this place of Celtic legend, relics of bronze and pottery and
stone can still be picked up in plenty on the sand dunes. Round the
circuit of the bay half-a-dozen ancient earthworks may still be seen,
connected with strands or harbours by old paths.

With the dawn of a new age the wanderings of St. Patrick gave to
Lecale new memories--the wells which he blessed for the new faith; the
wooden barn at Saul where he set up his church on the slope above the
marsh along which the highway ran from Strangford to Down, and where
the angel called him to die; the Dun of Patrick, or Downpatrick, given
him for a Christian settlement on the old rath of Celtchair, where
according to later legend he was buried, and where a great granite
boulder now marks the traditional grave. Amid the majestic monuments of
pagan heroes the lowly pioneers of the new faith raised their little
buildings. The spit of land that separates the bay of Tonn Rudraidhe
from that of Ardglass is fringed with low rocks black and jagged;
and this point of danger to mariners, now marked by a lighthouse,
was in early Christian times sanctified by a church. A tiny harbour
cuts through the keen-edged rocks to a little strand where a couple
of curraghs might lie: and there by the well the little company built
their church--a small stone building twenty feet by thirteen, with the
two narrow windows, one east and one south, to throw on the altar the
light of the rising and the mid-day sun, and the western door for the
departing day and the hour of benediction till the sun should make his
circuit to the east. The name of St. John’s Point recalls that old
dedication, and the early Irish devotion to their special saint, the
beloved disciple of the Lord. Across the bay might be seen the austere
cell of St. Donard lifted high, near 3,000 feet, on the topmost point
of Slieve-Donard, dominating all Lecale, where an inspired solitary
transformed the ancient pagan tradition to a new use, that as mighty
men of old were in death commemorated by carns on the high hills, so on
the mountain a Christian would shew afar the place of his burial to the
world, and the place of his resurrection.

Lecale was soon filled with religious settlements and schools. Lying
at the entrance to Lough Cuan of the hundred islands, now Lough
Strangford, where a busy population tilled the fertile slopes, and
sent out innumerable boats for the celebrated salmon-fishing, or for
traffic, Lecale was as it were the guardian of their sanctuaries. Close
to Downpatrick lies Crannach Dún-leth-glaisse, “the wooded island of
Dún-leth-glaisse,” now known as Cranny island; there Mochuaróc maccu
Min Semon, whom the Romans called the “doctor” of the whole world,
lived early in the seventh century, and wrote down the calculus
which his master Sinlan, Abbot of Bangor (+610), had first among the
Irish learned from a certain wise Greek. Farther north, some twelve
or fifteen miles from Ardglass, lies Inis-Mahee, where behind the
boulder-strewn shore and the heavy seaweed thrown up by the waters on
meadows and ploughed land over which sea-birds love to hover, past
the harbour and the rude boat-shelter cut in the rock, we enter on a
retreat where the light seems more translucent than elsewhere, the
silence more penetrating and peace more profound, the colour as that
of an everlasting spring--a space of wild wood, resonant with the
song of birds, where the flowers spring thicker than the grass. There
St. Mochaoi (Mahee) raised his wooden church about 450 A.D., first
abbot and bishop. Legend told that as he was cutting wattles for his
building, he heard a bright bird, more beautiful than the birds of the
world, singing on the blackthorn near him, and asked who it was that
made such a song. “A man of the people of my Lord,” answered the bird.
“Hail,” said Mochaoi, “and for why that, oh bird that is an angel?” “I
am come by command to encourage you in your good work, and because of
the love that is in your heart to amuse you for a time with my sweet
singing.” “I am glad of that,” said Mochaoi. One hundred and fifty
years passed as a moment while he listened to the heavenly song; and
when the bird vanished and he lifted up his bundle of wattles to carry
home, a stone church stood there before him, and strange monks. They
made him abbot once more; and there at last “a sleep without decay of
the body Mochaoi slept.” The foundations of the little church with
walls over three feet thick, the remnant of the round tower, the traces
of other buildings on the west of the island hill, the well closed
in, the triple ring of earthen entrenchments faced with stone that
encircled the slopes of the island like a cashel, the port with its
rough stone work into which “ships from Britain” sailed--these still
tell of the days when Inis-Mahee was a school of religion and learning
for all the district, where the famous St. Finian of Moville came to
study. From the round tower the whole lough could be seen as far as
Lecale and the passage to the sea. There must have been then, as there
was later, much intercourse between the sea-going people of Mahee and
Ardglass. For Ardglass was the port of the neighbouring monastery whose
site we may still trace at Dunsford. A Protestant church was planted
over it in Reformation times; but an old cross slab may still be seen,
and from the graveyard there has been rescued an ancient stone font,
and carried to the new church of the older faith; and here too an
ancient Celtic cross from an old cemetery, of the type of those found
at Clonmacnois, has been set over the church door.

Lecale was a rich land to plunder when the Danes descended on it. Not
a creek that they did not visit. Their raids were followed by later
raids of their Norman kinsmen, when in 1177 de Courcy came marching
to the conquest of Ulster, dreaming himself the knight foretold by
Merlin, and willing “to accommodate himself in dress, in gesture, in
his shield, and even his white horse, to the prophecies; so that he
looked more like a Merry-Andrew than a warrior.” The seizing of Lecale
and Downpatrick was his first adventure; before a year was over (1178)
he had attached Mahee to an English monastery, peopled it with monks
from the other side of the sea, and along with Roger, the new lord of
Dunsford, endowed it with large tracts of land about Dunsford and in
Lecale. In spite of new wealth the spirit and fortunes of Mahee died
for ever under foreign rule.


By de Courcy and his followers the island of Lecale was ringed with
castles from the great keep of Dundrum (“it is one of the strongest
holds I ever saw,” said Lord Leonard Grey) to Downpatrick at the
passage of the Quoile. The memory of one of his Norman knights is
preserved in Dunsford church, a grave-slab with a fine cross and sword
cut deeply on it, perhaps the tombstone of “Rogerus de Dunsford.” The
strong rush of waters that poured through the narrow neck of Lough
Cuan at every incoming or outgoing tide, once guarded on either side by
earthen entrenchments that may still be seen, was now held by a Norman
keep at Strangford; but the towers of the coast line from Ardglass
to Down--Kilclief, Walsh’s castle, Audley castle, Quoile castle,
and the rest--each set at the head of a little bay, were evidently
planted there for trade; and all probably on the sites of older Irish
communities. Thus at Kilclief, while Norman cross slabs tell of de
Courcy’s plantation, there is in the churchyard a long forgotten
tombstone marked with a Celtic cross of the type of Clonmacnois. How
many were thrown out to build fences, or to be broken on the roads!
The activity of trade along the coast even as late as the eighteenth
century may be seen by the remains at Quoile harbour near Down, the
custom-house, the great stores, the houses of merchants and officials
of the harbour.

In the 106 miles of coast that lie between Kingstown mole and Belfast
bay, Ardglass is the one harbour where a ship can enter at all stages
of the tide without a local pilot. It must ever have been a chief
harbour of eastern Ulster--a port open at all times of the tide and
sheltered from every wind save one, when boats could take refuge in
the southern port of Killough, “the haven of Ardglass,” linked with
it by an old path along the shore. A wall was thrown round the little
town of Ardglass strengthened by seven towers, four of which may still
be seen; and within these defences a central castle was set on the
rocky edge of the port, where boats could be pulled up to the very
door. The harbour was the outlet for the trade of the rich agricultural
and wool-producing lands of Down, Tyrone, and Armagh, and traffic
was carried on in wines, cloth, kerseys, all kinds of fish, wool,
and tallow. There is evidence of trade with France in the beautiful
altar-vessel found at Bright, of gilt bronze and many shaded enamel,
fine Limoges work of about 1200 A.D.

With the revival of Irish life in the fourteenth century, and the
gatherings of English merchants to Irish fairs, commerce increased and
flourished. Richard II. gave the port of Ardglass and its trade as
a rich reward to the Gascon commander, Janico d’Artois, his bravest
leader against Art MacMurchadh (1398). It is said that a trading
company with a grant from Henry IV. built the famous “New Works.” Close
to the harbour ran a range of buildings two hundred and fifty feet
long, with three square towers, walls three feet thick, pierced on the
sea-side by only narrow loop-holes, and opening into the “bawn” with
sixteen square windows, and fifteen arched door-ways of cut stone that
gave entrance to eighteen rooms on the ground floor and eighteen above.
It is still possible to trace the line of the New Works, the doors and
windows, and the remains of the towers. There seems to have been a
local school of art continued from the earlier centuries: fragments of
a Virgin and Child of old Dunsford made by Irish hands of Irish stone
from Scrabo at the north end of Strangford Lough, broken and scattered
for ages, have been recovered and pieced together and set on the wall
of the new Dunsford church, where it now stands in its old grace and
dignity as the only example in Ulster, perhaps in Ireland, of such
a pre-Reformation statue not utterly destroyed. All the churches of
Lecale, old men told a traveller about 1643, had before the burnings of
Captain Edward Cromwell been lightly roofed, probably with fine open
wood-carving, and highly adorned with sacred statues and images.


(From Grose.)]

From a few fragments we can only guess what wealth was once stored
up in Lecale. Wars of Irish and English raged round a harbour so
important, as the chiefs of Ulster pressed down against the strangers
over a land which had once at Dun Lethglasse held a chief fort of old
Ulster kings. O’Neill burned Ardglass of the d’Artois house in 1433:
in 1453 Henry O’Neill of Clannaboy was driven back from the town by
the help of a Dublin fleet. At the close of the fifteenth century the
English almost disappeared out of Lecale. Garrett the Great, Earl of
Kildare (1477-1513), claimed Ardglass and the lands about it as heir
through his mother to d’Artois, and gained supremacy there--a part
of the far-seeing policy by which the house of Kildare was gradually
widening its influence from sea to sea, from Ardglass to Sligo and
the lower Shannon. His son Garrett Oge had, by grant of Henry VIII.
(1514), the customs of Strangford and Ardglass, to be held by service
of one red rose annually; and still after four centuries heirs of the
Fitzgerald house remain at the entrance of Strangford Lough. After
the revolt of this Garrett’s son, Silken Thomas (1535), the English
marched through the country, burning Lecale. The fall of the Kildares,
allies and relatives of the O’Neills, brought a revival of the O’Neill
wars for Ardglass, and of the English campaigns. Lord Leonard Grey has
left a description in the State Papers (III. 155) of his expedition in
1539: “and so with the host we set forward into the said country and
took all the castles there and delivered them to Mr. Treasurer who hath
warded the same ... the said Lecayll is environed round about with the
sea and no way to go by land into said country but only by the castle
of Dundrome.... I assure your lordship I have been in many places and
countries in my days and yet did I never see for so much a pleasanter
plot of ground than the said Lecayll, for the commodity of the land
and divers islands in the same environed with the sea which were soon
reclaimed and inhabited....”

It was in this “reclaiming” that the Deputy ravaged the east coast,
took Dundrum, and the castles of Lecale and Ards; profaned S. Patrick’s
Church at Down, turning it into a stable and destroying the monuments
of Patrick, Brigid, and Columcille, and “after plucked it down, and
shipped the notable ring of bells that did hang in the steeple, meaning
to have them sent to England: had not God of his justice prevented his
iniquity by sinking the vessel and passengers.” Queen Mary restored
Ardglass to the next Earl, Gerald, son of Silken Thomas, the boy who at
his father’s capture had escaped “tenderly wrapped” in a turf-basket,
and after long perils and sorrows and exile in Rome, Italy, and France,
had at last returned, an obedient Angliciser under the Catholic queen
(1553). Under Queen Elizabeth, who was in Irish belief illegitimate
and a usurper, Shane O’Neill (1558-1567) cast out the English, and
“forcibly patronised himself in all Lecale.” Ardglass seems to have
come into the hands of the Irish, and trade was busy, for in Shane’s
great cellars at Dundrum he was said to have commonly stored two
hundred tuns of wine.

Thirty years after Shane’s death (1597), a plan for out-rooting the
Irish and planting an English race was drawn up by a clergyman of “the
Church of Ireland,” James Bell, Vicar of Christ Church in Dublin, and
dedicated by him to Lord Burghley. He was the faithful representative
of a political establishment, deep-stained with the blood and sorrow
of the Irish. Here is his proposal, preserved in the British Museum:
“The Crown should divide the land into lots of 300 acres, at £5 yearly
rent, for _English_ undertakers, who should maintain 10 men (English)
and 10 women, who now live in England by begging and naughty shifts;
while single to have two acres, married, four acres of the 300--which
was to be circumvallated by a deep trench or fosse.... If upon Tirone’s
lands 2,000 English families be planted, her Majesty’s profit would at
once be £10,000; besides, having 4,000 soldiers at hand without pay,
for every two of the ten men should serve in turn three months each
year--the act would be _motherly_ and honourable for her Highness. To
the bishops, there should be given, in fee simple, 1,200 acres, at
£20 a year, upon every 300 acres of which the ten men and women are
to be maintained, upon the like conditions; the inferior clergy, down
to parson and curate, to have 600 acres upon proportionate rent and
service. If her Majesty’s heart be moved by this device, there shall
not be a beggar in England; a work of great profit, great strength,
and great glory to the Queen, great love to her subjects, and singular
mercy towards her meanest subjects, in that she giveth house and
lands in Ireland to those that, in England, have not a hole to hide
their heads in. The trench round about would barr Irish rebels coming
suddenly trotting and jumping upon the good English subjects.” In the
proposed commonwealth no room for sustenance was left for the Irish
people of the land, fenced off from every place of food. Loyal to her
Majesty, James Bell was yet more loyal to the material predominance
of his Church. Among farmers owning three hundred acres with ten
families of labourers, the Church of Ireland was to have a stately
position with its inferior curates owning twice as much as their best
neighbours, and the bishops four times as much. It was but an act of
gratitude. “I will not say as Joshua and Caleb said, if the Lord have
a favour unto us; but I will say, the Lord having a special love unto
us, God hath given Ireland to her Majesty--a country most sweet, most
wholesome, and most fruitful to dwell in; so full of springs, so full
of rivers, so full of lakes, so full of fish, so full of cattle, and
of fowl, that there is not a country upon the face of the earth more
beneficial to the life of man.”

Thus plans of settlement and plantation were abroad when Mountjoy led
his army over Lecale. The castle of Dundrum surrendered to him (1601).
“His Lordship ... rode to Downpatrick, and thence by St. Patrick’s
Well to Ardglass, being six miles, in which town two castles yielded
to the Queen, and the warders, upon their lives saved, gave up their
arms. A third castle there had been held for the Queen all the time of
the Rebellion, by one Jordan, never coming out of the same for three
years past, till now by his Lordship’s coming he was freed.” This
was the castle on the port, which was evidently provisioned from the
sea, the only stronghold left in Ardglass for the English, and called
Castle Jordan from its defender. After this subjection of Ardglass,
Sir Richard Morrison, with five hundred foot and fifty horse, was left
at Downpatrick as governor of Lecale, while Mountjoy carried on war
against Tyrone.

A picture of life in a Lecale castle at this time has been left to
us by Captain Josias Bodley, of Mountjoy’s army. From Armagh to
Newry he journeyed through a famished country where for a whole year
Chichester’s and Morrison’s troops had been employed in completely
devastating the land, so that O’Neill should get provision neither
for man nor horse; and the poverty he saw in Newry shows their
success. Thence skirting the Mourne Mountains he stopped at the island
stronghold of Magennis in the lake at Castlewellan, and passing through
a land of ancient cromlechs and souterrains, of earthworks ringed
and conical, and of early Norman castles, entered Lecale. The scene
of the final merry-makings, the Governor’s Castle at Downpatrick,
was probably the fort which stood at the foot of the hill, the last
remains of which, a tall square tower, were removed a few years ago.
It was evidently not unlike the castle at Ardglass, and life was the
same in both of them. The stairs led first to the guard-room, with
its dresser laden with dishes, and a wide fire-place where heavy pots
hung from iron crooks, and cooks were busy with interminable cooking
of the fish and fowls and game for which Lecale was famous, pasties
of marrow and plums, Irish curds, and other dishes from France, there
designated “Quelq’ choses” (“kickshaws”), which were reckoned “vulgar”
by the English officers, as being perhaps too little substantial.
Thence the stairs led to the large hall where in the huge fire-place
logs were burning, even as in Castle Shane of Ardglass to-day, “the
height of our chins, as the saying is.” The hall was comfortable, for
of a night one may sit in the Ardglass room with the unglazed windows
in the thick walls on every side, and the door open to the winding
stairs, and no flicker of candles betrays a draught: the wind seems
carried up the turret staircase through the roof. The company in the
hall amused themselves with smoking, cards, backgammon, and dice.
There was much drinking of healths--many political pledges no doubt as
in modern Ulster, bitter tests to Irish companions when the English
officers might call on a newly-submitted chief such as Magennis to
join in a “loyal” toast: Bodley had apparently taken part in some
scenes of scruple and silence on the part of honourable men, “of all
things the most shameful,” he says. For any special entertainment the
servants crowded into the same room as the masters--the cook’s wife,
the scullion, and all; and played to amuse them a game still common
in the north. There came, too, the Irish Mummers or Rhymers, making
their Christmas rounds with torches and drums, wearing the traditional
pointed caps, and carrying their profits in the base money, one part
of silver to three of brass, which Elizabeth forced upon Ireland in
favour of her avaricious Treasurer there, Sir George Carey. Of this
money, such as it was, the Rhymers were “cleaned out” by the officers
in a game of dice, and sent on their long walk home across Lecale
two hours after the winter midnight, “without money; out of spirits;
out of order; without even saying ‘Farewell’”--a strange contrast to
the old Irish welcome to travellers and wandering players--a gallant
hospitality at the Christmas time of English officers, for whom no
season of mercy was sacred, and no obligation of honour, straight
dealing, or courtesy binding so far as Irishmen were concerned.
The rhymers may have sung as they took their way the fame of the
hero-warrior of their people: “Were but the brown leaf which the wood
sheds from it gold, were but the white billows silver, Finn would have
given it all away.” They may have recalled the lament of the old Irish
poet who saw the havoc made by “outlanders” of the ordered hospitality
of Irish society. “At the end of the final world [there will be] a
refuge to poverty and stinginess and grudging.” They could not see in
the far future the open castle of Ardglass.

Cards, dice, drinking, and smoking filled up the time of the English
visitors, with strolls of curiosity to the Wells and Chair of St.
Patrick at Struel, or the huge entrenchments of Celtchair of the
Battles. For the night there was a single sleeping-room above the hall,
a bed-chamber “arranged in the Irish fashion” with a good and soft bed
of down for the owner, and thin pallets thrown on the floor for the
company. The dogs of Captain Constable shared the room with the rest,
after the Yorkshire manner, leaping on the down bed and howling at
their rejection.

When Morrison left Downpatrick there came Captain Edward
Cromwell--descendant of Thomas Cromwell, minister of ill-fame to
Ireland under Henry VIII.--to be Governor of Lecale (1605): “this son
of earth and foul spot on the human race,” by whose army the cathedral
of Down was burned, and in that conflagration sacred monuments and
very ancient writings; and many other churches too, very few of which
have been since then restored. The very tombstones were used in
building houses and fences; while the people watching lamented the
devastation of what had been to them and their fathers “the place of
their resurrection,” so that they might go in the fellowship of their
saints “to the great assembly of Doom.” To Edward Cromwell the people
gave the name “Maol-na-teampull” for his impiety, and numbers of men
born in that terrible year of ruin reckoned their age over sixty years
after from the days of his sacrilege, as if from a national visitation.
In those days perhaps the Irish inhabitants were driven off the fertile
land to the very rim of the sea, to set their cabins, as may still be
seen, on the last refuge of the shingle itself round the Dundrum bay,
or to cluster together on some bare crag.

After the wars of Mountjoy and of Cromwell and the plantations of their
officers the fortunes of Lecale, as of all Ireland, declined. With
the final ruin of the O’Neills the clouded title of the Fitzgeralds
revived, in a dim shadow of their old pride. A branch of the family
built, in the eighteenth century, a sober mansion over the “New Works”
that had been raised when Ireland claimed her right to trade, and
around the towers that marked ancient centuries of battle. Even there
the old Fitzgerald fires of patriotism and indignation at inhuman
wrong broke out anew. The character of Lord Edward Fitzgerald is as
little comprehended as the spirit of his country. A Protestant brought
up in the days of penal laws and Protestant ascendancy; a member of
the great house of the Duke of Leinster in Ireland and the Duke of
Richmond in England; trained in an army fighting for “the Empire”
against American “rebels”; his life till twenty-seven was chiefly
spent in France, America, and England, amid military and aristocratic
society--conditions that have made many a man cosmopolitan,
denationalised, and indifferent. The liberal traditions of his father,
the first Duke of Leinster, had practically died with him when the
boy was only ten. Ardently devoted to his family, there was not one
of them, or one of his early friends, to whom he could speak of his
national beliefs. And out of all this came the lover of the poor and
the oppressed, the friend of all men, the intrepid martyr to the
freedom of Catholic Ireland, dying alone in prison with a prayer for
the salvation of all who died at the hangman’s hands for the sake of
Ireland. No wonder that the people of Ardglass still show the tower
chamber in the old castle which was searched for Lord Edward, the room
in the great house where he was said to have hidden, the rude bridge
that gave him shelter from the yeomanry, and the desolate site of Bone
castle where he slept for one night, in an ancient possession of his


In the course of the gloomy years that followed the old house fell into
decay. Last June (1911) the whole derelict property, long deserted
by its landlords, both land and village, was sold for the benefit of
English mortgagees and bought by local people. Nothing more “loyal”
could be imagined than the apparent community of Ardglass--nothing
more to the heart of the party in Down and Antrim of superiority and
supremacy which claims sole right to a place in the sun. The Imperial
flag flew from a high-lifted residence, on the site of two of the old
forts. The FitzGerald house and demesne were bought by a golf club,
reputed to be faithful above all to English interests. The old castle
was bid for by a spirit-dealer of the right persuasion, as a suitable
storage place for whiskey. Not a breath as to the destiny of Ardglass
and its fishermen disturbed the peace of Orangemen and stalwart
Protestants of the ascendancy.

It occurred, however, to a good Irishman and antiquary, a Protestant
from Belfast, that there might be a nobler use for the Castle of
Ardglass. He bought the castle. He replaced the vanished floors and
ceilings with beams and boards of Irish timber. A few broken pieces of
masonry were repaired. The inside walls were left in their rough state,
merely dashed with white. At the door was laid the anvil of an Irish
smith to be held between the knees, a stone with the centre cut out
and fitted with iron. The great fire-places were filled with logs from
a local plantation. Over the flaming fires huge pots steamed, hanging
from iron crooks. Old Ulster ironwork for kitchen use hung round the
hearth. A dresser, such as Captain Bodley might have seen, was stocked
with pewter plates and old crockery, brought, like the ironwork, by
willing givers who possessed any relic of Ireland of former days.
Tables of Irish oak, and Irish carved benches of the old fashion, and
Irish cupboards and settles furnished the rooms. They were lighted by
Irish-made candles in the iron taper-holders of over a hundred years
ago, by a very remarkable bronze chandelier of the eighteenth century,
and by a still more striking floreated cross and circle of lights,
made in the penal days by some local metal-worker with the ancient
Irish tradition of ornament still with him. In the chief room a few old
prints and portraits hung on the walls, amid new banners representing
O’Neill, O’Donnell, and the black Raven of the Danes; most prominent
of all, Shane O’Neill himself, standing proud in his full height in
regal saffron kilt and flowing mantle, a fine design by a young Irish
artist of Belfast. A tiny round-apsed oratory opened off this chief
room. It was hung with golden Irish linen; between the lights on the
altar stood a small crucifix of the penal times, and interlaced Irish
patterns hung on the walls. The columbary in one of the towers, perhaps
unique in early castles, with its seventy-five triangular recesses or
resting-places for the pigeons built in the walls, and entries to north
and south--one a square opening with sill inside and alighting slab
outside, the other a space cut below the narrow window exactly the size
through which a bird might pass--was again stocked with pigeons given
by a local admirer, and the tower named after St. Columba. From a pole
flew the flag of O’Neill, the Red Right Hand, in memory of old days. In
three months the deserted ruin was transformed into a dwellinghouse,
where Mr. Bigger and his helpers could sleep and cook and live. The
workmen in a fury of enthusiasm worked as if a master’s eye was on them
at every minute.

[Illustration: CASTLE SÉAN, ARDGLASS.]

The design of the new owner was to bring the people of Ardglass and
the Lecale of Down into touch with the Irish past, and give them some
conception of the historic background of their life. For it must be
remembered that through all conquests and plantations the people of
the soil of Lecale have still remained of the old stock, an Irish
people who have a natural country to love. For them there need be none
of the perplexities which must confront those who in their successive
generations of life in Ireland still consent to be designated by _The
Times_ as “the British Colony on the other side of St. George’s
Channel.” I was present on the Saturday night when the ruin was opened
to the people. There was no moon, and a gale was blowing down the
Irish Sea--a wind from the north. A little platform was set against
the sheltered west wall of the castle. A beacon flamed on one of the
towers, and the ceremony began with a display of limelight pictures
on the wall. I was in the middle of an audience packed as tight as
men could stand in the castle yard and across the wide street. There
had been no public announcements and no advertisement. But word had
passed round the people of Lecale, and it seemed as if thousands had
gathered under the resplendent stars. “I do not mean to show you,”
said Mr. Bigger, “China or Japan; I mean to show you Ardglass.” The
audience went wild with delight to see their fishermen and women, their
local celebrities, the boats laden with fish, the piles on the pier,
the Donegal girls packing them, the barrels rolled out to the tramp
steamers. But the delight reached its utmost height at views of the sea
taken from a boat out fishing, the dawn of day, the early flight of
birds, the swell of the great waters. The appeal of beauty brought a
rich answer from the Irish crowd.

Then there was Irish dancing and singing on the little platform, with
the grey wall of the castle as a background and the waving ivy branches
and tree shadows in the limelight, a scene of marvellous light and
shade. But the great moment of all came when a huge Irish flag was
flung out on the night wind from the Columba tower. I have never seen
so magic a sight. Lights blazed from the castle-roof, rockets flamed
across the sky, and in the midst suddenly appeared like a vision
among the host of stars (for no flag-staff could be seen against the
night-sky) a gleaming golden harp hanging secure in immensity, crossed
and re-crossed by balls and flames of fire, so that it seemed to escape
only by a miracle.

How did Ardglass and Lecale take this revival of its older fame? That
sight was not less striking than the vision on the tower. Every cottage
in the village had candles set in its windows. The fisher-boats in the
harbour were alight; they flew flags too, and Irish flags, as many
as could get them. For hours crowds climbed and descended the narrow
winding staircase in the castle turret, lighted by candles fixed in old
Ulster iron holders. They thronged the rooms, themselves the guardians
of all the treasures lying on the benches and shelves and suspended on
the walls. When they drew aside the light curtain before the oratory
and entered in, they prostrated themselves, kneeling in prayer, and
came out with tears in their eyes. Young men looked at Shane O’Neill,
and looked again, and took off their hats. As in other Irish gatherings
where I have been, sobriety and good manners distinguished the crowd,
very visible and audible to me from my little hotel fronting the
castle where the visitors flocked for refreshment, under my window
opening on the one street of the village. Strangers dispersed about
eleven o’clock, but men of the village sat round the fire of the old
guard-room for hours after, singing songs of Ireland endlessly. There
was no host, and no master of the ceremonies. The castle was left
absolutely to the people. Anyone who would came in. They sang, and
sang, the sorrowful decadent songs of modern Ireland--songs of famine,
emigration, lamentation, and woe. But still they sang of Ireland.

The next day was Sunday. The parish priest, many years among his
people, shared in the joy of the festival, in the new interest come to
break the long monotony of their life, and in the widening and lifting
of their emotion. He preached twice on the restoration to them of their
castle, and on their duty to hold it sacred, and to act with courtesy
and good breeding when they entered it. He gave the children freedom
from Sunday School that they might see the Irish flag flown from the
tower at noon; and boys and girls poured laughing down the street. All
that day, from morning till night, without a pause, lines of village
and country folk filed up and down the turret stairs, holding to the
rope, kept taut by its old stone weight, that served as balustrade.
Protestants were intermingled with Catholics, as one could see by the
badges of their societies, in a common enthusiasm for the memories
of the country which was theirs. Two admirable little girls of nine
and fourteen installed themselves as handmaids and hostesses of the
castle, and might be seen all day carrying water to the cauldron,
making tea, giving hospitality to visitors--their first free service
to Ireland. At night, men and women of the village came into the
guard-room and banquet-hall, and sang and sang of Ireland. They did
not even smoke. One after another sang till one o’clock. One or two
sentimental ditties turned up, on Shannon’s shores and Killarney’s
lakes, of the feeble artificial sort favoured by so-called “National
Schools,” but these found little encouragement. Many evenings since,
the guard-room has been filled with villagers, and singing and old-time
lore abound. Many bring presents and leave them with scarce a word;
and the old oratory has not been left without gifts and flowers.
Nowhere has a pin been disturbed, or a trifle broken or injured. The
battlements and the glorious view are a delight to all. They examine
and point out to each other the old devices, the flint weapons and
the bronze, the Celtic emblems and memorials, and the Elizabethan and
Volunteer arms that lie about. The people have a new pride put in them,
and are learning to be their own Conservators and Board of Works.

The Bishop of Ossory has lately given us all to understand that the
Church of Ireland, boasting itself to be the highest, perhaps the
sole, regenerating force in the country, is at this crisis altogether
absorbed in anxious contemplation of the supposed danger from the
people of Ireland to its property. A material preoccupation, at such
a pitch, induces a multitude of unreasoning timidities, fantastic
safeguards, and voluntary solitudes. It is true, indeed, that it was
only “property” in a spiritual sense which the people of Ardglass had
got that day. But in that higher sense they had been given that which
every Irishman lacks--something of their own. No Englishman can picture
to himself that lack. He has never had it. But with us it is an old
story. If the people ask to learn Irish--“Here is arithmetic; that
will suit you better.” They would like something of Irish history--“I
assure you that it is German grammar which you really wish to ask for.”
If the talk is of schools or fisheries--“The English Treasury will see
that you do not waste money on school-house or steam trawler.” Their
very names are not their own. A Belfast bank the other day refused the
life-long signature on a cheque of a well-known Irish writer because
he signed, in English letters indeed, but with his customary Irish
spelling of Padraic, and required instead the conventional English
Patrick. Who can tell the needless restrictions and trivialities and
imposed fashions that check expansion, experiment, and freedom of
mind? A dreary emptiness has been stretched over the vivid natures of
Irishmen. What is there left for them to love? Is it any wonder they
desire something they may call their own? It may be that “Loyalists”
imagine that a longer continuance of such destitution will end at last
in a lively passion for Englishmen and the Empire. Or, perhaps, it is
the Unionist idea that an enforced apathy indefinitely continued will
produce the fate that comes on men doomed to imprisonment for life in
solitary confinement, when after long years thought and speech are
gone, and idiot prisoners may mingle harmlessly together.

While the castle was repairing at Ardglass, an Irish visitor watched
the fishermen leaning on the sea-wall. Every half-hour one might drop
a word. They were passing the time as only fishermen know how. As to
the castle, they looked as oblivious to it as to everything else. After
watching for some time, the Irish visitor casually passed one of them,
dropping an indifferent remark: “What’s the meaning of all this?” “It’s
comin’,” said the fisherman. “We’re too long held in chains”--and fell
back into silence.


 Bodley’s visit to Lecale, preserved in a Latin MSS. in the British
 Museum, has been printed with a translation in the Old Ulster Journal
 of Archæology II. 73. The account is concerned with six officers of
 high rank and fame in the veteran army of Elizabeth. The writer,
 Captain Bodley, brother of the founder of the Bodleian Library at
 Oxford, was commanding officer at Armagh, commissioned to raise
 fortifications or entrenchments for the army--“a very honest fellow
 with a black beard,” he describes himself. His companion Captain
 Toby Caulfield, who had fought at Carlingford and Kinsale, was the
 first Governor in 1602 of the new fort of Charlemont, and Governor in
 1603 of the counties of Armagh and Tyrone, where he made good use of
 his opportunities, a skilful appropriator of lands, who secured for
 himself grants in nine counties, and the wealth on which the earldom
 of Charlemont was established. Captain John Jephson had rescued the
 remnant of the British army caught in the pass of the Curlew Mountains
 in 1599: he gained the Mallow estate by marriage with the daughter of
 Norreys, President of Munster. Captain Adderton, whom they picked up
 on the way, had distinguished himself in the Wicklow wars, and was now
 Governor of the newly-built fort of Mount-norris, on the road from
 Armagh to Newry.

 Their host at Downpatrick, Sir Richard Moryson, one of the chief
 friends of Mountjoy, had fought in Leix and at Kinsale, was now
 Governor of Lecale, and this same year (1603) was promoted Governor
 of Waterford, and later (1607), President of Munster. With him was
 Captain Ralph Constable, who had followed all his campaigns from
 Kinsale to the Blackwater.

 Four of the six, Moryson, Bodley, Jephson, and Caulfield, had been
 comrades in the campaigns of the Low Countries a few years before, and
 were among the companies of soldiers which were drafted over from the
 Netherlands to Ireland to strengthen the armies of Essex and Mountjoy.
 They were men who prospered in Irish wars--keen soldiers, and as keen
 dividers of lands and offices in the new country, deeply concerned in
 plantations and confiscations.

 _An Account of a Journey of Captain Josias Bodley into Lecale in
 Ulster, in the Year 1602 (properly 1603)._

 Good God! what have I taken on me to do? Truly I am an ass, otherwise
 I would never have undertaken so heavy a burthen; but no matter, I
 shall do what I can, like Coppinger’s female dog, who always took her
 own way.

 I have taken in hand to recount what happened in a journey which
 Captain Caulfield, Captain Jephson, and I made to Lecale, to visit
 our friend Sir Richard Morrison, and divert ourselves there. And I
 shall narrate everything in due order; for order is a fair thing,
 and all love it, except the Irish men-at-arms, who are a most vile
 race of men, if it be at all allowable to call them “men,” who live
 upon grass, and are foxes in their disposition and wolves in their
 actions. But to our business: The aforesaid Master Morrison sent
 very kind letters to us, inviting us to keep the Nativity (which the
 English call “Christmas”) with him; but as Sir Arthur Chichester,
 the Sergeant-Major of the whole army, had convoked us with all our
 companies at that very moment to fight with Tyrone, who was then
 in the woods of Glenconkein with much cattle and few fighting men;
 we could not go at that time to Lecale, but joined the said Sir
 Arthur, and remained with him for sixteen or seventeen days in the
 field, without doing much harm to Tyrone: for that Tyrone is the
 worst rascal, and very wary and subtle, and won’t be beaten except
 on good terms. However, we fought him twice in the very woods, and
 made him run to his strongholds. So after leaving about that place a
 well-provided garrison, we each departed, with full permission and
 good will.

 We now remembered the said invitation of Sir Richard and, after
 deliberation (for, in the commencement of affairs, deliberation should
 be used by those adventuring bold attempts, as Seneca says), we
 thought it good to go thither, although it was now eight days after
 the Nativity: because we did not doubt our being welcome though it had
 been Lent. This was resolved on in the city of Armagh, where there is
 a Governor, a very honest fellow with a black beard, who uses everyone
 well according to his poor ability, and would use them much better if
 he had more of the thing the English call “means.”

 We set out from that city for the town commonly called Newry, which
 was one day’s journey. There, to speak the truth, we were not very
 well entertained, nor according to our qualities; for that town
 produces nothing but lean beef, and very rarely mutton; the very worst
 wine; nor was there any bread, except biscuits, even in the Governor’s
 house. However, we did our best to be merry and jocund with the bad
 wine, putting sugar in it (as the senior lawyers are used to do,
 with Canary wine)--with toasted bread, which in English is called “a
 lawyer’s nightcap.” There we found Captain Adderton, an honest fellow,
 and a friend of ours, who, having nothing to do, was easily persuaded
 to accompany us to Lecale.

 So the next morning we four take horse and set out. We had no guide
 except Captain Caulfield, who promised he would lead us very well. But
 before we had ridden three miles we lost our way and were compelled
 to go on foot, leading our horses through bogs and marshes which were
 very troublesome; and some of us were not wanting who swore silently
 between our teeth, and wished our guide at a thousand devils. At
 length we came to some village of obscure name, where for two brass
 shillings we brought with us a countryman who might lead us to the
 Island of Magennis, ten miles distant from the town of Newry: for
 Master Morrison had promised he would meet us there.

 The weather was very cold, and it began to roar dreadfully with a
 strong wind in our faces, when we were on the mountains, where there
 was neither tree nor house; but there was no remedy save patience.
 Captain Bodley alone had a long cloak with a hood, into which he
 prudently thrust his head, and laughed somewhat into himself to see
 the others so badly armed against the storm.

 We now come to the Island of Magennis, where, alighting from our
 horses, we met Master Morrison and Captain Constable, with many
 others, whom, for the sake of brevity, I pass by. They had tarried
 there at least three hours, expecting our arrival, and, in the
 meantime, drank ale and usquebaugh with the Lady Sara, the daughter of
 Tyrone, and wife of the aforesaid Magennis; a truly beautiful woman:
 so that I can well believe these three hours did not appear to them
 more than a minute, especially to Master Constable, who is by nature
 very fond, not of women only, but likewise of dogs and horses. We
 also drank twice or thrice, and after we had duly kissed her, we each
 prepared for our journey.

 It was ten or twelve miles from that island to Downpatrick, where
 Master Morrison dwelt; and the way seemed much longer on account of
 our wish to be there. At length, as all things have an end and a black
 pudding two (as the proverb hath it) we came by little and little to
 the said house. And now began that more than Lucullan entertainment,
 which neither Cicero, whose style in composition I chiefly imitate,
 (although Horace says, “O imitators! a slavish herd”), nor any other
 of the Latin or Greek authors, could express in suitable terms.

 When we had approached within a stone’s throw of the house--or rather
 palace--of the said Master Morrison--behold! forthwith innumerable
 servants! some light us with pine-wood lights and torches because it
 is dark; others, as soon as we alight, take our horses, and lead them
 into a handsome and spacious stable, where neither hay nor oats are
 wanting. Master Morrison himself leads us by wide stairs into a large
 hall where a fire is burning the height of our chins, as the saying
 is; and afterwards into a bed chamber, prepared in the Irish fashion.

 Here having taken off our boots, we all sit down and converse on
 various matters; Captain Caulfield about supper and food, for he was
 very hungry; Captain Constable about hounds, of which he had there
 some excellent ones, as he himself asserted; and the rest about other
 things. Master Morrison ordered a cup of Spanish wine to be brought,
 with burnt sugar, nutmeg, and ginger, and made us all drink a good
 draught of it, which was very grateful to the palate, and also good
 for procuring an appetite for supper, if anyone needed such.

 In an hour we heard some one down in the kitchen calling with a loud
 voice “To the Dresser.” Forthwith we see a long row of servants,
 decently dressed, each with dishes of the most select meats, which
 they place on the table in the very best style. One presents to us a
 silver basin with the most limpid water; another hands us a very white
 towel; others arrange chairs and seats in their proper places. “What
 need of words, let us be seen in action” (as Ajax says in Ovid). Grace
 having been said, we begin to fix our eyes intently on the dishes,
 whilst handling our knives: and here you might have plainly seen those
 Belgian feasts, where, at the beginning is silence, in the middle the
 crunching of teeth, and at the end the chattering of the people. For
 at first we sat as if rapt and astounded by the variety of meats and
 dainties--like a German I once saw depicted standing between two jars,
 the one of white wine and the other of claret, with this motto: “I
 know not which way to turn.”

 But after a short time we fall to roundly on every dish calling now
 and then for wine, now and then for attendance, everyone according to
 his whim. In the midst of supper Master Morrison ordered be given to
 him a glass goblet full of claret, which measured, (as I conjecture)
 ten or eleven inches roundabout, and drank to the health of all, and
 to our happy arrival. We freely received it from him, thanking him,
 and drinking one after the other, as much as he drank before us. He
 then gave four or five healths of the chief men, and of our absent
 friends, just as the most illustrious Lord, now Treasurer of Ireland,
 is used to do at his dinners. And it is a very praiseworthy thing, and
 has, perhaps, more in it than anyone would believe; and there was not
 one amongst us who did pledge him and each other without any scruple
 or gainsay, which I was very glad to see; for it was a proof of
 unanimity and assured friendship.

 For there are many (a thing I can’t mention without great and extreme
 sorrow) who won’t drink healths with others; sitting, nevertheless,
 in the company of those who do drink, and not doing as they do; which
 is of all things the most shameful.... For, at table, he who does not
 receive whatsoever healths may be proposed by another, does so, either
 because he likes not the proposer, or he to whom they drink, or the
 wine itself. Truly I would not willingly have any dealings with him
 who under values either me or my friend, or lastly wine, the most
 precious of all things under heaven.

       *       *       *       *       *

 Let us now return to Lecale, where the supper (which, as I have said,
 was most elegant) being ended, we again enter our bedroom, in which
 was a large fire (for at the time it was exceedingly cold out of
 doors) and benches for sitting on; and plenty of tobacco, with nice
 pipes, was set before us. The wine also had begun to operate a little
 on us, and everyone’s wits had become somewhat sharper; all were
 gabbling at once, and all sought a hearing at once.... Amongst other
 things, we said that the time was now happily different, from when
 we were before Kinsale at Christmas of last year, when we suffered
 intolerable cold, dreadful labour, and a want of almost everything;
 drinking the very worst. We compared events, till lately unhoped for,
 with the past, and with those now hoped for. Lastly, reasoning on
 everything, we conclude that the verse of Horace (Ode 37, Book 1st)
 squares exceedingly well with the present time--namely, “that now is
 the time for drinking, that now is the time for thumping the floor
 with a loose foot.” Therefore, after a little Captain Jephson calls
 for usquebaugh, and we all immediately second him with one consent,
 calling out “Usquebaugh, usquebaugh”--for we could make as free there
 as in our own quarters.

 Besides it was not without reason we drank usquebaugh; for it was the
 best remedy against the cold of that night, and good for dispersing
 the crude vapours of the French wine; and pre-eminently wholesome in
 these regions, where the priests themselves, who are holy men--as the
 Abbot of Armagh, the Bishop of Cashel, and others; and also noble
 men--as Henry Oge MacMahon, MacHenry--and men and women of every
 rank--pour usquebaugh down their throats by day and by night; and that
 not for hilarity only, which would be praiseworthy, but for constant
 drunkenness which is detestable.

 Therefore, after everyone had drank two or three healths ... what
 because of the assailing fumes of the wine which now sought our heads
 ... we thought it right, as I have said, to rest for some hours. And
 behold, now, the great kindness that Master Morrison shows towards us.
 He gives up to us his own good and soft bed, and throws himself upon
 a pallet in the same chamber, and would not be persuaded by anything
 we could say, to lie in his own bed; and the pallet was very hard and
 thin, such as they are wont to have who are called “Palatine” of great

 I need not tell how soundly we slept till morning, for that is easily
 understood, all things considered; at least if the old syllogism be
 true: “He who drinks well sleeps well.” We did not, however, pass the
 night altogether without annoyance: for the Captain’s dogs, which were
 very badly educated (after the Northern fashion) were always jumping
 on the beds, and would not let us alone, although we beat them ever
 so often, which the said Captain took in dudgeon, especially when he
 heard his dogs howling; but it was all as one for that; for it is not
 right that dogs, who are of the beasts, should sleep with men who are
 reasoning and laughing animals, according to the philosophers....
 Before we get out of bed they bring to us a certain aromatic of strong
 ale, compounded with sugar and eggs (in English “caudle”) to comfort
 and strengthen the stomach, they also bring beer (if any prefer it)
 with toasted bread and nutmeg, to allay thirst, steady the head, and
 cool the liver; they also bring pipes of the best tobacco to drive
 away rheums and catarrhs.

 We now all jump quickly out of bed, put on our clothes, approach the
 fire, and, when all are ready, walk abroad together to take the air,
 which, in that region, is most salubrious and delightful, so that if I
 wished to enumerate all the advantages of the place, not only powers
 (of description), but time itself would be wanting. I shall therefore
 omit that, as being already known, and revert to ourselves, who,
 having now had a sufficient walk, returned to our lodging as dinner
 time was at hand. But how can we tell about the sumptuous preparation
 of everything? How about the dinners? How about the dainties? For we
 seemed as if present (as you would suppose) at the nuptial banquet to
 which some Cleopatra had invited her Antony; so many varieties of meat
 were there, so many kinds of condiments; about every one of which I
 would willingly say something, only that I fear being too tedious. I
 shall therefore demonstrate from a single dinner, what may be imagined
 of the rest. There was a large and beautiful collar of brawn, with
 its accompaniments--to wit, mustard and Muscadel wine; there were
 well-stuffed geese, ... the legs of which the Captain always laid
 hold of for himself; there were pies of venison and of various kinds
 of game; pasties also, some of marrow, with innumerable plums; others
 of it with coagulated milk; others which they call tarts, of divers
 shapes, materials and colours, made of beef, mutton and veal. I do
 not mention because they are reckoned vulgar, other kinds of dishes,
 wherein France much abounds, and which they designate “Quelq’choses”
 [“Kickshaws”]. Neither do I relate anything of the delicacies which
 accompanied the cheese, because they would excel all belief. I may say
 in one word, that all things were there supplied us most luxuriously
 and most copiously. And lest anyone might think that God had sent us
 the meat, but the Devil the Cook (as the proverb says), there was
 a cook there so expert in his art that his equal could scarce be

 If you now inquire whether there were any other amusements, besides
 those I have related, I say an infinite number, and the very best. For
 if we wished to ride after dinner, you would have seen forthwith ten
 or twelve handsome steeds with good equipments and other ornaments,
 ready for the road. We quickly mount, we visit the Well and Chair of
 St. Patrick [Struel], the ancient Fort [Rath-Celtair], or any other
 place according to our fancy; and at length returning home, cards,
 tables, and dice are set before us, and amongst other things that
 Indian tobacco (of which I shall never be able to make sufficient
 mention), and of which I cannot speak otherwise.

       *       *       *       *       *

 And now once more to our Lecale, where amongst other things that
 contributed to hilarity, there came one night after supper certain
 maskers belonging to the Irish gentry, four in number (if I rightly
 remember). They first sent in to us a letter marked with “the greatest
 haste,” and “after our hearty commendations,” according to the old
 style, saying that they were strangers, just arrived in these parts,
 and very desirous of spending one or two hours with us; and leave
 being given, they entered in this order: first a boy, with a lighted
 torch; then two, beating drums; then the maskers, two and two; then
 another torch. One of the maskers carried a dirty pocket handkerchief,
 with ten pounds in it, not of bullion, but of the new money lately
 coined, which has the harp on one side, and the royal arms on the

 They were dressed in shirts, with many ivy leaves sewed on here and
 there over them; and had over their faces masks of dog-skin; with
 holes to see out of, and noses made of paper; their caps were high
 and peaked (in the Persian fashion), and were also of paper, and
 ornamented with the same (ivy) leaves.

 I may briefly say we play at dice. At one time the drums sound on
 their side; at another the trumpet on ours. We fight a long time a
 doubtful game; at length the maskers lose, and are sent away cleaned
 out. Now whoever hath seen a dog, struck with a stick or a stone, run
 out of the house with his tail hanging between his legs, would have
 (so) seen these maskers going home: without money; out of spirits;
 out of order; without even saying “Farewell”; and they said that each
 of them had five or six miles to go to his home, and it was then two
 hours after midnight.

 I shall now tell of another jest or gambol, which amongst many, the
 domestics of Master Morrison exhibited for us. Two servants sat down
 after the manner of women (with reverence be it spoken) when they
 “hunker,” only that they (the servants) sat upon the ground: their
 hands were tied together in such a manner that their knees were
 clasped within them; and a stick placed between the bend of the arms
 and the legs, so that they could in no way move their arms; they held
 between the thumb and forefinger of either hand a small stick, almost
 a foot in length, and sharp at the farther end. Two are placed in
 this way: the one opposite the other at the distance of an ell. Being
 thus placed they engage; and each one tries to upset his opponent,
 by attacking him with his feet; for being once upset, he can by no
 means recover himself, but presents himself to his upsetter for attack
 with the aforesaid small stick. Which made us laugh so for an hour,
 that the tears dropped from our eyes; and the wife of Philip the cook
 laughed, and the scullion, who were both present. You would have said
 that some barber-surgeon was there to whom all were showing their

 But enough of these matters; for there would be no end of writing,
 were I to recount all our grave and merry doings in that space of
 seven days.

 I shall therefore make an end both of the journey and of my story. For
 on the seventh day from our arrival we departed, mournful and sad;
 and Master Morrison accompanied us as far as Dundrum; to whom each of
 us bid farewell, and again farewell, and shouting the same for a long
 way, with our caps raised above our heads, we hasten to our quarters,
 and there we each cogitate seriously over our own affairs.



_Reprinted from the Nineteenth Century and After, March, 1909._

IN the _Quarterly Review_ of January last there appeared an article by
Mr. Robert Dunlop, dealing in a trenchant manner with a book which I
wrote lately, _The Making of Ireland and Its Undoing_. I regret to take
part personally in a controversy where my own credit is brought into
question, and I am only moved to do so by consideration of the grave
issues which are involved as regards the study of Irish history.

The appearance of my book has raised two questions of a very different
order--the important question of whether, with the advance of modern
studies, need has arisen for an entire review of the whole materials
for Irish history and of the old conclusions, and the less interesting
problem of my own inadequacy and untrustworthiness. Mr. Dunlop, in some
fifteen pages of discourse, has not so much as mentioned the first. He
has treated the second at considerable length. We may here take them in
order of importance.

The real difference between Mr. Dunlop and myself lies deeper than the
question of my merits or demerits. It is the old conflict between
tradition and enquiry. For the last 300 years students of medieval
Irish history have peacefully trodden a narrow track, hemmed in by
barriers on either hand. On one side they have been for the most part
bounded by complete ignorance of the language of the country or its
literature. On the other side they have raised the wall of tradition.
Along this secluded lane writers have followed one another, in the
safety of the orthodox faith. A history recited with complete unanimity
takes on in course of time the character of the highest truth. There
have been disputes on one or two points perhaps where theologians
are concerned, as for example the story of St. Patrick; but on the
general current of Irish life there has been no serious discussion nor
any development in opinion. The argument from universal assent has
been sufficient. There is a similarity even of phrase. “We prefer to
think,” writes Mr. Dunlop. “We prefer to abide by the traditional view
of the state of Ireland,” writes another critic from the same school.
Agreement has been general, individual speculation has not disturbed
the peace, and all have joined their voices to swell the general
creed. Under these favouring conditions historians of Ireland speak
with a rare confidence and unanimity. “What are novelties after all?”
cries the sagacious historian imagined by M. Anatole France: “mere

It has happened to me to question the received doctrine. Universal
assent of all men of all time is a very useful thing, and for some
positive facts it may be decisive. But in Irish history it is used to
enforce a series of negations--no human progress, no spiritual life, no
patriotism, no development, no activity save murder, no movement but a
constant falling to decay, and a doomed lapse into barbarism of every
race that entered the charmed circle of the island. However universal
the consent, the statements of the tradition are of so extraordinary a
character, that one may fairly desire an inspection of the evidence. I
have ventured to suggest that the time had come to study the sources
anew; to see if any had been omitted, or if in modern research any new
testimony concerning Ireland had been brought to light; to give less
weight to negative assertions than to positive facts; and to enquire
what the whole cumulative argument might imply. Thus the fundamental
problem has been raised. If Mr. Dunlop has not a word to say about
it, it will nevertheless not disappear. The enquiry will need many
scholars and a long time, but I am sure it will be completed, and that
Irish history will then need to be re-written. Meanwhile, as I claim no
infallible authority, to fulminate against me does not get rid of the
essential problem. The discrediting of a doubter of the orthodox faith
is the simplest form of argument and the least laborious. The trouble
is that when it is done the real question is no further advanced.

A heretic must take his risks. We have an example of their gravity
in this article, in which Mr. Dunlop restores an old custom to
controversy. We had almost come to suppose that it was the privilege of
theologians to settle the respective platforms from which disputations
should be carried on. The higher plane is reserved for the orthodox.
The “querulous” dissentient, on the other hand, is pronounced to be
making mere incursions into what is for him a comparatively unknown
region, his incapacity is obvious and his want of candour deplorable,
and he has forfeited all claim to respect. This is all in the
appropriate manner of those who hold an Irish history handed down by

The permitted belief about Ireland has been summed up dogmatically
by Mr. Dunlop in the _Dictionary of National Biography_, the
_Cambridge Modern History_, and elsewhere. Of the inhabitants of
Ireland “two-thirds at least led a wild and half nomadic existence.
Possessing no sense of national unity beyond the narrow limits of the
several clans to which they belonged, acknowledging no law outside the
customs of their tribe, subsisting almost entirely on the produce of
their herds and the spoils of the chase, and finding in their large
frieze mantles a sufficient protection against the inclemency of the
weather, and one relieving them from the necessity of building houses
for themselves, they had little in their general mode of life to
distinguish them from their Celtic ancestors.” “Outside the pale there
was nothing worthy of being called a Church. To say that the Irish had
relapsed into a state of heathenism is perhaps going too far. The
tradition of a Christian belief still survived; but it was a lifeless,
useless thing.” The country was “cut off by its position, but even
more by the relapse of the greater of its inhabitants into a state of
semi-barbarism, from the general currents of European development.”
Bogs and woods, the lairs of the wild-boar and the wolf, made internal
communications dangerous and difficult, and prevented trade and
intercourse with other nations. Few words, therefore, are needed to
sum up their commerce. “French wines found their way into the country
through Cork and Waterford; the long-established relations between
Dublin and Bristol still subsisted; Spanish traders landed their wares
on Galway quay; the fame of St. Patrick’s purgatory attracted an
occasional pilgrim from foreign lands; and of one Irish chieftain it
was placed on record that he had accomplished the hazardous journey
to Rome and back.” Shane O’Neill, “champion of Celtic civilisation,”
could speak no language but Irish, and could not sign his name. In
the _Quarterly Review_ we have a few more details--that the main part
of the Irishmen’s dress was skins; that this people who lived without
houses when they went on their “marauding expeditions” (excursions of
the full summer time) made to themselves tents of untanned skins to
cover them (here I could almost imagine Mr. Dunlop, in spite of his
aversion to bards, indulging on the sly in a cloudy reminiscence of an
Irish poet); that among the whole of them they had just a few hundred
coracles made of osiers and skins for crossing swollen rivers, for the
O’Malleys and O’Driscolls who had long-boats represented “perhaps the
Iberian element in the _nation_,” suggests Mr. Dunlop, not to give the
Gaels any credit, while he slips by the way into the objectionable word
apparently so hard to avoid; that they made no practical use even of
their inland fisheries, and had no industries, so that even the cloth
was made by Englishmen.

We would desire to ask Mr. Dunlop for the exact proof he relies on for
any one of these statements, beginning perhaps with “no law outside the
_customs of the tribe_.” Writers who hold Ireland to be, as he says,
“a sort of scrap-heap for Europe,” and who cannot conceive of medieval
Irishmen as ordinary men sharing the faults and virtues of other white
Europeans, are addicted to the word “native”--a word not in common use
among historians for Englishmen in England in the Middle Ages, but
affected by them to indicate Irishmen in Ireland, with the derogatory
sense which their “tradition” requires. The vulgar view received as
it were official recognition half a century ago from Mr. Hamilton in
his preface to the _State Papers_ of 1509-73 (see also references
in my book, 487-8), where he explains that the study of Irish life
till Elizabethan times will be of considerable value in the study of
_Universal History_, Ireland being so remote from the earlier seats of
civilisation that the rude way of living described by Hesiod and the
old poets still lingered there till the sixteenth century; till which
time “most of the wild Irish led a nomade life, tending cattle, sowing
little corn, and rarely building houses, but sheltered alike from
heat and cold, and moist and dry, by the Irish cloak.” The last fifty
years, we see, amid the general shaking of dry bones and the movement
of history elsewhere, have brought no stir in Irish history. That alone
stands like eternal truth fixed and unchangeable. Hence, doubtless, Mr.
Dunlop’s canon (_Quart. Rev._, 1906) forbidding “_a history of Ireland
in more than one volume_.”

The barbarian legend has got a long start. A first attempt to review
its evidence was made in my book. In a series of social studies I have
endeavoured to discuss, not the whole of Irish history, but definite
matters of trade, social life, and education. I have gathered a body
of facts which indicate that Ireland had considerable manufactures;
that her foreign commerce can be traced throughout Europe; that there
was an orderly society, even a wealthy one; that Irish travellers were
known at Rome and in the Levant; that there was an Anglo-Irish culture
by no means contemptible, in touch with Continental learning; and that
increasing intercourse of the races did not tend to barbarism but to

In this sketch I have not proposed to myself to draw nice distinctions
between what the Normans precisely did, and what the Irish (or even,
following Mr. Dunlop), what Iberians were doing in the sixteenth
century in the joint work of commerce and culture, because there is as
yet no sufficient material for that discussion; I share this lack of
knowledge with many who have pronounced themselves with no uncertain
voice. Further, I should have been glad to confine these studies to
the cheerful progress of trade and culture; but I was confronted with
two possible objections. The suggestion that if there had been any
considerable trade it would not have vanished by a freak, could only be
answered by indicating how and why the destruction had been wrought.
And to meet the argument that historians would not have let a genuine
story perish, I gave my opinion on how it was that the truth dropped
out of sight.

My conclusions conflict with the venerable traditions over which
Mr. Dunlop mounts guard. I clearly offend also against the canon
of one volume. It is obvious that he must feel for me the sharpest
disapproval; and this censure is conveyed with no mitigation of phrase
or manner.

The charge he elaborates against me is briefly that I have no judgment,
and less candour, in the use of documents, and have thus produced a
mass of mischievous fiction.

I may say in passing that Mr. Dunlop’s severity with regard to
authorities comes somewhat oddly from one who has shown himself fairly
easy in such matters. In his own writings he gives no references, and
in this same article the only authority he quotes independently is Mr.
O’Connor’s _Elizabethan Ireland_. When I have to be silenced, “Turn
we to Mr. O’Connor!” Now Mr. O’Connor has written a slight sketch of
Irish political and social life in some 280 pages. He gives no dates,
no indications of place, and no references. But we have Mr. Dunlop’s
word for it that it is a “scholarly” work. “Mr. O’Connor” quoted by
Mr. Dunlop ends controversy. The tradition is secure. I might envy
Mr. Dunlop this freedom from trammels of references, of date, or of
place. In such wide and impartial survey any statement about Ireland
may appear as true of every place and of all time. Barbarism would seem
to be a fixed and unchanging state, a passive monotony, from the time
of “Lacustrine habitations” and of “Hesiod and the old poets,” till
its characteristic representative in Shane O’Neill. The principle once
assumed, any evidence will suffice to show that the Irish had none of
the attributes of ordinary white Europeans; while evidence that they
made money, traded, built houses, talked Latin, studied medicine and
law, or otherwise behaved like other people of the Middle Ages, is
probably rhodomontade, moonshine, or historical profligacy.

Mr. Dunlop’s summary method with unfamiliar sources appears in his
asperity towards what he calls my “trivial references” to Mr. Standish
Hayes O’Grady’s _Catalogue of Manuscripts_.

“We wonder (he says on p. 267) how many of Mrs. Green’s readers
are aware that of this book, from which she has gleaned so much
information--of a sort--only one copy, so far as we know, is accessible
to the public, and that is in the MSS. Department of the British
Museum. The book, we understand, was never published. It is still
incomplete. The official copy consists merely of the bound sheets as
they were printed off for proof.”

I suppose Mr. Dunlop does not mean to suggest that the value of a book
is in proportion to the number of copies, or that an authority of which
a single copy exists should not be quoted. In any case I can reassure
him. The sheets of this _Catalogue_ have been these many years past for
sale to the public at the Museum, where I got my copy, and I hope many
others did the same. The book can be bought in a London shop to-day.
Mr. Dunlop might consult it in the London Library. The copy placed in
the National Library in Dublin in 1895 has been in frequent use since
then. Possibly Mr. Dunlop knows the inside of the book better than the
outside, but it seems to be a new acquaintance, suddenly introduced and
viewed with distaste. In this brilliant _Catalogue_ we have the work of
a very great authority, unsurpassed in his special learning, far beyond
what O’Donovan could lay claim to; with its “information--of a sort--”
it is the most important book that has appeared for many years with
regard to Irish history. Another critic of Mr. Dunlop’s school, who in
his remarks gives no definite sign of any knowledge of Mr. O’Grady’s
work, has reproached me for referring to it “without further sifting.”
But it is certain that neither of these writers who reprove me will
themselves do much “further sifting” where that admirable scholar has
gone before them.

May I add that Mr. Dunlop does not appear to follow too closely modern
studies on Irish affairs, or he would surely have known of Mr. Justice
Madden’s _Classical Learning in Ireland_, published last summer--a
little book which he should certainly have been willing to include in
any review of recent Irish writings?

To return, however, to my own lamentable want of candour and accuracy,
I now give a few of the instances of my deficiencies, and of the
admirable example which Mr. Dunlop sets me in these respects.

Mr. Dunlop states, “to speak accurately,” that my reference to Shane
O’Neill as “done to death” (so _he_ expresses it) by the English is
“absolutely without foundation.” His own account of Shane’s death in
the _Dictionary of National Biography_ tells us that “possibly if
he could have kept a civil tongue in his head the MacDonnells might
have consented to a reconciliation.” “It is doubtful whether his
assassination was premeditated ... it is probable that when heated
with wine he may have irritated them by his insolent behaviour beyond
endurance.” In the _Cambridge Modern History_ (iii. 592), however, Mr.
Dunlop has attained conviction. “In his wine-cups,” he tells us, “he
began to brawl, and was literally hacked in pieces by his enemies.”
These and some other of his suppositions do not appear to agree with
the story in _Holinshed_, _Campion_, _the Calendar of State Papers_, or
the _Four Masters_. But why does Mr. Dunlop disagree with Lord Deputy
Sidney, the main mover in the matter? Many efforts, it is well known,
had been made to murder Shane. In 1566 Sidney sent to Scotland his
“man,” the English-Scot Douglas, who had come to him from Leicester
himself. Sidney gives us the clue to his mission. “I pray you,” he
wrote to Leicester, “let this bringer (Douglas) receive comfortable
words of you. I have found him faithful, _it was he that brought the
Scots that killed O’Neill_.” Douglas repeated the boast and prayed
a reward from Cecil. Years later Sidney, being maligned by powerful
enemies at Court, reminded the Queen of his old services. “And whereas
he [O’Neill] looked for service at their [the Scots] hands against me,
_for service of me, they killed him_.... But when I came to the Court,”
he added with indignation, “it was told me it was no war that I had
made, nor worthy to be called a war, for that Shane O’Neill was but a
beggar, an outlaw, and one of no force, and _that the Scots stumbled on
him by chance_.” Would Mr. Dunlop, as a means of overthrowing me, join
with Sidney’s enemies to rob him of the deed he boasted of? (_Vide_
_Sid. Let._ 12, 34-5; _C.S.P._ i. 430; _Car._ ii. 338, 340-1.)

I have pained Mr. Dunlop by referring to the hoard of Con O’Neill,
Earl of Tyrone, as evidence that Ulster was not penniless. Mr. Dunlop
discovers that Shane O’Neill “robbed his father” of this store, and can
scarcely believe that I adduce this “robbery” to prove the wealth of
Ulster, and that I use it in connection with a passage about plunder of
Ireland by English invaders. This hoard occurs in a list of three pages
containing signs of riches in Ireland (pp. 67-69), a mere glance at
which would show the absurdity of any contention that all the moneys I
mention fell into English hands. As to Con O’Neill’s savings, I see no
objection to an allusion to them as one proof among others of money and
plate in Ulster. I do not know if Mr. Dunlop means not only to suggest
my want of candour, but also to prove that if Shane “robbed” his
father’s treasure, therefore no English soldiers or officials robbed
any Irish chief of his plate or wealth.

But though in this connection I have really nothing to do with the
ultimate fate of Con’s hoard, I may in passing compare the Lord
Chancellor Cusack’s report at the time with Mr. Dunlop’s “robbery.”
Con O’Neill was thrown into prison in Dublin in 1552, and said to be
threatened with death. The English were prepared with an illegitimate
successor in Tyrone. Shane claimed to be his father’s lawful heir, and
fought the English nominee. A garrison of English soldiers was thrown
into Armagh. Beyond the Blackwater Ford, within a ride of Armagh, lay
the chief fort of Tyrone, on the great hill of Dungannon. Shane,
evidently with the support of his people, “came to Dungannon,” and took
with him “of the chief’s treasure £800 in gold and silver besides plate
and other stuff” [apparently then not the whole of it, but so much
as was needed for the war at the moment] “and retaineth the same as
yet, whereby it appeareth that he and she [the Earl and Countess] was
content with the same; for,” said Cusack, “it could not be perceived
that they were greatly offended for the same.” This was how Shane
O’Neill “robbed his father.”

Mr. Dunlop quotes a sentence that “Galway ships sailed to Orkney
and to Lübeck,” and gives _one_ only of my references in the note,
which states that a Scottish ship of Orkney was freighted at Galway
for Lisbon. It is evident that by one of the accidental errors of
transcription, which every writer that ever lived has sometimes to
deplore, I transferred the words, and _Orkney_ was used where I meant
to write _Lisbon_. Lübeck is a different matter. Why did Mr. Dunlop
carefully omit the reference in the same note to the page where I
mention goods shipped from Galway to Lübeck in 1416? Was it a generous
effort to make the error take on a more serious character? Or was
it a common inaccuracy? I may inform him that in the _Hansisches
Urkundenbuch_ further references occur to Irish cloth at Lübeck, as
well as to Irish cloth and provisions along the Elbe, and that the name
he throws doubt on appears with good reason in my text.

Mr. Dunlop also discovers a “most apparent and painful” instance of
my “distorting of evidence” in my reference (which I did not give as
a quotation) to Limerick merchants appeached of treason for _trading_
with Irish rebels, when the deputy’s words were _victualling and
maintaining_ (p. 170). Mr. Dunlop might perhaps himself suspect some
barter in the business when it attracted eight merchants to traffic
in so dangerous an enterprise. But he conveniently omits the rest of
my story, that within a year of the arrest of the eight merchants the
Limerick corporation prayed to have the city charter confirmed with
a special clause _that they might buy and sell with Irishmen at all
times_. They seem to have had no objection to trade with the Irish,
which was the only point I had there to prove. I willingly alter the
word that seems to Mr. Dunlop so painful a distortion of the truth, and
my argument remains unchanged.

Mr. Dunlop twice condemns me in “the case of Enniscorthy fair, where
the documents referred to refute the deduction drawn from them.”
“We strongly resent her concealing the fact” that Sidney, with the
Four Masters, deplored the “_destruction_ (n.b.)” of the fair by the
rebellious Butlers at the instigation of James Fitzmaurice. Why should
I not “conceal facts” I do not know to be true? I fancy it is better
than publishing them. The word used by the Four Masters, Sidney, and
a contemporary letter given in Hore’s _Town of Wexford_ (175) is
“spoiling.” Will Mr. Dunlop give his references to “_destruction_
(n.b.),” and to “the instigation of James Fitzmaurice”? What is the
proof? This day’s raid was not the first attack on the fair after
it had been granted to English officers charged to execute martial
law on the Wexford Irish. I have not space to tell the significant
circumstances. Mr. Dunlop blames me for not giving the founder of the
fair. “We will overlook the omission,” he says in his lofty way of
superior erudition and fidelity to facts. This cheap taunt is surely
absolutely unworthy of a writer who should be aware that no one as yet
knows the origin of the fair. I see no reason against mentioning its
existence, among many others which Mr. Dunlop neglects, as evidence of
trading activity in a region where Irish law and speech prevailed.

I do not propose to weary the reader by multiplying instances of this
kind. The details of historical controversy interest few readers. Its
personal aspect should interest none. The instances I have given are
true samples of all the rest. I have gone carefully through the long
indictment, and I note half a dozen minor points in which I am glad to
correct an obvious misprint or to amend an error (not one of which, I
would say, affects the drift of my argument). But the great bulk of
these criticisms--grave inaccuracies in themselves, or misstatements
of what I say, or dogmatic assertions which need for their discussion
evidences which there is no attempt to offer--can give me little help.
For an example of historical investigation of medieval Irish history,
of serious use of references and evidences, or of customary fairness in
discussion, I must go elsewhere than to Mr. Dunlop.

With regard to evidence, I am charged with repudiating the testimony
of Spenser, Davies, Fynes Moryson, Cuellar, Derrick, and official
documents that tell against me. I have drawn very largely from State
Papers and official records of all kinds, sources of information
which have proved invaluable for my purpose. In the shaking bog of
medieval testimony, some firm standing is to be found in statutes,
ordinances, town records, cartularies, and the like. From them we
rapidly come to more perilous regions--State Papers and letters--where
every document needs to be considered as a separate “source” to be
separately discussed. Some were written by strangers newly come to the
country--soldiers, secretaries, adventurers, spies; others by higher
officials struggling in an intricate tangle of intrigues, or by a lower
sort trying to make their way upwards; some by governors zealous to
keep their credit amid the scandal of the Court; others by governors
desperate to recapture a lost reputation. In the medley of partiality,
prejudice, ignorance, despair, and triumph, every one must judge to the
best of his ability as to the value of the testimony; there can be no
scientific accuracy in the measurement. There is the same difficulty
with the reports of a few Continental travellers, Italian or Spanish.
Historians of Ireland have freely used the evidence of men, English or
European, who came not knowing a word of the language, who traversed
the country more or less rapidly under official guidance, or in the
midst of armies occupied in a peculiarly ferocious warfare, or who
attempted an uneasy living on the confiscated lands of the “native”
people--men, in fact, who knew practically nothing but destruction.
From the study of other evidence I have come to think that the view
which has generally been accepted from these gentlemen is imperfect and
often erroneous. They could know nothing of an earlier time and had but
a partial vision of their own.

Some well-thumbed later authorities have been found to give no
trustworthy guidance for medieval Ireland, and they do not appear in
that customary place of authority which had become their recognised
privilege; on the other hand, some entirely new authorities have been
called in and some have lain unused.

Among the writers I am accused of neglecting is Captain Cuellar, a
Spaniard from the Armada, knowing no Irish, flying for his life,
sometimes among people who had no good reputation with the Irish
themselves, hiding himself in the wildest and most secret haunts of
districts swept and wasted from end to end by English soldiers--I do
not know why such an experience should be quoted as a fair record of
ordinary Irish life in the plains, in times of peace, and among the
richer and more settled clans. Mr. Orpen, in the _English Historical
Review_, has extracted from this little record every damaging phrase
to the Irish to be found in it and omitted every favourable one. Does
he wonder why I have not done the like? I have not done it because I
do not think it fair dealing or honest history to state as evidence
against the Irish that Cuellar was “robbed of all he possessed,
stripped naked, beaten, and forced by a blacksmith to work”; and not to
mention that the robbing and beating was the work of English troops and
mercenaries from Scotland; that the week he spent at the blacksmith’s
forge was the solitary unkindness he suffered from any native Irishman
in his seven months’ wandering; that the moment an Irish chief heard
of his misfortune he sent to take him to his own house; that in that
seven months of journeyings in the wilds, from the day when cast on
a Connacht beach, he was hidden in pity by gallow-glasses till the
day when men of Ulster secured his escape across the sea, he was
continually succoured by young and old, men and women, clerics and
laymen, who pitied him, wept at his sufferings, showed him every
hospitality and kindness, and guided him from shelter to shelter to
hide him from the English. By what strange tradition, by what long
prejudice is this perversion of evidence fabricated and admitted?

Besides English and Spanish testimony we have also some from the Irish
themselves. Among Irish witnesses the great Galway scholar Dr. Lynch,
writer of _Cambrensis Eversus_, stands high; no student can afford
to neglect editions and translations made by Mr. Whitley Stokes and
Professor Kuno Meyer in this country, and by Continental scholars; the
translations of Dr. Douglas Hyde; the work of Dr. Norman Moore in the
_Dictionary of National Biography_ and elsewhere; or the collection of
criticisms, translations, and summaries that make up the invaluable
_Catalogue of Manuscripts_ in the British Museum by Mr. S. H. O’Grady.

Mr. Dunlop does not like poets. “Surely she must know that the very
stock-in-trade of a poet is pure moonshine,” he avers. However that may
be, I may say that Mr. O’Grady’s _Catalogue_ contains a great deal that
is not poetry. “Must we remind her,” says Mr. Dunlop with the loftiest
severity, “that bard and annalist were often the same individual?”
The _Catalogue_ would explain to him how impossible would be such
a conception to the Irish world, where a bard was a mere natural
poet who had not studied in the schools. Will Mr. Dunlop give one
single instance of this frequent fact? A quotation from a blind poet
peculiarly awakens his contempt, as he refers to it twice, repeating
here the criticism of another writer of his school. Teigue Dall
O’Higgin was a man of great eminence in his day; and I see no reason to
believe that a blind man necessarily takes leave of _all_ his senses. I
have no doubt that Teigue was at home in all the gossip of Enniskillen,
and that he could distinguish between the sounds of a smith’s shop, or
of women talking over their embroidery, and of men bringing boats to
the shore. Other references to Fermanagh which I have given in my book,
and indications in the English wars of the importance of water carriage
on the lake, bear out the story of Teigue the Blind. He was right about
the “blue hills.”

If Mr. Dunlop accuses me of a “partiality for native records” with all
their “rhetorical rhodomontade,” I frankly confess to a regard for
the opinion of people who belong to a country and speak its tongue. I
suppose that contemporary Irish witnesses, even the _Four Masters_,
may be used with the same authority and the same limitations as
English; nor do I know why the opinion of any stray traveller or minor
official from over-sea, intent only on furthering his interests, is
to be accepted without question, while the word of a deeply learned
Anglo-Irish scholar of Galway, or of an eminent Irish poet who had
visited every province of Ireland, is to be wholly suspect. I will give
an illustration by recalling the case of Sir John Davies and of Dr.
Lynch. To Mr. Dunlop the brief writings of Davies represent a very high
authority, while the _Cambrensis Eversus_ of Lynch is dismissed in one
word as a “political pamphlet.” He does not apparently think Davies had
any political leanings. We usually think people impartial who hold our
own opinions.

In my book I have given definite reasons for thinking that Davies’
acquaintance with Irish affairs was inadequate--in a short residence
in the country of which he did not know the language, the law, or the
history. My own judgment is that considering his imperfect means of
knowledge, and his very strong bias of prejudice, his statements about
Ireland before his coming there have no particular sanctity, and need
to be tested and corroborated like those of any other writer. That he
is sometimes at fault even a believer such as Mr. Dunlop seems in a
hidden way to admit. Suggesting that my references to the cloth trade
are not so novel as unwary readers might think, “the excellent quality
of Irish wool,” says Mr. Dunlop, “is one of the best attested facts in
Irish commercial history.” Then why has Mr. Dunlop until this moment
excluded any slightest mention of wool in his summary of Irish trade?
Was it too well known? Or was it because of the saying of Sir John
Davies--“for wool and wool-felts were ever of little value in this
kingdom?” We are here shut into a denial of the well-attested commerce
in wool, or to a doubt of the sufficiency of Sir John Davies as a
witness; and we are left without guidance by Mr. Dunlop. On the whole,
it seems judicious to depend on Davies’ evidence only for the things
that lay within his immediate and direct observation. His opinion on
all that he himself saw is worthy of respect, and we may admit the
sound legal maxim that a man’s evidence can always be accepted when it
is given against himself.

The same distinction may surely be drawn in the case of Dr. Lynch.
Davies was a man of English and Latin learning, Lynch a man of Irish
and Latin learning. The historical criticism of their day was not
perfect in either country, and as Davies leant to the English side of
prejudice, Lynch leant to the Irish. But Lynch, like Davies, was I
believe a just reporter of what he had himself seen or had heard from
firsthand witnesses. And I have therefore quoted him, as I have Davies,
for what had come within the range of his personal knowledge, not for
matters of historical research. His testimony is of extraordinary and
pathetic interest. Born in Galway in the last years of Elizabeth, when
the city still preserved its old culture and the remnants of its old
wealth, Lynch was one of the last scholars who ever saw and knew the
Anglo-Irish civilisation. It is not any single picture that he gives
that is important; it is the host of scattered and chance allusions, as
to things well known to every Irishman in his day, which reveal to us
the society in which he had been brought up. It is touching to remember
that he was the last to say a good word for the medieval civilisation.
After his death a darkness and silence of hundreds of years fell over
that story, and it is across nearly three centuries that Irishmen will
now have to take hands with Lynch and carry on his justification of the
Ireland which was being gradually built up by the work of Gaels, Danes,
Normans, and English in their common country.

This, however, is just what Mr. Dunlop denies. He “begs leave to
doubt” that the “native Irish” in the fifteenth century developed the
resources of the country. By omitting all contemporary references to
timber, to leather, and to salmon, of course it can be said there was
no medieval trade in these. The plan seems unsatisfactory, and I have
not followed it. Mr. Dunlop, for example, blames me for not quoting an
English poem (no pure moonshine here--perhaps a farthing dip) which
does not mention leather, as proof that there was no leather trade. I
have quoted the _Libel_ elsewhere, but on this point I preferred the
direct evidence of the records of the Bruges Staple; and I have since
added notices in the _Hansisches Urkundenbuch_ for leather sent in
1304, 1327, 1453 to Bruges, Dinant, and Portugal. I would ask which
is the historical method: to close the question once for all with the
negative silence of an anonymous English writer “whom we think,” says
Mr. Dunlop, in one of his easy moods about evidence, “had a pretty
accurate notion of what constituted Irish commerce”; or to pursue
enquiry in business records of the ports and seek to ascertain the
exact facts.

The art of making linen was known, according to Mr. Dunlop, to the
“native Irish, as it is to most primitive races.” But what they made
in Ireland was “of a very coarse kind, and its use was practically
restricted to the wealthier class--viz., the merchants of the towns.”
What is his proof for all this? Was it the town merchants that Campion
describes wearing linen shirts for wantonness and bravery, “thirty
yards are little enough for one of them”? What about the great linen
rolls on the Irishwomen’s heads, and (is the inference too romantic?)
perhaps on their bodies also? What about the fine linen in which the
Galway women wrapped the Spanish hanged after the Armada? When I read
of 6000 bales of linen cloth sent from Galway to Genoa in 1492, or of
4000 linen cloths mentioned in 1499 in another Galway merchant’s will,
or of the “sardok” of mixed woollen and linen in the Netherland markets
in 1353, or of Henry the Eighth forbidding Galway any more to export
linen, the records of the time seem to conflict with the opinions which
Mr. Dunlop “begs leave” to hold.

Mr. Dunlop now admits for the first time some trade in cloth, but with
a stipulation of his own that it was all made by Englishmen. He does
not trouble to consider such a clue as we find in the State Papers of
Galway merchants carrying their wine into the country to exchange among
other things for cloth. He has his own theory; “it is pretty clear from
such expressions as Limerick cloak, Galway mantle, Waterford rug, that
the centres of the cloth industry lay within the sphere of English
influence”; the participation of the Irish was excluded by severe guild
regulations, and “it may not be unfair to infer that the reputation
acquired abroad by Ireland in regard to its serges was not due to the
industry of its native population.” This insinuating hypothesis is a
flaming fact on the next page, where it appears the “native Irish” (no
inferring here to dull the conclusion) “took no part in the commercial
development of their country, leaving it to the stranger within their
gate, and thereby earning from the latter the reproach of idleness.”
If there were, as Mr. Dunlop “prefers to think,” some loyal Irishmen
who preferred English civilisation and the chances it offered them
of pushing their way in life to their native customs, he states that
the presence even of such loyal Irishmen “was not always welcome to
citizens of English blood.” Thus the English of the towns must have
toiled day and night to supply the mantles which the English Government
forbade to loyal people, and to provide cloaks and cloth for the
foreign trade, since in their incessant struggle to preserve themselves
intact from Celtic influences they refused the aid of Irish hands to
work for them. It is an idyllic picture of high purpose and endeavour,
of the way to develop a country, and to make an empire.

We are not, however, shut up to this series of hypotheses. The town
records themselves and English State Papers, as I have shown, give
sufficient proof that the “native population” were not, in fact,
rejected from the town industries. Mr. Dunlop denies this; he thinks
the towns remained pure English. He is sure that all the Galway people
shaved their upper lip weekly. Henry the Eighth was not so sure of it
when, in 1536, he sent orders from Westminster to Galway men to shave
themselves aright. When Mr. Dunlop, to prove that the Galway citizens
consistently desired to keep themselves free from Irish customs, quotes
laws against Irish games and keening, he quotes them without date. My
contention is that, if it was necessary _as late as 1527 and 1625_ to
enact these laws, this, with a number of other indications that I have
mentioned, shows that the citizens’ “desire” was not very effective,
and that there was an Irish population ready to push its way in trade,
but not anxious to drop “their native customs.” No doubt the extent
to which Irish names were changed must be conjectural; but there is
evidence that such change did take place. My suggestion that “White”
may indicate an Irish house gives Mr. Dunlop an opportunity to parade
his knowledge of Gaelic. He informs me, on the authority of O’Donovan,
that there is no such Gaelic name as _Geal_ and imagines that settles
the matter. He has never, then, heard of the name _Fionn_, which has
been anglicised by “White” for centuries, just as a well-known Scotch
writer of our day calls himself Henry White or Fionn indifferently.

As for intellectual culture, Mr. Dunlop is brevity itself. He has
scarce a page for that chimera. The Irish were barbarous and the
Anglo-Normans contaminated. His method is summary. The evidence of
Mr. Whitley Stokes, of Dr. Norman Moore, of Mr. S. H. O’Grady, of Dr.
Kuno Meyer has too little importance with him to be mentioned, and he
can thus more easily avoid all proof of Irish scientific skill in
medicine, or of the admirable quality of their translations from the
Latin. He necessarily omits all mention of the many Irish scholars on
the Continent, for has he not himself told us only one Irish chieftain
made the perilous journey to Rome and back? He has no reference to
buildings or arts which indicate the intercourse of Irish chiefs with
the Continent. He is silent on the schools from which Irishmen were
able to pass to foreign universities. He seems not to have heard of
evidence of Latin culture collected by Mr. Justice Madden. And most
wonderful to say, he seems entirely unaware of the importance of the
list I have published, for the first time (by the generous kindness
of a great scholar), of Irish translations of Continental works.
Perhaps he felt himself anticipated by the conclusive comment I saw
from a dashing newspaper critic, that “the Irish evidently satisfied
themselves with translations!” In any case, he never hints at this
list or its value as evidence. So astonishing a neglect of the greater
matters of evidence, while every detail that could by any means
discredit me is searched out, is surely a grave abuse of the historical
method. In the matter of culture Mr. Dunlop confines himself with a
singular restraint to a single topic--the list of Irishmen at Oxford.
In this he counts many Anglo-Norman and only seventeen Gaelic names,
and this solitary fact is enough to make him astonished that I “did
not recognise how utterly untenable is her theory of the absorption of
Anglo-Irish culture by the native Irish.” Those readers who will turn
to the chapters on Irish learning in my book will perhaps be astonished
not at the theory that there was culture in Ireland, but at the
travesty of that theory and the suppression of evidence which serves as
historical criticism for Mr. Dunlop.

Mr. Dunlop meets with a direct negative my statement that Sussex and
Sidney carried off in their train every notable chief’s son they could
lay hands on, but he gives no more than his own authority. My statement
is perhaps too comprehensive, but I have given numerous instances (pp.
425-437) to show that the method certainly used by Sussex and Sidney,
so far as they could, was steadily increased and extended in proportion
as the English power gradually spread over one Irish region after
another. The English took over the Irish system of hostages, but they
developed it in a new way. The Catholic chief’s son was brought up in
London as a Protestant, in English law and language and tradition, with
the avowed purpose of spiritually severing him from his people, and
leaving the clan without a natural leader or defender in the national
conflict; their chiefs, in fact, were to be made the very instruments
for dividing and subjugating their own people. In the words I quoted,
it was a method which “not only rent asunder the bonds of national
loyalty and of natural affection, but which forced parent and child
alike to believe that in this world and in the world to come they
were divided by an impassable abyss.” Surely there is no likeness in
this deliberate plan to the Irish chief’s use of his hostage; it was,
indeed, practised with consummate art by Turkey.

In this article Mr. Dunlop proposed to prove two facts: first, that
Celtic civilisation is largely a figment of my imagination; and,
secondly, that far from composing one nation, the English element
in Ireland was proud of its origin, and struggled incessantly to
preserve itself intact from Celtic influence. One part of his plan is
destructive, and the second constructive. Unfortunately the work of
destruction has proved so alluring that the constructive scheme is
abandoned. As to the value of the destructive work, I contend that Mr.
Dunlop’s criticisms are not so historically accurate, so reasonable,
or so candid, that they can serve for correction or instruction. I
contend further that even on the generous assumption that the whole of
Mr. Dunlop’s criticisms might happen to be valid, there would still
remain untouched the main body of my evidence and the whole current of
my argument. And I confidently believe that the history of Ireland will
be re-written on truer lines and surer foundations than those sketched
out in the _Cambridge Modern History_ and the _Quarterly Review_. But
perhaps Mr. Dunlop will go farther. It would be pleasant to hear, in
more detail, his views on “the Iberian element in the nation.”

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