Page images

based upon what we well knew to be a correct estimate of their natural cha racter. We learned from details given by M. Pichot what had been done, but his brief summary of results, and, still more, the philosophic reflection with which he accompanied it, brought vi. vidly before our memory a long train of bright hopes and, alas1 of rude crossings in the weary journey of Irish ci. vilisation :

« C'est qu'en vérité dans tous les pays la classe populaire, qui comprend difficilement les abstractions de la légalité, sent, par instinct, le besoin d'une direction et finit par subir l'ascendant d'une caractère résolu. ... Le paysan Irlandais, tout insubordonné qu'il est, sait parfaitement, comme le bandit et le sauvage, se soumettre à un chef et marcher sous une bannière. Les Whiteboys, les Ribonmen, les Cours d'Acier, les Molly Maguires en ont eu toujours à leur tête un capitaine visible ou invisible, plus despote et plus rigoureux que le constable, le juge de paix et le sheriff."

The intelligent foreigner, looking with his own eyes upon the course of the experiment in Gweedore, perceived not only the manner in which it was worked, but also penetrated to the general theory of the initiation of any process for the regeneration of Ireland. The Irish peasant, lawless though he be, is ever ready to submit to the despotic rule of a chief; he can always be induced to march under a banner. le will not quietly, and of his own accord, enter on the path of civilisation ; he must be drilled, and brigaded, and led on to his regeneration with a shout; he will stray from his ranks unless a captain be ever at hand to direct the eager, and to urge on the laggard. This is true of every Irish movement for good or for evil, and in its truth lies the explanation of the continued failure, and continued resumption of agitation. When M. Pichot truly says, “the Whiteboys, the Ribbonmen, the Hearts of Oak, the Molly Maguires have always had at their head a captain, visible or invisible, more despotic and more rigorous than the constable, the magistrate, and the sheriff,” he also tells the tale of many a rightly. conceived project for national advance ment. We have seen many a host marsballed at the word of one bold

leader, only to disperse in face of some noble enterprise, when the voice of authority was no longer within hearing, or the banner of the chief was, for a moment, hidden from sight. In testi. tifying that Lord George Hill had begun his work rightly, M. Pichot excited our curiosity as to the prospect of a right ending. We knew it to be possible for a bold spirit and a true heart to “ substitute its single rule for a routine of anarchy," and so to begin the work of Irish civilisation ; but we much longed to learn what could be done towards rendering permanent the benefits of a benevolent despotism.

Thus meditating, we determined to examine Lord George Hill's work with our own eyes, and so, after an interval of full twenty years, we again, in the beginning of last September, took the road to Gweedore. The first steps of the journey brought to view a marked contrast between the past and the present. Instead of spending a long autumn day in the saddle, a well. appointed mail-car carried us, for a few shillings, and in seven hours, by a detour, about twice the length of the direct road, to the village of Dunfanaghy, and thence along the coast, in full view of the beautiful island of Tory, to the cross-roads of Falcarragh, and by the deserted lead-mine of Kildrum to the New Hotel. And truly a strange sight was that comfortable hostelrie, with its precinct of healthy vegetation, to eyes that had last looked upon its picturesque site in the undressed barren grandeur of nature. Still stranger and more unexpected were the easements of its pleasant chambers and well-stored larder to one, who might have recorded his reminis. cences of Gweedore, in the words of a native rhymer :*

"I've lain upon the self-same bed,

With master, man, and maid ,
And in the same apartroent where

The cows and sheep were laid,
“One covering did us all, you see

('Tis true 'twas summer weather); And as we had no other choice,

We all lay snug together." The building of this hotel was the first substantial memorial of the successful progress of Lord George Hill's experiment. It was accomplished in the year 1842, some three years after his Lordsbip had made his first lodgment in

• Visitor's Book, Gweedore Hotel.

the room of a shebeen-house, where he idea of opening a shop for the sale of and his able agent and assistant, Mr. timber and iron, at first, and, subseForster, began their work, by a careful quently, for the supply of other wants study of the many obstacles, moral and of a still more advanced stage of civili. material, that stood in the way of their sation. The corn-store soon became a enterprise. For this task Lord George warehouse for the sale of a multitudi. Hill was prepared, by aknowledge of the nous assortment of articles, including, Irish language; and Mr. Forster, by a at one end of the list, bread, flour, life-long acquaintance with the con biscuit, salt, soap, reaping - hooks, dition and character of the people in and saucepans; and at the other, the neighbouring district of Rosses. mixed pickles, tea, lozenges, arrowNo very long probation was required root, raisins, Italian-irons, and staybefore both gentlemen were received laces. Gradually the commerce of this into full fellowship, and admitted freely bazaar extended, until almost every to the privileges and familiar society necessary of civilised life is now dealt of the clubs, coteries and distilleries of in. The sales of the first quarter, end. Gweedore. The first result of this in ing in December, 1840, amounted to tercourse was a conviction that nothing £40 12s. 10d. ; and, in the correspondcould be begun, in the way of improve ing quarter of 1844, they had reached ment, until the practice of iilicit dis £550. At the time of our visit, a tillation should be, to some extent, chest of tea was regularly sold per checked, or, at all events, rendered month, and two tons of sugar yearly ; less necessary to the social system. and, during the preceding twelve Corn was, heretofore, made into whis. months of 1851-52, 400 tons of Indian key, because it was in that shape more meal, at £7 10s, to £8 a ton, had been easily stored and more readily exported. purchased by the peasants. CoinciTo meet this necessity, a store, capable dently with this increase of traffic, the of holding three or four hundred tons freight from Liverpool fell to five shil. of oats, was built at the port of Bun lings a ton. A few years ago, from the beg; a kiln was provided for drying same port to Dunfanaghy, the freight the grain, and a quay wherefrom to had been eighteen shillings. The readship it was formed, giving accommoda er may naturally ask, what gold-field tion, close to the store, for vessels of was discovered in Gweedore, to supply two hundred tons. A corn-market the means of supporting these new. was thus established, in which, for the born habits of extravagance ? The time, the landlord was the principal answer, we believe, may be truly given purchaser, and a competition between in the moral of the fable of the old man the grain-merchant and the distiller who bequeathed to his sons a treasure, was at once set up. Supply soon begat hidden a yard beneath the surface of demand ; and no sooner was it known his garden. Except a trade in kelp, that oats were in store at Bunbeg, which has been re-established by the than the ship-owners of Liverpool dis demand for iodine during the last few covered the navigation of those seas, years, no new diggings have been and freely sent their vessels for the opened in those parts. The increased accumulating produce of the district. expenditure, and higher scale of living, Gweedore became an exporting coun- have been rendered possible, simply by try, and, as usual, luxury attended at the introduction of regular babits of the very birth of commerce. Among industry, and the growth of a better Lord George's staff, was a wheelwright, system of husbandry. Such prosperity whose occupation being once known, as exists is not the gift of any demigod, the people, forgetful of the manly sim, but the developinent of very limited plicity of their fathers, began to sigh natural resources, relieved, by the exfor carts and wheelbarrows, and burned ertions of a true-hearted and resolute to invest some of the profits of their man, from some portion of the burcorn sales in those otiose implements of then of ignorance and evil customs industry. And here again it was sup that oppressed them. Eggs, butter, ply that created demand. The appear. hides, woollen stockings and oats, ance of a wheelwright, and of the pro. soon formed the staple of an export ducts of his labour, showed the people trade, when an outlet through the their wants ; and the reaction of their port of Bunbeg was once established. desire to satisfy them so pressed upon During the first year (1839), £479 Lord George Hill, as to suggest the 9s. 60. was paid for oats at the store, * M. Pichot's remark upon this point is not unworthy of consideration : "Nous avons oublié q'une question pourrait nous etre faite sur ce Lord Anglais que nous avons representé comme exclusivement inspiré par une pensée utilitaire. Tous les habitans de Gweedore sont Catholiques et lui ? Lord George Hill est Anglican. Au des obstacles qui lui ont été suscités, n'en fut il donc aucun emprunté à cette lutte des cultes chrétiens, qui est une des causes de l'anarchie de l'Irelande ? Non sans doute, puisque Lord George n'en parle pas. Faut il en conclure qu'il est un homme sans culte, ce qui, a notre sens, designe simplement un homme indifferent aux forines extérieures du Christianisme? Il parait que non ; car dans le brochure dictée sinon ecrite par lui nous lisons cette phrase ; "un ministre resident de l'eglise d'Angleterre célèbre le service divin matin et soir, chaque Dimanche, dans la salle de l'ecole : les enfans qui y assistent reçoivent aussi des instructions religieuses,' Il est evident que Lord George Hill veut qui les gens de sa maison, les ouvriers etrangers et leur enfants puissent pratiquer la culte de l'eglise dans laquelle ils sont nés."

and in 1844 no less than £1,100. One hundred and thirty-five pounds' worth of stockings was bought for a London house, during eight months of the present year. The export of oats has been, of course, much diminished by the potato-famine ; but, in its place, as we have intimated, a new trade in kelp has sprung up, and seems likely to grow into a traffic in manufactured iodine. About 400 tons of kelp, at from forty to fifty shillings a-ton, have been this year shipped at Bunbeg, and, at the time of our visit, the little quay was covered with iron boilers and other materials recently landed for the establishment of an iodine factory. The kelp trade is carried on by native jobbers, who have superseded the ori. ginal Scotch buyers; and as its growth has been natural and unassisted, its activity is an indication of, no less than an agent in, the advancement of the people. And they have got forwardno very great absolute length it is true -but still so far, that a little metropolis of industry, justice and religion, now surrounds the port of Bunbeg, where, thirteen years ago, all was waste. To the store and shop, which have passed into ordinary commercial hands, Lord George Hill has added an excellent mill. Neat houses and a station have been built for the coastguard. The constabulary are provid. ed with dwellings. There is a sessions. court, a post-office and a dispensary on the quay; and at a short distance from it, a substantial parsonage, with a school-house at band, fitted up and licensed for the performance of divine service according to the forms of the Established Church.* The priest is lodged in a substantial new house; detached cottages with well-thatched roofs and whitewashed walls have everywhere replaced the crowded villages of the olden time; drains

and fences have been constructed, and every man lives, if not under his own vine and his own fig-tree, at least upon his own farm, none making him afraid of evil consequences, should be dare to step beyond the customary limits of the common indolence. “We found," said a committee of gentlemen, who acted as judges at the annual exhibi. bition in 1843, “ that the interior of the houses fully realised the expectations raised by their exterior appearance_clean, orderly, and well-venti. lated rooms, comfortable and suitable beds and bedsteads, with a supply of bedclothing and furniture equal at least to the wants of the inmates, and, in many instances, showing a taste in the arrangement for which we were quite unprepared." There was, even then, “a considerable extent of new ground, reclaimed from bog and mountain, bearing crops of oats and potatoes, and, in many places, the tenants were already attempting the cultivation of green crops," and labouring with comparative skill at draining and spade husbandry.

Slow and painful were the steps by which this progress was attained. Skilled artisans there were none : it was the habit of the people to subsidise a foreign carpenter, by the pay. ment of an annual tribute of oats, on the condition that he would make their coffins when they died. Carpenters and masons were therefore imported from a distance, and such were the privations to which they were exposed during the erection of the buildings, that they frequently deserted in de. spair. The most vexatious and barassing opposition was offered by the people themselves; they would not labour at the foundations or fences, and they carried off the tools from such desperate wanderers as hunger and necessity forced to engage in the works.

[ocr errors]

The new-made fences were levelled at the necessity of keeping a servantnight; the whole scheme of innovation maid, “ just to talk to the wife." But roused the ridicule no less than the in- these difficulties also were overcome. dignation of the country. “ They ima. When a house was to be removed, a gined, that by persevering in this way, fiddler was engaged, whose services they would in the end tire out Lord realised the myth of Orpheus. The George Hill, prevent the divisions from stones moved at the sound of his notes, being occupied, and thus defeat alto. and travelled on the backs of the asgether the new plans." They were sembled neighbours to the new site, met, however, and overcome by a where they were again composed into perseverance greater than their own. a dwelling, by the power of music. The store was built, the quay made, Man, woman and child gathered around and the market of Bunbeg established; the artist, and, for that occasion, workand then, “ the next important step ing with a will, they effected the bodily was to endeavour to obviate the old transplantation of a house in an inrundale.system, by placing each tenant credibly short time, labouring and on his own farm, preparatory to which,' dancing alternately, and closing each every landholder on the estate was sery day's work with a ball, often prolonged ed with a notice to quit.' A surveyor till the next rising of the sun. was employed, and maps were drawn. The abolition of the rundale system After six months had elapsed a com. and allotment of separate holdings was mencement was made upon one of the made the occasion of settling many distownlands."*

putes and redressing many grievances The tenants were all assembled, and of old standing. Complaints, long it was fully explained to them that suppressed, then found a ready vent; each man should be allotted a just pro and some of the facts disclosed might portion of the townland, in accordance be studied with profit by the dilettanti with all pre-existing rights and bar reformers of the land system of Iregains. In order that they might be land, who are so prone to look at the satisfied of the good faith in which the subject from a single point of view. proposition was mašle, they were asked Numerous usurpations of land bystrong to appoint a committee of their own individuals or factions, were brought to number to accompany the agent and light, and restorations were effected surveyor, and assist in re-dividing the under theinfluence of the newly-created farms. When the division was ac- public opinion. In one instance, a te. complished, an interval of some days nant complained that a portion of his was allowed for objections and revi. farm, for which he was paying rent, sions, and then the farms were distri. had been forcibly seized, and held by a buted by lot. This work, simple as it neighbour for thirty years. It was may seem, was not finished in less than found, upon inquiry, that the life of the three years; and, as it was accomplish- former landlord had been seriously en. ed in each case, a greater difficulty re- dangered in an attempt to do justice in mained to be overcome. The house of this case, which was now redressed the tenant was to be removed from the without commotion or resistance. Here cluster in which it was originally placed, was a cruel violation of tenant-right, to a convenient site upon his newly which might have pointed the moral of laid-out farm. Here a host of preju- many a tale by English fortnightly dices and ancient pleasant customs rose tourists, or adorned the address of many in the way of the reformer. Recol an aspirant senator, had it ended, Tiplections of nights of social converse, perary-wise, in the shooting of Lord of aid in sickness, of sympathy in joy George Hill or his agent; but which and sorrow, of combined operations of the former of these public instructors defence against bailiff or guager, con- do not suspect, and the latter well know trasted mournfully with the picture to be, in fact, the type of the majority fancy was able to sketch of the solitary of the agrarian grievances of Ireland. grandeur of the new self-contained For one case of oppression of tenant dwelling. The expense of the change by landlord, there are nineteen cases of was declared by the first adventurers oppression of tenant by fellow-tenant: to be ruinous : it entailed upon them nineteen agrarian murders are com

* "Facts from Gweedore."

mitted in revenge for the redress of sure. We do not believe that the des. tenants' grievances, for one that bas potism under which so much has been its origin in the wild justice of revenge done has as yet turned out a comfor landlords' tyranny.

plete and finished work, and sincerely Coincidently with these operations, do we hope that the benevolent despot an attempt was made to stimulate in may be spared to accomplish and to dustry by arousing a spirit of emula- enjoy the completion of his task ; that tion, and by the hope of reward. An he may live to abdicate, having trained annual show was announced, and pre his people into fitness for social self-gomiams were offered for draining, vernment and freedom. With a view to. trenching and fencing; for neat cot- wards this end, it is manifest that Lord tages with chimneys, and clean home- George Hill has shaped all his plans, steads; for bedding and bedclothes; and it is upon this peculiarity in his policy for green crops ; for improved breeds that we most confidently fix our hopes of cattle ; for flannel, woollen cloth, of his ultimate success. He has not stockings, and butter. To those dis. sbrunk from the exercise of authority posed to compete, the assistance and nearly absolute, but he has exercised direction of the agricultural steward of it manifestly with a design of training the estate was tendered, and a pre- beings endowed with human faculties, liminary exception was taken to any not in the coercion and ordering of competitor who should be convicted of senseless machines. He issues his making or dealing in illicit malt or ukase against the sub-division, sale, or whiskey, or of being engaged in any exchange of land, without his leave; he breach of the public peace, or who did forbids the building or enlargement of not pay his rent without compulsion. houses, unapproved of by his agent, The first year not a single candidate and he is prepared to enforce his laws appeared; the announcement was by “severe punishment,” by ejectment thought to be a hoax, and was langhed from the farm, expulsion from the esout of court accordingly. In 1840, it tate ; but he causes all men to know began to be suspected that there was that such tyranny is “ freedom's best something in the matter, and thirty-six and truest friend." His arbitrary competitors came forward, among power is directed to the overthrow of whom the premiums were so adjudged the hard slavery of poverty and deas to give general satisfaction. The pendence; his object, avowed and reshows have been since held yearly, and cognised, is to evoke a spirit of selfwith increasing success.

reliance, and a power of self-mainteThe curious social experiment we nance, which is liberty. have been describing was severely tested during the melancholy years "The sons and daughters of the tenants that have passed over Ireland since must try and do for themselves; and if their 1846; still it endures, and so far as a

parents can give them a cow, or the price of trial of fourteen years' duration can

one, they should take a mountain farm, or

go out to service, or get work elsewhere, if go, it goes towards solving the question

none is to be had near home. of the permanency of the good done.

“ The old plan of dividing the land In addition to those signs of advance

amongst the children of a family has made ment we have already alluded to we

many beggars ; this will, therefore, no may mention, that there are no arrears longer be allowed." due upon the rental, which is the same as it was in 1838; the average wages

It is thus, Lord George addresses of a farm labourer is nine pence a day; his tenants; but while he forbids the there are no beggars visible; no pau- rising generation to impose misery and pers from the district are, as we were slavery upon themselves, their parents, informed, chargeable upon the union; and their descendants, he opens a way the people are well clad, healthy-look- by which they may attain to self-suping, and orderly; the business of port and freedom. Under the circumthe post-office is steadily increasing; stances indicated in his address, he the traffic over the newly-made roads will let them mountain farms at a to Dunfanaghy and Letterkenny, shilling an acre for the first seven growing daily more considerable. years, and give them security of tenure These are tenable positions in ad. for twenty-one years, with no greater vance, yet we will not venture to increase of rent than a shilling an acre say that the ground has yet been made at the close of each septennial period.

« PreviousContinue »