How vividly I can now recall the last conversation I had with Michael Doheny? It was late on the night of the 10th of November, 1861. A few hours before, in the dusk of the winter evening, T. B. McManus was laid in his Irish grave. The large room of the hotel was filled with Irish Nationalists, whose hopes were raised to the highest by the magnificent demonstration of the day. Every face was lighted with enthusiasm, as the different incidents of the great event were discussed. Men pressed around the American delegates and triumphantly asked “Were they satisfied?” In the midst of this scene Colonel Doheny took me by the arm, and led me to a corner of the room where we had half an hour’s talk all to ourselves. Very likely those who saw the veteran patriot laying his hand upon my shoulder, and waiting with an anxious look for my replies to his questions, thought that those questions were of grave political import. Yet such was not the case. He inquired about the companions of his boyhood (most of whom were dead and gone) mentioning numbers of his schoolfellows by name. He described the houses of his old friends, the scenery around them, and even the different members of each household. In fact the man’s heart was as soft as a woman’s. Yet what a stormy life his was; and perhaps no one man ever had to endure more injustice, misrepresentation, and calumny than Michael Doheny. Yet there he stood, his hair grown grey, after eating the bitter bread of exile for a dozen weary years, drawing near to the close of a life of suffering – with tears in his eyes as he spoke of the friends and the scenes of his early happy days! Everyone who knows any thing of Colonel Doheny’s private life, knows how he was adored by his own family. Even those who are only acquainted with him through writings must have remarked something of this. He alludes so often to his wife and children, and more particularly to his sister-in-law, Miss O’Dwyer – the Eileen Aroon of his songs. I am just after spending a few hours with them – that is with Mr. Doheny, Miss O’Dwyer, and Miss Doheny, who I think has a look of her father, and some of his intellect too. She is an exceedingly interesting girl, and as Irish and innocent in look and manner as if she had never left their old home under the shadow of the Rock of Cashel. Miss Doheny is a pupil at a convent in Brooklyn.
A day or two previous to my visit to this interesting family, I called to see some relatives of mine in Brooklyn. One of them handed me a photograph of one of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen. I felt a deep interest in the fate of this girl – she was so young, so innocent, so surpassingly beautiful. She was obliged (the old story!) to go to America, where she sickened and died, requesting a friend on her death-bed to send a lock of her hair to her widowed mother. A friend of mine made this incident the subject of a ballad which has been admired for its simplicity. My friends said I might keep the photograph, and I look upon its coming into my hands as a remarkable coincidence. I told all this to Mrs. Doheny, who asked me could I remember any of the ballad. I repeated the first two lines –
“She lived beside the Anner,
At the foot of Slievenamon.”
Miss Doheny at once remarked that her papa had the verses copied into the Phoenix, and taking up a large bound volume of that journal, she knew exactly where to find them. I read “The Celt, the publication of which was discontinued after the death of Dr. Cane, has been revived under the editorship of Dr. Campion. From its first number we extract the following gem.” I said he was not an impartial critic; for the simplest daisy from the foot of Slievenamon would be a gem in the eyes of Michael Doheny. Here is the ballad: –
THE IRISH PEASANT GIRL.
She lived beside the Anner,
At the foot of Slievenamon,
A gentle peasant girl,
With mild eyes like the dawn.
Her lips were dewy rose-buds,
Her teeth of pearls rare;
And a snow-drift ‘neath a beechen-bough,
Her neck and nut-brown hair.
How pleasant ‘twas to meet her
On Sunday, when the bell
Was filling with its mellow tones
Lone wood and grassy dell.
And when, at eve, young maidens,
Strayed the river bank along,
The widow’s brown haired daughter
Was loveliest of the throng.
Oh, brave, brave Irish girls,
We well may call you brave;
Sure the least of all your perils
Is the stormy ocean wave,
When ye leave our quiet valleys,
And cross the Atlantic’s foam,
To hoard your hard-won earnings
For the helpless one at home.
Write word to my dear mother,
Say, we’ll meet with God above;
And tell my little brothers
I send them all my love.
May the angels ever guard them,
Is their dying sister’s prayer;
And folded in the letter
Was a braid of nut-brown hair!
Ah! cold and well nigh callous
This weary heart has grown.
For thy hapless fate, dear Ireland,
And for sorrows of my own;
Yet a tear my eye will moisten,
When by Anner side I stray,
For the lily of “the Mountain-foot,”
That withered far away.
Mrs. Doheny is collecting materials for a biography of her husband. She says there is but one man living to whom she would wish to entrust the writing of this book. I need hardly say that this man is S—. A paragraph appeared lately in a Dublin newspaper, the United Irishman, which has caused Mrs. D. some anxiety. She infers from it that someone connected with that paper intends writing the life of Colonel Doheny. Mrs. Doheny told me that she had written to the Editor of the United Irishman, to inform him of her wishes on this subject.
Doheny’s two sons are officers in the Northern army. I am told they are gallant soldiers, and true Irishmen. Heaven send that they will help to complete the work to which their father devoted all his life.