In the spirit of the concluding words of the last chapter, I take this last chapter of the first volume of my “Recollections,” from the recollections of Mr. Crimmins who has lived in New York for the past sixty-three years. In his early life, he was acquainted with many of the United Irishmen of ’98, who had made their homes in America, after the years of the trouble. It is among my “recollections,” to have met Mr. Crimmins; to have talked with him; and to have received from him information regarding the men of ’98 that was not in my possession before I met him. So that it is not at all out of place for me to put it in my book.
I wrote it the day after I met Mr. Crimmins; and this is how I wrote it:
I promised, in a late issue of the United Irishmen, to tell something about my entertainment, a night I spent shanachiechting with Father Tom Crimmins at his home. Some nights before that, I met him at a “wake” at Mr. Donegan’s house; he told me so many things about old times in Ireland, and old times in America—historical things I may say, which I did not know, and which you do not now know—that I got very much interested in the information I was getting from him. For instance: there are those monuments in St. Paul’s churchyard, near the Post Office, erected to the memory of Emmet and McNevin, of the United Irishmen of 1798—it was a surprise to me to hear him tell me that those men are not buried in that churchyard at all; that Dr. McNevin is buried in Newtown, Long Island; and Thomas Addis Emmet is buried in that graveyard in Second Street, Second Avenue, New York.
I often in the pages of this paper, in writing about Decoration day, spoke of “the graves of Emmet and McNevin in St. Paul’s churchyard”; and, as a matter of course, must have often misled my readers. So, it becomes a matter of duty now with me to lead them right, by giving them Father Crimmins’ story. I met his son, John D. Crimmins; I asked him did he know what his father was telling me—that Emmet and McNevin were not buried in St. Paul’s churchyard? “Why, of course, yes,” said he; “in my young days my father often took me with him to Newtown to decorate the graves of McNevin and Sampson; and to Second street, to decorate the grave of Thomas Addis Emmet. You see monuments of respect and commemoration erected in the city to General Grant, Horace Greeley, Charles O’Connor and other famous men; perhaps it was with a feeling of more solemn respect for the memory of the dead, that the men of the preceding generations erected their monuments in the graveyards of the city, instead of in the public thoroughfares.”
I went to Thomas Crimmins’ house for the special purpose of taking from him, an elegy in the Irish language, that he had by heart, on the death of an uncle of his, Daniel Barry, who was killed by a fall from his horse at a fair in Dromcolloher in the beginning of this century. I think it is best for me to let you see these Irish lines, before I say any more; and, as I want you to understand them thoroughly, and want to help you to read Irish, I will make an English translation of them, and place them side by side with the original.
The name of the poet was James O’Connell; he was a weaver by trade, and—after the name of his trade—was called Shemus Fighdeora. He was learned in the Irish language, but was unlearned in any other. His poem looks to me more like a “caoin” that would be made over the dead man’s body at the wake-house, than anything else; because, here and there, one verse is spoken as if addressing the corpse, and the next verse as if addressing the mourners around. These are the verses:
BAAS DONAL A BARRA.
Is dubhach an sgeul ata le ’n innsint,
Idir gall a’s gael, air gach taobh da m-bid siad,
An fear muinte, beasach, leigheanta, bhi ’guin,
Air maidin ’na slainte; air clar a’s’ t-oidhche.
Is dubhach an la, ’s is casmhar, bronach,
Gur leag do lair thu, lamh leis an b-pona,
Do b’e sin an tra, d’fag tu air feochaint,
Ce, gur mhairis le sealad, ’na dheoig sin.
Is dubhach an Odhlaig i, go h-oban, da ceile;
A bhfad o bhaile, o na cairid a’s na gaolta;
A riar na leinbh, gan a n-athair a d-taobh leo,
Ce, gur fhag le sgaipeadh, go fairsing da shaothar.
’S an Tir do baistig tu, a’s chaithis do shaoghal ann,
Nior fhaigis leanbh bocht dealbh, a beicig,
Gur fuar do chistin, a’s do theine bhi eugtha,
A’s d’reir mar mheasas, ’ta an tirmisg deunta!
A Dhonail Mac Tomais! m’ ochone! tu claoidhte,
A mhic an athair, na’r bh’aingis le h-insint;
Gur a m-barr do theangan, do bhidh dainid do chroidhe-si,
Acht nior ruigis leat fearg, air do leabaig, a’s’ t-oidhche.
Ni dhearfad dada air a chairid, na ghaolta,
Acht labharfad feasda, air a bpearsan an aonar:—
Do bhi fiall, fairsing, la-marga, agus aonaig,
A’s na’r dhun a dhoras, le dothoill roim aoine.
A n-diagh do lamh, ba’ bhreagh liom li-ne,
Agus ni do bfearr, na air clar a rinnce;
A d-taobh an bhearla,—ni dhearfad nidh leis,
Mar ba’ Brehon ard thu, air lan da sgrioba.
Da mba’ duine mise, do sgrio’ch no leighfeach,
Do raighin chum seanachas fada air a ghaolta,
Do scrutain gasra d’fhearaibh gan aon locht,
A’s a gnio’rtha geala, na’r bh-aingis do leigheadh duit.
Anois, o labharas,—ainm dibh, ’nneosad,
Gui’guidhe, “Amen!”—agus paidir, no dho leis
:Siol de sliocht Bharra—an fear Carthanach, Donal;
Go d-teig a n-anam go Caithir na Gloire!
THE DEATH OF DANIEL BARRY.
There’s a mournful story to-day to tell
Among friends and strangers, where’er they dwell;
That man so learned, so gentle, bright;
In good health this morning, now dead to-night.
’Tis a day of mourning; there’s grief all ’round—
That your steed unhorsed you, going by the Pound,
That the fall you got made you faint away,
And die soon after, this woful day.
A mournful Christmas is it for his wife,
Far from home and friends of her early life,
Her children ’round her, with their father dead,
’Though he left her plenty, to get them bread.
In this your birth-land, where dead you’re lying,
You’d leave no child, with the hunger crying,
Till your kitchen froze, and your fire got out,
And this fatal accident came about.
Daniel MacThomas! ’Tis my grief, you’re dead,
Son—of whose sire, nothing small is said;
Quick, from your tongue, flashed your thought of head,
But you never yet took your wrath to bed.
On friends and relatives, I will not dwell,
But of himself, in person, I can tell:
At home, at market, fair, or any place,
He never shut his door against man’s face.
How grand to me—to write as you were able;
And grand to see you dance upon a table;
About the language—little need I say
For you, as Brehon high—in that, held sway.
Were I a person who could read or write,
I’d record much about his friends to-night;
I’d bring before you hosts of faultless men,
Whose brilliant deeds would make you young again.
Now, as I spoke, his name I’ll tell to you,
Pray ye, “Amen”—and then a prayer or two
For gen’rous Daniel Barry, dead before ye;
Pray: May his soul ascend to God in Glory!
That Daniel Barry was called “Lord Barry” by the people around. His father was known as Big Tom Barry—Thomas More. They were of the Barrys of Buttevant. They lost the old castles and the old lands of Buttevant, because their people stuck to the old faith in the days of English penal law, and persecution. They were naturally “disaffected” against the government of the plunderers in Ireland, and it was no doubt, on account of the people knowing that Dan Barry was a rebel at heart, that they honored him with a title, that would be his by right of descent, if he and his house had what properly belonged to them. From old manuscript papers that Father Tom Crimmins showed me, it seems that he and all belonging to him at father and mother’s side were not very fond of English rule in Ireland a hundred years ago. Many of them were what are called “Irish rebels,” and had to leave Ireland. There is on several of those papers the official stamp of American Courts of Law, carrying the dates of the years 1820, 1812, and 1805. One set of papers show that David Reidy had titles to several lots of land in Cincinnatus, in the county of Cortland, New York.—5,000 acres—3,000 acres—2,000. That David Reidy was the brother of the wife of Big Tom Barry; and the uncle of the mother of Big Tom Crimmins. David Reidy had to leave Ireland, after the “rising” of ’98. Arriving in America, he is found in the United States army, and engaged in the war of 1812. He died without leaving wife or children, in New York City, a few years after the termination of that war, possessed of considerable property in New York county, and Cortland county, Thomas Addis Emmet becoming his executor.
In the year 1835 Father Tom Crimmins came to America—landing from a sailing ship in Perth Amboy, with eighty-six gold sovereigns in his pockets. There were no steamships that time; steamships were not known here till he came here. He came to see about this Reidy property that was so much talked of in the family at home in Ireland, and brought with him as much money as would take him back again. He brought with him letters of introduction to the young Thomas Addis Emmet from some of the old ’98 exiles who had been in America after ’98 and had gone back to Ireland—letters from an uncle of his, Maurice Barry, a civil engineer who had been engaged on the Down Survey of Ireland, and another civil engineer named Landers who was married to one of the Barry sisters.
When Mr. Crimmins went to Cortland county, he found that the land had been sold for taxes—all, except eighty acres, on which was a cemetery. This eighty acres, except the cemetery part of it, he sold out. A few Irish families were buried in the cemetery, and he did not want to have them disturbed. He then returned to New York.
When he delivered his letters of introduction to Thomas Addis Emmet, he was received with the warmest of welcomes; he was introduced to some of the ’98 men who were in New York, and to all who knew his Uncles David Reidy and Dan Barry.
“If any soundings were taken around me as to whether or not I was in need of any help,” said Father Crimmins as he was telling his story, “I knew I had as much money as would take me back home whenever I desired to go back, and I suppose I had pride enough to show that. During my stay so far, I was a guest of Thomas Addis Emmet’s at his house.
“It was more worrying and more wearisome to me to be idle than to be at work, so I occasionally made myself occupation in straightening up things about the grounds.
“Then, when I thought it ought to be time for the very best of welcomes to be getting worn out, and when I was talking of leaving, Mr. Emmet and Mrs. Emmet begged me to stay, and take charge of the business of the whole place—farm, cattle, arbory, shrubbery, plants, hothouses, everything. The Emmets used to receive a lot of company; they kept a well-stocked wine cellar; I held the keys of that wine cellar for nine years, and a drop of anything in it, I never tasted.
“By the bye, Mr. O’Donovan, excuse me—won’t you have a drink of some kind?”
“No, thank you, Mr. Crimmins.”
“Wine, champagne, anything?”
“Champagne, did you say?”
“Yes, yes; I keep a little of everything in the house, though I don’t make use of much of it”—
Here he was moving to touch the button, to call some one into the room; I stopped him, telling him I did not taste champagne or anything like it for the last eighteen years. He expressed himself, as glad, and shook hands with me.
“That hand of yours, Mr. Crimmins,” said I, “doesn’t feel as if it had ever done much work in its life, or, as if it had been ever fashioned for any rough work.” (For a very large man his hand is very small, and his fingers remarkably long and slender.) Smiling, he said I was not the first person that noticed that; adding—“I had not occasion to do much rough hand work in Ireland. I was born at the Cork side of the boundary line, in Dromina; but I lived in Limerick since I was one year old; my mother was born at the Limerick side, in Drumcolloher. She is buried in Drumcolloher; my father is buried in Tullilease. My people had their three farms on the banks of the River Deel—a river that runs through the boundary line of two counties—between Dromina, Milford, and Tullilease in Cork, and Drumcolloher in Limerick; they were large buyers of cattle, and instead of my doing any work on the farm, I used to attend the fairs and markets and attend to the shipping of the cattle to England. So largely were we in this business, that if we missed attending a fair, a dulness in the market would be felt. Coming home from the fair in the evening, to the question asked: ‘What kind of a market had ye at the fair to-day?’ the answer may be heard—‘Indeed, the market was rather slack to-day; there were none of the Crimminses at the fair.’ I had a great friend here in New York, Mr. Crimmins, who knew your people well at home”—
“Who is he? Who was he?”
“Oh, he’s dead; all my friends are getting dead; he was John D. O’Brien of Drumcolloher, who did business down in Vandewater street.
“Oh, I knew him well, and knew his grandfather better. His grandfather, Big Daniel O’Brien, was the last man I parted with when I was leaving Ireland. He put his arms around me and embraced me—lamenting that his best comrade was going away from him.
“The last time I was in Ireland—nine or ten years ago—I was in to see John O’Brien’s brothers, next door to the Victoria Hotel in Cork”—
“I was in there too, Mr. Crimmins. One of the brothers, Michael, was the treasurer of my lecture committee in Cork City, three years ago.”
While speaking to Father Crimmins, I got mixed up in my genealogy about the Emmets. He noticed it, when I said something of Thomas Addis Emmet who is buried in St. Paul’s churchyard, on whose monument are graven those Irish lines:
Do mhiannaig se ard-mhathas chum tir a bhraith;
Do thug se clu, a’s fuair se molah a dtir a bhais—
He contemplated great good for the land of his birth
He shed lustre, and received commendation in the land of his decease.
Thomas Addis is not buried under that monument at all,” said Father Crimmins, “he is buried in that graveyard near the Christian Brothers’ School in Second street, between First and Second avenues”—
“How is that, Father Crimmins?” said I.
“I’ll tell you,” said he: “Some people are not found out to be great till they are dead; when Thomas Addis Emmet was dead to the people of New York, they found out that they had lost a great man; they resolved to erect a monument to his memory, and they erected it in the most revered spot in the city. St. Paul’s churchyard was that spot, that time.
“Nor are McNevin’s remains buried either, under that monument erected to him in St. Paul’s. McNevin was the second husband of his wife. Her first husband’s name was Thomas. He was buried where that monument is. The twice-widowed woman’s name was Riker. She was a sister to Recorder Riker. The Rikers belong to Newtown, Long Island, and have their grave in Newtown. Mrs. McNevin meant to be buried in the grave of her own family and she had McNevin’s remains laid in that grave. Then, when it became a matter of public importance to raise a monument to the memory of McNevin in New York City, there was no difficulty in the way of getting that site for it in St. Paul’s churchyard.
“McNevin’s remains are buried in Newtown; and in the next plot are the remains of another United Irishman—William Sampson. In years gone by, I used to take my boys with me to that graveyard a couple of times a year; decorating the graves, twining the flowers of the two graves into one connected wreath, representative of the two men who were united in Life, being united in Death.”
“You said something awhile ago, Father Crimmins, about your first start into business in New York, and about your having a story to tell me regarding it?”
“Yes, yes; I took a contract to do $15,000 worth of work for Mr. Phelps, a banker in Wall street. I did the work. I got the money. When I came home I counted the money, and I found I had twenty-five hundred dollars over my right. I went down to him the next morning, and handed him the parcel of money, asked him to count it, as I thought there was some mistake. He said I should have counted it, and made sure of it, before I left the bank the day before; that it was no proper way to do business, to come in now, telling him the amount was short. ‘Oh,’ said I, ‘Mr. Phelps perhaps ’tis on the other foot, the boot is; you will see when you count the money.’ He counted it, and found the $2,500 mistake. He told Mr. Emmet of it; he told every one of it that had any work to do in my line. After that, I got as many contracts as I could fill—without making any bids at all for them. The cry went on the street, that Crimmins was an honest man; and, left to himself would do work as cheap and well as it could be done by any one.
“It was another illustration of the truth of the common saying, that ‘Honesty is the best policy.’ From the year 1850, up to the present day, I have been doing all the work of the House of Phelps, Dodge & Company.”
The foregoing twenty-seven chapters make a complete book. Anything written in them is not dependent for explanation or understanding, upon anything else that is to be written. But I will continue writing the “Recollections” from the year 1863 to the year 1898. They (if I live) will make a second book.