The last chapter commenced with the arrest of the men of ’48 and ran over the succeeding ten years, up to the arrest of the men of ’58. Those ten years carried me from boyhood into manhood. I could very well skip them by, and say no more about them, but many men and women who are reading these “Recollections” in the United Irishman would not be pleased at my doing that. They have become interested in my stories of Irish life and Irish character, and, as one purpose of my writing is to make a true picture of these, I must, even at the risk of being charged with egotism, face that charge, and tell my own story.
When I came to live in Skibbereen, in 1848, there was a Father Matthew Temperance society in the town. I took the Father Matthew pledge, and I became a member of that society. I kept that pledge till the year 1857. To that circumstance I place a due share of credit for being able to go through the world with a strong and healthy constitution. It is no harm to add that the past seventeen years of my life have been with me years of temperance, as were those nine years from ’48 to ’57.
I had no salary in Skibbereen the first year. I was clothed and fed as one of the family. Then, my aunt’s son-in-law, Morty Downing, changed his residence from one house to another, and enlarged his business by adding general hardware, cutlery and agricultural seeds to his stock of ironmongery and farm implements. I was allowed a salary of two pounds a year, I was offered an indentureship of clerkship for five years, but I would not sign the indentures. I did not want to bind myself. My aunt wanted me to do it, but I would not. My employer represented to her that I was becoming too much my own master, and that for my own good, he wanted to have a stronger hand over me. Possibly he was right, but all to no use, I remained wrong, and kept my freedom. He would go to my aunt’s place at Smorane—a mile outside the town—every Sunday evening; and, riding his horse “Mouse” into town one evening, he saw me riding through the street on an empty tar barrel. Next morning he was out of bed before I was up, and as I came downstairs he met me with a whip in his hand. He gave me a good thrashing. I didn’t cry, I only sulked. That evening I took my supper in the kitchen. While taking supper, Kittie, the boss servant, told me that the master said I was to do her work of cleaning all the shoes next morning, and that as she would be out milking the cows I would find the shoes in the usual place. When I came downstairs next morning, Kittie was out milking the cows; there was a nice blazing fire in the grate; I got a stool and I put it opposite the grate; I got the shoes and boots and put them on the stool; I got the water can, and I filled the boots and shoes with water. There I left them, and left the house and went home to my mother in Ross. She had not then gone to America; she was living in the house that was left to her rent-free during her life for giving up peaceable possessions of the farm.
That week, the wife and children of our cousin, Paddy Donovan in New York, were leaving Ross for America. My god-father, Jerrie Shannahan, was the car-man who was taking them to Cork. I went to Cork with them. When they sailed away I came back to Ross with my god-father. We left Cork on Saturday evening, and were in Ross on Sunday morning. Our horse had no load coming back but the two of us.
During the few days I was in Cork, I went around, looking for work. I had with me a good character certificate that I got from my parish priest. These were the words of it—“I know Jeremiah O’Donovan, of this parish, to be a smart, intelligent young lad. His conduct, up to this, has been good and correct. I recommend him as one who will prove honest and trustworthy.—Michael O’Hea, P. P., Ross Carberry.”
With that, I went on board a ship in the river Lee, and offered myself as cabin-boy, or any kind of boy. The mate liked me; but as the captain was not on board he could not, in his absence, take me.
Then, I knew that Andy-Andy lately ’listed, in Ross, and that he and his regiment were in barracks in Cork. I went up to the top of Cork Hill. I inquired at the barrack gate for Andy Hayes of Ross. I was told he was detailed on guard duty at the County Jail. I made my way to the County Jail, and there, inside the gate—in the guard-house, between the inside gate and the outside gate—I met Andy-Andy, in England’s red-coat uniform—as fine a looking man as you’d meet in a day’s walk—six feet two or three in height. Three or four years before that day, I buried his mother, Jillen, without a coffin—
Then Andy died a-soldiering in Bombay,
And Charlie died in Ross the other day;
Now, no one lives to blush, because I say
That Jillen Andy went uncoffined to the clay.
And eight or nine years after the day that I met Andy-Andy in the guard-room of the County Jail of Cork, I thought of him as I stood handcuffed in that same guard-room, going in to that Jail a Phœnix prisoner.
And what strange connections I find myself making in these Recollections of mine! Last week Daniel O’Donovan, the shoe manufacturer of Lynn, made a visit to my office. “Rossa,” said he. “You spoke of an uncle of mine in that book of prison life that you wrote; you remember the man, Jack McCart, that gave you the handkerchief to roll around the stone that pillowed Jillen’s head—that man, John Dempsey-McCart, was the brother of my mother.”
“Hand me that stone, child!” in his hand ’tis placed;
Down-channeling his cheeks are tears like rain;
The stone within his handkerchief is cased,
And then I pillow on it Jillen’s head again.
And how can I help thinking of the wreck and ruin that come upon the Irish race in the foreign land! One in a hundred may live and prosper, and stand to be looked at as a living monument of the prosperity, but ninety-nine in a hundred are lost, never to be heard of. The six O’Donovan brothers that I saw sail out from the Cove of Cork—the sons of Patrick O’Donovan-Rossa and Mary O’Sullivan-Buadhaig—came to be known as men in the First Ward of New York a few years after—Den, Dan, Jerrie, John, Conn and Florrie Donovan; all of them dead; one only descendant belonging to them, living at the present day.
And what a change came in my own life and in my own character during the six or seven years that transpired after those cousins of mine left Ross. The day they left, my parish priest, Father Michael O’Hea, gave me a good character, as a “smart, intelligent young lad,” recommending me to the world as one who would be found “honest and trustworthy.” Seven years after, the two of us were living in Skibbereen, and he, as Bishop O’Hea, turned me away from his confessional, telling me not to come to him any more. I had become a Fenian; his “smart, intelligent young lad” had turned out to be a bad boy. Such is life. As this is jumping ahead of my story a little, and rushing into the cross part of my “Recollections” I will jump back again, and tell how I got on after I came home from Cork.
My mother had a message before me from Morty Downing, telling me he wished I would go back to him again, and that all my bad deeds would be forgiven and forgotten. I went back to him, at my £2 a year salary. The first investment I made out of that salary was to purchase the whole stock in trade of Eugene Daly, a book-seller, who hawked books around the town and country. I bought his entire stock at one penny a volume, and they came just to £1—240 volumes. Then he bought a pound’s worth of knives and scissors and razors and small cutlery in the shop, and the price of them was put against my salary.
That box of literature, as I call it—for I bought box and all—very soon brought me to grief—well, not exactly that, but it very soon got me into trouble. My bedroom was not the very best room in the house. It was a kind of garret, in which were stored lots of old newspapers. Mr. Downing had been one of the Young Irelanders, and he had stored in my room all the Repeal and Young Ireland newspapers of the previous five or six years. As soon as I’d get to bed at night I’d read in bed, and I’d fall asleep reading, leaving the candle lighting. Some little fire accident occurred that Kittie reported to the governor—some of the bedclothes had burned holes in them, and Kittie got orders not to give me any more candlesticks going to bed. Another accident occurred: I had two nails driven into the partition, above my pillow. I kept a lighted candle between the two nails. I fell asleep reading. When I awoke I was in a blaze. The partition had burned in it a hole that I could run my fist through. I had to make an open confession this time, and to solemnly promise I would never again read in bed.
My employer got into the wool, cotton, and flax business, and occasionally had contracts for supplying those materials to the Poor Law Unions of Skibbereen, Bantry, and Kenmare. In connection with those contracts I, a few times, visited the Poor Law Boards of Kenmare and Bantry. In Kenmare I was the guest of my employer’s brother, Dan Downing of the Washington Hotel. He was married to the sister of William Murphy, the architect, who kept a hotel in Bantry. Oh! they’re all dead now. And I suppose those handsome Kerry girls that played their nettlesome-night joke on me that night, are dead too. They could find no bedroom candlestick to give me; they showed me the bedroom, telling me the door was open. I went to bed, and as I rolled the clothes around me I found myself imbedded in nettles. At the breakfast table next morning, Mrs. Downing hoped I had a good night’s sleep. I asked her which of the girls was the chambermaid, and I saw they had the laugh on me.
And very likely all the Kenmare men of that day are dead also. And good Irishmen they were:—John Fitzmaurice Donnelly, Patsy Glanney, Long Humphrey Murphy, Myles Downing, Paddy the Gauger, and others of that company. Stewart Trench, the land-agent of Lord Lansdowne, was that time in his glory—evicting the Lansdowne tenantry. The stories I heard of him moved me to parody that Robinson Crusoe poem, about him. Here are a few of the verses:
He is monarch o’er all he can sway,
His right there is none to dispute;
Thro’ Kenmare and along by the sea
He is lord of the man and the brute.…
O, Kerry! where now is the spirit
That ever distinguish’d thy race.
If you tolerate Trench you will merit
A stigma of shame and disgrace.
Persecution by law he can preach.
He can nicely “consolidate” farms;
He can blarney and lie in his speech,
And exterminate Irish in swarms.
An invader, himself and his clan,
’Tis a maxim comprised in his belief,
To coerce and evict all he can
For the plund’ring invaders’ relief.
The hum of contentment or peace
In those valleys and glens can’t be heard
Till we manfully look for release,
From the tyrant, by rifle and sword.
No hope for a comfort in life
While crouchingly quiet and obedient
The weal of your child and your wife
Is to Trench the tyrannical agent.
The Kenmare men asked me to get printed for them some slips of what I wrote about Trench. I got them printed, and sent them to the Kerry men. Trench got hold of one of them, and was mad to find out who was the writer; he said it was inciting the people to murder him—for, the word “trench” has that meaning in Kerry. But the Kerry men did not give me away.
This Trench had earned for himself the reputation of being a most expert hand at getting rid of what the English landlords called “the surplus population” on their Irish estates. He was well known in the barony of Farney in the County of Monaghan, where he was after having gone through his work of depopulation on the Shirley estate.
And strange! this day that I am writing—some forty-five years after I wrote the lines about Trench—the “Dundalk Democrat” of November 21, 1896, comes on my desk, and I see in it an account of a Land League meeting in Carrickmacross, presided over by Dean Bermingham, the priest of the parish. The subject of the speeches at the meeting is the evictions on this Shirley estate—and this, after all the Tenant-right bills that England has passed for the tenantry of Ireland during those past forty-five years! I quote from the “Democrat” these few passages:
“On Thursday last a meeting was held in Carrickmacross, called nominally to support the claim for a reduction of rent made by the Shirley tenantry, and for the restoration of the evicted tenants on that estate.
“Dean Bermingham, who was moved to the chair by Mr. Peter Dwyer, V. C., P. L. G., seconded by Mr. A. Mohan, P. L. G., took as the text of his speech the resolutions recently forwarded to Mr. Shirley and the curt reply received. These resolutions, which we have already published, called for an abatement in the rents owing to the bad prices and partial failure of the harvest, and requested the landlord to take advantage of the new Land Act to have the evicted tenants on his estate reinstated. Dean Bermingham sent a courteously worded letter to Mr. Shirley with the resolutions; but the only reply received was an acknowledgment from Mr. Gibbings, the agent, a gentleman referred to by Mr. Daly, M. P., in his speech as ‘a mere day-servant, a fellow employed at thirty shillings a week.’ The Dean trenchantly described the answer as cold, curt, callous, and heartless. He humorously suggested that though Mr. Shirley might not be expected to treat with courtesy the parish priest of Carrickmacross, he might have shown a little politeness to a brother landlord. He (Dean Bermingham) is not the owner of as many broad acres, but he is the owner of as fine a castle—the ancient residence of the Earl of Essex, from whom the Shirleys are descended, and from whom they inherit their Farney estate. He got that castle honestly—he didn’t get it from old Queen Bess; and he was proud of owning the ancient stronghold of the McMahons, and having converted it to a better use than ever it was put to before. The Rev. chairman referred to the fact that while he threw open Bath walk to the public, admission to the Shirley demesne is by ticket, which people have to go to the agent to procure; and when he recently went and asked for this permission for the convent children for one day, he was bluntly refused.”
That is enough to show my readers, that notwithstanding all the Tenant-right bills that England has passed for Ireland during the past fifty years, England, and England’s lords hold Ireland to day with as tyrannous a control as they have held it—every day of the past seven hundred years.
And by the bye, ’tis no harm to remark here, that whatever differences there may be between the Fenians and the priests, the priests don’t forget to remind us occasionally of our history, and of how we were murdered, plundered and pauperized by the English robbers. Whenever they preach a good sermon on the life of the Church in Ireland, they have to remind us of this. Some of us blame the priests for not taking up the sword and fighting against England. ’Tis our place to do that. ’Tis their place to do as they are doing. But we shirk our part of our duty, by going around the world preaching against England, on the anniversary of every day on which Englishmen murdered Irishmen.
If we were the men that we ought to be, we would be doing something to have “vengeance wreaked on the murderer’s head,” instead of hugging to ourselves the satisfaction that we are doing all that belongs to Irish patriots to do, by celebrating those days, in singing “High Upon the Gallows Tree,” and “The Glories of Brian the Brave.”
But I have not done with Kerry yet. I was speaking of it when Father Bermingham’s speech about the Essex-Shirley invasion took me into the northern County. Another of those invaders of the time of Queen Bess got into the southern County. His name was Petty. He came in as an English government surveyor, and when he had done his work, he had surveyed into his own possession all the lands of the O’Sullivans, the O’Conners, the O’Connells, the O’Moriartys, the O’Donoghues, and other Irish clans. From that Petty comes to us this Marquis of Lansdowne, who has his English title to the town of Kenmare and all the townlands around it. The Lansdowne of my day, hearing of the “good” work that Trench was able to do, brought him from Monaghan to Kerry, and gave him carte blanche to go on with his “improvements” there. Trench went at his work with a will. He thought the people were too numerous in the land, and commenced rooting them out. Cromwell, two hundred years before that, brought ship-masters from England; shipped the Irish, men, women, and children, to the Barbadoes, and had them rented out, or sold as slaves. Trench brought his ship-masters from England, and shipped the Kerry people to the Canadas—in ships that were so unfit for passenger service that half his victims found homes in the bottom of the sea.
Then, to boycott the Scriptural permission to “increase and multiply,” he issued orders that no people should marry on the estate without his permission; that holdings should not be divided, nor sub-divided; that any son to whom he gave permission to marry, and whom he recognized as the tenant in possession, should not give shelter to his father or mother, or to the father or mother of his wife. What wonder is it that the Kerry people regarded Trench with a holy hatred? What wonder if they would be glad that somebody would “trench” him?
In reading the history of France, and of what the “nobles” of France were for some centuries preceding the time of Napoleon, I couldn’t help thinking of the kinship in manners and mind that seemed to be between them and the English “nobles” in Ireland. French history says, that the French noble would come home from a day’s hunting; his boots would be wet; his feet would be cold; he would order that one of his retainers be slain, and his body slit; then, he would put his naked feet into the bowels of the dead man that they might get warm there. Also that the French “noble” on many estates claimed the right of honeymoon with every woman who got married on his estate. I am not saying that Trench or his “noble” Lansdowne went so far; but there was one of those English “nobles” slain in Leitrim or Donegal a dozen years ago, whose character came very near the mark, and to which account his death is credited.
I now come back to Skibbereen for a while. During a few seasons of my time there, I used to take a hand at making what are called Skellig lists. These are rhyming productions that are gotten up in the south-western towns of Ireland after Ash-Wednesday—descriptive of the pilgrimage to the Skellig rocks of the young people who were eligible for marriage, but who didn’t get married the preceding Shrovetide. On Shrove-Tuesday night the little boys go around to the houses with tin whistles, kettle drums, and baurauns, drumming them away to Skellig’s, making much such a racket as the youngsters make in America on New Year’s night or Thanksgiving night. For dabbling in the idle diversion of making those Skellig lists I got the name or fame of being the poet-laureate of the locality.
And yet I cannot leave my ‘box of literature’ without saying something more about it. It became the library of my boyhood days and nights. There were all kinds of books in it; books of piety, books of poetry, books of love, languages, history, war, and romance. “Hell Open to Sinners—Think Well On It,” was a terror-striking book. “The Glories of Mary,” must be a touching book; reading it used to start tears to my eyes.
One Good-Friday night every one in the house went to the chapel to the Office of Tenebræ. I was left at home to mind the house; I cried enough that night reading my “Glories of Mary.” Twenty-five years ago I was living in Tompkinsville, Staten Island. John Gill of Tipperary was a neighbor of mine; he was a member of an Irish society there; he asked me to join that society. I told him I would. He afterward told me he had proposed me and that I was elected. He appointed a night for me to be initiated. I attended at the ante-room of the society rooms that night. I could hear some noise inside. I was not called in to be initiated. Next day John Gill told me that some one had started the story that my mother was a Protestant. I can say that neither my mother, nor my father, nor any one before me, back to the time of St. Patrick, was anything but a Catholic; and the tradition in my house is, that my people gave up all they had in the world rather than give up the true faith. With such antecedents, I can afford to care but very little about what any one may say about my losing my soul because I do all in the world I can do to wrest from the English robbers what they robbed my people and robbed my country of.
We had a dancing school in Skibbereen that time too, and I went to it. Teady O’ (Teady O’Sullivan) was the dancing master. I learned from him ten shillings worth of his art—two steps; the first one, the side step, and the second one, an advance-and-retire step; and, though I am past practising them now, I can travel back in memory with those I hear singing—
Oh! the days of the merry dancing;
Oh! the ring of the piper’s tune;
Oh! for one of those hours of gladness—
Gone, alas! like our youth—too soon.
With that ten shillings worth of Teady O’s dance I went pretty well through the world—so far as dancing through it is concerned. I used it to my amusement, as well as to my punishment on one occasion in prison. I was in chains in a cell in Portland one day; my legs near my ankles were circled with chains; my waist was circled with a chain, and from the waist chain to the ankle chains there were other chains connecting, down between my legs. In my £1 library of my early days was a book I had read, called “Schinderhannes, or The Robber of the Rhine.” In that story was a rapparee character named Carl Benzel. Carl was often put to prison, and in his prison he used to amuse himself by dancing in his chains. I thought of him when I was in chains in Portland Prison, and I commenced dancing in my cell that side-step I learned from Teady O’. By and by, the warders were shouting out at me to stop that noise. I would not stop; so, to get rid of the noise that was going from my cell through the corridor, they put me in the black-hole cell.
The one great book of my early-day library was a book by the name of “Colton.” It was a collection of many of the sayings of the great writers. One paragraph in it stuck fast in my mind, and it is in my mind still. It is this: “That head is not properly constituted that cannot accommodate itself to whatever pillow the vicissitudes of fortune may place under it.”
That sentence seems to light up in my head whenever the clouds of “hard times” hover over me—and that is often enough. That is how it lights up before me at present.
Morty Downing, of Skibbereen, was a Poor Law Guardian; and, in connection with his business, I got acquainted with every one connected with the Skibbereen Poor Law Union. Neddie Hegarty, the porter at the main gate, was the man I skurreechted most with. He had most to tell me about the starvation times of the years that had just passed by. The Chairman of the Board, during most of those times, was Lioney Fleming, of Oldcourt, a small landlord magistrate. He was a pretty fair specimen of the English planter in Ireland, who considers that Ireland was made for England, and that all the people to whose fathers Ireland belonged are better out of it than in it. Sheep and oxen were tenants more welcome to Lioney’s estate than Irish men, women, and children; and the faster the men, women and children in the poorhouse would die, the oftener would Lioney thank the Lord. “When we were burying them in hundreds every week,” said Neddie to me one day, “the first salute I’d get from Lioney, when he’d be coming in, every board-day, would be: ‘Well, Hegarty, how many this week?’ and if I told him the number this week was less than the number last week, his remark would be: ‘Too bad; too bad; last week was a better week than this.’”
An inmate of the workhouse named Johnnie Collins was Neddie Hegarty’s messenger boy. He was lame; he had been dead and buried, but had been brought back to life by a stroke of Rackateen’s shovel. Rackateen was the name by which the poorhouse undertaker was known. The dead were buried coffinless those times. Rackateen took the bodies to the Abbey graveyard in a kind of trapdoor wagon. He took Johnnie Collins in it one day, and after dumping him, with others, into the grave pit, one of his knees protruded up from the heap of corpses. Rackateen gave it a stroke of his shovel to level it down even; the corpse gave a cry of pain, and the boy was raised from the pit. That lame man—whose leg had been broken by that stroke of the shovel—used to come into my shop every week; and we used to speak of him as the man who was raised from the dead.
Lioney Fleming was chairman also of the Skibbereen board of magistrates. I strolled into the courthouse one court-day, about the year 1855. The police had George Sullivan up for trial, on some charge of assault. He had employed McCarthy Downing as his attorney. I sat on the seat behind the attorney. A large pocket knife was produced, which was found on George when he was arrested. Lioney took hold of it, and touching one of its springs, it brought to the front a pointed bolt of iron that made the article look like a marline-spike—an instrument very handy to sailors and farmers for putting eyes in ropes. Lioney asked George where did he get that knife; George told him he bought it in O’Donovan Rossa’s shop. “The man who would sell such a murderous weapon as that,” said the magistrate, “ought to be prosecuted.” Touching McCarthy Downing on the shoulder, I whispered to him—loud enough to have Lioney hear me—“Tell ‘his honor’ to look on the big blade of it, and he will see that the manufacturer of the knife is Rogers, of Sheffield, England. ’Tis he should be prosecuted for trading such murderous weapons as that to the peaceable people of Ireland.” You should see the black look Lioney gave at me, and the white smile I gave at him.
Now, I will take myself and my readers to Bantry Bay for a while.
In discharge of my duty of attending to the taking of contracts for my employer, I went to see the Guardians of the Bantry poorhouse one day, with some samples of wool and cotton. I had to wait a while, till they were ready to receive the tenders. In the waiting room was Alexander M. Sullivan, who became so active in Irish politics, some years after, as Editor of the Dublin Nation. He was then a Relieving-officer of the Bantry Union. It was after the coup d’etat of Louis Napoleon, in December, 1851, when coming on the termination of his four years’ presidency of the Republic. I find that time and circumstance alluded to this way in one of the American school books:
“In December, 1851, a plot formed by the Ultra or Red Republicans, for the overthrow of the government, was discovered by the president, who caused all the leaders to be arrested, on the night preceding the outbreak.” After that “the president became emperor by a majority of several millions of votes.”
Mr. Sullivan came in for a warm place in my memory that time. I was in the waiting-room of the Bantry Union board-room: he was there with other officers and Guardians. The conversation was about the late coup d’etat in Paris; he spoke warmly on the subject, and said that that tyrant Napoleon deserved to be shot, and that he himself could volunteer to shoot him for destroying the Republic. His feelings, as expressed, harmonized with my own feelings, and I held him in my mind as a thorough good Irishman. It was not without considerable pain of mind, seven or eight years afterward, that I found myself obliged to have a newspaper quarrel with him about Irish revolutionary affairs.
In those visits I made to Bantry I got acquainted with William Clarke, who kept a hardware store and a dry-goods store there. He told me he would give me a salary of ten pounds a year, if I came into his hardware store as clerk, and increase that salary if I deserved the increase. I told him I would bear the matter in mind. I did bear it in mind; and coming in to the year 1853 I wrote to Mr. Clarke telling him I would go to Bantry.
I did go to Bantry, and I spent three months with him. He had, in two stores, nine or ten clerks. I ate, drank, and slept with them. Every one of them remained to his dying day, a bosom friend of mine. Yes, they are all dead.
The world is growing darker to me—darker day by day,
The stars that shone upon life’s path are vanishing away.
The name of one of these clerks was Eugene O’Sullivan. He was from a place called Ross-MacOwen, at the Berehaven side of Bantry Bay. I used to call him Eoghain, O Ross-Mac-Eoghain. Here is where I want to make a point in a matter of Irish history. Historians who have written on the siege and surrender of the Castle of Dunboy, say it was a man named MacGeoghegan that set fire to the barrel of gunpowder, that blew up the castle, at the time of the surrender. Some of them write the name “MacGehan,” “MacGeoghan,” “MacEggan,” and “MacGeohan.”
There are no people of the name of Geoghegan or MacGeoghegan in that district. But, there are lots of MacOwens or MacEoghans there; and their surname is O’Sullivan. Owen or Eoghan is Irish for Eugene, and Eugene is a name in the family of every O’Sullivan-Bere. I am strongly of opinion that the man who blew up the Castle of Dunbuidhe was an O’Sullivan and not a Geoghegan; that he was the son of Eugene or Owen O’Sullivan, that he was known as MacEoghain; but that the historians who first wrote up the history—being ignorant of the Irish language—took the pronunciation of “MacEoghan,” and wrote it MacGeoghan; and that blunder was followed up by pronouncing that middle “g” in the word Geoghan—a “g” that is always silent before the letter “h.” Thus comes into Irish history the error of having the defender of Dunboy Castle a MacGeoghegan instead of a MacEoghan O’Sullivan.
And so it happens in one of Charles Lever’s novels of romance. The name of it is “Tom Burke of Ours.” It should be “Tom Burke of Ower.” Ower is the name of a townland in the Parish of Headford, County Galway. It is owned by the Burke family. They are known all around Connaught as “the Burkes of Ower.” They generally took service with the English. It was one of them was killed by the Irish, in the Phœnix Park, Dublin, in the year 1882, the day he was sworn in with Lord Cavendish, to govern Ireland for the English. The book publishers should also correct that error in Lever’s book, and print the name of it “Tom Burke of Ower,” instead of “Tom Burke of Ours.”
I think there is another mistake in connection with the Irish language, in Irish national poetry, that spoils the sense of one of Davis’s poems. That Irish line—“Is truagh gan oighre na bhfarradh,” should be—“Is truagh gan oighre na’r bhfarradh.”
He is lamenting the death of Owen Roe O’Neill, and lamenting there is not an heir of his among us at the present day.
The words “na bhfarradh” in the first line mean “with them”; the words “na’r bhfarradh” mean “with us,” and that is what the poet meant. Some publisher of Davis’s poems should make the correction.
The time I spent in Bantry was a pleasant time enough. I had a bedroom in the hardware store, and I could sleep there, or sleep with the clerks in the drapery store, whichever I liked best. I think I spent most of my nights in the hardware store. William Clarke had a brother who was a ’48 man. He was dead; but all his books were in the house I had charge of, and as all the old “Nation” newspapers, and other interesting papers were here, I spent many of my nights reading them.
I took my meals at the other house. Mrs. Clark would occasionally preside at table. She was a grave, stately lady. I was somewhat afraid of her. I knew she had heard some way that some of the other boys used to call me “Jer. droll,” but I would say nothing in her presence to let her think there was anything droll about me. I was proud of my name and proud of my family. She was of a good family too, for she was one of the O’Donovans of Clounagoramon, and I knew she did not think the less of me for tracing my descent from princes and lords of Carberry of the olden time.
Another lady used to preside at the tea-urn occasionally. She was a family friend—a Miss Brown of Enniskean, who was on a visit to the house. When I was bidding good-bye to Bantry, I called to bid her good-bye, and she shed tears at our parting. Poor dear girl; I never saw her after. May the Lord be good to her! And the local poor “characters” of the town made a kindly acquaintance with me too, and took a permanent place in my memory. Jack Leary—Shaun-a-dauna—a poor simpleton, had a most intimate acquaintance with me. Down the Lord Bantry road, one Sunday evening, the boys wanted him to go out boating with them. He wouldn’t go on sea at all; they took hold of him to force him into the boat, and he cried out to me, “Oh, Jerrie a laodh! na leig doibh me bha.”—“Oh, Jerrie dear, do not let them drown me.”
I had from my family the information that in old times, a brother of my great-grandfather, named Joe O’Donovan Rossa, went to Bantry, became a currier, and had a tannery there. Con O’Leary had in my day the only tannery that was in Bantry. I went to that tannery one day, and found that a man named Donovan was foreman there. His father was living, but was sick in bed. I went to his bedside, and found him to be the grandson of my great-grandfather’s brother. That brother was the first tradesman that was in our family. So said my people, when I was picking up my genealogical lessons from them. You see, in those old times, when the Irish clans owned their Irish lands—before the English robbed them of them—the clansmen did not care about learning trades. But when the plunderers came down upon them with fire and sword, they had to realize the necessity of changing their opinions, and changing their way of living.
When I met Billy O’Shea of Bantry in Cork Jail in 1859, I asked him was Tim O’Sullivan-Coyraun dead or alive. He said he was dead. Tim often told me the story of the French fleet coming into Bantry bay in 1796. He was a young man then, and saw it all. His death was in the Bantry poorhouse the time of the Crimean war. The priest prepared him for death. “Father,” said Tim, “I have a dying request to ask you: tell me what news is there from the Crimea; how are the English there?” The priest told him there was a terrific battle fought at Balaklava, and the English were terribly cut up, and defeated. “Thank God,” said Tim, “that I have that news to take with me. Now I can die happy.” He turned in the bed, as if settling himself for a good sleep. Half a minute more, and he was dead. Other memories of Bantry picture my mind. I have spoken of Billy O’Shea. It was there I first made his acquaintance—
With fearless Captain Billy O’
I joined the Fenian band,
And I swore, one day to strike a blow
To free my native land.
Billy O’ spent seven or eight months with me in Cork Jail in the year 1859. I was in my store in Madison street, New York, in the month of July, 1863. It was the day, or the second day after the days of the battle of Gettysburg. A carriage came to the door; it had a wounded soldier in it—his uniform begrimed, as if he had been rolling in earth. He asked me to go to a hospital with him; I went with him. The hospital was somewhere at the west side of Broadway, near the Cooper Institute. He wrote his name on the Register as William O’Shea, Captain Forty-second Tammany Regiment. I went to the ward with him, saw him stripped, and examined by the doctor. He had four wounds in his body. One bullet had struck him under the left breast, and went clear through his body; another struck him in the wrist and came out at the elbow. He remained a few weeks in the hospital; rejoined his regiment at the seat of war, and was shot dead in the next battle.
But I have to leave Bantry. During my time there, I could not well get Skibbereen out of my head. There was a young woman in that town who appeared to be fond of me, and who was telling me that Skibbereen seemed lonesome to her without me. I left Skibbereen, having had some kind of a falling-out with her. I was in her shop one Sunday evening; friends and neighbors were coming in; and as they came in, they would go into the parlor back of the shop; sit down and have their talk. By and by, every one was in the parlor except myself; some one closed the parlor door, and I was left alone in the shop. There was one man in the company who had a bank-book, and I knew he was always showing the bank-book to the girl who was fond of me—to let her see how well he was providing for the future. The noise of the laughing and the joking in the room inside came to my ears outside, with a kind of madness, and I walked out into the street—leaving the shop to take care of itself. Next day two of the men who were in the room came into Morty Downing’s store; sat down, and commenced talking to each other, as it were confidentially, in the Irish language. I was inside the counter; I could hear all they were saying—and they meant I should hear it, but they did not pretend so. They talked of Miss Eagar and the man with the bank-book, and concluded that the match was settled. I did not pretend to hear them; I was mad. Those two rogues—Peter Barnane and Charles the Colonel—God be good to them!—carried out their joke well. For two months after that, I did not go into Miss Eagar’s shop. One moonlight night I was passing by her house; she was standing in the door; I did not salute her; she stepped out after me and took the cap off my head—taking it into the shop with her. I went in after her—for my cap. She asked what was the matter with me. I asked why did she leave me alone in the shop that Sunday evening. She said—because she thought no one had a better right to mind the shop than I had. I told her I had arrangements made to go to Bantry to live. She said I could go if I liked; but she liked me better than she liked any one else. I did go to Bantry; but I came back in three months’ time, and we got married on the 6th of June, 1853.