The landlords of Ireland are the lords of Ireland. England makes them landlords first, and then, to put the brand of her marauding nobility on them, she makes them English lords. And they do lord it over the Irish people, and ride rough-shod over every natural and acquired right belonging to them. Whether born in England or Ireland, they must be English, and anti-Irish in spirit, in action and in religion. Some of my readers may say that some of the lords and the landlords in Ireland at the present day are Catholics. So they are, and so were a few of them in my day, and so were the whole of them in the days preceding the time of Henry VIII. But if they were, they were English and anti-Irish all the same, and the marauding Catholic Englishman, coming over to Ireland on his mission of murder and plunder during the three hundred years preceding Martin Luther’s time, murdered Irishmen as mercilessly and plundered them as ruthlessly as he has done during the last three hundred years that he is a Protestant. It is not religion, but booty, the Englishman is after in this world. Of course, religion is very useful to him. It furnishes him with a pretext to enter a country and to take soundings in it,
With the Bible on his lips,
But the devil in his deeds.
And what is more than that, neither religion nor nationality ever stood in the way of his plundering and murdering the children of the English invader who landed in Ireland a century or so before he landed there.
The Cromwellians plundered the Strongbownians, and the English transported and murdered the Protestant Mitchels and Fitzgeralds, who resisted their plunder, as readily as they did the Catholic O’Neills and O’Donnells.
And, holy Jehoshaphat! how wholly and firmly did these freebooters plant themselves in Ireland. I stand on the top of that hill where my schoolhouse stood, and I see the lighthouse of the Fastnet Rock and Cape Clear, straight out before me in the open sea; I see the ships sailing between the Cove of Cork and America, every steamer passing showing a long trail of steam like the tail of a comet. And what else do I see before me and all around me? I see the imprint of the invader’s footsteps, the steps he has taken to fortify himself in possession of his plunder, and to guard himself from assault from the victims of that plunder—for many of these victims must be wandering around the locality still. I look to the north, and I see to the right the Castle of Cahirmore, the residence of the Hungerfords. I go up the Cahirmore road (as I often went going to the home of my grandfather), and at my left hand side, for half a mile, is a wall higher than a man’s height. I cannot see the grounds or anything on the grounds inside the wall, but I hear the beautiful peacocks crying out to one another.
I look to the left, and I see the Castle of Derry, the residence of the Townsends. I walk up the Derry road, and for a half a mile of that road, to my left, there is built a wall higher than myself that prevents me from seeing any of the beauties of the demesne inside.
I look to the south, and to my right, at Rowry is the Bleazby residence, walled around by a wall some fifteen feet high, with the Smith family at Doneen further south, having another wall around them equally high.
I look to the south at my left and there is Castle Freke the residence of Lord Carberry. There is a wall around the castle and demesne here, that is, I suppose, some two miles in circumference, a high wall, as around the other places around Ross.
I traveled through England, Scotland, Wales and France, and I did not see those high walls around the residences and the grounds of any of the people.
I traveled every county in Ireland and I saw them in every county. In Monaghan one day I wanted to see James Blaney Rice of Tyholland. I came out of the railway train at Glaslough station, and walked a bit into the country, taking a roundabout way to go to the house. At the left hand side of the road I walked, there was a wall some ten feet high for a long distance. I got out of humor with that wall, as it shut out from me a view of the whole country side. When I got to James Rice, I asked him who lived inside that wall; he said it was Leslie the landlord and land agent. That’s in Ulster. In Connacht I walked out from Ballinasloe one day to see the grounds on which the battle of Aughrim was fought. I had a walk of about three miles, and at my right hand side during a long distance of that walk there was a wall higher than my head, that hid from me the castle and the grounds of Lord Clancarty.
In Leinster one day John Powell of Birr took me out for a drive through Kings County. He drove as far as the banks of the Shannon. There was the residence of Lord Rosse walled around in the castle of the O’Carrolls; and the castle of the O’Dempseys, walled around in the residence of Lord Bernard.
And look at the castle of Kilkenny, the residence of the Butlers, the lords of Ormond. Around the grounds is a wall twelve feet high. Tom Doyle of Kilkenny told me yesterday that that wall had a circumference of four miles and that, in the neighborhood of the city, the wall in some places was twenty feet, and thirty feet high.
That, no doubt, was to save the plunderer inside from fear from any missiles being aimed at him by any of the plundered people from the housetops of the city. Those Butlers—the Ormonds, were often fighting about boundaries and other matters with the Fitzgeralds, the lords of Desmond. The two families came in, in the Strongbownian time. It is said of them that they became more Irish than the Irish themselves. That transition came on naturally. Ireland became a hunting ground for marauding Englishmen. The Englishmen of the thirteenth century learned that the invaders of the twelfth century had got a “soft snap” of it in Ireland, and they tried their luck there. They trespassed on the possessions of the Desmonds and the Ormonds; so the Fitzgeralds and the Butlers planted in Ireland had to fight against the new English coming in. And thus it came into Irish history that some of these Butlers and Fitzgeralds have been century after century declared in rebellion against England.
The old saying has it that a guilty conscience needs no accuser. Those walls were not built around the castles of Ireland ’til the English came into Ireland.
Prendergast in his book of the “Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland,” and Regnault, in his “Criminal History of England,” and other historians say they were built for the double purpose of securing the claim from other plunderers who would want to dispute the boundary, and of saving the plunderer from the chance of getting a bullet or a stone or any other hostile missile or message from any of the plundered people in the neighborhood.
Those plunderers know they deserve it, and that is why they try to shelter themselves against it. That is how it is that England has passed so many laws to keep arms of all kinds out of the hands of the Irish people, and how she has passed so many laws to kill the Irish language out of their tongues. She passed those laws against the language, because wherever that language is spoken it gives the name and ownership of the castle to the old Irish owner of it. Lord Rosse’s castle in Birr is to-day called by the Irish-speaking people “Caislean ui Carrooil,” the Castle of the O’Carrolls; Castle Bernard, the residence of the Earl of Bandon, is called Caislean ui Mahoona; Castle Freke, the residence of the Freke Lord Carbery, is called “Rath-a-Bharrig,” the Castle of the Barrys, and so on throughout all Ireland.
The Dublin “Gaelic Journal” for the month of May, 1896, has come to me as I write this chapter. I look at it and see a few lines that naturally fit in here. These are they; “Donghall, O’Donngaile, O’Donnelly, Baile ui-Dhonnghaile, O’Donnelly’s town, now called Castlecaulfield, County Tyrone.”
The English name or title has not a place in the Irish language, no, nor has it caught on to the Irish tongue yet. Neither has it a place in the Irish heart. Notwithstanding all that English laws have done to blot Irish history, the Irish people, in the Irish language, still hold their own.
That is why England has tried hard to kill the Irish language. Some of my readers may think she is encouraging the cultivation of it now. She is not; she doesn’t mean it; her heart is not in the professions she is making, no more than was the heart of my hen blackbird Gladstone in the professions about home rule that he was making for Ireland for the past twenty years.
Yes, ’tis twenty years now since he made that Mid-Lothian speech, in which he said “Ireland should be governed according to Irish ideas.” He was out of office then. But, shortly after, he came into office, and he put thousands of Irishmen into prison for having them dare to think they ought to be governed by Irish ideas. And he kicked the Irish members out of the English House of Commons for having them dare to think Ireland should be governed according to Irish ideas.
’Tis my mother and father, God be good to them, that had the true Irish natural feeling about those Englishmen governing Ireland.
I can see now how relieved they felt whenever they’d hear of a landlord being shot in Tipperary or anywhere else in Ireland.
It was like an instinct with them that an enemy of theirs had been done away with. That kind of instinct is in the whole Irish race to-day, and if the power that supports landlordism in Ireland could be stricken down, there would be a general jubilee of rejoicing in the land. Until it is stricken down, there is no freedom, no home rule for Ireland.
Going into the town of Bandon one day, I overtook on the road a man who had a car-load of hay. At the right hand side of the road was the demesne of Lord Bandon. I was on horseback, and was high enough to see over the wall, the mansion called Castle Bernard in the demesne. “Go d’ aon caislean e sin thall ansann?” (what castle is that over there) said I. “Caislean ui Mhahoona” (O’Mahony’s castle) said he. The O’Mahonys are out of it, on a tramp through the world; the Bernards are in it, and are lords of Bandon. And these are the lords that administer the English laws to the people they have plundered. Take the present day, and look at the list of grand jurors that are summoned the two seasons of the year in every county in Ireland. They are the plunderers who hold the lands and castles of the plundered people, and they sit in judgment on the children of those to whom the lands and castles belonged. And these children, in cases of difficulties with the law, have to be running after the makers of that law for influence to get them out of the troubles that eternally surround them.
One of the fireside stories that got into my mind when I was a child was the story of a bill of indictment against my people, the time of the “White boys.”
These “White boys” came into the bleach-field one night, and washed their faces in the stream that ran by it, and dried themselves with the linen that was bleaching in the field. Whatever offence the White boys were charged with, my people were put into the indictment with them, either as participants or sympathizers, or as assisting in the escape of criminals who had committed offences. It was considered they knew who blackened the linen, and they should be punished as they wouldn’t tell on them. My grandfather, after using all the influence of all the friends, had got some letters from the lords and landlords around to the grand jury of the Cork assizes. He had them one evening, and he should be in Cork city at ten o’clock next morning. There were no trains running anywhere at that time. He got on horseback, and galloped to Rossmore. He got a fresh horse at Rossmore. Then he galloped on to Ballineen and got another fresh horse there; then another in Bandon, and another in Ballinhassig that landed him at Cork city courthouse before ten o’clock in the morning. He gave in his letters to the grand jury, waited a few hours, and returned home with the news that the bills were “ignored.” That is; that the grand jury “threw out” the bills and did not follow up the prosecution of the case against the people who owned the bleach.
You may think that’s a kind of a make-up of a story about my grandfather getting three or four relays of horses all in one night. I don’t wonder you would think so. Perhaps I thought so myself when I was a child listening to it at the fireside; but, stop awhile; wait till I come to write my chapter on genealogy, and come to show you how my grandfather had family relations and connections in every corner of the county, and then you will not be surprised at what I am saying. You’ll be more surprised at what I have to say yet.
The White boy indictment was before I was born. Soon after I was born, my father got into trouble with the head lord of the soil by selling to Mick Hurley, the carpenter, four tall ash trees that were growing in the kitchen garden back of the house. Lord Carberry claimed that the trees belonged to the soil—belonged to him—and that my father had no right to cut them down and sell them. My father had as much right to that soil as Lord Carberry had; he had more right to it, in fact.
One of the Irish histories I read in my youth has these words: “The O’Donovans—a branch of the MacCarthys—had extensive possessions in the neighborhood of Ross.”
They owned all Ross, and all around it, but the turn in the world came that turned them and turned many other old Irish families upside down, and left the Englishmen on top.