July 11. Left Kilsaine. Mr. Bushe accompanied me to Woodstock, the seat of Sir W. Fownes. From Thomastown hither is the finest ride I have yet had in Ireland. The road leaving Thomastown leads on the east side of the river, through some beautiful copse woods, which before they were cut must have had a most noble effect, with the river Nore winding at the bottom. The country then opens somewhat, and you pass most of the way for six or seven miles to Innisteague, on a declivity shelving down to the river, which takes a varied winding course, sometimes lively, breaking over a rocky bottom, at others still and deep under the gloom of some fine woods, which hang down the sides of steep hills. Narrow slips of meadow of a beautiful verdure in some places form the shore, and unite with cultivated fields that spread over the adjoining hills, reaching almost the mountain tops. These are large and bold, and give in general to the scenes features of great magnificence. Passed Sir John
p.31Hasler's on the opposite side of the river, finely situated, and Mr. Nicholson's farm on this side, who has very extensive copses which line the river. Coming in sight of Sir W. Fownes's, the scenery is striking; the road mounts the side of the hill, and commands the river at the bottom of the declivity, with groups of trees prettily scattered about, and the little borough of Innisteague in a most picturesque situation, the whole bounded by mountains. Cross the bridge, and going through the town, take a path that leads to a small building in the woods, called Mount Sandford. It is at the top of a rocky declivity almost perpendicular, but with brush wood growing from the rocks. At the bottom is the river, which comes from the right from behind a very bold hanging wood, that seems to unite with the hill on the opposite shore. At this pass the river fills the vale, but it widens by degrees, and presents various reaches, intermixed with little tufts of trees. The bridge we passed over is half hid. Innisteague is mixed with them, and its buildings backed by a larger wood, give variety to the scene. Opposite to the point of view there are some pretty enclosures, fringed with wood, and a line of cultivated mountain sides, with their bare tops limit the whole.
Taking my leave of Mr. Bushe, I followed the road to Ross. Passed Woodstock, of which there is a very fine view from the top of one of the hills, the house in the centre of a sloping wood of five hundred English
p.32acres, and hanging in one noble shade to the river, which flows at the bottom of a winding glen. From the same hill in front it is seen in a winding course for many miles through a great extent of enclosures, bounded by mountains. As I advanced the views of the river Nore were very fine, till I came to Ross, where from the hill before you go down to the ferry is a noble scene of the Barrow, a vast river flowing through bold shores. In some places trees on the bank half obscure it, in others it opens in large reaches, the effect equally grand and beautiful. Ships sailing up to the town, which is built on the side of a hill to the water's edge, enliven the scene not a little. The water is very deep and the navigation secure, so that ships of seven hundred tons may come up to the town; but these noble harbours on the coast of Ireland are only melancholy capabilities of commerce: it is languid and trifling. There are only four or five brigs and sloops that belong to the place.
Having now passed through a considerable extent of country, in which the Whiteboys were common, and committed many outrages, I shall here review the intelligence I received concerning them throughout the county of Kilkenny. I made many inquiries into the origin of those disturbances, and found that no such thing as a leveller or Whiteboy was heard of till 1760, which was long after the landing of Thurot, or the intending expedition of M. Couflans. That no foreign
p.33coin was ever seen among them, though reports to the contrary were circulated; and in all the evidence that was taken during ten or twelve years, in which time there appeared a variety of informers, none was ever taken, whose testimony could be relied on, that ever proved any foreign interposition. Those very few who attempted to favour it, were of the most infamous and perjured characters. All the rest, whose interest it was to make the discovery, if they had known it, and who concealed nothing else, pretended to no such knowledge. No foreign money appeared, no arms of foreign construction, no presumptive proof whatever of such a connection. They began in Tipperary, and were owing to some inclosures of commons, which they threw down, levelling the ditches, and were first known by the name of Levellers. After that, they began with the tithe-proctors (who are men that hire tithes of the rectors), and these proctors either screwed the cottars up to the utmost shilling, or relet the tithes to such as did it. It was a common practice with them to go in parties about the country, swearing many to be true to them, and forcing them to join by menaces, which they very often carried into execution. At last they set up to be general redressers of grievances, punished all obnoxious persons who advanced the value of lands, or hired farms over their heads; and, having taken the administration of justice into their hands, were not very exact in the distribution
p.34of it. Forced masters to release their apprentices, carried off the daughters of rich farmers, and ravished them into marriages, of which four instances happened in a fortnight. They levied sums of money on the middling and lower farmers in order to support their cause, by paying attorneys, &c., in defending prosecutions against them; and many of them subsisted for some years without work, supported by these contributions. Sometimes they committed several considerable robberies, breaking into houses, and taking the money, under pretence of redressing grievances. In the course of these outrages they burnt several houses, and destroyed the whole substance of men obnoxious to them. The barbarities they committed were shocking. One of their usual punishments (and by no means the most severe) was taking people out of their beds, carrying them naked in winter on horseback for some distance, and burying them up to their chin in a hole filled with briars, not forgetting to cut off their ears. In this manner the evil existed for eight or ten years, during which time the gentlemen of the country took some measures to quell them. Many of the magistrates were active in apprehending them; but the want of evidence prevented punishments, for many of those who even suffered by them had no spirit to prosecute. The gentlemen of the country had frequent expeditions to discover them in arms; but their intelligence was so uncommonly good by their influence over the
p.35common people, that not one party that ever went out in quest of them was successful. Government offered large rewards for informations, which brought a few every year to the gallows, without any radical cure for the evil. The reason why it was not more effective was the necessity of any person that gave evidence against them quitting their houses and country, or remaining exposed to their resentment. At last their violence arose to a height which brought on their suppression. The popish inhabitants of Ballyragget, six miles from Kilkenny, were the first of the lower people who dared openly to associate against them; they threatened destruction to the town, gave notice that they would attack it, were as good as their word, came two hundred strong, drew up before a house in which were fifteen armed men, and fired in at the windows; the fifteen men handled their arms so well, that in a few rounds they killed forty or fifty. They fled immediately, and ever after left Ballyragget in peace: indeed, they have never been resisted at all without showing a great want of both spirit and discipline. It should, however, be observed, that they had but very few arms, those in bad order, and no cartridges. Soon after this they attacked the house of Mr. Power in Tipperary, the history of which is well known. His murder spirited up the gentlemen to exert themselves in suppressing the evil, especially in raising subscriptions to give private rewards to whoever would
p.36give evidence or information concerning them. The private distribution had much more effect than larger sums which required a public declaration; and Government giving rewards to those who resisted them, without having previously promised it, had likewise some effect. Laws were passed for punishing all who assembled, and (what may have a great effect) for recompensing, at the expense of the county or barony, all persons who suffered by their outrages. In consequence of this general exertion, above twenty were capitally convicted, and most of them executed; and the gaols of this and the three neighbouring counties, Carlow, Tipperary, and Queen's County, have many in them whose trials are put off till next assizes, and against whom sufficient evidence for conviction, it is supposed, will appear. Since this all has been quiet, and no outrages have been committed: but before I quit the subject, it is proper to remark that what coincided very much to abate the evil was the fall in the price of lands which has taken place lately. This is considerable, and has much lessened the evil of hiring farms over the heads of one another; perhaps, also, the tithe-proctors have not been quite so severe in their extortions: but this observation is by no means general; for in many places tithes yet continue to be levied with all those circumstances which originally raised the evil.