From Tarbert I continued my journey on one of those strange cars which, in Ireland, run from town to town, and are the usual means of public conveyance. They are built on the same principle as the jaunting-cars already mentioned, and the two-wheeled mail-cars, except that they have four wheels, and are often drawn by four horses. The seats at the sides are long, and hold eight
p.122persons, and between them is the pit, or recess for luggage. When the boxes and trunks are numerous, they are piled up so as to form a partition between the passengers, who can, therefore, only see what passes on their own side of the road. The other half of the country is thus invisible, and it is usual for travellers on Irish cars to relate to each other, at the different stages, any thing remarkable that may have passed on their respective sides, and what interesting sights they may have seen. These cars can carry an undefined number of passengers, for if the side seats are full they sit in each other's laps; or if one or two are in haste, they may either stretch themselves lengthways among the luggage, between the backs of the two rows of passengers, or hang on to the car in some other way. In this manner were we packed. When the vehicle started, the crowd of beggars by which it was surrounded gave way, and such as could run, and were not satisfied with the alms they had received, ran alongside, and after us. One fellow outstripped our horses, and went before us like an outrider. He kept in advance of us for nearly two miles, and did not slacken his pace till he perceived that he was the only one remaining, when he trotted alongside, and received several pence as a reward for his perseverance. In Ireland and Scotland, where there are abundance of good pedestrians, such foolish runners after carriages are not rare.
On our car were Erinnachs, Albinnachs, and Sassonachs natives of Ireland, Scotland, and England. The English are seldom met in Ireland, at least much less frequently than the Irish in England. Those who wish to earn money say, Ireland is a poor place. No reapers, no helpers, no porters, can make any thing there, for Ireland has too many unemployed poor of its own. The rich have Ireland still more en dépit, for they say, It is a disturbed country, and such an out-of-the-way place. They are not sure of their lives there, and even were personal safety less in jeopardy, it must be extremely unpleasant to be every where surrounded by such a cloud of beggars. In other respects abundant sources of enjoyment might be found; but as it is, the Englishmen most frequently met with in Ireland are the travellers for commercial and manufacturing houses.
Although, as I have said, we could see but one side of the country, there was every where ample materials for observation. In one village through which we passed, part of the somewhat long house, of one of the inhabitants had fallen down, most probably from its original instability. The owner was busily employed, in repairing it; but being either too lazy or too poor to restore the whole, he had cut away that portion which had fallen, and was now building up a new wall in the middle of it; thus
p.123resigning to destruction the ruined portion of his house, and confining himself for the future, with his family, pigs, hens, geese, and dogs, to one-half of the space they had formerly occupied. I had in this a striking illustration of the originality of Irish division of labour. In forming the walls, the father brought a cart-load of earth, which the eldest son heaped on the walls with a shovel, while the younger stood above trampling it down. The swallows seem to build their dwellings with more of art than these inhabitants of Innisfail, that is, the Island of Destination, or the Promised Island.17
In Ireland the women smoke, as well as the men. In the towns the market women usually sit smoking at their stalls. Their pipes are short, and made of clay, like those which are used by the common people in England, the Netherlands, the north of France, and even in Paris. The bowls are extremely small, and the tobacco, which is spun into ropes about the thickness of a finger, is bought by the inch or the yard. A small piece is cut off, sufficient to fill the little bowl, and the pipe is then lighted by holding to it a lump of turf, which is always kept burning near at hand. Sometimes, when the ground is wet, a large potato is placed under the turf, as a sort of pedestal, by which means not only is the turf kept dry, but the potato is gradually roasted, at least on one side.
The people here all speak English, although Irish is more generally spoken in Kerry than any where else. I was informed that in the remote villages alone were persons to be found who understood no English. This is still partly the case in Clare, where, as I should have before remarked, the inhabitants call every stranger who passes through the country, burnocks. Burnocks, ha'penny! cry the little children after him; the word ha'penny being the only English they appear to understand. The English that we speak is only a home-English, said a Kerryman to me; we do not learn it grammatically, but still we have many high-bred men here, even among the shepherds on the mountains, who know Latin as well as a priest. I have already mentioned these learned high-bred Kerrymen; and as I was now in their country, I was curious to ascertain the extent of their much-praised education. I had every where heard of shepherds, herdsmen, and ploughmen who could read and speak Latin; but the only instances of this scholarship which I met with were two men, who pretended to understand Latin, and in proof of their learning repeated a couple of corrupt Latin expressions,
p.124which they had retained from the mass or the Ave Maria of the Roman Catholic priest. Once, also, I found a peasant's son who knew a little more, and even remembered a passage in Horace; but he informed me that he had been educated for the priesthood, and had returned to his father's plough because he was unsuccessful in his priestly career. I met with a similar case at a later period; and I therefore suspect that the Latin of the Kerrymen is generally acquired in reference to the church, and that where the shepherds have actually learnt this language, it has not been purely for the sake of the aesthetic enjoyment to be derived from it, or simply for the cultivation of their minds.
They do not even understand English in this part of the country, said my neighbour on the car. In the western parts of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, this is a common phrase, indicating the rude barbarism of the people. The English language is here the basis and root of all civilisation, and all are anxious to learn it, as by its use the facilities of general intercourse are much enlarged, whilst the Irish is of use only among the poor inhabitants of the remote districts. In like manner in France, in speaking of the uncultivated Basques among the Pyrenees, or of the people of the Vosges mountains, it is usual to say, they do not even understand French. So also in Bohemia, Galicia, Courland, and Livonia, a knowledge of German is considered a proof of superior education.
An Irish hedge-school which I visitedone in the pure old national styleenabled me to observe the mode by which, in these remote parts of Ireland, the light of intellectual cultivation is transmitted. It was, in truth, a touching sight. The schoolhouse was a mud-hovel, covered with green sods, without windows or any other comforts. The little pupils, wrapped up as well as their rags would cover them, sat beside the low open door, towards which they were all holding their books, in order to obtain a portion of the scanty light it admitted. Some of the younger ones were sitting or lying on the floor; behind these, others wore seated, on a couple of benches formed of loose boards; and behind these again stood some taller children, also holding their books towards the light between the heads of the front rank. The master, dressed in the national costume already described, was seated in the midst of the crowd. In a sketch-book of Ireland this would be an essential picture, and I regret that I had not a Daguerreotype with me to perpetuate the scene. Outside, before the door, lay as many pieces of turf as there were scholars within, for each one had brought a piece with him as a fee or gratuity for the schoolmaster. The latter, as I entered the narrow door, rose from a barrel, and saluted me in a friendly manner: Indeed, I am
p.125very sorry, your honour, said he, that I am not able to offer you a chair. He was teaching the children the English alphabet, and they all appeared very cheerful, smart, and bright-eyed over their study. When their poverty, their food, and clothing are considered, this may appear surprising; but it is the case with all Irish children, and especially those in the open country. The school-house stood close by the road side, but many of the children resided several miles off, and even the schoolmaster did not live near it. At a certain hour they all meet here; and when the day's task is over, the boys put their primers in their pockets and scamper off home; whilst the schoolmaster fastens the door as well as he can, puts his turf-fees into his bag, takes his stick and trudges off to his remote cottage across the bog. Here is a little genuine Irish tableau de genre.
Our car did not proceed further than Listowel, and as I intended to pass the night at Tralee, I was obliged to look out for some other means of conveyance to that place. Two gentlemen, who, like myself, were on a pilgrimage to the beauties of Killarney, joined me in the hire of a one-horse car; and whilst we were standing before the inn waiting for our equipage, some of us threw the ends of the cigars we had been smoking into the street. Would not some of those poor Irish standing around us here be thought I; but, quicker than my thought, two of them had already rushed towards the cigar stumps, and after a scrambling fight, each bore off a portion, which he carefully concealed among his rags.
All these people are temperance men, said our landlord, and strict ones too. All this country is one of the strictest temperance parts in Ireland, and very few have broken the pledge here. This man represented himself as well acquainted with Father Mathew, of whom he related a remarkable anecdote. When a schoolboy, he said, Father Mathew was expelled from college on account of his too frequent enjoyment of spirits, the whisky-bottle having been repeatedly found under his bed. It is probable that the impression produced by this incident may have had great influence in rendering him so great and zealous an opponent of intemperance; and if the anecdote be true, it is anything but discreditable to Father Mathew, whose conversion does him rather the greater honour. How often has it happened that those who had formerly been the greatest sceptics have become the most zealous believers, like St. Paul, the persecutor of Christians, and subsequently the great converter of the heathen.
We had scarcely left the town when an accident occurred which is by no means rare with these cars, when the harness is not
p.126good. Our driver, a lively Paddy, probably to show his good-will, gave his steed several strokes of his whip. The animal first kicked, and then dashed forward at full speed. We were quite delighted at starting off in such gallant style, but all at once the leather girth on which the shafts and the whole weight of the sorry two-wheeled vehicle rests, gave way; and as it has no other connexion with the horse, and the principal weight of the passengers and luggage is behind, its usual practice is to overturn; and thus it happened in our case. Our horse ran off, and left us sprawling in the road. As this was the first time I had been thrown from a carriage, I was interested in observing the current of my thoughts, which followed each other with lightning-like rapidity. As, with the car, we began to describe the fatal semicircle through the air, I thoughtThis may be a bad business; the entire car may fall upon my head, and terminate at once all my observations and reflections. How content would I be, and how thankful to Heaven, to escape with a broken finger, a severe contusion, or something similar, that could be quickly healed. When, however, we had gathered ourselves up again out of the dirtfor we were scattered on the road in every direction, and no two parcels or passengers lay in the same placeand found ourselves without bruise or fracture, and only smeared with mud from top to toe, with here and there a rent in our clothes, all our gratitude immediately vanished, and we unanimously expressed our dissatisfaction with the conduct of our unskilful driver! Such is man. In misfortune faint-hearted, and ready to make any compact with destiny; whilst in prosperity he is presumptuous, and disposed to quarrel with Heaven on the smallest mishap.
Being thus compelled to continue our journey on foot, we placed our luggage under guard, and dispatched our driver with the horse in search of ropes and thongs whereby the car and its two wheels might be restored to a serviceable condition. The country near Listowel will amply repay a pedestrian; but as he proceeds farther on, he must not place too much reliance in the romantic shading of his map. These maps of Ireland always display the most interesting tints to represent lofty mountains, round hills, steep cliffs, and gentle slopes; in short, a variety of extremely seductive landscape; but this shading is, in general, very deceptive, for the mountains are bare from top to bottom, of a dark monotonous colour, and nearly all covered with turf, as was also the whole of the low ground between the mouth of the Shannon and Tralee Bay. Yet in the midst of this abundance, I saw many villages and families suffering from want of turf, and in the county of Cork its scarcity is said to be already generally felt. As
p.127a substitute, many of the Irish take the bog-stuff, that is, the dust-like decomposed mass which remains after the removal of the real turf, which they mix with water, shape it with the hand, and then dry it for use.