Having received the congratulations of my host and my friends upon the delightful day, which day, however, I only considered as one not absolutely very bad, I left Cork for Kilkenny, where I was informed a great horse-race was to take place. Not only in Cork, but all over Ireland, have I been perpetually congratulated on the delightful weather that fell to my lot, even when I was drenched
p.189with rain, or shivering from fog and cold. As I was seating myself on the Bianconi car, I found it necessary, in order to gratify at once the curiosity of my two neighbours, thus to address them:Gentlemen, allow me to inform you before we set off, that I come from Germany, where the people, as you all know, eat nothing but sour-kraut and black bread; that I am a native of B., and am travelling in Ireland without any other object in view than to become acquainted with this country, and to see every thing that is interesting and remarkable in it. My fellow-travellers having expressed their satisfaction with this information, I took my seat, and the car moved on.
If in England the police are not constantly prying into the circumstances and character of every stranger, the benefits to be derived from such a system of espionage are amply supplied by private individuals; and I would recommend every one who would avoid the torture of a curious and circumstantial inquisition, to follow my example; or, what is perhaps still better, to write the whole on a small piece of paper, and attach it to his hat; as, when the first curiosity of his fellow-travellers is fully satisfied, he may shake hands with them, and find them, as I did in the present instance, agreeable and well-informed companions.
One of my neighbours was an extensive whisky distiller, and he related to me the following remarkable facts in connexion with the temperance cause, by the success of which he had been a heavy loser. Formerly he kept ninety men at work, but could now only give employment to fifty. Notwithstanding the serious diminution thus produced in his income, he highly praised the temperance reform, and this, as he candidly admitted, for a selfish reason. Whilst he employed ninety men, they were so intemperate and unruly as to occasion him infinite anxiety and annoyance. But the fifty men he now employed were teetotallers, and could do more work than the previous ninety; so that he was now enabled to extend his speculations to other fields, and to manufacture whisky for exportation to foreign markets, and in this manner retrieve, in some measure, his previous loss. When those who from interested motives must naturally be the opponents of temperance are thus enabled to extract from it so much that is beneficial, is it strange that its friends should extol it to the skies?
The country between Cork and Kilkenny has many beautiful and interesting points; it may even be said, that the most attractive part of Ireland commences at Cork, and continues from thence in a north-westerly direction. The entire coast district from Cork to Dublin is unsurpassed in Ireland for beautiful landscapes, prettily situated towns, delightful river scenery, fine bays and harbours,
p.190and picturesque sea-coasts. First, the road skirts the beautiful bay of Cove, then turns landward through a delightful wooded valley, then comes in contact with the Blackwater, which river we meet at Fermoy, and which, down to its embouchure, is in the highest degree picturesque, and rich in fine scenery. There were formerly Lords of Fermoy, but this is now one of the numerous Irish forfeited titles. The last man who, from his descent, could lay claim to the title of Lord Fermoy, died some years sincea groom! The town of Fermoy is very prettily situated on the Blackwater, and, like most Irish towns, has large barracks, filled with soldiers. Down the river, not far from Fermoy, lies the village of Lismore, famed for its ancient Christian seminary, which flourished here in the seventh and eighth centuries. In its neighbourhood the Trappists are now settled, and are very little calculated to revive the ancient fame of Lismore.
The last town in the county of Cork is Mitchelstown, and the traveller whose time will not permit him to stop here, as was my case, should sit on the south side of the car, and thus escape the mortification of seeing in the distance the entrance to the far-famed Mitchelstown caverns, which he must otherwise pass in vexation and silence, and forget. The next river is the Suir; and from thence the road passes through a flat country lying between the Galtee and the Knockmeledown mountains, which are both about 3000 feet high. The most elevated points of each of these mountain chains are only about nine miles asunder, so that the smallest details of their structure are visible on both sides of the plain.
Cahir lies on the banks of the Suir. The lofty steeple of its Catholic church is visible from a distance, rising proudly near the little steeple of its Protestant rival. Although formerly such a thing was unheard of, the steeples of Catholic churches in Ireland are now frequently more stately than those of the Establishment. The mania for building churches is now as great among the Irish Catholics, as it ever has been among the English Protestants; and in both countries people vie with each other in this respect, in a manner I have never seen equalled, except in Russia. Cahir is delightfully situated on the river Suir; and as the inhabitants of Fermoy direct attention to the ancient and renowned Lismore, so those of Cahir revert to the equally ancient and (on account of its ruins) renowned Cashel. The ruin-covered rock of Cashel, which we saw in the distance, is one of the most sacred places in Ireland. The ruins of churches, of different periods, adorn the rock; and a high pillar-tower, in good preservation, marks its summit. The ruins of Cashel are said to be the most
p.191picturesque in the island; and Walter Scott, who saw them, has declared, that the rock of Cashel was the most beautiful thing of its kind he had ever seen.
The present Lord Glengall is the individual on whom, after God and the sun, after turf and potatoes, depends the welfare of the people in the neighbourhood of Cahir. In the suburbs stands his castle, in which he resides, pursuant to a promise made by him some years since. In all these castles and great families, the question is invariably residence or non-residence; with the people it is a question of existence or non-existence. If the landlord resides on his property, the people are contented; they have less annoyance, and greater advantages. Should the landlord, on the other hand, be an absentee, the tenants are more hardly used, they are harassed with executions for non-payment of rent, and the money is drained from the country, without any equivalent being received in exchange.
Leaving Cahir, we reached the far-famed county of Tipperary, in which more men are beaten and killed in one year than in the whole kingdom of Saxony in five years. Not only in their own county, and in their own neighbourhood, do these revengeful Tipperarymen perpetrate their evil deeds, but they pursue to his retreat in a distant part of the land, and accomplish the destruction of, every individual against whom they have sworn revenge. I could cite many well-known facts in illustration of this assertion; and tales of murder are even related, in which those who wished to slaughter their victims, sought and found in Tipperary an instrument willing and ready to carry out their intentions, and to become a murderer by profession. Tipperary hanging-men is, in consequence, a proverb in Ireland; and I have sometimes heard the coachman apply this epithet to his horses when they were restive.
As the Italians have their dagger, so the Irish, and especially the Tipperarymen, have their shillelaghs, the hard clubs I have already mentioned, with which they perpetrate most of their crimes. Shillelagh is a small place in the county of Wicklow, in the neighbourhood of which many of those clubs are cut, and from thence their name is derived. These clubs look much more harmless than one would expect from their far-spread evil repute; and the long thick staves, tipped with iron, which are carried by the inhabitants of our Alps, have a much more dangerous appearance. But it is the use to which it is applied that has rendered the shillelaghs so terrible.
In Cahir I met a Tipperaryman in the street: he was walking by his little ass, which was tackled to a turf-car; his clothes, which
p.192hung in tatters on his body, seemed as if their owner, so long as he had worn them, had never been out of faction-fights and cudgellings, as most of the patches hung by a single thread; his entire frame was meagre, and although I could not count his rag-covered ribs, yet the entire bony structure of his face was plainly visible under the thin skin drawn over it. I expected to find, under this miserable outward appearance, any thing sooner than the readily ignited tinder, the powder ready for an explosion, which I discovered when I approached the man. Accosting him in a friendly manner, I bade him good day, and inquired where he was going?What! what!Where are you going, I ask you?What! what! where I'm going?Yes.What the devil is it to you, where I'm going!Well, don't be angry; I have no particular motive in my inquiry. I am travelling from here to Clonmel, and merely ask the question to ascertain if you were proceeding in the same direction. He stopped his ass, looked me full in the face, and stood as if rooted to the ground, with his shillelagh in his fist. Go, in the devil's name, wherever you like. What do I care? But why do you ask me where I am going? What is it to you, tell mewhat is it to you, where I am going? Where I am going? Where I am going? Such a question's enough to drive a man mad! Do you think I'm a robber? Eh! Although I had not changed the perfectly quiet and peaceable demeanour I had from the first displayed, he assumed a threatening attitude, and shouted so loud, and repeated my question so often with furious gesticulations, Where am I going? Where am I going? that my fellow-travellers were attracted by the noise, and, joining me, inquired what I had done to the man. I explained by what an unfortunate question I had aroused his ire; and as we left him, it was evident that the Tipperaryman with difficulty restrained himself from following me, and bringing me to a further account for my dangerous question. His hair bristled as he stood fixed in astonishment, and every rag on his body trembled with rage. Shakspere must have had similar quarrelsome and fault-finding fellows in view when he wrote the celebrated scene in Romeo and Juliet, where one fixes a mortal quarrel on the other, because he bites his thumb and says he has a very good master.
Do not, on that account, judge and condemn those Tipperarymen so quickly, sir! began one of my fellow-travellers, as we again seated ourselves on the car. There are certainly exceedingly ill-tempered persons among them, and they in many respects deserve the bad character they bear in Ireland; but I have known this county for many, many yearsI may say I know every corner of
p.193it; and I have travelled here by day and by night, and yet no harm has ever befallen me. The people are in general extremely hospitable, and inclined to assist a stranger, provided he does not offend against any of their customs. Nothing but the unfortunate relation in which they stand towards their landlords makes them criminal; indeed all their crimes may truly be said to spring from this source. I did not hear how you framed your question to that man, but had you begun it with God greet you! or God speed ou on your way! and then by degrees touched on the object of his journey, you would certainly have suffered no inconvenience. In your country it is perhaps customary, and, as you say, even a mark of politeness, to ask those you meet whither they are going; but here, as you have seen, one must be somewhat cautious in those matters.
In Fermoy, Cahir, and many other villages in the south of Ireland, are to be seen a great number of mills, by which the corn is ground into flour for the Cork market. In some places these mills are as numerous as the cotton-factories in many English towns.
Clonmel is the largest town in Tipperary, and contains upwards of 16,000 inhabitants; and to judge from its outward appearance, and the bustle in the streets, it is, as we say in Germany, ein nahrhafter Ort, or, as the English express it, a very respectable-looking and thriving town. I here visited the establishment of Mr. Bianconi, whom I have before mentioned as the most extensive proprietor of public carriages in Ireland; but had not the pleasure of meeting with that spirited and useful individual, who was then in Italy with his family, revisiting his birth-place. All the cars and harness which are required for his extensive business are manufactured in Clonmel, and he gives employment to upwards of a hundred of the inhabitants.
Since temperance, it is said, the unruly people of Tipperary have become more quiet and orderly; and although their unfortunate political condition has a tendency to keep them perpetually in a rebellious mood, yet riots and outbreaks, arising from party hatred and revenge, are much less frequent. But so many changes in Ireland are now dated since temperance, that if it only continues fifty years longer, this reform will surely mark the commencement of a new era.
As is commonly the case in Ireland, several old beggar-women surrounded our car in Clonmel. One of them, to whom I gave a penny, spat on it before putting it into her pocket. At first I thought she was displeased that I had given her so little; but I afterwards remarked that the practice was customary with beggars in Ireland (as well as in England), and that they spit on the coin
p.194for good luck, as they say. It is probable that at the same time they men(tally) repeat some little blessing, from which they hope the (money) will bring them better fortune. Most of the (women were) too old and wretched to be able to follow us; but a crowd of little flaxen-haired children ran nimbly enough after the car, as it rolled on, crowded with passengers. The word ha'penny is so natural to them, that it seems scarcely to require the effort of speaking to express it: ha'penny drops from their mouths with every breath. They give themselves no concern about what one says to them, but continually scream ha'penny! ha'penny! till they see a copper coin fall in the dust, when the entire troop throw themselves upon it, and continue scrambling until one has secured the prize. Along the whole road from Limerick to Cork, and from Cork to Kilkenny, our cars were almost constantly surrounded by such gangs of children; and when one party relinquished the chase from sheer exhaustion, its place was instantly supplied by others, who rushed in from both sides of the moor. Bianconi's cars are so constructed as to be of great advantage to these beggars, for the passengers are placed in such a manner as to have them constantly before their eyes, and very close to them. Eight persons being seated close together on each side, many a one gives a penny to set a good example, or to follow the example already set by the others. An alteration in the form of these carriages would, therefore, should it ever take place, sensibly affect the poor mendicants of Ireland.
I have mentioned the flaxen-haired children; but there are some parts of Ireland, the west for example, where all are black-haired. Ireland appears to present a remarkable anomaly with respect to the colour of eyes; for while, in other lands, blue eyes are generally found with light hair, and brown eyes with dark hair, here blue eyes are common every where, almost without exception, and an eye blue as the Forget-me-not (vergissmeinnichtblauste Auge), gleams even under the most raven black hair.
In the south of Ireland there are a great many little groups of hills, of limited extent, the geological connexion of which with one another may certainly be traced by scientific research, but which to the casual observer appear wholly unconnected, and form no long chains, like our German mountains. Such groups are those we passed to-day, as well as some I had noticed on the road to the Shannon; the Slievh Grine, near Youghal, and the Comeragh mountains, near Clonmel, are also of a similar character. All those may be considered as little groups of mountains, which have their highest elevation in the middle, and descend on all sides in several lesser heights, which are all separated from one another,
p.195not by valleys, but by perfectly level plains. This remarkable formation of the earth's surface gives to the Irish landscape its distinctive character.
Beyond Clonmel we passed another of these groups, called Slievhnaman. The most striking feature of these mountains is, that up to the top they appear like grassy hills, whilst on each summit are to be seen rocks which appeared to have been dashed to pieces, and then thrown together in a heap of small fragments. Almost every summit was crowned, as it were, with a heap of broken rocks, such as I have described, and it was often difficult to believe that they had not been thus piled up by art. In fact, the people in the neighbourhood believe that the ancient fire-worshippers gathered these stones, and assert that their altars were placed on those heights. But although this supposition is in the highest degree improbable, the latter portion of the assertion may be based on truth; for it is well known that the Celtic and Druidical Irish had altars on the summits of mountains, that they held many hill-tops sacred, and that on some of them their kings were crowned. Not far from Cork, in the neighbourhood of Cloyne, and near the mouth of Cove-bay, is a rock called Carrig-coith, the Rock of the Sun, on which the Druids offered sacrifice; and many of those summits to which I have alluded may have been similar rock-altars of the Sun, built by nature.