The road to Enniscorthy, the third great town of the county of Wexford, does not pass over this bridge, but proceeds around the extreme point of the bay, and crosses the water at Carrick-bridge, where the river Slaney bursts from a narrow rocky-sided valley. The old castle, whose ruins crown the rocks near this bridge, is descended from the time of Strongbow, like most of the ruins and castles in this part of Ireland, which was the principal theatre of his deeds. Strongbow is the great name which has here every where been spoken of for nearly seven hundred years. Strongbow is one of those men who acquire greater celebrity after their death, and after the lapse of centuries, in proportion as the seed they sowed grows and flourishes. Strongbow was the first of the Anglo-Norman knights who came over to Ireland, leading the way for all the troops of English soldiers and colonists who in after-times deluged the land. For three or even four hundred years, Strongbow was famed as a great knight, in that district only which the English called their Pale. When Henry VIII. and Elizabeth afterwards subdued the rest of the country, the other Irish inquired who it was that first brought the English upon their backs. And it is only at the present day, seven hundred years after his death, when O'Connell and the other Irish patriots are always talking about him, and haranguing against him, that he has become quite a great man.
The spot where Strongbow first landed, and where he pitched his first camp, is still pointed out, and the traces of a ramp are said still to exist there. This spot lies on the coast of Wexford, between the headlands Hook and Crook, and on the maps of Ireland is called Strongbow's Camp. But I was told by an Irishman that the people call it Bag and Bun, because the two ships which came with Strongbow were named, the one Bag, and the other Bun. Strongbow was ignorant of the best place for landing, and when he inquired of the Irish pilots, was told that he must enter Ireland either by Hook or by Crook, for that thus he might do so most securely. Hence has arisen the English phrase, by hook or by crook.
Enniscorthy is an old Irish town. Very old, sir, very old; for you see(this you see the Irish put in every where)even my grandfather lived there, said my companion on the road, an Irishman in the commercial line. Methinks I have never met with such strange laughers any where as the Irish. They often make bull after bull, without one being able to tell whether it was through wit or stupidity, and then they burst into a laugh at the offspring of their own cleverness. To Englishmen, such a being must be unendurable. My friend told me that we would soon arrive at Enniscorthy, and then he laughed most heartily; perhaps it might happen that we would both travel to Dublin together, and here again he laughed, while he held his two hands to his mouth. I believe this excessive inclination to laughter has been remarked as peculiar to the Gascons also.
As we had time enough in the evening, before sun-down, my laughing companion and I ascended Vinegar Hill, which is close to Enniscorthy, and is celebrated in the history of the Irish Rebellion. Here a decisive battle was fought between the Irish rebels and the English troops in 1798, and on the top of the hill there yet remain the ruins of an old windmill(as the people say, but it looks more like those of a round watch-tower of the middle ages)in which many of the rebels were hanged in retaliation for the atrocities perpetrated at Wexford bridge; so that its name might be not undeservedly changed from Vinegar Hill to Blood Hill. All this only made my companion nearly kill himself with laughing. As I thought it not improbable that he might remember some singular events of the war, I asked him what really was the commencement and cause of it, when he said that it commenced by burning houses, and ended by knocking every thing to pieces. All these little rebellion-battles, and civil-war, events have even now-a-days their practical significance, for O'Connell is now perpetually awakening the long-hushed cannon-thunder into an endless echo, and is using their artillery once more in his wordy war against the English.
On the top of Vinegar Hill, as on the tops of most of the grass-covered hills of Ireland, naked points of rock rise above the turf, and from one of these, which I climbed, I enjoyed a most delightful prospect of Enniscorthy and the valley of the Slaney. We wandered homewards through a suburb of the town called Drumgold, so named because the rebels here buried a drum filled with plundered gold.
Enniscorthy is a capital place for the wool trade. My friend in the mercantile line, who assured me of this, inquired whether Germany was also a good place for wool. Such are the questions
p.229these gentlemen in mercantile lines in England are ever asking. But Enniscorthy is better known as being in some measure the capital of the Irish Quakers, who have a Meeting-house here, in which a great assembly is held every year. Here, as in other towns of Ireland, it is said that the Quakers are now relaxing much in the strictness of their principles, and even laying aside their remarkable dress. Unbecoming as is this Quakers' dress, especially that of the women, yet one sees many a pretty face and figure whose beauty it is not able to destroy. Some of the finest girls in the country are among them, said my Irishman: I know one who is so beautiful, that when I see her, or even only think of her, I burst out laughing. And aloud he laughed accordingly!
In Enniscorthy, also, there is an old castle built by Strongbow. It stands in the centre of the town, on its highest part, has four towers, and, what is more remarkable, is still in a state of the most perfect preservation, so that it is inhabited by a clergyman of the Established Church, who has fitted up for himself a most elegant residence within these ancient walls and towers. In English towns one finds old dwelling-houses more rarely than in our German cities, but in the country, on the contrary, more frequently. I passed a very agreeable and instructive evening with this clergyman, a man of a highly cultivated mind, and a perfect gentleman, with quite the appearance of a most aristocratic Tory, who in his old castle had brought together much to comfort the body and to improve the mind. We sat at an old oak table, the wood of which had been for three hundred years in its present form, and must have been the portion of a tree in the forest more than six hundred years before it was converted to that use.
Since the last clipping of the revenues of the Protestant clergy of Ireland, the income of the rector of Enniscorthy has been reduced from £2100 to £1000 a year. The revenues of all the Protestant clergy have not, however, been reduced in the same ratio; and those of the bishops and archbishops have suffered proportionably the least. The necessity for a further clipping is shown by a table of the incomes of these dignitaries. In Ireland there are twenty-two bishops and archbishops of the Established Church; whilst in England there are only twenty-seven. Taken on the whole, these twenty-two Irish bishops have better incomes than the twenty-seven English bishops, the average yearly income of an Irish bishop being about £7000, whilst that of an English bishop is about £6000. There are four English bishoprics with a revenue of less than £2000 a year each; in Ireland there is not one less than that sum. In England there are ten between £2000 and
p.230£4000; in Ireland there are six.20 In England there are eight between £4000 and £10,000; in Ireland fourteen, or the majority. In England live exceed £10,000; in Ireland two. In England are the richest as well as the poorest bishops. The two richest in England are those of Canterbury and Durham, each of whom has more than £19,000 a year. Next to these in point of wealth is the Irish archbishop of Armagh, whose annual income is nearly £15,000. On an average, the Irish beneficed clergyman is better off than an English one, the whole of the livings in England producing on an average £285 a year, whilst in Ireland they yield £372. The total income of all the bishops of the Irish Protestant church is now £151,127, and that of the English is £181,631. The eight millions of inhabitants of Ireland, of whom more than six millions are Roman Catholics, therefore contribute nearly as much for the Protestant bishops as the fifteen millions of Englishmen, who are mostly Protestants. By this scale may be measured the magnitude of the injustice done the Irish people by the existing relations and laws.
In and around Enniscorthy, the most widely-spread family-name is Murphy; and I was informed that at the residence of a wealthy gentleman of that name is still preserved a crown, which his ancestors are said to have worn as kings of Munster. It is an undoubted fact that the crowns of many similar old, insignificant, and long-vanished kingdoms still exist, and with them the old pride and claims are handed down from generation to generation. It is incredible how many ancient dust and rust-covered crowns there are yet in Europe, the possessors of which still cherish the hope of being able, at some future day, to deck themselves out with this dust and rust.