After I had considered from what side the wind blew, had looked to see whether the coachman had an apron or not, allowed an immoderately stout dame, a rarity in Ireland, to mount the coach, in order to avoid being her neighbour,in short, after I had made a multitude of inquiries and reflections, which a prudent traveller should not neglect when looking for a seat on the outside of an English stage-coach in bad weather,after doing all this, I fixed myself in the chosen place to travel to Carrickfergus. A fearful storm was blowing from the north, and rain and hail, lashed by the tempest, alternately poured down on us. It was the first day that I ever heard the Irish allow that the weather was bad. Every where on the road the people added to their good-morrow,A wild day to-day! Inside our coach, we had as ballast only four young ladies, who filled indeed the narrow space allowed for inside passengers in English stage-coaches, but who appeared to be no great ballast to enable us to resist the fury of the storm, which we on the top, who were most exposed to it, dreaded every moment would upset the coach; and therefore, with our heads wrapped up in our cloaks, we huddled close together, in order to afford the less resistance to the force of the wind. The autumn leaves flew like snow in the blast; the trees on the shore bowed like twigs before the storm; the waves dashed against the
p.356strand; the sea-gulls screamed, as with difficulty they fluttered landwards; the fish retired to the depths of the ocean; the boats knocked against the shore: in short, it was just such uproareous weather as one should desire when he intends to visit the famous Giant's Causeway, and the whole of the volcanic, Vulcan-forged coast of the north-eastern extremity of Ireland. A storm occasions many interesting spectacles on this coast, as we will soon perceive, and harmonizes better than fair weather with the wild work of the giants. When these mountains arose from the abysses of the earthwhen these rocks fell shattered and hissing into the sea, or dashed together on the landwhen the giants paved their causeway, and the Cyclops bored holes, and hollowed out caverns, and formed rock-bridges, and rugged precipices, and gaps, and bold headlands herewas the weather then calm and sunny!
The road runs first along the shore of Lough Belfast. The Irish sometimes call even those waters loughs which are not completely surrounded by land, but have an out-let into the sea; particularly those which, like Lough Foyle, have but a narrow opening, and which we would call Haffs. Lough Belfast is, however, an instance of a lough with an extraordinarily large opening. As the southern coast of Ireland has its so-called harbours, the western its bays, the eastern neither bays nor harbours, at least very fewso has the northern its loughs, such as Lough Belfast, Lough Strangford, Lough Larne, Lough Foyle, &c. Lough Belfast is also called Lough Carrickfergus, after the town of the same name, which, as that name shows, is one of the oldest in Ireland. Long before an Englishman set foot on Ireland's soil, and before the Scotch had yet laid a stone of Belfast, Carrickfergus was a place of note. In Ireland there are many examples of the old Irish towns being abandoned and allowed to go to ruin by the English and Scotch, and of new ones being built in their neighbourhood.
On the whole way from Belfast to Carrickfergus garden follows garden, and country seat follows country seat; but to these tiny productions of man the storm and the surf did not add beauty, as they did to those vast works of the giants to which we were hastening; and as the hail obliged us to keep our eyes closed, all the capital spun out of flax, and laid out in flowers, shrubberies, cottages, and parks, did not bring us the least tribute of enjoyment.
Near Carrickfergus, a large old castle runs out into the sea: it is fortified even now, and is garrisoned by two companies of soldiers. Its situation is very picturesque, and the views of the opposite coast, the town of Bangor, the lough, and the wide sea, must be charming, when Boreas does not interpose a screen between the eye and the prospect. The walls of the castle are at
p.357the same time surrounded by the green ivy, and the white foam of the waves that break against its base. At this castle William III. landed, before he fought the battle of the Boyne. Here the French attempted to land, in order to help the Irish when it was too late. Here, or at some other point in the neighbourhood, was the chief landing-place of the entire north of Ireland; and every expedition, whether friendly or hostile, from Great Britain, particularly from the north of Scotland, disembarked here. The entire coast, further towards the north, is bound by rugged rocks and threatening cliffs. Lough Belfast was here for Scotland, what Bantry Bay, in the south-west, was for Spain and the Phoenicians; what Waterford and Wexford was for the English.
The Belfast stage-coach goes no farther than Carrickfergus. From thence to the next little village, Larne, a two-horse car conveys the traveller, who, on his arrival there must himself provide his own conveyance, or join her Majesty's letter-bag, which is carried northwards by a one-horsed car. The little Lough Larne, which is sheltered on every side by hills, and has but a very narrow mouth, was studded with small barks, probably fishing boats, which had come in here for shelter. Flocks of sea-birds, which also seemed to dread sea-sickness, were fluttering around the boats.
Larne is a quiet little town, like many in the north of Ireland. From Larne the coast begins to assume its picturesque and wild volcanic character, and here I joined the aforesaid leather letterbag. Her Majesty's Mail is here a little low two-wheeled car, of the kind I have already described. The passenger sits on one side, the driver on the other. The horse gets forward as well as he can, and the equipage follows after him. I could not help contrasting this with the majestic four-horsed mails in England.
All the land lying between the sea, Lough Neagh, Lough Belfast, and the river Bann, is called the county of Antrim. This entire tract, so rich in wonders, is covered with a great stratum of limestone. Over this limestone, volcanic masses, probably thrown up from beneath, have been deposited, and have disturbed the arrangement and composition of the original stratum, which in some places is even entirely removed, and in others depressed, or at least covered or shattered in pieces, and thrown aside. This limestone, or hard chalk, is snow-white wherever it is disclosed to the eye; the volcanic masses are chiefly basalt, and, where it is uncovered, is dark-coloured and black. The circumference of this district of limestone and basalt is about one hundred and twenty miles; and the stretch of coast in which the mixture of these formations is apparent, from Lough Belfast to Lough Foyle, is about
p.358sixty miles in length. Along this entire stretch of coast, the white chalk-rocks appear mixed up with the black volcanic formations in the most manifold combinations, and compose most interesting and picturesque forms.
Sometimes the chalk-mass is deposited in level strata, and over it is formed the basalt in strata equally regular. In many places, the limestone has remained quite untouched by the basalt, and its white cliffs project defyingly into the sea, as they once stood amid the glowing volcanic liquids. In other places they disappear beneath the surface of the sea, as if the basalt had pressed them down. This basalt appears partly in columns, and partly in shapeless masses. It often forms long rows of thick high columns, arranged like organ pipes, or groves of trees, along the coast; it frequently yawns into caverns, stops short in rugged points, springs into the sea with bold overhanging cliffs, or breaks up into little dismembered rocks and pointed islands. In other places, again, the limestone and the basalt seem to have struggled violently with one another for the mastery, while their colours and materials alternate in short patches.
The effects of all these operations and occurrences are, of course, only visible on the coast, and at those spots where the rocks are not covered with earth and vegetation, as they mostly are. Here and there the land rises into some lofty points, which, however, do not exceed 2000 feet; and here and there the masses sink, forming valleys which open out on the sea. Along the sides of these valleys, the basalt and limestone rocks stand in rugged rows, as if they were caused by great convulsions and yawnings of the earth. The good cultivation of these valleys, the black basaltrocks along their sides, the waterfalls which dash down from the precipices, the wide sea at their entrances,all this must make some of them delightful places of residence. The coast itself, except at the mouths of these valleys, is lined with rugged cliffs. Many headlands and summits rise to a height of from 1000 to 1200 feet, but their usual height is from 600 to 1000.
The nearest of these valleys, after passing Larne, is Glenarm, and then the valleys of Glenariff and Cushendun. A narrow and steep way, called the Path, formerly led the traveller along this coast. Very lately, a beautiful road, called the Antrim Coast Road, has been substituted for this path, which worked its way, as well as it could unaided by art, over the basaltic and limestone rocks. After the description I have given of this coast, it may be concluded that the formation of a perfectly level road was here an undertaking of no ordinary difficulty. When one sees the work itself, he must in fact confess that neither powder nor pickaxe
p.359was spared, and that no great tenderness was shown to the rocks. On the contrary, the English have here cut an arrow-straight road, in spite of Vulcan and basalt, and have transmitted to coming ages a work for which posterity will long be thankful. Here and there vast masses of rock have been cut through, from their summit to their base; in other places, gaps and chasms have been filled up, and the road runs as if on a wall. These parts of the road, where vast masses of limestone were wont to roll down from the slippery steeps, presented peculiar difficulties. The English call these loose blocks of stone Boulders, or Boulder-stones. Many of them still break away from the walls of rock, being gradually loosened by the effects of time and weather. Others, long since shattered, lie strewn about on the rocks, or on the clay which here and there covers the rock, and then, after a long continuance of wet weather, they tumble down, bringing the clay along with them. At such places it was therefore necessary to protect the road with a kind of half-arch, so that the boulderstones might roll harmlessly over it; or to build a solid wall, of immense pieces of rock, to prevent the stones from falling into the road. The boulder-stones which have rolled down ages ago, form here and there a dam against the assaults of the sea.
Such, then, was the coast and the coast road along which our letter-bag, and those who accompanied it, rolled away through the storm. Near Larne, the long, little peninsula, called Island Magee, which bends around Lough Larne, nearly touches the coast with its point. This peninsula is also of volcanic formation,a dam built of columns of basalt. Along its entire eastern coast, column-like basalt cliffs are ranged, for the length of four or five miles, and are known by the name of The Gobbins. This basaltic peninsula, which is from a mile to a mile and a half wide, and six or seven miles long, is the true Giant's Causeway of this coast: the so-called Giant's Causeway is mere child's play compared to it. But as the peninsula is covered with vegetation on the upper surface, the pavement of columnar basalt is not visible, and the smaller work has therefore borne off the greater name.
The next interesting point is Ballygally Head, which projects majestically and boldly into the sea, and is formed of a countless number of vast, rudely-formed basalt columns. After the Gobbins, it is the second place where the columns are exposed to the light of day. The road leads round the principal mass of the headland, and the most extreme and somewhat lower point is alone cut off. As the greater portion of the road runs along the edge of the water, the most interesting sights were every where presented by the fury of the storm, that seemed to turn up the
p.360very depths of the sea. The mighty waves broke wildly against the great boulder-stones, of all sizes, which lay scattered on the shore. Roaring they came smoothly along, like moving mountains, till all at once they tumbled on the boulder-stones, and were shattered and dashed to pieces like shipwrecked vessels. The majestic crystal-green water-mountains bounded against the rocks, and, with a hollow crash, broke into hundreds of big and little streams, which quickly and busily lost themselves between the boulders. Twenty white foaming fountains shot up at once, and single arms of the great wave tumbled over the rocks, forming momentary cascades, which, though mere improvisations, for an instant presented a more beautiful spectacle than many a far-famed waterfall in the county of Wicklow. Thousands and thousands of waves thus marched in fierce assault against the shore, and burst, one after the other, like the rockets of an artfully-contrived firework, into most picturesque and curious forms.
As we approached the entrance of the valley of Glenarm, I remarked a strange column of smoke, that seemed to rise from the topmost edge of the rocks. As I could neither suppose a dwelling nor so great a turf-fire here, I asked the driver what this smoke came from. It is not smoke, your honour, he replied, but the water of a waterfall, which is carried up into the air by the storm. At first I could not bring myself to believe this; but I afterwards convinced myself that the phenomenon of a waterfall being carried up into the air by a strong north wind, was not unusual on this coast. At one place I saw, on the highest edge of the cliff, three similar columns of water-dust in a row together. They were driven to and fro by the wind: now they rose higher, now lower; but never ceased for an instant, like fountains driven by some constantly working machinery. The edge of the rocks is here and there very steep, and at the same time full of narrow clefts in the basalt. In these clefts, the waterfalls, in calm weather, pursue their picturesque course in quite a natural manner; but when the north wind rages against the lofty cliffs, it rushes up with peculiar violence through the crevices, as through pipes in which the currents of air are compressed, and carries up with it the water it meets, like dust into the air.
I afterwards discovered similar fountains of water-dust on the low coasts. These are almost still more remarkable. Next day, I saw them near the Giant's Causeway, a few hundred paces from the road. As I was driving over a low grassy headland, and did not perceive that the sea was behind it, they looked like fountains rising from the ground, in the midst of meadows. They swayed to and fro in the wind like the others, and rising to a height of
p.361forty or fifty feet, scattered a shower far and wide around them on the meadow. Approaching nearer, I found that they proceeded from the sea. Here too, on the low coast, were sharp little clefts and indentations in the basaltic pavement, into which the wind drove the water, and catching it in little whirlwinds, carried it up in fountains of spray. In some places, these fountains sprang up with peculiar force, only with every rising wave. At others, where the coast was so formed that the wind was driven upwards in a continuous current, carrying the water with it from the surface, the fountains were quite constant. On other parts of the Irish coast, of similar formation, these fountains are also to be seen; as, for instance, on the coast of the county of Clare, where the Irish call them salt-water fountains, and the holes from which they spring, puffing-holes.
The white chalky rocks of the coast are full of flint-stones, which are not scattered irregularly through them, but sprinkled or deposited in long horizontal strata, of two or three feet in thickness. These flints often run in long stripes through the white rocks. The inhabitants of the neighbourhood dig them out, and make them an article of trade. Near Glenarm, I saw whole walls of flint-stones, great and small, waiting to be shipped. Not only do these flint-sprinkled chalk-rocks break up into boulderstones, but also the black basalt masses that lie above them. Thus the recesses of the coast, and the little valleys, are all full of black and white blocks of stone, like Jacob's black and white herds. These black and white stones are here mingled every where. The road is mended with them; and all the walls of the gardens, houses, and farm-yards are also built of both kinds mixed.
After passing Ballygally Head, we came to other steep, rugged cliffs and masses of rock, called the Sallagh-braes, where the white chalk foundation, and the black basalt cap upon it, are plainly seen. A great mass of basalt has been severed from the rest, and lies, like a floundering whale, in the midst of the breakers, near the coast. The Irish call it Knockdhu, or the black rock. Further out in the sea, about four miles from the shore, lie some other rocks, called The Maidens, on two of which lighthouses have been erected. Still further off, one of the south-western headlands of Scotland is seen raising its head above the waves. It is the Mull of Cantire, with the little isle of Sanda.
The most beautiful point of the coast is Glenarm, which, on account of the many charms assembled here, is one of the most delightful spots in Ireland. The castle, which is the residence of the Antrim family, as well as the little town near it, and the wide valley behind it, bears the martial name of Glenarm, or the Vale
p.362of Arms. Perhaps it has often been the theatre of deeds of arms, as the Scottish heroes used to come over here to light with those of Erin. The valley, too, looks warlike enough. Like two long lines of mail-clad heroes, stand the dusky basalt rocks, leaving a broad and level battle-field between them. They run inland, pretty parallel to each other; and one might suppose that, instead of the present little brook, a large and rapid river once ran down here to the sea. From the black rocks, little waterfalls tumble down, here and there, into the valley, and its moist bottoms are covered with the most lovely green carpet, and partly with groups of stately old trees. In the vicinity of the little town and the castle, all trace of wildness disappears, and every thing assumes the look and order of a delightful park and pretty flower-gardens. The castle itself, to whose benevolent mistress I had an opportunity of paying a visit, is tastefully built in the old Gothic style, and elegantly fitted up,a noble mansion, with an air of baronial protection. Four hundred deer and stags graze around it, and six hundred trees spread their cooling shade over its grounds; and these charming and peaceful scenes, in the very midst of the warlike basalt walls of the well-watered valley, with the waves of the ocean breaking at its very entrance, make this appear as wonderful a situation for a residence as any in the whole world beside.
The period at which the Antrim family came over is no longer accurately known; but their present extensive possessions, and the title of Earls of Antrim, were granted them in 1630 by Charles I. Their family name is M'Donnell. To his beloved cousin, Randall M'Donnell, Charles I., on the 8th of September, 1630, granted the entire north-western part of the county of Antrim, called the Route, or Root, together with that called the Glyns, the entire island of Rathlin, and the piece of ground called the Crags, as well as the Castle of Dunluce, to be held by knight's service, and to yield for it, on the day of the birth of St. John the Baptist, a cast32 of good falcons to the Viceroy of Ireland. Old feudal customs like these are in full force in England a the present day: thus the Duke of Wellington is obliged to make a yearly feudal present to the Queen for his lands, which he would lose if he neglected to do so.
The family of M'Donnell is spread all over the county of Antrim, and I everywhere met persons of the name, who claimed kindred with the Antrim family. At the other side of the water, in the near part of Scotland, the M'Donnells are equally numerous. The Scottish Mac Donnells, and the Irish M'Donnells,
p.363each claim the greater antiquity for their own family. The former assert that the Irish M'Donnells are a younger branch of their clan; and the latter maintain that the Scottish clan is descended from the Irish. This is now merely an ink-shedding genealogical dispute, while in by-gone days it was probably one of a blood-shedding and warlike nature. Some old antiquarians, and possessors of manuscripts, are for ever starting up among both families, and lashing their adversaries with the arms of criticism and satire, to be themselves treated in the same way. Even Walter Scott has joined in the fray, and decided in favour of the higher antiquity of the Irish M'Donnells; so, at least, I heard it said on the south-western side of the Channel which runs between the coast of Antrim and the Mull of Cantire33.
How high these old Irish and Scotch families carry their genealogical pretensions I had, here in the county of Antrim, an opportunity of again convincing myself; for here I was allowed to inspect the genealogical tree of the celebrated family of the O'Nialls. The O'Nialls are a princely family, were kings of Ulster, and also frequently Monarchs of Ireland, and scions of the most noble house of Heremon. At the top of their genealogical tree stands Adam! This is tolerably modest and unpretending; for, as I have said, many Irish and Scotch families go farther back than Adam: besides, Adam is a very ignoble progenitor, since all vulgar, as well as noble blood, has proceeded from him. After him came many other Bible names. Then came Feninsa, King of Scythia, founder of the universal schools of the Plain Magh Scanair, and Heber Glemsiony, Lord of Gothia. Then followed many insignificant names, down to Dea, who carried a colony from Scythia to Gallicia in Spain, 1400 years before Christ. After Dea came Bratha, Breogan, Bilius, and Milesius, mere Spanish kings; and at last Heremon, first monarch of Erin. The length of the reigns of most of the kings was also given. Feidtroth, in the third year of whose reign the Saviour was born, came next; and from him the O'Nialls, who still reside in the neighbourhood of Lough Neagh, in the north of Ireland, as lords and earls, trace their descent. This genealogy was in manuscript, like most other copies which are to be found in the bands of those who claim kindred with the head of the clan. They are very seldom printed. The histories of Ireland, given to the light of day by the press, though they are fanciful enough, do not venture on such high flights. Even those Irish who write histories of their fatherland for publication find it often very difficult to relinquish their belief in those manuscripts, and to reject them altogether as unfounded inventions; whilst those who write and read, but do not print, cling with body and soul to those manuscript histories.
The next day I continued my journey, again joining her Majesty's one-horsed letter-bag. It was another wild day, for the north wind still blew with equal fury, and our road ran along the coast, as on the day before. To-day we passed Garron Point, and entered the valley of Glenariff. The views on this extent of coast were almost still more beautiful and grand than those we had already seen. Garron Point is a rugged, high point of land, lying there like a footstool before a throne: the road leads over the ridge of land, between the point and the still higher cliffs of the coast. On the projecting summit of the rock lives an English revenue officer, with his people; for all this coast in particular is strongly furnished with coast-guards, because an extensive contraband trade was carried on here by little smuggling vessels, which can easily get between the rocks, and, on account of the wildness of the country, readily transport their goods into the interior. These coast-guards are a kind of amphibiaa kind of middle class between soldiers and sailors; for though their dress is like that of sailors, yet it has also something military in it. Their duty is, from their high station on the rock, to observe every vessel on the sea, to understand how to form a right judgment of them, to guess their destination and designs from their movements and outward appearances; and to oppose the smugglers, as well on land by military operations, as on sea by seamanship.
The valley of Glenariff, which means the Valley of the Caves, is still wider than that of Glenarm. Many other little valleys lie in the neighbourhood, such as Cushendall34 and Cushendun, and all these taken together bear, in Ireland, the name of the Glens, or the Glynns. These glens, even at the present day, form in, many respects a separate little province in themselves. They lie close together, and being surrounded by high mountains on both sides, have still preserved the old Irish race and language, while to the right and left both have been completely lost by the influence of English and Scotch settlers. In the Glens, the people still speak Irish, I was every where assured; and even the people whom I met on the road understood Irish as well as English,a circumstance I did not expect here. On the entire east coast of Ireland, those glens, and the country round Drogheda, are, as far as my experience went, the principal and almost the only points where the Irish language still exists. In those glens also, one of the last wolves, some say the last,in opposition to the Kerry people, whose opinion we have already given,is affirmed to have been shot in the year 1712.
On the road to Glenariff, and in the valley itself, the mountains and cliffs are partially adorned with a beautiful and natural wood: here are seen hollies, hazels, and whitethorns of great
p.365size; while in the valley, are oaks and ash trees. All along the coast numerous caverns and under-ground passages are to be found. Thus, at Garron Point, is a cave, that opens near the surf of the sea, and from which a considerable quantity of water gushes, even, it is alleged, in the driest season. The road passes over the entrance of this cavern. More of these little caverns are seen at the other side of Glenariff, close together, and are called the Caves of Red Bay. The road also passes near their entrances. In one of them a smith had erected his forge, and we found there some remains of his instruments; but it does not appear that this cave is now used. The other cave was still inhabited by Nanny Murray, a maiden well stricken in years, who, as the people informed me, had lived here forty or sixty years, in a word, from time immemorial. I visited this old woman, as all passing pilgrims are wont to do; and one of her friends, who was with her on a visit, kindled a splinter at the fire, by which the old woman sat spinning, and lighted me round to all corners of the cave. The entrance was closed with a low wall, through which a door led; behind was another low division of the cave, in which her bed stood. It was well for me that I had seen all this, for I was afterwards every where asked by every one whether I had been to visit Nanny Murray in the Red-bay Cave. Nanny, as long as I was with her, continued to spin and smoke quite calmly; but when I was about to depart she offered me a dram, and muttered some unintelligible words. I doubted not that I had before me one of those romantic beings who play so conspicuous a part in some of Sir Walter Scott's novels. The cave itself is known far and wide as Nanny's Cave.
Those caves are found in a conglomerate of clay and an immense multitude of flints, exactly like the conglomerate met with at the foot of the Erzgebirge in Saxony, and that is also visible at the Tharander Grund, near Dresden. On the far-projecting summit of this conglomerate mass lies Castle Carey. The way here passes under the rock, which was cut through by the road-makers, and forms an arch over the road. Beyond the arch, under the ruins of the castle, is seen the broad, handsome, arched opening of another cave, from which some sheep, which had there sought shelter from the violence of the storm, were looking out. This entrance, which is in a perfectly perpendicular cliff, is quite inaccessible; but it has another connexion with the external world by a long passage which goes through the rock. The sheep walk through this long passage, and then rest in the wide convenient cave, over the precipice. In winter, too, they are penned in there by the shepherds.
All the basalt mountains of Antrim are exclusively used for the pasturage of sheep; whilst the neighbouring county of Down is famed throughout Ireland for horses. The latter require the attendance and care of men; but all that is required by the sheep is easily performed by girls; and, in fact, the shepherdesses of Antrim are as much celebrated as their sheep. A verse therefore has been made in allusion to these circumstances, which contains a rhyme very characteristic of Irish pronunciation:
- The county of Down for men and horses,
The county of Antrim for lambs and lasses.
As in Nanny Murray I beheld, alive and bodily before me, just such a personage as one finds depicted in Sir Walter Scott's novels, so in the valleys of the district of the Glynns I saw such rugged, rocky vales, as are represented by those painters and engravers, who endeavour to restore to us, with pencil and graver, the spirit-like forms of Ossian's poetry. Those Glynns are said to be, even now, full of songs and traditions, which glorify the deeds of Fingal and Ossian. At Cushendall, there was shown, until lately, the grave of Dallas, a Scottish hero, who is said to have been slain here by the hand of Ossian; and the people assured me that those Glynns, and the entire coast of Antrim, was the true and principal theatre of the deeds of both those heroes.
Even the Giant's Causeway itself is connected with Fingal; for he, according to the popular tradition, was the giant who built this road for himself. The Irish historians inform us that Fingal, as Macpherson, and, after him, all the rest of Europe, calls himor Finn-Mac-Cumhal, as the historians call him,or Finn-Mac-Cul, as the name is pronounced in Ireland,was the son-in-law of the Irish king Cormac, who reigned in the middle of the third century after Christ, and was the introducer of the famous Fianna Eirinn (the ancient national guards of Erin). He filled all the north of Ireland and the west of Scotland with the fame of his exploits; left to his successors, Ossian and Oscar, the gifts of song and heroism; and fell by the lance of an assassin in the year 273. Even to this day those parts of Scotland and Ireland abound with traditions respecting Ossian and Fin-Mac-Cul, and many natural phenomena are ascribed to those heroes and called by their names. Thus there is, in the north of Ireland, an Ossian's Mountain (Mount Alt-Ossoin,) and a great number of caves, lakes, and mountains, the names of which are compounded with Finn. In the county of Meath is shown a Finn's Rock, under the shade of which Fingal once rested, after the chase, with his trusty wolf-hound Brann; also on Shanthamon mountain are his five fingers, in the shape of five great stones
p.367each five feet high and four tons in weight. There is also a Lough na Fenie, and a Fenian Valley. Some of the Irish consider the name of Finn as connected with the Phoenicians, and say that the Phoenicians were the ancient giants, who cultivated this land, and supplied it with the wonders of nature, and that Fin-Mac-Cul introduced those Phoenicians into Ireland. In Scotland, too, there are many valleys, rivers, and mountains named after Fingal, such as Fingal's Cave, in the island of Staffa. The people here appear to have treated Fingal as the Greeks treated Hercules, and, departing from history, to have raised him to a Titan, a god, a great power of nature. We remember the pillars of Hercules, and other wonders of nature ascribed to that hero. Fingal is, in fact, the Hercules of Erin and Caledonia, and of the archipelago of islands lying between them. Nay, the people go so far as to place the grave of Ossian himself in this country, it is said to be in an ancient churchyard of the little neighbouring village of Layde. The ruined church of this grave-yard stands, covered with ivy, on a little eminence near the coast. Other accounts, again, place the bard's grave on the highest peak of the neighbouring mountain, Lurgethan, where there is a cairn, beneath which Ossian is said to repose. The latter account is certainly the most probable: for Ossian, the epic poet, the great hero, would prefer to lie on the peak of a far-seen mountain, from whence he could look far out into the sea, and over all his valleys, rather than down in the back-ground of a bay. Besides, he was a heathen, and in nowise connected with the Christian church. The Irish say, however, that Ossian had a conversation with St. Patrick, and was converted by him to Christianity, though the ancient heathen hero and poet lived 200 years before the saint. There is, indeed, an Irish legend, that Ossian lay sunk in a magic sleep, for 200 years, on the bank of the Shannon, and afterwards had that conversation with St. Patrick, by whom he was awakened. Probably some pious Irishman could not determine to revere Ossian as unbaptized, or permit him to die a heathen. I was told that there is a long and interesting poem, in which this entire story is beautifully related, and the conversation between Ossian and St. Patrick set out at full length. The story is doubtless well worthy of notice, and may be interpreted to mean, that Christianity, although looking on itself as the only true and saving religion, yet in this manner reconciled itself to the good men who were to be found among the heathen, and, in the blessing given to Ossian, in a certain degree included all heathendom retrospectively in the Christian community. Thus understood, it appears to me that this, story of the meeting of St. Patrick and Ossian
p.368reflects great honour upon the Irish; and I would like to know if there are similar legends in other Christian lands, by which the people have acknowledged that they wish to be more closely connected with their heathen forefathers by such a reconciliation.
At nightfall we arrived at Cushendall, where we found a woman by a turf fire, who possessed in a high degree the gift of the gab,plainly one of those gifts which, when the different qualities of mind fell down from heaven on the British islands, flew to the west side of St. George's Channelnone of it fell on the east. To the turf fire, which she blew for me, and at which I warmed my frozen feetto the glass of whisky which she handed me, and which tasted of turf, like every thing else in Irelandand to the oat-cake which she gave me with it, she added such a commentary of clack as I never before heard on matters so insignificant. Excellent as had been the entertainment provided for our minds on this journey along the coast, that for our bodies was proportionably bad; for, except one glass of whisky, one little bit of oat-cake, and a couple of gleaming sods of turf, no comfort fell to my lot on this journey. Add to this, the open car, the rain, the storm, and the clack of the woman with the gift of the gab, and it will be readily imagined that it sometimes required all the beauty of the coast of Antrim to compensate for these unpleasant drawbacks. The driver had this advantage, that he had only to travel one stage, and then found another to take his place. As I could not bring myself to stop, I travelled on, exposed to the weather. Indeed it is wonderful, sir, that you travel in such a night, said she with the gift of the gab, as I was again making myself comfortable on the new car, with the aid of some fresh straw, while she lighted me with the lantern, and wished to give me another glass of whisky before starting, which I could not bring myself to touch on account of the repulsive taste of turf. However, people generally say that this turfy taste, which is at first so repulsive to the stranger, is particularly pleasing when ho has once become accustomed to it; and I know many national dishes which have a flavour extremely disagreeable to those unaccustomed to them, but with which they afterwards become completely enamoured. Thus there may be also national weaknesses and failings, which people in time take for virtues.
We are nearly alone, your honour! remarked my new driver, as we turned landwards into the dark valley beyond Cushendall; for at Cushendall the road to the Giant's Causeway quits the coast, leaving to the right the north-eastern mountains and headlands of Antrim. Indeed, Paddy, I replied, I think we are quite alone: perhaps you see some forms of Fingal's heroes, or
p.369other beings, in the valley, and on that account you are afraid to say, without reservation, that we are quite alone. Are you afraid lest, if you should say we two are quite alone, some one should speak out from the darkness, Ha! stop! Am not I too here? Indeed, your honour! don't joke in this way by night. No, indeed, I repeat it, we are almost entirely by ourselves! The storm is here too, Paddy, and we can almost do without your horse (which you seem to have entirely overlooked), and sail over the hills before the wind!
The night was pitch dark, and if the heroes of Ossian were but as luminous as decaying wood, we must now have seen them the more plainly, as the rain and hail had ceased, and only a dry storm swept over the rocks. When we came up from the valley on to the hills, our prospect became pretty extensive, and we recognised in the darkness five gleaming lights. One shone from a lighthouse on the opposite coast of Scotland, two from lighthouses near the entrance of Lough Foyle, and two others behind us, from The Maidens before described. The two last-mentioned pairs were twenty or twenty-three miles distant, and yet we saw them shimmering through the darkness as plain as stars, which were entirely wanting in our heaven. With what joy must not sailors, returning from America, behold these lights, and what a pleasing feeling of security must they not produce in them whilst engaged in their perilous voyages. Particularly, your honour, Paddy put in his word, if they could persuade themselves that in each of those towers there lived such a brave maiden as now lies buried some weeks on the Maiden Rocks. Has your honour heard of this brave girl of the Maiden Rocks, who rescued a great part of a ship's crew?
I had, in fact, not heard it, although the story was well known through the medium of the newspapers. Then you must listen to me, for it is a true story. Near those two lights which stand on two rocks, there are some other reefs, at the distance of about half a mile. A few years ago a ship ran on those reefs in a dark foggy night, when they could not see a cable's length from them. As the weather was uncommonly stormy, both ship and crew were soon reduced to a very deplorable condition, and in this state they were perceived next morning from one of the lighthouses, in which an old man and his daughter performed the duty. The poor sailors shouted for help, and made signals for assistance. But the old man shuddered at the idea of rowing through those raging waves, in a frail boat, to the opposite rocks, and he hesitated to embark in the dangerous attempt. His young daughter, however, a girl not quite twenty years old, moved by the cry of distress
p.370from the unfortunates, sprang into the boat, boldly seized the oar, and having persuaded her father to follow her, they both rowed to the wreck, where they took in as many as remained still alive, and, with God's help, brought them safe back to the lighthouse. The girl received the thanks of the rescued and the applause of all Ireland, which filled every newspaper and every mouth with her praises. Large presents were sent to her and her father; advantageous offers of service were also made her, which she rejected, because she wished to remain with her father and her lighthouse. The whole circumstance is celebrated in a play, which has been often acted in London and Dublin. A couple of months ago this heroic girl became sick, and died soon after, and all the papers in Ireland noticed her death with grief. I wonder that some lord, excited by the girl's fame, did not travel to her rock, and woo her. Perhaps this would have happened, had she lived longer; perhaps she would not have died so soon, had a lover taken her from her rock.
At nine o'clock in the evening we arrived, on the wings of the wind, at Ballycastle. This little port lies near the sea, exactly opposite the well-known island of Rathlin. Here ends the mountainous district of the Glens or Glynns, and now begins a waving, high plain, which terminates towards the sea, in a rugged shore, more or less steep.
With the district of the Glynns ends also the Irish language. The people pointed out to me the little stream which flows eastwards from Ballycastle, as the boundary dividing the English and Irish languages. On this side of the bridge, said they, almost all the people speak Irish, but most of them understand English too. But on that side, from Ballycastle westward, no one understands Irish. For the last couple of miles from Ballycastle, I had a policeman sitting with me on our little car. I asked him if he had much to do here in the Glens. Yes, said he, we have much more to do than our companions near Londonderry. The people here in the Glens are more quarrelsome and unquiet than these in Derry, and we must keep careful watch. They would be very mischievous, if they were not so much afraid of the law. In the Glens, too, they are poorer than in Derry; as you must know, since you have travelled so much, that the Catholics are all over the world poorer than the Protestants. I give this man's testimony in his own words, for I believe there is some truth in it, but I do not venture to say how much.
At last a friendly little inn at Ballycastle opened to us its hospitable doors and calm chambers. We found a right comfortable room, a cheerful tea-table, a homely, warm fire, and by the fire
p.371oh! wonderful! the last part of the before-mentioned popular rhyme about the counties of Down and Antrim: The county of Antrim for lambs and lasses!lasses, young lasses! They had come, as the hostess told me, to pay a visit to their relative, the Rector of Rathlin; but the violence of the storm had detained them three days on the mainland, there being no fewer than eight fishing boats from Rathlin laid up in the harbour of Ballycastle for still a longer time, not venturing to return home on account of the high sea that ran between the island and the mainland, although the distance was hardly six miles.
I blessed the storm, however, which brought with it consequences so agreeable to me. One must travel in extraordinary weather to meet with extraordinary things; and the traveller in England may indeed call it extraordinary luck if he can take his tea at an inn in the agreeable society of young ladies; for in this country it is the general rule that every one, while sipping this beverage, should shut himself up in his own chamber, and, without troubling himself about his fellow-travellers, enjoy himself alone, or, at the most, whisper in a low tone with his own friends. But in the little inn at this end of the world, there were, besides the common sitting-room, only two small bedrooms; and as the storm and the darkness forbade all escape to Rathlin, necessity thus broke through the barrier even of strait-laced English manners, or rather unmanners. The young ladies were obliged to receive the wet, frozen, very pitiable-looking traveller, and make room for him at the fire, without asking leave of papa and mamma. I cannot deny that a certain love of mischief mingled with my feelings; for when I thought of those little Antrim mice, caught here nolens volens, I determined to take full revenge on English customs, which condemn the traveller to so many privations and tedious lonesome hours, and not to let them off so entirely undisturbed; that is to say, I resolved to pass the evening pleasantly, conversing with them to my heart's content.
The ladies were, of course, called Misses Mac Donnell; for in this part of the world every respectable person bears that name. My last postilion was called M'Donnell, and an honest fellow he was; and even the innkeeper said his name was Mac Donnell. The estate of the young ladies' relation, the island of Rathlin, formed the principal theme of our conversation. Seeing plainly that I must relinquish all hopes of a visit to this island, which I had so much desired, for all told me that no one could take me across in this weather, I was obliged to be content with surveying it in the image which these Antrim lasses set before me; to which I afterwards added as much information as I could myself acquire from the coast next morning, through my telescope.