Electronic edition compiled and proof-read by Beatrix Färber
Translated into English by Christopher J. Woods
Funded by University College, Cork, School of History
2. Second draft
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Created: The original was written in 18067 (18067 (original); 1987 (translation))
Beatrix Färber (ed.)
Beatrix Färber (ed.)
Beatrix Färber (ed.)
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Janet Crawford (ed.)
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At last, on 9 April 1806, we were summoned in all haste to the ship and set sail. However, as a calm soon set in we had to ride at anchor. The ship on which I found myself was not a transport-vessel suitably adapted to carry a large number of horses but a packet-boat that formerly had conveyed passengers, and some horses also, from Liverpool over to Dublin. For the rest, it was well laid out, and the cabin was situated in the middle where the motion was gentlest. But for 40 men and 21 horses on board it really was much too small. The weather remained fine and calm. Not until midnight did a favourable wind get up, so that we weighed anchor, yet without coming very far, for soon the surface of the sea appeared as smooth as a looking-glass. We kept constantly in sight of the coast of Wales, whose high mountain-tops were still covered with snow. Finally, on the third day, the wind became favourable, and whilst at 8 o'clock in the morning we could still see the British coast, at noon we caught sight of the Irish coast. The motion of the ship likewise was so violent that I had to betake myself to my berth. The next morning we were in Dublin harbour.
I disembarked at once and hastened to the nearest inn in order to acquaint myself with an Irish breakfast. It consisted of tea, bread and butter and half a dozen eggs. The others disembarked on the same day and the regiment was settled in a barracks, though the officers were quartered in citizens' houses that had been abandoned and stripped even of tables and chairs. We were forced to rent.
Dublin is more beautiful than London. It has broader streets, taller and more uniform houses, and finer squares. Only the splendour and wealth of England's capital are missing. Of very special note is the street in which the former parliament-house is situated; it displays a definite grandeur of the kind one fully expects in capital cities.
The stranger in Ireland soon notices the hospitality. I too was to enjoy it and was taken around by one inhabitant and entertained by him. He showed me amongst other things the local museum with a mineral and insect collection said to be from Germany and to have cost 1,200 sterling.1 For the rest one sees in Ireland opulence beside the deepest poverty; and beside the finest carriages the carrier's car draws past with a thin, rough horse; and next to the palace stands the mean, wretched cabin, occupied by the neediest persons. Ragamuffins that are not found in England are not unusual in Ireland. So it is in the capital, but even more in the countryside.
During our eight-day stay in Dublin the regiment was reviewed by the lord lieutenant and soon it had to march off to the north-western part of Ireland. It took us six days to do 112 Irish miles.2 The tract of country through which we passed was mostly desolate; only the roads were good. Our march was divided up as follows.
On 1 May 1806 we marched from Dublin. For several miles around the capital the countryside still retained a well-cultivated appearance, but then it changed, becoming desolate and most neglected, although the soil was very good. Impoverished, ill-dressed people were living in wretched mud-cabins; only the livestock in the fields fully resembled that in England.
We reached on this day the very small town of Killcock, where we were able to find stabling for barely a third of our regiment. All the officers were accommodated in two inns, which had nothing more in common with English inns than that things were just as expensive. Turf was burned here, dirtying the rooms. The carpets were in tatters. The male sex wear grey cloaks, the female sex red, beneath which they wear bad clothes that are similar to English clothes only in their form.
On the following day we passed through countryside that likewise was poorly cultivated and dotted with mud cabins. Only the road was well maintained. Towards evening, after travelling 18 Irish miles, we reached Kinnegad, in the county of Westmeath, where we found things somewhat better. On the way also we saw, here and there, houses that had been destroyed in the rebellion.
On the third day we marched 18 Irish miles further, through barren country where the cabins became even more wretched, to Kilbeggan. Here a weekly market was in progress. But this likewise was utterly different from English markets, that is to say the stalls were hung with ragged linen cloth, some of the people were barefoot, and the meat on sale was lean. Here for the first time I was quartered in a citizen's house, but they preferred to send me on afterwards to the guest-house. Our horses went into a ruined brewery.
Since our departure from Dublin I had still seen no vehicle with four wheels, no coach and not even a mail car. In Ireland the mail is mostly forwarded by canal or just on covered cars. The wheels of the last of these are only one foot high, and the double shaft is fastened on to the horse's back by means of a hoop. For our little baggage we needed 50 such cars, as they can carry but little.
On the fifth day we again passed through desolate bogland and through only one wretched village on a march of 19 Irish miles as far as Athlone in the county of Galway.3 That place is said to be one of the largest towns in Ireland but contains only 600 houses. The barracks there, for artillery and infantry, were the principal building.
Here I saw the first soldier since Dublin. The landlord and landlady of my lodgings had gone away, and the maid who received me was barefoot and spoke only her country dialect. Everywhere else in Ireland one can manage with English. We received invitations from the English officers, but for which we should have greatly missed the fleshpots of Egypt.4 They had good wines of various kinds served up, and nothing was wanting. Only the potatoes in their skins looked odd beside the roast turkey. People think that they taste best so.
On the sixth day our long march of 20 Irish miles led us through another Siberia. As far as the eye could see there was nothing but large stones overgrown with moss and here and there a black mud cabin. One of these even set up as an inn and had on the sign-board hanging out the significant words Dry lodgings.5 It was comforting that here one could at least stay dry. In Ireland the same sign is frequently found at
p.317small taverns. In the heat I tried to quench my thirst at that inn; but there was nothing there but foul bog water, the whiskey that is so beloved in Ireland (distilled from potatoes and oats) and oatcake. We finally reached a dismal quarters for the night at Ballinamore.6 The way in to the inns there was so tumble-down that at first one had to consider whether one would even dare to pass through.
On 7 May we marched in eager expectation to Dunamore,7 the place appointed for our stay; but the nearer we came the more our hopes sank of finding it a better place.
The people who emerged from the low mud cabins appeared silent and stupid,8 the bogs grew larger, and even the small cars disappeared completely here. On pitiable, rough horses or asses9 led by straw-ropes hung a pair of baskets in which dung, turf and suchlike were being transported. On our arrival at our destination, after a tiring march of 18 Irish miles, we soon saw that under the fine name of the place were hidden only a score of small stone houses and mud-cabins.10 The church and church-tower seemed completely overrun with ivy. The barracks that were to accommodate us bid defiance to the entire place. We were stared at by a crowd of inquisitive ragamuffins who shyly looked us up and down and bit their nails. A big flock of crows had settled in the trees near the barracks and accompanied our entry with their croaking! Here then was not the land of the nightingales.
So the two-month march from Portsmouth to Dunamore ended with not quite the best prospects, and I believed it scarcely possible to endure a week here, but once I was used to the place I thought differently.
The climate is on the whole mild but damp. No day is cloudless. Potatoes, wheat, barley, etc., are in fact grown here, but only with toil are they wrung from the earth. There is very much poultry in this district.
The people of rank and the well-to-do of the country stay mostly in Dublin and London, especially at the present out of fear of the agitators.11 They come here, collect their rents and spend them abroad, which may contribute greatly to the poverty. Our barracks, a former country-house,12 were tolerable. Only the tables and chairs were genuine Irish, that is to say as made by a carpenter. The cabins mentioned are only from six to eight feet high and 12 feet square, built of mud and straw, or of stone without any kind of cement, and covered with sods. The rafters are drawn from the bog. Light enters those cabins through gaps left unclosed and in bad weather stopped up with straw, or through a small pane that has been fixed in.
The interior of these dwellings is very edifying. In one corner a bed of straw for humans, in another a sow with young, an ass, goats and such like, and in the third
p.318a table, chair and spinning-wheel. The family are in the habit of sitting in the middle on the floor around the turf-fire, where the husband and wife smoke their little pipe. The fourth corner contains the opening for going in and out. I admit there are also exceptions but rarely.
There are two churches in the melancholy place, one English and one catholic; but no pealing of bells and no striking of a clock. The graves in the church-yard were marked only by rolling together stones in their natural state. Should it be something special, a large piece of rock is erected, but there is no thought of inscriptions.
It is the custom in England and Ireland when natives and strangers wish to become acquainted that first the native pays a visit to the stranger. I was therefore delighted that the English minister13 and a captain14 who had his property in the vicinity and who had just returned from France visited me and thereby provided me with the opportunity for distraction in this wilderness.
On my way to the captain I observed how laboriously people here work their land. No plough, no harrow, no horse and no ox were to be seen at work. Everything is done with a wooden spade that is iron-plated only in front. People let the land lie fallow for several years and put on the heather then growing to serve as manure. The lower class of the inhabitants speak only Irish, but the upper class speak English too. Yet I could never get to see a book in the country language. Whitsun was little different from other days. I even saw people working in the fields, and on Whitmonday15 a big yarn-market16 was held. The stalls consisted either of cars on which they [sic] had brought in their produce, or of cask-hoops that were stuck into the ground and covered with linen.17 One could not stand upright in these, but here every one lay with the beloved whiskey. In the afternoon the drunks were so numerous that the justice of the peace requested us to mount guard in order to contain threatening behaviour. Some days later18 followed an even more wretched cattle-fair at which there was even greater trouble so that side-arms had to be used. On this occasion I saw how some disturbers of the peace who had been arrested so far degraded themselves as to fall on their knees before the justice and in tears beg for his indulgence. In England even the criminal facing death would not condescend to this. The Englishman steps proudly before his judge and awaits his decision with fortitude and calm. In the month of June there were in fact some fine and warm days and evenings, but nature remained desolate and silent. There was no fragrance of flowers and trees, no buzzing of insects, no nightingale's song.
Midsummer day19 was celebrated magnificently, that is to say in the middle of the place people made a fire of turf and bones that smoked and stank more than they gave out a cheerful flame. Around this fire the dear young folk danced like mad to a pitiful fiddle or bagpipe. Amidst all this wretchedness one still finds very old people, who not infrequently reach 100 years.
About eight Irish miles from Dunamore lies a somewhat better place, Tuam, to which business often took me. On the way there I saw my first plough, which however was so unwieldy that three men and a pair of wretched horses had to work hard to keep it going, since wheels were entirely lacking. Near this spot also a horse-race was taking place at which a large crowd of people was assembling; but here was seen also the boundless contrast between a few well-to-do landed proprietors and the great mass of the people. The horses however are in no way inferior as runners to the English horses, and distinguished themselves especially at jumping. Six to nine foot walls are not too high for them. Only the elegance that shows in all points at English races was lacking; also the horses were not so well-shaped as the English racers.
At the end of August the harvest began, but this business too is carried on very wretchedly. For the cutting of corn, as of grass, there is nothing but a small sickle.
The bundles were carried home on people's backs and beside the house were thrashed on a broad stone with the nearest thick stick. Cleaning was carried out by husband and wife standing in the wind and shaking the corn about in a shallow basket. A flail, instead of English threshing-machines, would be a beneficent present here.
At the end of September the black clouds hanging heavily in the sky emptied themselves daily and made our stay in that place exceedingly boring. Therefore it was most agreeable to me at the beginning of October to be moved 18 Irish miles away to Ballinrobe where the greater part of the regiment was garrisoned. The place was somewhat better.20 From here I also went on official business to Castlebar, a town situated a further 18 miles away. It is a very good place and is in fact the place where in his day the French general, Hoche,21 made the ill-fated landing.
On 9 November we received in this remote spot the sad tidings of the battle of Jena, which robbed us of the hope of soon seeing our homeland once again. It happened that there was almost continuous rain and wind here, with the result that our houses shook and even partly fell in, and many of our people came down with dysentery, of which one officer died. None of this exactly contributed to putting us in good humour.
The election of new members of parliament occurring at that time made Ballinrobe very busy owing to the many electors and voters flocking in. It also gave rise to much revelry and brawling. Every space was covered with handbills, and crowds of people carried them about the streets. On them were printed, in large letters, advertisements favouring the candidates. Each day the polling-house was full of voters, whose votes were written down and who expressed their opinions publicly. The curious were not wanting either, and this colourful exchange gave us foreigners some entertainment.
On 3 December the two newly-elected members22 were carried all around the streets on big arm-chairs among the milling and incessantly cheering crowd, into which gold and silver coins were thrown by the successful pair.
About seven Irish miles from this place are the remarkable underground lakes that
p.320are said to be connected with the Atlantic Ocean23 At two different places they become visible. With some local inhabitants I went down about 25 feet underground on a sloping path in order to see them and found the width of these streams to be between 12 and 18 feet. They flowed with many bends and, as little light came through the entrance, one could not follow them far with the eye. On their sources and outlet I could get no information.
In February 1807, in connexion with certain business, I was invited to the house of a rich landowner; but here too I found everything in the same style as had been the case hitherto in Ireland. The big country-house was dilapidated, the front steps had fallen in, the interior was rich but neglected, for example the large silk window and bed curtains were in tatters and had certainly not been dusted for many years.
As for the rest, the household furniture was of English make and the dinner table was overflowing.
At the end of the month of March the high-court judge made his ceremonial entry into Ballinrobe with various counsel.24 A trumpeter and six outriders carrying huge antique halberds rode in front of his four-horse carriage. Behind it followed likewise six halberdiers and the household servants. In front of the house intended for his reception he was received by a division of the local militia regiment which gave him a military salute. Two sentries remained behind afterwards in front of the door, and in order to avoid trouble the garrison had been strengthened. The court, which, as in England, was held in public, lasted eight days; with the difference that here the town, the judge's lodgings and even the court-house were occupied by soldiers, whilst in England everything military is removed several miles away from the place of the assizes, and even single officers were not allowed to appear there in uniform at the time. In Ireland the disturbances that had occurred seemed to make other precautions necessary. This court was the occasion for the appearance of many landowers, from whom the jurors for the criminals are chosen. The judge or the counsel proposes for each accused 24 persons, from whom he has to decide on 12 who are to give judgement on him. The judge had an elevated seat and wore a scarlet coat and a majestic white wig. On both sides stood his counsel; in front of him, on a low bench at a table, sat the clerks and finally, in front of them, on a raised position, stood the crier. In a loud voice the crier summoned the accused persons, some of whom were in confinement. According to how such a person had now made known his presence by words or by standing up, the crier touched him with a staff to identify him. Then the judge put his questions to the person, and if he found that his imprisonment so far was in proportion to the offence the person was immediately set at liberty. But if the crime was of the sort that could bring death or transportation, the jury had to pronounce the person guilty or not guilty. A juror who fails to appear without having a valid reason must pay a fine of £12 sterling. At this sitting a young man was sentenced to death and the punishment was carried out during the next few days. The proceedings were conducted partly in the Irish language.
In April of the same year we had to be ready to go to the Continent; but the truce of Tilsit prevented this likewise. Therefore I had further opportunity to get know the Irish people better.
The lower class is very hardened; with a few roast potatoes in his pocket the common Irishman walks between 50 and 80 Irish miles in a day and quenches his thirst on the way at the springs he chances upon. In the winter the children often go barefoot on the ice.
At funerals in Ireland I have often noticed that the coffin was followed by weeping women who, it was said, had to be hired for the purpose; but I could never rightly get to the truth of this assertion. It is however a fact that the relatives visit the graves of the departed for several months afterwards and roll themselves around on them in mourning.
Finally it was settled that we should leave Ireland at the beginning of June, but where we would go remained a secret to us. We suspected Sweden, because it was there that a corps of English troops and a division of the legion were garrisoned.
On 10 June we finally left lonely Ballinrobe to the sorrow, as it seemed, of the inhabitants. Beforehand we were once more entertained by the officers of the garrison; and when we marched out the last one was under arms and gave three parting cheers for us. As for the rest our march back to Dublin was by the same way as we had come.
On 18 June 1807, in the evening, I went with the last division of the regiment to the ship. The harbour was swarming with people, our musicians were playing, people were singing, and amid the repeated cheers of the onlookers we sailed out of Dublin's fine harbour. In the most splendid weather a moderate wind brought us within 36 hours into the bustling harbour of Liverpool, where we awaited further orders . . .