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.