Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The Life of the Icelander Jón Ólafsson: Youghal (Author: Jón Olafsson)

chapter 30

Now I must tell how, when the provisions had come out to the ship, and we were to taste fresh victuals that night, our steward gave each of us leave to choose whatever he desired to partake of first, whether of food or drink. Some asked for bread, others for cheese, and some for eggs, until the meal could be prepared. I asked for one drink of ale. And when I had taken near half a pint I handed what was left in the pint-pot back to the steward, and I was helped up on deck and forward to the beak, and I wound a rope round each wrist and placed myself on the stool, and for nearly a whole round of the clock I had no consciousness of myself, nor knew what went on around me, until I returned to my full senses. It seemed to me then as if I had been relieved of the burden as of a whole mountain, and as if God had given me a new life. When I came below decks again to my comrades, the stewards and others were startled to see me alive, and declared that in truth they had supposed that I was lying somewhere dead. While I was away two others had died. And soon after my good friend Erik Lange died, and also good old Niels Geertsen. Thus, from the time we sailed from India until we had made harbour in Ireland, we lost thirty-five of our best people, amongst them the mate Jakob, Niels Geertsen, his first assistant, with his stepson Andreas; Master William the surgeon, one of the two sailmakers, and our master-gunner, Soren Knabstrup, a very violent man.


It was near eight days before a rudder of deal was made, which served for the occasion, to bring the ship into harbour at spring-tide. For we had to wait for that, as three shallows lay right across the harbour mouth19, where the entrance was, and over each were moored barrels to serve as buoys. It was one day before we got our great vessel into harbour — her draught, with cargo, was twenty-two feet, across the upper deck she measured seven fathoms, and seven fathoms also from the quarterdeck to the sea; forty fathoms from stem to stern and forty fathoms from the highest point of the mast to the sea20 — that we saw two large vessels about a sea-mile to seaward of us, but to them we seemed to lie off the shore. Instantly a shot was fired and the hundred sworn men came with all speed, according to their oath, to defend us. But by the grace of the blessed God these vessels held off. It was Captain Compan21, and he was greatly vexed that we had escaped from his clutches by such a chance, when he learnt later of our situation.

On the Saturday before the festival of Whitsuntide22, about the ninth hour of the morning, which is about the time we break our fast in Iceland, all these men being on board with us, and many of the chief men of the town of Johel, through the faithful guidance of the pilot who had first reached us, and for the sum agreed upon, we were manoeuvred and towed


over the sand bar23, without any damage to ship or cargo, to an anchorage close under the town, as good as a man could possibly wish for himself. All the time we were sailing in, every mother's child in the town stood at the very edge of the sea, both on the town side and on the opposite side of the estuary. It seemed to us a most excellent pleasant place, and a fair countryside wherever one looked.

Ireland is a good, fertile and fair land of corn and cattle, so that at that time seventeen hundred live oxen were sent to England as tribute every year. For this special ships are used, which they call meat-ships24. There is also much other slaughtered meat, which is conveyed to England almost daily. An ox is there worth four dollars, a sheep one dollar. But such fat sheep I have never seen anywhere25.

When our pilot began to sail to the harbour, he bade all the people fall on their knees in prayer, and ask God for favourable progress and a good ending to the task begun. And afterwards, when the prayers had been said, he commanded that every man should be silent and should utter no word until the vessel had cleared the shallows, and that we should stand by the bulwarks on either side. All the which was duly observed, so that the man who stood at the helm should not be disturbed, and should hear no word save only those uttered by the pilot. And when he had slipped over the innermost bar the pilot and all on board gave a great shout of joy, and then all that great concourse on shore shouted too, as though with one voice, each removing his hat from his head. After all those on board had given humble thanks to Almighty God, with praise for His mercy vouchsafed to us, in that we had made harbour without mishap, the guns were fired off, and so also in the castle on land26 — trumpets blown, drums


beaten amid general rejoicings, and we were landed on the fair sands, where a great multitude had assembled.

An excellent woman, Elizabeth, married to a sea-captain named William Giaeers27, came up to me, after she had scanned us all, and took me by the hand and considered me for a while, asking me my name and whence I was. And when I had answered her fully she asked if I would not go with her to her home and confide myself to her nursing and care. I said that I would thankfully and willingly accept her offer. So she led me away by the hand, as a mother leads her beloved child, and my comrades gazed after us. When I entered her house she bade me welcome to all it contained, and to all she could do for me, and she set before me fresh victuals and good ale, carving for me herself. She told me that the right hand of her late lamented father had suffered the same injury as mine, and that it was the memory of his sufferings which had urged her to benefit me, when she saw me. She asked my leave to seek out another of our people, so that the two of us might enjoy the same tendance. She left me, and came back with our steward Peter Frandsen, and she had us under her maternal care and tendance for full eleven weeks.

Now I must tell how the captain of the Pearl, Sixt Jacobsen, was vexed with the five of us who refused to lie with the multitude of fifty-two men who lay in one sick-house, and all bedridden; and therefore he threatened that we must pay for ourselves, and not one penny would he expend for us, saying we had flouted his offer and the loving care of the Company28, wherein he spoke not truth, for we thought at first that each would find lodgings and landlord for himself, wherever he could. These were the five men: the minister Master Matthias, the steward Peter, Christian Johansen, Anders Ólafsen


and I Jón Ólafsson. Thus quickly did I come to miss my dear friend, as it were my father, Captain Christoffer Boye, who was now asleep in God.

The inhabitants strove to show us all honour, most of the better folk in the neighbourhood visiting us and our ship in their pitifulness and compassion, and bringing us something fresh and useful for nourishment, many kinds of wine and herbs. Among them, moreover, was a great number of the nobility, men and women, both English and Irish, noble matrons and maidens, who showed great courtesy and condescension, bidding God be praised, in that He had delivered us and sent us thither out of such dangers and perils of the sea. All prayed for our recovery, that each of us might return safe and sound to his own country, and find his friends again, when we departed. Further, there visited us the noble Count of Cork, the highest of the three counts who had governance and authority over Ireland at that time29, on behalf of the King of England, Carolus Stuart30. He was termed the President31, and he came with his excellent spouse and their two children, one son and one daughter32, and they gave three Jacobus33 to us, the ship's crew, which is reckoned at twelve dollars, for drink, and to make merry with. It was seldom that we did not have visits from strangers every day, and these gave us money, so that we daily feasted with music and great merriment.

This count invited the half of our people to be entertained at his home in Cork, which we humbly and thankfully


accepted, whereupon he bade us follow him. And when we reached the castle we were nobly feasted with meat and drink and entertained with other excellent things, with all hospitality and consideration for three days and three nights, after which we travelled back to the place where our vessel lay.34 But on the road, as we travelled back, the Irish country folk kindled great fires on high mountains every night, with much dancing round the fires by great multitudes both of men and women, with junketings and merrymaking. This is the old custom of the Irish people, which they have observed from the most ancient times, maintaining that all goes better with them if they continue it, than if they should let it drop. This is, as it were, their faith, and though the English have tried to wean them from the custom, and sternly forbidden it, the Irish have obstinately refused to give up their fires and dances, which have become the custom and habit of the countryside35. All this the Irish displayed to us in their


friendship as we were returning to our ship. And on our return our officers despatched home to Denmark the two gentlemen who had been passengers on board36, to advise His Majesty and the Company of the damage we had suffered, and to see to other matters which we needed to arrange for, as for instance, the conveying of our letters to kinsfolk and friends.