Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
Travels in Ireland (Author: Johann Georg Kohl)

chapter 5

The Shannon and the Irish Fairies

‘the Royal Shannon’—Course of the River—Canals—Navigation of the Shannon—Canal-boats—Hamburgh Oxen—Cattle Trade—The Kingdom of Kerry—Princess Seinin—Classes of Spirits—Stories of them—Facts—The Favourites of the Fairies—The Fairies of Counties—Influence of the Belief in Fairies—The Apostle of Temperance—Total Abstinence—The Blessed Man—Miracles—Further Voyage on the Shannon—Lough Derg and its Islands—Innis-caltra—St. Patrick's Purgatory—The Devil's Bite—Sweet Balley Valley—New Steamboat Construction—Odd Manner of Travelling—Aristotle In Ireland—Old Manuscripts

The Shannon is the largest river in Ireland, and justly is it called by the people ‘The Royal Shannon,’ although a foreigner may deem the epithet hyperbolical, when he remembers the great continental rivers. But one must have travelled on this glorious stream, to be convinced that in rivers, as well as in kings, royal majesty does not depend on great length or extent. This much is certain, that, in the British Islands, there is no second stream, that, for length and breadth, and the charms of its banks, can be compared with the Shannon. From his birth he is vast and broad, for with mighty veins he springs from a lake, (Lough Allen,) and flows through the middle of Ireland, from north-east to south-west. Three times he again widens into a lake; first, in his upper territory, in the little Lough Boffin; then, farther down, into the larger Lough Ree; and, in the middle of his course, into the still larger Lough Derg. Below Limerick he once more spreads himself out like a lake; but as this extension continues to the ocean, this part of the river has received no particular name. The whole length of this beautiful piece of water, from its rise to the ocean, is 214 English miles. The greater portion of the Shannon runs through the central plain of Ireland, which divides the mountainous south from the mountainous


north. A similar plain runs through England, in the same direction, from Hull to Bristol; and a third again, from east to west, through Scotland, from Edinburgh to Glasgow. The former separates the southern highlands of England, Cornwall, Wiltshire, &c., from the northern, Wales, Westmoreland, Cumberland, &c.; while the latter separates the mountains of the Scottish border from the Highlands. The Shannon may therefore be compared with the Severn and the Clyde. The chief canals of England and Scotland also pass through these central plains.

As the Shannon waters no less than thirteen of the thirty-two counties of Ireland, its navigability has been long an important question in that country. More than 100 years ago, it was believed, that, by an outlay of from 60,000l. to 80,000l., it would be possible to remove the obstacles to its navigation, including several banks of rocks and shallows which unfortunately crossed its bed in several places. The celebrated Lord Wentworth, Earl of Stafford, who was for a long time Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, first proposed a plan for this purpose, but it was never carried into effect. Several plans were afterwards projected in England, (where nearly all the speculations for the improvement of Ireland originate,) and some of these were partly executed. But the introduction of steam navigation, which has been so advantageously applied upon numerous other rivers, in overcoming the opposition of the currents, had had the most decisive effect on the navigation of the Shannon. A steam-navigation company has been formed; and although the works are not yet completed, twelve steamers are now employed upon the river, while fifteen years ago there was only one.

As there are no railroads in Ireland, except one or two small ones, which there seems no intention of extending, the canals are much used for travelling, and regular passage-boats traverse them in every direction. They are drawn like the trekschuiten in Holland, by horses, which proceed at a quick trot; and this mode of conveyance affords the traveller the best opportunities of becoming acquainted with the interesting people of Ireland.

It was on a delightful, clear, warm day that we embarked on the Shannon, which appeared as beautiful as any other river in the world. Flowing out of a lake, and having frequent opportunities of resting itself in wide basins, its water is extremely clear and lucent, and its movement is very equable and slow, except in a few places where there are rapids, which are avoided by means of canals. The banks, too, are agreeable and pleasing. Broad, fresh-green meadows stretch along its sides, and little hamlets alternate with charming country-seats, surrounded by their parks.


Herons are frequently to be seen on its borders, and many of these beautiful birds were gyrating in the sunshine.

On board the steamboat were many packages from the Dublin circulating libraries, in which was contained spiritual food for the residents in the country; but our most remarkable freight was a few oxen and cows from Hamburgh, which had found their way hither by the operation of Sir Robert Peel's new tariff. This not a little alarmed the people, as Ireland had hitherto been always accustomed to export cattle of this description, and to receive money for them, instead of paying high prices for foreign animals. Immediately after the promulgation of this tariff, nothing was spoken of in England, but the cattle that were sure to be imported into the United Kingdom from Hamburgh, Holstein, Holland, Sweden, and even from Spain and Africa. But, as is sufficiently proved by the trifling importations which have taken place, all this was a mere invention of the newspapers, to excite the public against the tariff. With regard to the Hamburgh cattle, our own eyes bore witness to their importation; and when we consider the speculating spirit of the English, which extends itself to all the four quarters of the world, and attempts every thing, it is not improbable that Spanish and Swedish cattle will also be imported. These Hamburgh beasts, however, caused much anxiety to the Irish, whose chief source of income consists in the exportation of cattle. ‘Our woollen manufactures,’ said one to me, ‘that once flourished in Kilkenny, Dublin, and other places, have been destroyed by the English; our linen manufactures at Belfast and Drogheda are threatened with ruin; no branch of manufactures can rise among us, on account of the enormous privileges enjoyed by English industry; and now, if our farmers and graziers are to be made bankrupts, our prospects are totally destroyed.’ As the tariff was introduced by the English ministry chiefly for the advantage of the manufacturing districts, the indignation of the Irish was much increased against the English manufacturers, whom they regard as their greatest enemies. It is strange that these manufacturing towns give rise to so much angry feeling, which is not confined to Ireland, for whilst the Irish complain that their manufacturing industry is checked by the English, so do the English and Scotch complain that the Irish labourers, who throng the manufacturing towns, and work for less wages, destroy their market. Some connoisseurs stood around the Hamburgh cattle, and shaking their heads, gave it as their opinion, that if no better were imported, they could scarcely vie with the Irish cattle, be the tariff ever so low. ‘There is nothing kind about them; they are very coarse, but strong for working,’ Such was the opinion of a


bystander, who said he had been a long time in Hamburgh; but as we, in the interior of Germany, are wont to consider the roast-beef of Hamburgh as something particularly delicate and good, I could not bring myself to coincide in this opinion.

Our party on board the steamer was divided into two—one silent, through conceit and etiquette; the other talkative and natural. The former paced up and down the quarter-deck, busied with itself; the latter sat chatting in the forecastle. After having in vain made some attempts to break the ice among the former, I preferred to join the latter, where I was soon successful, and became engaged in a conversation from which I derived much instructive and interesting information. A man from the ‘kingdom’ of Kerry, as the Irish call it, I suppose ‘par courtoisie’ took me under his especial protection. These Kerrymen are famous in Ireland for their great, though somewhat antiquated, learning. ‘Even the cow-boys and the poor farmers' sons know Latin there,’ is a common saying. My Kerryman was the son of a peasant; he was about thirty years of age, talkative, animated, and richly imaginative, like all the lower orders of the Irish. He narrated to me a multitude of stories and traditions, all of which unfortunately I did not understand, on account of his peculiar dialect. Of the Shannon, and the origin of its name, he told me one. There was long ago, he said, one Princess Seinin, the daughter of a King of Munster, and in beauty and virtue a queen among the daughters of the land. She was once bathing in a lonely part of the Shannon, when she was surprised by some men. Her delicate and virgin feelings were hereupon seized with such shame and horror, that she immediately sunk and disappeared beneath the waves. ‘Even before the blush of shame could rise into her cheeks, she disappeared beneath the waves,’ was the expression of the narrator, which was much applauded by the bystanders. In honour of her the Shannon received its name.

I was also told of an Irish king, who fell in with fairies and elves, with whom he lived a hundred years, and thought they were but two days. Among the old ruins at Shannon Harbour I had seen how much invisible spirits are feared by the Irish. Here upon the charming Shannon, in the fairest sunshine, I had now an opportunity of seeing with what zeal and interest they can talk of them by day: and I do not exaggerate, when I say that they put their heads together, and talked as eagerly as merchants on 'Change, when settling some important business. They call all fairies and unterrestrial spirits, the ‘good people.’ But there are also particular classes, as the Leprahauns, and the Lechrigauns. I asked what difference there was between the ‘good people’ and


these, and was informed that the entire world is full of the former, while of the latter there were but few. The Leprahauns are a species of spirits who dwell in the earth, and are wont to show treasures to those who have courage enough to follow them. It is therefore essential that a person should not look round, but keep his eye steadily fixed upon the Leprahaun, who precedes him. If you take your eye off him but for an instant, he disappears, and you are left alone in a wilderness, where evils of all sorts may befal you. This is usually the case, and the Leprahauns take great delight in tormenting men in this way. On the other hand, whoever follows him courageously and keeps his eye steadily fixed upon the little goblin, go where he may, is sure to win the game. When he perceives that the man does not lose sight of him, he begins to bargain with him. If the man now looks at him with a steady eye, the spirit is completely in his power, and begins to make the most pitiable entreaties, and the most golden promises, to be let go. The man can then do with him what he will; and make his fortune for life. I thought of the spirit Ariel, whom Prospero had in his service, and there seemed to me, in this tale, to be a beautiful symbol of the power of the human mind and will, which, by perseverance and energy, conquers all hinderances, and bends even spirits to do its pleasure; whilst those who rule it with less energy, it torments and makes miserable. But Paddy, though he has invented the legend, finds himself, I fear, generally in the latter condition.

In Germany, too, we speak of apparitions and the like; but in general it is only very indefinitely said that ‘people’ or that ‘somebody’ has seen them; and it is difficult to find any one who has beheld them with his own eyes. In Ireland, however, it is otherwise; for persons are to be met every where who have themselves experienced and seen them. ‘Your honour won't believe our stories about the fairies,’ said one of my companions to me, as I shook my head while he was telling one of his tales; ‘but I'd lay a wager there are many among us here who have experienced the most wonderful things, which sound almost incredible, but which one must believe because they are simple, indisputable facts. I will bring one to you in a moment.’ He took a man by the arm, who was standing near, and led him into the middle of the circle. ‘See, here is Tom Sullivan, the son of Patrick O'Sullivan, the son of Phelim Fad: he is my friend, and one of the best pipers in Kerry, though he was thirty years old before he touched the pipes. But it happened that as he was once wandering among the mountains he felt tired, and laid himself down and fell asleep, without knowing that the place was


sacred to the 'good people,' and there are many such places in our country. Now, in his sleep the fairies appeared to him, and after playing the most beautiful tunes in the world, on the bagpipes, laid down the pipes beside him. When he awoke he felt about him in the grass, and found a set of the beautifulest pipes, and took them home with him—and that's a fact. He tried to play them, when lo and behold you! he knew how to play of himself, and without any trouble, all the fine tunes the fairies had played to him in his dream; and since then, as I said before, he is the best piper in our part of the country. That's a fact, your honour! Is it not so, Tom?’ ‘Is it, Tom?’ asked I of the musician.
‘It is just so, your honour, and very nice little people they were that taught me; and though it is thirty years since they gave me the pipes, I have them ever since, and they play just as well now as they did the first day. That's a fact, sir! And where's the wonder? Haven't I a friend of my own in Kerry, to whom more than this same happened—one Phin Mac Shane, the son of Hugh Mac Shane, who has fallen in with the fairies oftener than I. The Kerry fairies had once a quarrel with the Limerick fairies, and fought many battles. In these combats they used to take into their service such mortals as were distinguished for their strength and dexterity, and place them in the front of the battle. Well, this happened to my friend Phin. The Kerry fairies and the Limerick fairies were pretty equal in all their battles, and neither party could conquer the other, till at last the Kerry fairies happened to surprise my friend Phin on one of their meeting-places, where they have power over men, and forced him into their service. They gave him a cap that made him seven times stronger than ever he was before, and then he marched into the front of the battle, and beat the Limerick fairies from the field. To reward him they made him a present of the cap, and he possesses it to this very moment. And when he puts it on, there's not a man in the whole village would dare lay a finger on him, for he is stronger than them all. That's another fact, your honour! And when you come to Kerry, I will show you my pipes, and Phin shall show you his cap.’

‘You don't believe it, sir,’ said an old woman, who now joined in the conversation. ‘But haven't I seen the good people dancing on their meeting-ground with my own eyes, and heard their beautiful music with my own ears; and that, too, but a couple of days since, as my husband and I were coming from Galway, across, the bog near Ballinasloe, in the county of Roscommon. We were both tired, and lay down by the side of a well after we had taken


a drink. My husband soon fell asleep, but I remained awake, and after a while I heard the most wonderful music. At first I believed there was a piper near me, and I got up to look for him; but when I didn't find him I awoke my husband, and bade him listen to the sounds. They seemed to me to come up out of the well; and when I was going to look down into it my husband pulled me back, and ‘come along,’ says he; ‘it's the good people plays,’ says he; and so up we got out of the dust, without looking round us; and in the hurry I forgot a beautiful new silk handkerchief that I had bought in Galway, and had taken out by the well to look at.’

‘That is again a fact,’ remarked my Kerry friend. The English, who are great lovers of facts, have many ‘Books of Facts’ for their children; but I believe facts of this description are not to be found in them.

When a person has been listening for some time to these Irish fact-men, his fancy becomes so heated with their fairy tales that he cannot help occasionally feeling for his nose or chin, in order to satisfy himself of his corporeal existence. Paddy is, in this respect, one of the most believing fellows I have ever met with. The Irish have numbers of yet more beautiful and wonderful stories than those I have related, but I have only given those which I heard with my own ears from believing eye-witnesses, as being much more characteristic of the people than the most poetical legends, which are generally too highly finished by the decorating hand of the professional story-writer.

It is characteristic of the Irish to divide their fairies according to the counties into which the country is divided. Thus there are Tipperary fairies, and Donegal fairies, as well as Kerry or Limerick fairies, all of which have their fights and quarrels with, one another, as well as the human inhabitants of these counties. But in Tipperary there is a place where all the fairies of Ireland hold their meetings. Another striking characteristic of these fairies is, that they are quite as anxious to receive mortals into their service, as mortals are to make a mighty spirit subject to themselves. ‘They have always some in their service,’ my Kerry friend assured me; and little children they are particularly desirous of obtaining. Those which the fairies cast their eyes on grow sickly, and at last die, and then the fairies take and bring them up, and they grow big and beautiful, and at last become the most distinguished amongst them. But they are fondest of ‘red-haired children, and 'tis they are the most in danger.’

Though all this sounds poetical, yet it would surely be a great piece of good fortune for Paddy if English cultivation could drive


all his fairies out of his head. He might then, perhaps, be more careful and industrious, like the Scottish and English farmers. He would not then ascribe all his misfortunes to supernatural influences; and would not always, like Goethe's treasure-seeker, be expecting independence, riches, and happiness from fairies and elves, but from his own diligence and industry. To how many superstitious Irishmen would I have gladly translated this verse of Goethe's—
    1. Komm mit ängstlicher Beschwörung,
      Nicht zurück an diesen Ort.
      Grabe hier nicht mehr vergebens.
      Tages Arbeit, Abend's Gäste,
      Saure Wochen, frohe Feste,
      Sei dein künftig Zauberwort.

But I must return to my ‘bred-and-born Kerry man,’ who was most eager to open his heart to me, and to entrust me with the secrets of his country. The fairies and their wonders employed us not more than that new wonder of the day, which now moves all Ireland—the temperance question. I mean the wonders which the Apostle of Temperance, Father Mathew, is said to have performed. With great attention I listened to the expressions of the people concerning this remarkable man, and especially to their various conceptions of the temperance question, and the opinions concerning Father Mathew held by the Protestants in the north of Ireland, and by the Catholics in the west and south.

The Protestants, on the one hand, look at the question quite soberly, simply, and reasonably. Temperance, they think, is an excellent and truly Christian virtue, and intemperance an immoral and pernicious vice. It is good to preach in favour of the one and against the other, and hail to the virtuous man who does so. It may also be proper to form societies to promote this useful object, in which, to set an example to our inferiors, we may refrain from the excessive use of intoxicating liquors. But as wine and other spirituous liquors do no injury when enjoyed in moderation, but may frequently be rather beneficial both to the


body and mind, it is unnecessary to give a sacred promise to abstain from them altogether. The Roman Catholics, on the contrary, who are by far the most numerous party in Ireland, look at the subject in quite a different light. They desire, in the first place, a complete renunciation of all spirituous drinks, in like manner as they carry the enjoinments of moderation on their fastdays to the utmost degree of strictness. As they do not feel themselves so secure as the Protestants, who have a greater command over their passions, they would root out the evil altogether, by denying themselves all opportunity to sin. Besides, they behold, in this ‘total abstinence,’ a meritorious work—a sure sanctification of their lives—a species of salvation. And in the great advocate of abstinence—the Apostle of Temperance, as they call him—they see a species of miracle-worker, who not only commands temperance, but also by his blessings, or by bestowing the ‘pledge,’ exercises a particular influence over the lives and welfare of the members of the society. Thus he not only keeps them sober and frugal, but also works out the salvation of their souls, and frees them from purgatory.

Father Mathew is a blessed man! The Almighty, glory be to his name! gave him the power which flows from him.’ Such were the expressions of my companions.

‘You mean,’ said I, ‘that he possesses a particular persuasive power of eloquence, a peculiar strength of conviction, and is in himself a beautiful virtuous example to imitate.’

‘No, no, it's not that. There is a particular grace in receiving the pledge from him, and in obtaining his blessing. There is something in it, sir, which you cannot so easily understand—a grace, a power that no one knows but he who has experienced it in himself. Hence, from his hands only can the true and effective 'pledge' be received. The vow one takes from the hands of other priests has not the same binding power.’

‘That is perfectly true, sir,’ said another, ‘for does he not cure even the most confirmed drunkards? And when they have taken the pledge, are they not the most faithful in abstinence, the very best of 'Temperance-men?' How, then, can this be, except with the particular and immediate co-operation of Heaven? Nay, does he not even cure the lame and the blind? and could we not give you a hundred instances, plain facts, how he has healed the lame and the blind even against their own wills? But Father Mathew is too modest to own he possesses this power: he denies that it is in him; but we know well he has it, for all that.’

Here we had hit upon another inexhaustible theme of conversation, which actually ended with the citing of many instances of


cures of the worst diseases through the miraculous power of Father Mathew. In former days, Ireland had her St. Patrick, who banished toads and serpents from the island. At the present day she has her Father Mathew, who is banishing the spirit of drunkenness from her shores. Between both, there has been a multitude of miracle-workers of a similar kind. By these remarks I do not wish in the least to blot the fame of this worthy man, but only to show how the Irish are wont to encircle such individuals with the halo of saints.

Engaged in conversations such as I have related we sailed down the beautiful clear Shannon, and passed the little town of Banagher, which is fortified—a rare sight in the United Kingdom, yet less rare in Ireland (threatened as she is both by internal and external foes,) than in England and Scotland. Farther down, we passed Redwood Castle on the right, and the beautiful meadows of Portumna on the left; at last the town of Portumna itself, and then we came to Lough Derg. The steamboat which had hitherto conveyed us had her paddles behind, on account of the narrowness of some of the canal passages; but on the broad lake we now entered, we were met by one of larger dimensions. We approached one another sweeping round in a semicircle, and then the two vessels lay side by side, and exchanged passengers. This little manoeuvre looked very pretty in the centre of the clear mirror-like lake.

Of the various lakes, which are strung like pearls on the silver thread of the Shannon, the two middle ones, Lough Ree, near Athlone, and Lough Bodarrig, are the least pleasing, as they lie in the central plain of the island, and are partly surrounded by bog-land. The shores of the northern half of Lough Derg are also quite flat and unpicturesque. But the upper lake, Lough Allen, is in the northern mountainous part of Ireland; and the southern half of Lough Derg, which is twenty-four miles long, is surrounded by a portion of the mountains of the south, and the charms of a beautiful and picturesque landscape. There are also the valleys of the mountains of Inchiquin, the Arra mountains, the Slievh Boughty, and the Slievh8 Bernagh, which here stretches its numerous arms far into the lake. Like all the Irish lakes, Lough Derg is filled with a number of little green islands, which give it a particularly attractive appearance. Small as these are, each one has its name, as Crow Island, Hare Island, Cow Island, &c. Many of them afford excellent pasturage.


The most celebrated of these islands is Innis-caltra (Innis Island), which is an ancient holy place, containing the ‘Seven Churches,’ and one of those pillar-like structures called ‘round towers,’ of which some account will be found in the sequel. We saw this island in the centre of a bay at the distance of a mile and a half, and by the aid of a telescope could distinctly perceive the most remarkable buildings. A dispute arose among the Irish as to whether the famed ‘St. Patrick's Purgatory’ was to be found on this island or on another in one of the northern lakes, but opinions were much divided on the subject. It may be that the people relate this tradition of several islands; but that the purgatory of the holy St. Patrick, once so famous through the half of Christendom, was situated in one of these little islands of Lough Derg, is acknowledged and satisfactorily proved by all Irish antiquarians. The people once imagined that here was to be found the suburbs of purgatory, or, in a word, the entrance to the lower world. St. Patrick, who converted the Irish to the Christian faith, is said to have obtained permission from God that the entrance to the lower world should be opened in Ireland itself, in order to convince unbelievers of the immortality of the soul, and of the punishments and sufferings the wicked must endure after death.

Boate, an old Irish writer, relates, that two monks formerly dwelt in the neighbourhood of the cavern which represented this entrance. Any one who came to the island with the intention of descending to the world below, was compelled to watch, fast, and pray for a considerable time, under the pretext of strengthening him for his perilous journey, but in reality to weaken him, and allow his imagination to overpower his judgment, for which purpose his mind was excited by all manner of wonderful tales. Thus prepared, he was lowered into the cave, which was immediately closed above. After the lapse of some hours he was drawn out again, half dead, and upon recovering failed not to intermix with the reality the monkish stories and his own dreamings, and thus related the most marvellous tales about the world below. In the reign of James II. the monks were driven from the place, and the dark cavern broken up.

This legend struck me as unusual, and at the same time extremely characteristic of the Irish. They are, I believe, the only Christian people who have discovered, here on earth, an entrance to purgatory and the lower regions; and it is extraordinary that they should not only have ventured to place it among themselves, in the middle of their own country, but that their faith was so firm, and their imagination so strong, that the jugglery of the


monks was never discovered. The Greeks had their entrance to the infernal regions, into which the curious among them sometimes descended; but Homer places it far away from Greece, and Ulysses did not find it till after many years of wandering.

Like all Irish lakes, with the exception of the great Lough Neagh, Lough Derg is of a very irregular form, with a multitude of bays and creeks, and side branches. Its southern part narrows to a point, and at last ends abruptly in a little cul-de-sac. The mountains nearest the lake, Slievh Bernagh, Knockermaun, &c. are very beautiful, and covered with grass, trees, and houses. Somewhat farther off, towards the right, Mount Inchiquin, and to the left the Keeper, which is about 25,000 feet high, tower above them; while among these mountains the traveller perceives the famous Devil's Bite, a very strange and deep cut in the ridge of a mountain, the origin of which the Irish can explain in no other way than by a somewhat humorous attack made by the devil, who probably mistook the ridges for the back of a fat Irish pig. He, however, spat out the bite again, for there is to be found, somewhere in Ireland, a piece of a rock that exactly fits the aforesaid cut. At the very end of the cul-de-sac lies the little town of Killaloe.

One of the little glens on the right side of the lake is called Balley Valley, and the charming seat of the proprietor of the valley, which is situated in it, bears the same name. The last proprietor, an old man who had lived many years in this delightful corner, had lately died. The people told me how grieved he was at the approach of death; and that shortly before he died, when he felt his end drawing nigh, he caused himself to be rowed across to the other side of the lake, from whence he contemplated his property, the charming valley, the green leafy mountains, his beautifully situated house, which lay mirrored in the clear waters of the lake, which was all bathed in the warmest and most lovely sunshine of 1842. The natural charms and beauty of the surrounding country, which he had so long ruled as its owner, brought the tears into his eyes, and in despair he exclaimed: ‘O sweet Balley Valley! sweet Balley Valley! how can I leave thee!’ He then sank back on his seat, and once more he sighed, ‘O sweet Balley Valley! how can I leave thee!’ and passed away. Of a truth the earth has here such charms, particularly for an independent landowner, that such a sigh may be unavoidable in the hour of death. In such an hour one ought rather to wish he were a poor dweller in an Irish bog; for to him it must be much easier to exchange his black, swampy, charmless bit of ground, for the beauteous blue star-bespangled heaven.


Lough Derg, the boatmen told me, is from six to seven feet higher in winter than in summer, a very considerable increase for so large a piece of water. Although it lies under the same degree of latitude with the Prussian lakes, and the Curische Haff, which are frozen almost every winter, yet it is seldom entirely covered with ice, and is usually quite free from it. It is often frozen about the shores only, and the boatmen mentioned some severe winters in which the ice was ‘even four inches thick.’ It is forty years since the entire lake was frozen over so that carriages could drive across it.

A small steamer, which came alongside our vessel, was making its first experimental trip, and had on board some members of the Shannon Steam Navigation Company. It was built on a new plan, and consisted of two round boats shaped like cigars, and connected above by a common deck. The steam-engine was fixed upon deck, and the paddles struck the water quickly but not deeply. The people termed it ‘the cigar boat.’ The invention was highly extolled, and it was expected to float over the most shallow parts of the lakes and rivers. A dozen or two similar boats would be of great value upon the shallow and useless lakes of Germany.

Beyond Killaloe the rocks and rapids in the river again commence; and as the portion of the canal which is to avoid these unnavigable places was not yet completed, we had here the entertaining change of being transferred from the vessel, sack and pack, to a row of Irish cars, in which we proceeded to that part of the canal from whence the navigation to Limerick is uninterrupted. Our captain and his men galloped beside us on horseback, commanding and directing the procession. Having passed over some miles in this manner, we again embarked; but this time it was in a long canal-boat, drawn by a pair of horses. All this may appear somewhat wild and Irish, as such motley and changing modes of conveyance are no longer to be found in England. Our boat was divided into two parts. In the stern sat the passengers of quality, opposite each other, on two rows of seats; while in the forward part, on long benches, chatting and smoking, were squatted the Kerry and Tipperary men, and the temperance people—those who put faith in wonders, and feared fairies and spectres. I overcame my aversion to the rather uncleanly exterior of the latter, for the sake of the bud of the national Psyche, which in this class displays itself more unreservedly than among the former.

I have already mentioned the somewhat antiquated learning, even of the lower classes of the people of Kerry; and I now met


with a remarkable instance of it. In the bow of the boat sat a Kerryman, reading an old manuscript, which was written in the Irish language, and in the Celtic character. The manuscript consisted of several small and large sheets stitched together, which, to judge from the various colours and antiquity of the paper, must have been united to each other at very different periods. It was all, however, neatly and regularly written. Some, the man told me, he had added himself; some he had inherited from his father and grandfather; and some had, in all probability, been in his family long before them. I asked him what were its contents? ‘They are,’ answered he, ‘the most beautiful old Irish poems, histories of wonderful events, and stories and treatises of antiquity; for instance, the translation of a treatise by Aristotle on some subject of natural history!’ In all these matters I was yet a novice, and could hardly trust my ears; but I had afterwards ample opportunities of observing how interesting and unique all traditions are among the Irish—a people who believe that their written characters are the very same that the Phoenicians brought with them into the country; who ascribe a part of their ruins to the Eastern fire-worshippers; who in one breath tell all sorts of sayings of Aristotle, and anecdotes of George III.— (twice, methought, I heard them speak of Aristotle as a wise and mighty king of Greece, as if they had the same conception of him as of King Solomon)—a people who think that a Scythian king, who had wedded a daughter of the same Pharoah who drove out the Jews, conquered Spain, and from thence sailed over to Ireland. I inquired if there were any others on board who had manuscripts with them; when a man from the county of Clare opened his travelling chest, striped with blue paint, and from beneath nightshirts and boots drew out an old manuscript. I asked why they carried these writings about with them? They replied that they did not like to part from them, and they were fond of reading portions of them on their journeys. I afterwards saw several such manuscripts in the hands of the lower classes. Some are said to be written on parchment, and these are probably older than those I saw, which were always on paper.

From the narrow canal we now once more entered the beautiful broad Shannon, and just as evening approached, were landed on the quay of the city of Limerick.