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neighbourhood. For instance, the very respectable landlord of the hotel where we put up (the Royal Mail Hotel) told me that he had only two years since obtained a lease for sixty years of the hotela house of considerable extent—and twenty acres of land adjoining, at a rental of 701. per annum.
I feel assured that such a property, in any town of England, could not be obtained for a rental of half as much more.
On putting the usual question to intelligent men in this district, as to the causes of the depressed state of Ireland, relatively to England and Scotland, I met with the answer I so often received elsewhere
- viz., that the main causes are: over-population, (now, however, remedied ;) defective capital among the landlords and farmers; and defective enterprise in all classes. The same statement was repeated in almost the identical words used in the south, that when farmers make a little money they keep it close, and live on it without more exertion; or they make their sons gentlemen, and they soon spend it for them. Still, the general belief and the general expression among impartial and intelligent men was, that Ireland was decidedly improving; that the people were better off; that there was more enterprise, such as it was—more work, more trade, and, above all, more HOPE.
We left Ballina for Sligo about noon, and reached the latter place early in the evening. Immediately on crossing the Ballina Bridge we entered the county of Sligo, the river Moy being the boundary between it and Mayo. The road, generally speaking, coasted the sea line, so that we were rarely out of sight of the open sea or of some of its manifold bays or inlets. These seaviews, always fine to the eye of passing travellers, constituted the chief, if not the only attractive features in this day's route.
We had, to be sure, for a considerable portion of the latter part of our journey, a fine range of hills on our right-hand, (the Lurgan hills,) the northern extremity of which we closely rounded at the small town of Ballysadere, about three miles from Sligo.
Ballysadere is beautifully situated at the foot of the Lurgan hills, and at the head of the southern horn of Sligo Bay, called Ardnaglass Harbour, and is rendered still more picturesque by being traversed by the united streams of the Owenbeg and Arrow, which rush with great impetuosity over a succession of rocky ledges 'so as to constitute a
series of fine rapids within the very precincts of the town. From this part of the road also, and indeed long before we reached Ballysadere, we had constantly in our eye the beautiful and finely-shaped hill of Knocknara, shooting up from the sea-bank at the entrance of Ardnaglass Harbour to the height of a thousand feet, crowned with a singular-looking isolated rock, which makes one doubt at first whether it is the work of nature or art.
The general aspect of the country, however, becomes greatly improved in regard both to cultivability and cultivation so
we enter the county of Sligo. The bogs are fewer and the farms are larger; and although the general style of the cottages could hardly be said to be much better, they presented decided indications of greater substance on the part of the cottagers. For the first time since commencing our journey, we began to recognise, as an ordinary attendant at the cabin door, that animal which has always been regarded as the familiar household friend of the Irish. In all parts of the country previously visited, we scarcely ever met with a pig in the cabin of a mere cottier, and their presence was even rare in the homesteads of the small farmer. The race, as formerly mentioned, had almost been extirpated by the dire necessities of the year of famine, and the poverty of the people had hitherto prevented its regeneration.
We had other indications, also, of the improved
condition of the people during this day's journey. Almost for the first time, in Ireland, we saw an orchard now and then adjoining a small farm-house, and in one cottage garden, at least, we gladly recognised, (and for the first time also,) that emblem of cheerful industry, a bee-hive.
What a contrast is presented by the wayside cottages of England, need not be said ; but I fear it must be said that so general an absence of the bee,—the only profitable stock that involves no outlay,—is a melancholy proof that the Irish cottagers are far behind their English brethren even in the desire to work out their own comfort. But the want, or comparative feebleness of this desire, indicated by so many other things in the cottage-life of Irelạnd, is also, I believe, a proof of another want for which the cottagers of Ireland cannot be made responsible, -I mean the want of that more instructed and more well-to-do class of small gentry which is scattered so plentifully throughout the villages and rural districts of England.
Absenteeism of the great lords and lairds is, no doubt, one of the main sources of the evils of Ireland ; but the absenteeism,-or, to speak more justly, the want or deficiency of the class referred to,-is fraught with still worse consequences.
It is greatly from the example, counsel, and assistance of this class of persons,—well termed the middle class, as being the link between the rich and poor,—that the lowest members of the community derive the inclination and the means of increasing their own comforts and of improving their position in life. With such a middle class as this interspersed among the peasantry, and with a resident Aristocracy like that of England, ever ready to co-operate in all schemes of relief and improvement relating to the poor, we should, I think, soon find a wonderful change in the industrial habits and the domestic comforts of the people of Ireland. At present, they have few friends and patterns and advisers of this sort, except their priests, whose enforced poverty and defective domestic relations deprive them of much of the power to aid them, which their inclination would unquestionably lead them to exercise if they had the means. For much, therefore, if not for all their social deficiencies and inferiority, the peasantry of Ireland are to be pitied not condemned; they are unfortunate, not criminal.
In the actual and most unhappy relations in which the Church establishment stands to the great body of the poor (the Catholics) of Ireland, the parochial English clergy and their families are most inadequate substitutes for the pattern class referred to, and can generate only an infinitesimal portion of that amount of social good which flows over the whole soil of England from the thousand homesteads of her clergy. For obvious reasons, the exertions of the pastors of the Established Church