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olden time graced its little islets. I had some difficulty in effecting my way through Virginia ; it was, as usual, market-day, and the assemblage of grey frieze coats was something wonderful to contemplate.
Beyond Virginia I began to rise up the hilly land that divided the head-waters of the Boyne from those flowing into Lough Erne. The perpetual limestone of central Ireland dipped more or less to the south on the south side, to the north on the north, and that at high angles of inclination, cropping out here and there in barren rocky knolls. There were also many small lakes and bogs abounding in water-fowl.
Cavan wears a rather imposing aspect to the approaching traveller. A college or school of magnificent proportions, and a county jail, domineer over the town like feudal castles, and herald the way to a goodly city with wealthy shops, several churches, an infirmary, and other public buildings—and what is not of least importance to the wayfarer-a good inn and an attentive hostess. This city has acquired, somehow or other, a repute for loyalty, and having once obtained this repute, has been solicitous to uphold it. The fact is, that rebellions never prospered much in this accessible county ; Cavan is without the defiles of Ulster, and was hence generally under vassalage. In the early part of the fourteenth century, the MacTiarnans having ventured to try their hands with Niall O'Neill, the MacMahons, the O'Kellys, the O'Ferrall's, and other chieftains, in a struggle against English rule, they were defeated, and five-and-twenty of their chiefs were taken and beheaded on the spot. One of the Reillys of Cavan was, however, so loyal in the time of the great Earl of Tyrone, as to be designated the “Queen's” O'Reilly, and at the head of a regiment of Irish cavalry he not only covered the retreat of the English at the Blackwater disaster, but he sealed his attachment to the English government on that occasion with his life. The O'Reilly's were certainly implicated in the disastrous rebellion headed by Sir Phelim O'Neill in 1641, but they sheltered themselves under a pretended hostility to the puritan or parliamentary party, as expressed in a well-known document drawn up by Bedell, the protestant Bishop of Kilmore, and called “the Remonstrance of the Gentry and Commonalty of the County of Cavan."
I wished on leaving Cavan to have proceeded directly to the picturesque scenery of Loch Erne, but the great tract of country which lay to my right, the exploration of which could not be made to enter into a proposed retum by the eastern coast, obliged me to forego that wish for a time. I accordingly took the road to Monaghan, and that in so dense a fog, that I might as well have been travelling at the bottom of the said lake itself as far as scenery was concerned. Out of this mist great crows emerged ever and anon, so close as to threaten bumps like, but more formidable than, such as are inflicted on a summer's evening by reckless black beetles.
A circular white gable end, a pig in the gutter, and an urchin crying, announced a village-Ballyhays, on the river Annalee-to every appearance cleanly and thriving, with an active resident landlord, and built as if upon some preconceived plan, of which a pentagonal market-place, roofs of peculiar appearance, and circular gables, constituted the more superficial and consequently striking features. As I was riding through this village, a man in a state of matitutinal inebriety (it was scarcely yet eight A.M.), seized my pony by the reins, asking at the same time who I
was, and then, before he could get an answer, which was somewhat de
layed by laughter, announced himself as a son of Daniel O'Connell's. I subsequently learnt, to my regret, that this man was a schoolmaster in this nice little village.
A long, cold, dreary ride, part by the well-preserved demesne of Scot's House, lay between me and Clones. The latter was one of the oldest and most advanced positions held by the English on the borders of Ulster. When King John visited Ireland, he effected a division of the English Pale into twelve counties, among which neither Fermanagh nor Monaghan are included. But in the lifetime of the same monarch one of the heads of the church militant, John de Grey, Bishop of Norwich, more warlike than episcopal in his tastes and pursuits, gave a considerable increase to the Pale by the erection of the Castles of Athlone, Cael-Uisge, and Clones. As at Athlone, however, so at Clones, the patron saints of Ireland had a previous footing, and it is well known that the Irish in those early times put as much confidence in the anger
of their saints for discomfiting and injuring their enemies, as in their own prowess. Accordingly, when the tower of Athlone Castle fell and killed Richard Tuite, one of the most powerful of the English barons of Meath, it was Saint Kieran who did it; and when O'Neill made an assault upon the English at Clones, and Meiler, the son of Robert Fitz Henry, fell with many other English knights, it was the patron saint that inspired the deed. As to Cael-Uisge, nothing is known of it further than that it was given in charge to an ancestor of the family of the Costellos, renowned in war and in literature, and that one O'Hegny burnt it, after having slain an unfortunate Gilbert Mac Costello.
Ver mac atque, O tu veros cognoscis Hibernos
His duobus demptis, nullus Hibernus adest.* I cannot help remarking here, that in all the histories of Ireland hitherto published scarcely an attempt has been made to establish the actual locality of sites and places of secondary historical importance. Even in as comparatively recent times as those of Queen Elizabeth, the campaigns of Shane O'Neill, and of the other chieftains of Ulster, are perfectly incomprehensible as given in Irish histories. We read, for example, that O'Neill moved his camp from Carrickleith, and, having crossed the Finn, he advanced into the heart of Tirconnell
, and encamped at a place called by the Irish writers Bally-Aighidhchaoin. It would scarcely be imagined that the perfect comprehension of so simple a statement is very much impeded by the fact that the site of BallyAighidhchaoin in the sixteenth century is as unknown as that of CaelUisge in the thirteenth. I could bring a hundred other instances of the same superficial mode of writing history for the students of the nineteenth century. The fact is, that archæology and comparative geography ought to go hand-in-hand; a careful study of the olden Irish baronies to be found in the published reports would assist much in the inquiry, but no history of Ireland is deserving of being so called which contents itself * Bad Latin and an inelegant distich, which reads better in English :
By Mac and o
You'll always know
For if they lack
Both O and Mac,
with passing over all that wants to be cleared up as not worth the research.
To return, however, to my subject. In 1211 or 1212 Hugh O'Neill attacked the castle of Clones, and burnt it. It was soon, however, recovered by the English ; and the abbey, originally founded in the sixth century, was rebuilt, probably in order to propitiate the local saints. Clones abounds to the present day in remains of olden time; among the most interesting are three Danish forts, one of which is surrounded by three fosses, in which water is still to be found. Of the abbey only the walls and a window remain, but attached to it is a round tower of great height (eighty feet) and noble proportions. There is a remarkable cross in the market-place ; and in the cemetery are several curious circular tombstones with sculptured crowns, flowers, hour-glasses, bells, &c., and inscriptions in Irish. It is to be hoped that an increasing appreciation of the monuments of the past will save them from constant desecration. The round tower of Clones ought to be under the especial protection of one of those public officers called by the Romans “Curatores Cloacarum.” Yet a spring, said to possess antibilious (purgative ?) qualities, was quite dry at the time of
visit. The road from Clones to Monaghan is at its commencement as straight as if laid down with Roman precision; and there was no want of cultivation and country-houses to cheer the wayfarer. Monaghan, unlike Kells and Clones, has to rely for distinction more upon edifices of modern times than relics of olden. The church is a handsome structure, only just completed ; a pentagonal tower of the old abbey stands close by. The court-house, with its two columns for a portico, would do well for a porter's lodge in this country. There are cavalry barracks and other public buildings. The inn, as in all the well-frequented places hitherto passed through, is everything that can be wished for; but, as in other instances, the town itself is made up of one-storied cottages of the most humble description--mere huts of the peasantry, whose ambition, like the Eastern's, seldom soars beyond that of a leisurely independence, full of privations, and engendering discord and discontent.
Monaghan was the country of the MacMahons, a sept as pugnacious although less powerful than its neighbours. In the time of Henry VI., Manus MacMahon distinguished himself by his inveterate hostility against the English, and the Irish annalists tell us that he ornamented the enclosure of the garden of his house at Baile-na-Lurgan by fixing Englishmen's ghastly heads on the tops of the stakes of the fence, “ hideous and horrible spectacles to the beholders.” Another chief of the same family, Brian MacMahon, however, joined the English against his kinsman Manus, and marched with them against Armagh, where they collected a great booty, and levied contributions, without “ making any distinction between laymen and ecclesiastics.” Mr. Wright has printed, from the first volume of the “State Papers relating to Ireland,” a picture of the condition of Ireland in 1515, by which we find the MacMahons of Irish Uriel (now county of Monaghan) enumerated among the independent chieftains of Ulster-“History of Ireland," p. 275. When, in 1539, the dissolution of the Irish monasteries had been resolved upon, the monastery of Monaghan, we are told in the “ Annals of the Four Masters,” was only destroyed by force, and the guardian and some of the belligerent friars were beheaded.
In the time of Queen Elizabeth, MacMahon, in imitation of other Ulster chieftains, surrendered his country to the queen, and received a grant thereof under the broad seal of England to him and his heirs male, and, in default of such, to his brother Hugh. But MacMahon dying in 1589, Sir William Fitzwilliam had Hugh thrown into prison, indicted for treason, arraigned, and executed in his own house. The whole of Monaghan was then declared forfeited to the queen, and was divided into estates, the chief of which were granted to Sir Henry Bagnall and Lord Blaney. It must not be omitted, however, to notice that some of Hugh Roe's kinsmen were implicated in this abominable transaction, and came in for a division of the spoil. Monaghan was invested several times by the great O'Neill, or Tyrone, as he is more commonly called by the English writers, but it was relieved by Bagnall on one occasion, and by the hand-to-hand struggle at Clontibret on another. In the second insurrection in the north that occurred in the reign of Elizabeth, Monaghan was recorquered by the Irish, and, as usual, with the more exposed frontiers, suffered most for its rebellion; for Mountjoy “finding MacMahon, chief of Monaghan, to stand upon proud terms (though otherwise making suit to be received to mercy), his lordship spoiled and ransacked all that country.” The day of retribution was not long in coming, and most fearful were the reprisals of an insulted, a plundered, and a persecuted population. At the time of the great rebellion headed by Sir Phelim O'Neill, Brian MacMahon, the head of the sept, was one of the most distinguished characters of an insurrection which was characterised by more fearful crimes and disastrous incidents than any of the numberless internecine wars, the memory of which still remains attached to this unfortunate country, and the blood of which still ferments in many a dark and overshadowed recess.
“ It is difficult,” says Leland, vol. iii. p. 86, alluding to these massacres, “ if not impossible, for a subject of Ireland to write of the transactions now to be explained without offending some or all of those discordant parties who have been habituated to view them through the medium of their passions and prepossessions.” It is, perhaps, equally difficult for an Englishman to write, except in the language of horror and abhorrence, of such savage reprisals
. Even at this distant period of time, I cannot but acknowledge that the memory of the massacres of the seventeenth century hung like a cloud over a country already sombre-looking enough by nature. The cultivated limestone hills that lie between Monaghan and Armagh, the old square-turreted castle and ruined abbey, met with half-way, afforded no relief. As the apparitions at Portadown Bridge appeared to the survivors, so women and children passed before my mind's eye, driven like dogs, and goaded with pikes and swords, till 'some dark river received them in its Lethe-like bosom, or they were hurried into an isolated hut, and there burnt in one sad crowd. It did not require much exercise of imagination to picture to oneself the Irish cow-boy, who
ould boast that his hands were so weary with killing and knocking down Protestants into a bog-pit, that he could hardly lift his arms to his head; nor was the sense of hearing so very perverse, which could revive the shouts of frenzied joy of Ligoole priests, as they re-echoed so Christian-like a sentiment as, “Oh, how sweetly do they fry!" or the ribaldry of the more ignorant, who took
pride in imitating the cries of the sufferers, and in exemplifying how the children gaped when the fire began to burn them !
Armagh, with the same dark pages in history as other cities of Ulster -as the capital even subjected to still more varying fortunes—suddenly rose above these sombre lands and melancholy thoughts, like a Pharos upon the Black Sea. Its pious and learned institutions, its homes of sanctity, and its strongholds of knowledge, justly entitle it to this advantage of position as well as moral pre-eminence.
Rising up the acclivities of a gentle eminence, crowned by the cathedral, which is built in the form of a cross, the tower springing up from the point of intersection of the four compartments, Armagh resembles most other Irish towns in its suburbs of huts and streets of cottages ; but there is one part of the town which is more aristocratic than the other, or, in other words, rather better off. Still the effect is the same—that of a congregation of dwellings around a feudal castle, only here the castle is represented by a cathedral.
The scenery of Cavan, Monaghan, and Armagh, it may be observed, possesses none of those striking features which are met with in most of the northern districts of Ulster; but there is much, peculiar to each county, that merits close examination and well-deserved eulogy. In Cavan there are few or no level tracts; all is hilly ; and the proportions of barren or moorland, and of arable or pasture lands, varies constantly. In Monaghan, amid much cultivation and extensive plantations, we have more levels and bog-lands ; indeed a proportion of the latter of nearly 30,000 acres to 140,000. In Armagh, again, with greater variety of surface and soil—for the perpetual limestone begins to vary in its constituents on proceeding northwards—we have only 20,000 acres of bog and waste to oppose to 158,000 acres of arable or pasture lands. The hills in Armagh also possess a gentle slope, and for the most part a fertile soil ; but still, with these natural advantages, it is impossible not to feel that, upon contrasting the cultivated lands of Armagh, and their neat enclosures, with those of the like natural features in some neighbouring counties, we cannot attribute the bleak and inhospitable appearance of the latter to anything but a neglect of that industry which has operated so conspicuously in improving the appearance of the first-mentioned more favoured county.
It would be an endless and unprofitable labour to record the battles that Armagh has witnessed, or the sieges, sackings, and burnings that it has undergone. A seat of learning, riches, and
power, in the heart of a country of as fierce, predatory, and warlike a people as ever occupied a tract of land of such limited dimensions in any part of the known world, it would be a wonder had it escaped. The ravages of Danes and Norwegians are evidently not to be laid to this score ; but the rebels who murdered Murtough 'O’Lochlin, Prince of Tyrone, in 1196, a man who is described by his countrymen as the “destroyer of the cities and castles of the English, and founder of churches and fair sanctuaries,” and then ravaged his chief city, fairly come under that category:
The Irish annalists tell us that the English, in the time of the rebellion of Shane O'Neill, plundered Armagh twice in the space of one month. This, however, was long after both church and monasteries had been despoiled of their riches. The Earl of Sussex was the first to fortify the city