Facts of Gweedore

But details must be left: Facts from Gweedore, should be in the hand and heart of every landlord who may have anything to do in difficulties like these. Let him visit these comfortable cottages, supplied with decencies, to cause the inmates to feel that they are human; let him see the industry of the women and the becoming clothing of the peasantry; let him visit the store, the mill, the union-house, school-house, and dispensary; and while he is doing all this, let his home be for a few days in that well-ordered hotel, and notice the consistency of the whole; and if he can, let him go and do likewise. If he cannot, let him retrace all his steps, and impartially decide how far his own negligence, improvidence, love of ease, and indifference to the real good of his tenantry, may have contributed to bring him into this state. If he have not capital, like Lord George Hill, where is his capital? Have horses, coaches, hunting dogs, and hunting dinners frittered it away? Then woe betide him, his day is over, who can help him? The school-house at Bunbeg, near this store, is not a small item in this great work. The room is 25 feet by 15, lofty and well-ventilated. The teacher has a dwelling under the same roof; and when I visited it all was order and comfort. The girls are taught sewing, for of this the people are quite ignorant, and it may safely be presumed that Lord George would not restrict their advance in education to certain bounds, lest their talents should transcend their station in life.

I spent a Sabbath in that quiet hotel, and attended the Church service, which was then conducted in the schoolroom; a house of worship was in progress, but not ready to be opened. The female tenantry who were at home, walking upon the street, or calling into the hotel, always had their knitting-work in motion whenever I saw them, and such a surplus of stockings as amounted to about £200, was then on hand, all of which the females had been paid for knitting. "They shall not be idle," said his lordship, "though the work is on my hands unsold." His family residence is located about twenty miles from Gweedore, but he and his wife were at the hotel the evening that I reached it, and meeting him in the morning in the hall—supposing him to be some respectable appendage to the house—made inquiries concerning it; and not till he made some remarks respecting my self-denying travels in Ireland, did I find my mistake. I saw at once the secret of his mighty achievements; his simplicity was his dignity and strength. He had struggled hard during the famine to keep his tenantry from suffering, without much foreign aid, had sacrificed much, and difficulties were increasing. The next winter the hotel was closed for a time; sickness had made inroads into the house, and death likewise; but it was re-opened the next season, under more encouraging auspices.

This man has proved to a demonstration what can be done even with the most hopeless, and under the most discouraging circumstances; for if Lord George Hill could transform those wild mountain goats, even to common civilized bullocks, what could not be done with any and all of the wild game of Ireland? Pity, great pity, that so few have applied the right key to the Irish heart! Still greater pity that so few believe there is a key that can find a right entrance; give Lord George Hill a patent right, and let all who will improve it, and Ireland will arise.

Now, in 1850, he writes, "Say that no person died of famine at Gweedore, though many of the aged and infants, from being scantily fed, died earlier than otherwise they would, as well as from change of diet; also that the people are reviving in a great degree, from the potatoe having held out this year."

Lord George Hill is an Irishman of the Hillsborough family, in the county Down, brother to the late and uncle to the present Marquis of Downshire, a true Irishman, who lives and acts for his country.

Two miles from Gweedore an English gentleman had fixed a residence on the woody side of a hill, with a fine lake at a little distance, who was attracted there by the beauty of the scenery, and a desire to enjoy the evening of his days in a romantic peaceful retirement among a peasantry which pleased him; and his wife and daughters were quite an acquisition to the scattered intelligent class, which dotted the wild scenery there. His family were then in England, and when I met him a few weeks after in Derry, he said, "I waited all day to see you, but when you come again we shall not be disappointed." He died a few weeks after, and left a sad breach in the hearts of many.

This little incident is named to show how much the English, who go to Ireland because they admire the country, and justly appreciate the people, are beloved. They are always mentioned with the greatest admiration where they have behaved with a proper condescension and kindness to the people.

Read "Annals of the Famine in Ireland" at your leisure

Annals of the Famine in Ireland

Read Annals of the Famine in Ireland at your leisure and help support this free Irish library.

This book still has the power to shock and sadden even though the events described are ever-receding further into the past. When you read, for example, of the poor widowed mother who was caught trying to salvage a few potatoes from her landlord's field, and what the magistrate discovered in the pot in her cabin, you cannot help but be apalled and distressed.

The text of this new edition has professionally been reset and an index added to the paperback.


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