From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837
There are but few resident noblemen or gentry of large estates: the mansions and demesnes deserving of notice are described in their respective parishes. There are few parts of Ireland in which persons of limited income can live cheaper or better than here. In the towns are plentiful and cheap markets for beef, mutton, fowl, and fresh water fish, wild fowl in abundance, and the water fowl free from the fishy flavour of those from the sea coast. Cod and haddock from Galway, and oysters from the same shores, may be obtained at moderate prices.
The diet and mode of living of the small farmers and others is very indifferent: they scarcely ever taste flesh meat, and not often anything but potatoes; yet they are strong, healthy, and active, and their general appearance is prepossessing. The women wear scarlet cloaks, with hoods, which they seldom use, as they cover their heads with handkerchiefs: the rest of their dress consists indifferently of cotton chequer and linsey-woolsey.
Those of the lowest order travel barefoot, carrying their shoes and stockings in their hands, till they draw near their place of destination; their fuel is invariably turf, which can be procured in great abundance and of very superior quality. Coal is sometimes brought by the canal for the use of the wealthier classes, but even these generally burn turf. The prevalent diseases are inflammatory and putrid fever in summer and autumn, and ague, which latter is generally contracted in Meath, whither the labourers go to the harvest, and where they suffer much from the scarcity of fuel, which they had enjoyed in plenty at home.
The lower orders are shrewd, intelligent, and industrious, fond of manly exercises and amusements, such as foot-ball, hurling, and wrestling, but on Sunday evenings the chief and invariable amusement is dancing. They are of a very proud and independent spirit, which manifests itself most conspicuously in their great repugnance to hire as servants, an occupation considered by them to be highly disreputable; hence they remain at home living in penury in a cabin and on a small patch of ground.
They are exceedingly litigious, ever ready to have recourse to the law upon the most trivial subjects; they are also extremely superstitious: the first day of the year and of the month or week is considered the most proper times to commence an undertaking. No one removes to a new habitation on a Friday. A large candle is lighted on Christmas night, and suffered to burn out: should it be extinguished by accident, or otherwise, before it be completely burned away, it is considered as a certain prognostic of the death of the head of the family. The first of May and Midsummer-day are observed with great regularity, as are all the other festivals usual throughout the country: that of Hallow Eve concludes with a supper of boiled wheat buttered and sweetened, called Granbree.
In the summer months, many individuals set out on pilgrimages either to holy wells in the vicinity, or to Lough Derg, in Donegal, to which latter place persons in affluent circumstances have been known to walk barefoot as a penance. The places at which violent or sudden deaths have occurred, particularly if near a road, are marked by heaps of stones, to which every passenger deems it a duty incumbent on him to add one. The Irish language is scarcely ever heard, except in the mountainous districts among the old people; adults and children everywhere speak English. Of the ancient families of this county, scarce any traces now remain: titles of the most romantic kind were assumed and borne by the heads of several clans, all of which have long since fallen into disuse.
From a sad, comfortless childhood Giles Truelove developed into a reclusive and uncommunicative man whose sole passion was books. For so long they were the only meaning to his existence. But when fate eventually intervened to have the outside world intrude upon his life, he began to discover emotions that he never knew he had.
This is a story for the genuine booklover, penned by an Irish bookseller under the pseudonym of Ralph St. John Featherstonehaugh.
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