MAYO SOCIETY

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

The condition and appearance of the peasantry differ much in different parts. In the districts about Westport and Newport the people were formerly in comfortable circumstances, uniting the occupations of farmer, weaver, and fisherman; but for several years the change in their circumstances for the worse has been very great, which has been attributed to the decline in the linen trade, the subdivision of farms, and early and improvident marriages.

The peasantry, particularly in the pasturing districts, where extensive farms are held in common, live in villages; detached cabins are sometimes to be met with; their habitations are built in some parts of uncemented stone, in others of sods or mud, on a stone foundation; they are roofed chiefly with bog timber, which is never of sufficient size to furnish rafters except for the smallest cabins: the price of foreign timber prevents its general use. Their cabins hence have an appearance even more miserable than those in other parts of Ireland. In the mountainous districts, and on the borders of the bog, the habitations are peculiarly wretched, indicating the greatest poverty. In Gallen the houses are built of dry walls dashed with mortar, and have generally a chimney and two partitions, besides a recess called a hag, sunk in the side wall opposite the fire, which contains a bed, and is screened by a straw mat hung up for a curtain.

The fuel is universally turf; the food, potatoes, oaten bread, milk, and herrings; and the clothing, chiefly a dark-coloured frieze manufactured by themselves, with thicksets and cotton occasionally. The women were formerly clothed in home-made stuffs, flannels, and friezes, and, like those of Galway, the short jacket and petticoat was of red flannel or frieze; the jacket has in most instances given way to a cotton gown, but the deep crimson petticoat is still worn throughout the greater part of the county. The Irish language is generally spoken by the old inhabitants, but young people almost everywhere speak English, and many of the children, even in the mountain districts and along the sea shore, are unacquainted with the Irish language.

Every village has its code of laws established by the inhabitants: differences which cannot be accommodated in this manner were referred to the proprietor of the estate, or his agent; but now they are generally carried to the sessions; this rude system of village law is said to give rise to much strife and pertinacious litigation. A place is shewn near Dunmore town, in Addergoole parish, where, after a violent fall of rain accompanied with a dreadful and unusual noise, the workmen at a turbary perceived the bog, to the extent of ten acres, floating after them till it spread over a piece of low pasture which it entirely covered to the extent of thirty acres. Mayo gives the titles of Earl and Viscount to the Burke family.

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