WESTMEATH SOCIETY

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

The peasants are a healthy robust race, of warm temper, and somewhat prone to litigation: they are scrupulously observant of the performance of their vows and of the penances enjoined by their clergy. The women retain their maiden name after marriage; they perform the out-door work, bring the turf home in carts, and share in the labours of the field. The English language is everywhere spoken, except by some of the old people, and that only in ordinary conversation among themselves.

The habitations are poor; the roofs without ceilings, formed of a few couples, and supported by two or three props, over which the boughs of trees not stripped of their leaves are laid crossways, and these are covered with turf and thatched with straw. A hole in the roof gives vent to the smoke; and the bare ground constitutes the floor and hearth. An iron pot, two or three stools, a coarse deal table, and a dresser with a few plates and dairy vessels, form the whole of the furniture: the stock of provisions is meal and potatoes. The house-leek is encouraged to grow on the thatch, from a notion that it is a preservative against fire: the peasants make their horses swim in some of the lakes on Garlick Sunday, the second Sunday in August, to preserve them in health during the remainder of the year.

There is a chalybeate spa at Grangemore, near Killucan; but the water is little used, in consequence of the difficulty of access to the place. It bursts forth from the earth with great force and in a large and limpid stream; its channel is encrusted with an ochreous matter giving it a reddish cast, and the neighbouring soil is barren, being merely covered with a short grass and a few herbs. Westmeath gives the title of Marquess to the family of Nugent.

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