Ejectments - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

« previous page | book contents | start of this chapter | next page »

there were always many ejectments; and I have seen them signed by Assistant-Barristers by hundreds in one sheaf. They were then placed in the hands of bailiffs and police, and came down upon some devoted townland with more terrible destruction than an enemy's sword and torch. Whole neighbourhoods were often thrown out upon the highways in winter, and the homeless creatures lived for a while upon the charity of neighbours; but this was dangerous, for the neighbours were often themselves ejected for harbouring them. Some landlords contracted with emigration companies to carry them to America "for a lump sum," according to the advertisements I cited before. Others did not care what became of them; and hundreds and thousands perished every year, of mere hardship.

All this seems a tale of incredible horror. But there are in these United States, this moment, at least one million of persons, each of whom knows the truth of every word I have written, and could add to my general statement, circumstances of horror and atrocity, that might make one tremble with rage as he reads.

The Irish are peculiarly attached to their homesteads; and, like all people of poetic temperament, surround their homes and hearths with more tender associations than a race of duller perception could understand. Take, from a volume published in '44, one ejectment tableau

"Having swept from every corner towards the door, she now took the gatherings by handfuls, and flung them high into the air, to be scattered by the winds. Having next procured some salt upon a plate, she went again through every part of the dwelling, turning the salt over and over with her fingers as she went. This lustral visit finished, she divided the salt into separate parcels, which she handed to those without, with directions for its farther distribution.

"She now wrenched from the threshold the horse shoe which the Irish peasantry generally nail upon it, imputing to it some mystic influence; after which, standing erect, with one foot within the house and the other outside, she signed the sign of the Cross on her brow and on her breast. This strange ceremony was concluded by a sweeping motion of the hand towards the open air, and a similar one in the contrary direction, attended by a rapid movement of the lips, as though she muttered some conjuration. A reverent inclination of her body followed, and again she made the holy sign; then, drawing herself up to her full stature, she took her place among the children, and, without casting a look upon the desecrated cabin, she departed from the place."

It is but fair to tell, that sometimes an ejecting landlord or agent was shot by desperate, houseless men. What wonder? There were not half enough of them shot. If the people had ...continue reading »

« previous page | book contents | start of this chapter | next page »

Page 67