J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter V-3 | Start of chapter

Athlone is the last town in Connaught through which the traveller passes on this road; in fact, only a portion of it lies in that province, as it is situated on both sides of the Shannon, which here divides the counties of Roscommon and Westmeath; the connecting link between them being the old narrow bridge, the approaches to which are through confined and dirty lanes, in which all the numerous obstructions of an old Irish street appear to have been collected. This bridge was built in the early part of Elizabeth's reign, by an architect named Peter Levis (who was also a dignitary of Christ Church, Dublin), under the superintendence of Sir Henry Sidney. All this is recorded on a monument, which contains in one of its compartments the figure of a man in a clerical habit, grasping in his right hand a pistol, or something which has been conjectured to represent one. Upon this weapon appears an animal resembling a rat in the act of biting the thumb of the man's hand.

There is a curious story related of this sculpture:—it is said, that the figure of the man represents Peter Levis, at one time a monk in an English monastery, who, having adopted the reformed mode of faith, came to Ireland, and obtained preferment in the Protestant Church. But the converted monk, though fortunate in his worldly ambition, could never enjoy his prosperity; he was tormented night and day by a good Catholic rat, who, indignant at his apostacy, haunted him at bed and board. For a length of time he bore patiently with this annoyance, until one day, descending from the pulpit where he had been preaching, he perceived the filthy animal hidden in the sleeve of his gown. Unable longer to master his rage, he drew a pistol from his breast, and thought to shoot his persecutor; but before he could execute his intention, the rat sprung at his hand and bit him in the thumb. The wound produced mortification, which terminated in the death of the unfortunate Peter Levis.

Athlone is one of the principal military stations in Ireland; its central situation, in a cheap and fertile country, rendering it desirable quarters for the army. The best view of the country around the town is to be obtained from the hill on which the battery is erected. The prospect from thence is certainly extensive, but almost wholly destitute of pictorial interest. Looking eastward, I had close upon my left, Lough Ree, which in fact, is only an extension of the Shannon, that in its course expands into no fewer than five great river-lakes, besides several lesser sheets of water, forming an important feature in the diversified character of this magnificent river. Behind me lay the unpicturesque tract through which I had been travelling; before me stretched the undulating hills, rich meadows, and broad pastures of Westmeath; while on the south, as far as the eye could reach, the Shannon, after issuing from Lough Ree, swept its heavy waters through a vast and naked plain.