Irish Devotedness

[From the Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 10, September 1, 1832]

The following story is told of a retainer of O'Sullivan, lord of Bear and Bantry, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. O'Sullivan's strong hold had been sacked and destroyed by the English-not even a cow, garrane, goat, or sheep, had been left-and so, O'Sullivan, consigning the care of his wife and child to his faithful gossip, Gorrane M'Swiney, retreated to Ulster, in the hope of being able to retrieve his cause.

Gorrane, whose whole soul was in his charge, returned with them to a boolie he had set up under the foot of the Eagle's precipice at Glengariff. This boolie, or hut, was so contrived that Wilmot and his Saxon devils, (as Gorrane called them,) might scour the mountain over and never see it, or suspect that there was in such a desert a human habitation. It was erected against the face of a rocky ridge, the roof sloping down till it touched the moor, was covered with scraws and sods of heath, so that the place was undistinguishable from the shelving slope of the mountain, and the entrance a long, distant and winding passage in the rock, and charcoal burned on the hearth for fire-it was secure from suspicion. But how was the princess of Bear and Bantry to be supported, not a cow was there to give milk, no corn, nor root, nor pulse. Gorrane had one salted salmon wrapped up in a cow's hide; that was all his provision when they entered the boolie, and where to go to seek for food, Gorrane knew not under heaven, famine had spread over the southern land-as Spencer says, "the people of Munster were brought to such wretchedness, that even a heart of stone would have rued to see the same; for out of every corner of the woods and glyness they came creeping forth on their hands and knees, for their legs could not bear them; they looked like anatomies of death, they spake like ghosts crying out of their graves; they did eat the dead carrion, happy were they when they could find them; yea and one another, sometime after; insomuch that the very carcases they spared not to scrape out of their graves, and if they found a plot of water cresses and shamrock, there they flocked as to a feast."

In this extremity of desolation was the south-west of Cork and Desmond, when Gorrane took home his charge to his boolie, and the poor fosterer knew not what to do -all his trust was that God was good, and the Virgin Mother his protectress, would not fail him in his hour of need. And as thus one morning he was ruminating, he rambled under the precipice where year after year the eagles of the valley had nested and reared their young; and looking up, he saw one of these huge birds sailing on steady wing with a hare within its talons, and now it alighted on its rock-nest, and anon the young eagles were shrieking with triumph over the divided prey. "Arrah now is it not the greatest pity in life that these young hell birds that look for all the world like the childer of these cramming beef-eating devils the Saxon churls-my heavy curse light upon them all-that these greedy guts should be after swallowing the game that nobody has any right to, but O'Sullivan; and my sweet mistress and her little ones, all the while starving. Now, it's I that have a thought in my head, which no living soul but the Virgin herself could have put into it, and its myself knows what I will do." So home Gorrane went, and all day long he was seen busy twisting firmly with all his might, a rope made from the fibres of the bog-fir, and towards evening he took out from his store, his salmon, and gave the greater part to be broiled for supper, and long before the following day break, Gorrane got up from his bed of heath, and he awoke Phadrig his son, a boy of about fourteen years old, "Phadrig avich get up, come along with me." The boy, light and active, was beside him in an instant, and out they both started-the father with his wooden rope in his hand. Just as the day was breaking, they came to the brink of the mountain ridge that ascends from the precipitous valley, where the eagles build their nest; and just as they arrived at the verge of the chasm, they saw the old eagles soaring away to meet the sun and to seek for their prey over land and sea. "Phadrig a cushla, look down there," says the father, "look down below and see that bird's nest-down there you must go by the help of this rope; if you have any regard for the life of the mother that bore you, and of the sweet mistress, for whom we are bound to live or spend our blood and die. You must go down by the help of this rope, and tie these straps that I will give you round the necks of yonder gaping greedy guts; don't choak them for the life of you, but just tie there ugly necks so tight that not one morsel can they swallow." "And now father sure it's I myself that would desire no better sport than to get down and wring their necks off, and bring them up to you; but, sure father the Lady O'Sullivan must be cruel hungry when she would eat eagles." "O that would not do at all at all Phadrig jewel, that would be the spoiling without the cure of the whole thing-no, my honey, handle them gently, treat the nasty things as if they were your mother's daughters-only do, Phadrig, just as I bid you." "Well, father, mind you hold tight, and I will do your bidding." So Gorrane fastened well the rope about the boy's waist and between his legs, and down he lowered him in the name of God and all the saints. The youth soon got to the nest-as he was bid, tightened well the necks of the young eaglets, so that they could not swallow; then he was safely drawn up. For an hour or two the father and son waited near the nest, and at length were gratified with seeing the old ones come soaring down the wind, one with a rabbit, another with a grouse in his talons, which they deposited in the nest and after a time flew away.

"Now Phadrig avourneen down with you again, and to be sure it's I that will hold you tight-gut the game, throw the garbage to the young ones, its right and nathral they should have it, and bring up under your two arms O'Sullivan's rightful property." All this the boy did with address and exhibition; and in this manner were the family in the boolie fed, until the English retreated from the country, and the wife of O'Sullivan and her faithful followers could reach a place of safety.-Sketches in Ireland.