Jimmy Cuffe

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER VII (2) start of chapter

It is now about seventeen years since a little Irishman from Roscommon, named James Cuffe, settled in the island. Low-sized, but broad-shouldered, well-knit and vigorous as a 'four year old,' Jimmy Cuffe, like thousands of his race in America, possessed only that species of capital which may be easily carried across ocean and over mountain—which rust cannot consume nor moth devour, but which, although the wonder-worker of civilisation, is often blindly despised by those who will alone believe in bullion or bank notes;—it consisted of his strong pair of arms and his brave heart. Literally, he had not a penny in his pocket; nor indeed—at that time at least—could he 'take a shine' out of his reading and writing. But so resolutely did the little Connaught man—in whose composition, it may be remarked, there was not the faintest suspicion of the Anglo-Saxon—labour at his calling, 'morning and night, early and late,' that he rapidly became a thriving man; and Jimmy Cuffe is now the proprietor in fee-simple of 800 acres of rich land, which it would be difficult to match in Roscommon; with a fine house, a stable full of good horses, spacious barns, cattle and stock of every kind—in a word, everything that the heart of any rational Irishman could desire. He drives his family to church in a spring waggon, drawn by a pair of good horses, 'as grand as the Lord Mayor of London, or as any real gentleman in the ould country.' I happened to be in Kingston the day Jimmy Cuffe came in to take up the bill on which he had raised the purchase-money for his latest acquisition of 200 acres. It was rather a large sum, but the produce of his harvest enabled him to do so without embarrassment. And Jimmy's sharp grey eye glistened, as he told how he had got along, and succeeded not only in 'making a man of himself, thank God,' but—what pleased him quite as much —in buying out the old settlers—a class rather inclined to think little of what the Jimmy Cuffes can do. It is much to be doubted if Jimmy Cuffe would change places with a lord in the old country. The lord, as is usually the case, owes his position to his ancestors—Jimmy Cuffe, under Providence, owes everything to his industry, energy, and self-denial. Possibly, in the estimation of some people, the balance of merit may be in favour of the sturdy settler from Roscommon. Thankfully be it said, there are many Jimmy Cuffes in America.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America