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as a bright side to these statistics. The but the spirit of sympathy and affecpopulation during the same period has tion. Those who know the wayward also enormously decreased. In 1841 it history of the Irish peasantry-unwas 8,196,597; last year it was 4,585,- happy victims of perverse historical 000. There were close on twice as and economic causes—will not find many people in Ireland in 1840 as there anything in that humble dwelling to are to-day; and of the 4,000,000 which sneer at or deride. We shall see there the country has lost during the inter- something to arouse pity, something to vening sixty years, the vast bulk was kindly reprove, something to smile at, composed of the humble dwellers of much to admire and respect, and little these mud-wall cabins. Famine, evic- that is censurable for which a good extion and emigration—these, I regret to cuse cannot be advanced. Its walls say, are the forces to which the mar- are built of the mud scraped from the vellous reduction of the hovels from roadway, a small glazed aperture close 491,278 to 20,617 in sixty years are to the low door aots as a window, and mainly due. This is made clear by the the roof is rudely thatched with straw, fact that from 1841 to 1861-twenty rushes, or reeds. There is a story of years during which the clearances of an English visitor to Ireland who, haythe cottier population from most ing being caught in a heavy shower, estates went steadily on, and the broad sought shelter in one of these wayside streams of emigrants poured continu- cabins. He found the rain streaming ously to the seaports of the country, through the thin roof of thatch, and a over 400,000 mud-wall cabins had dis- peasant huddled up in the only dry appeared. But undoubtedly the de- corner near the fireplace. “My good crease in the number of fourth-class man," said the traveller, “why is it you houses in Ireland, is I am glad to say, do not repair the roof?" "Yerra, is it also due, to a considerable extent, to in this peltin' rain you'd be wantin' the happy circumstance that better me to do it?" replied the peasant. “Oh, house accommodation for the humbler I don't mean that you should do it classes of the peasantry has been pro- now," said the traveller. “But why not vided in recent years by the landlords do it in the fine weather?" “In the and the large farmers, and especially foine weather is it?” exclaimed the by the Boards of Guardians under the peasant in astonishment. "Shure Agricultural Laborers (Ireland) Act of where would be the use of it thin?" A 1883.
laughable story, perhaps, but I would Still, the mud-wall cabin is yet a not care to vouch for its accuracy. rather familiar feature of the Irish There are, I admit, some leaking roofs landscape. It may be seen during a in the cabins of Ireland; but that they short train journey, a car drive, or are not repaired is due to poverty even a walk in some districts of the rather than to the laziness of the Irish South and West of Ireland; and a curi- peasant, or to his occasional inability ous human habitation it is, as a rule. to see the incongruity of a situation. But it has too often suggested feeble In the island of Achill, off the Mayo and ill-feeling jokes about Irish dirt coast, which I have often visited, the and Irish squalor by coldly critical materials used in the construction of visitors to Ireland for me-familiar as the cabins are flat slaty stones called I am with the kindly natures, the lov- “cobbles," found on the beaches, with ing qualities, the splendid domestic edges rounded and polished by the acvirtues of the occupants—to enter one tion of the waves; mortar made of of these lowly dwellings in any spirit mud and sand, and the roof is covered
by a thin thatching of the straws of consequence of this custom, filled with the rye, a rough kind of grain which a black cloud of smoke which preis commonly grown on the island. vented me discerning the surroundings, Some of the best cabins have also ex- and dimmed even the blazing fire on ternal and internal coats of this mix. the hearth. The bleared red eyes, the ture of mud and sand laid on the singed eyelids, the affected lungs of walls, and the floor consists of the the aged men and women who neces. same composition. The shifts to sarily spend most of their time indoors, which the natives of Achill are driven are some of the results of living in this to obtain manure for the small patches perpetual atmosphere of smoke and of cultivable land which they have soot. But it must be endured if the po rescued from the surrounding wastes tatoes are to be produced, and starva. of sterile mountain and barren moor, tion-a more horrible fate-is to be are of an extraordinary character. One averted. of these expedients profoundly affects On entering one of these cabins for their domestic comfort.
the first time, I said in a tone of surThe manure used is of two kinds- prise to my companion, the parish soot and seaweed. To obtain the sea- priest of the island: "Is there no chimweed the islanders have deposited, a ney?” “Chimbley is it?" exclaimed a long way out to sea from the beaches, voice from out the dim profound of large stones brought from the moun- the thick black cloud of blinding and tain tops, many miles inland. The sea- suffocating smoke. “Shure the roof is weed grows in time on these stones full of chimbleys." It was the voice and is collected yearly by the island- of the man of the house. Even in the ers. But the two devices for procur- midst of privation and distress the ing soot are still more curious. One is Irish peasant cannot help letting a the erection on the tilled fields of little gleam of humor play across the gloom. huts called "scraw-hogues"-formed of I looked up and sure enough the bright "scraws," or sods of heather from the blue sky was discernible through some mountains-in which a turf or peat fire holes in the thatch. is kept burning for six weeks or two A wisp of burning straw, held in the months, at the end of which period the hand of one of the inmates, enabled me "scraws" are, from the continual im- to dimly see the contents of the hovel. pregnation with smoke, transformed I observed there was one room only, into soot. But the most striking of all measuring about twelve feet by six, a proofs of the dire necessity for manure corner of which was cut off by boards and the difficulty of its obtainment in for the accommodation of a donkey Achill, is afforded by the custom of the and a pig and a roost for poultry. Its peasantry in actually blocking the articles of furniture were a rude deal chimneys of their cabins (when the table, two stools, a couple of delf hovels have chimneys, which is not al. mugs on a shelf, a "kish” or basket, a ways the case) with "scraws" loading pot suspended from an iron crane over a sort of shell constructed over the the fire, and on the floor in a corner a hob, and filling every available nook sorry substitute for a bed. The cabin and corner of the cabin with these was occupied by a family of six, hussods of heather, and keeping a big fire band, wife and three children and a -turf being in abundance on the grandmother; and the holding attached island-continually burning on the to it consisted of three acres, half of hearth. Almost every cabin I entered, which was in tillage, the crops being and I have been in dozens, was, as a rye and potatoes. The rent paid by
the tenant was 21. a year. This is a out-decreased by one-half, these fig. fair specimen of the cabins, holdings ures also show that a decided improveand rent of the islanders of Achill. ment has taken place in the habitations Some of the hovels are a little better of the peasantry since the famine. The and some a little worse. The most Agricultural Laborers (Ireland) Act of comfortable cabin I saw in the princi- 1883, under which Boards of Guardians pal villages of the island-Keem and are empowered to borrow money from Dooega-had a bedroom off the kitchen the State on the security of the rates or living room. The kitchen had a for the erection of laborers' cottages, glazed window and unchoked with half-acre or acre gardens atchimney, through which the smoke tached, has done much to remove the fairly made its way. The interior was, old mud-wall cabins from Munster and to my unaccustomed eyes, but dimly Leinster-the two provinces in which lighted by the window and doorway, the benefits of the Act have been and, on a candle being lighted for my availed of most. About 16,000 of these benefit, I saw that the furniture con- cottages and allotments have been prosisted of the indispensable iron pot, vided at an expenditure of 1,900,0001. which hung over the fire at the time A few years ago, as I was walking boiling potatoes for the family dinner; in the county of Kilkenny, I got the a small deal "dresser,” containing opportunity, for which I had been on about half a dogen mugs, some plates the look out, of a long and free chat and saucers, a rough table and a few with an agricultural laborer, with a chairs. The only pictures to be seen view of obtaining some idea of the on the walls of the cabins of Achill are thoughts, feelings and impressions of highly colored oleographs of the his class as to their lot in life. I came Blessed Virgin and St. Patrick-the across a laborer's cottage erected by two most popular saints in the Irish the Board of Guardians of the district hagiology-and a book or a newspaper under the Laborers Act, and its occuis of course very rarely found in these pier, a man apparently between sixty primitive parts of Ireland, where Irish and seventy years, sitting outside on a is still almost universally spoken. stone bench sucking at a short black
Mud-wall cabins of the type common pipe with the bowl right under his in Achill may also be frequently seen nose, evidently taking rest and recreain other parts of Mayo, in Galway, in tion after the week's work in the har. Donegal-in fact in those remote and vest field. sterile portions of the country known Pat is still, as he always has been, an as “the congested districts;" but they inveterate smoker; but I have not no are fast disappearing from Leinster, ticed of recent years the pipe so often Munster and the northeastern portion in the mouth of Bridget. When I was a of Ulster. The cabins in these prov- boy, smoking was very common among inces come, as a rule, within the cate- the women in my part of the country. gory of third-class ihouses in the Cen. Many and many a time have I seen sus returns-that is, habitations with the vanithees, or "women of the house." from two to four rooms and windows. driving their asses and carts into LimIn 1841 there were 533,297 of these erick on market days, their dudheens houses in Ireland; in 1891 the number between their teeth; but now “herself" was 312,587, showing a falling off of -as the husband calls her-rarely in220,710; but remembering that the pop- dulges in a shock of the pipe. ulation during practically the same The sight of the old laborer resting period has—as I have already pointed outside his cottage door that summer evening also brought to my mind the tirely," the old man replied, with a revolution which has taken place in sort of sigh. “Every wan seems to be the character and style of the Irish goin' away to foreign parts crowds of peasant's dress. There was no distinc- fine sthrappin' young boys and girls tive national trait in the attire of this are lavin' every month; only the ould Irish agricultural laborer to distinguish wans like meself are left behind, and him from an English town worker. the country is becomin' most lonesome The good old national costume of like." frieze swallow-tail coat, knee breeches "Well,” said I, “the emigration must of corduroy, long knitted hose, shoes at least have greatly improved the and buckles and tall hat, has almost chances of employment for those who entirely disappeared. It is to be seen remain." only in the remote parts of Ireland, “I don't know about that,” he said. and very rarely even there. The dress "I find things that way much the same. of the women has also changed for the 'Twas niver aisy to get work-constant worse, from the picturesque point of work, I mane. If the min to do the view. The long, ample, dark-blue cloak work has decrased, so has the work with its graceful hood, and the large too. The farmers don't be wantin' so white muslin cap with its crimped many min now, for it's nearly all frilled border, fastened on the head by dairyin' and stock-feedin' wid thim; no a broad red or blue ribbon-the garb of oats or whate, and little hay and little the old women in my young days— tillage. Look round and you'll see.”. have been discarded. Touched by the I looked around, and as far as the latter-day passion for cheapness, which eye could see there was nothing but naturally appeals to people of small grass lands with cattle grazing, save and precarious incomes, both men and a few meadow fields, the hay of which
of the Irish rural laboring was in process of being cut and saved, classes have taken to wearing shoddy and, close to two farmhouses within or second-hand English clothes, sold the prospect, some few acres of tillage by itinerant dealers at the local fairs growing potatoes, cabbage and turnips. and markets; and, as a result, the Though Ireland is an agricultural counpleasant, soothing whir of the once try, pure and simple, the number of common spinning wheel, or hand loom, agricultural laborers there is comparaon which industrious housewives spun tively small, owing to the scarcity of the wool into yarn and tweeds and employment consequent on the vast exwoollens for the stockings, coats and
tent to which, in the past thirty years, petticoats of the family-dyeing the the growing of crops has been given material with colors obtained from bog up by the farmers and the land deplants—is, alas! silent in the cabins of voted to the raising of cattle, and also Ireland.
to the practice common amongst all After saluting the laborer with the the small farmers of having the necesconventional "Good afternoon," which sary field labor performed by the memwas responded to, on his part, by the bers of their own families. kindly greeting, "God save you, sir," I “Yes,” continued Tom Delany, in restraight away interviewed Tom De ply to further questions, "the wages lany, for that was the old man's name. are better now than they used to be. "The country must have changed
I'm gettin' 158. a week now, and beconsiderably in your time,” I re- fore it was only 108. I do be employed marked.
regularly for seven months. What do “Ah then, it bas, sir, a grate dale en- I do during the winther? The best I
can, faith. I do get an odd job at 18. 6d. a day repairing roads or stone breaking, and I have my own halfacre at the back of the cottage there, which keeps me in pyaties and a little cabbage." "Have you got a pig?" I asked.
“Bedad, I have, and a fine wan, too," said Tom in delight, as if very proud of his possession. "Come and see her.”
He brought me through a little gateway in the low wall which bordered his half-acre allotment (a term, by the way, of which he did not know the meaning when I mentioned it) into a well-kept little garden growing cabbages and potatoes. In a piggery in the garden I saw the pig—“ a fine fat wan, indade"-grunting contentedly as she lay in her litter of straw.
“Will you kill her and eat her yourself?" I asked.
"Oh, faith, no," he said laughingly. “She'll go to the market at Killmacthomas this day week, plase God, and I hope to get five or six pound for her, which will pay me rint and help to bring me over the winter.”
Of course, if I were an English tourist, I would have expected to find the pig taking his ease in the cosiest corner by the kitchen fire, “enjoyin',” as a peasant once said, “all the inconveniences that an animal can aspire to.” The pig is known as “the gintleman that pays the rint"-it was, by the way, William Carleton who first gave expression to the saying in one of his stories—and while the statement is not true as regards Irish agriculturists generally, for it is horned cattle, sheep, and orses that pay most of the rents in Ireland, the pig has always played a very important part in the social economy of the small farmer and the agricultural laborer. Even their proverbs make that clear. “You're on the pig's back” means prosperity. “The pig is on your back" indicates misfortune.
Then let us not blame the peasantry
if, wanting piggeries, they allowed the pig to share the comforts, or perhaps I should say the discomforts, of their cabins. Often, too, the pig was only a little thing. The animal was Once metaphorically flung in the face of a peasant who pleaded his poverty in court as the reason why he had not paid the debt for which he was processed. "By the vartue of me oath," said he indignantly, “the pig is that thin, yer honner, that I had to tie a knot to her tail to prevent the crature from escapin' through the chinks in the wall of me cabin."
Tom Delany also invited me into his cottage. Built of stone and slated, it looked substantial and comfortable externally. The kitchen and living room, in which I found myself on entering the door, was about 12 feet by 13 feet, with a concrete floor and open to the roof-that is, not ceiled-and off this apartment were two bedrooms, over which was a loft which might also be used for sleeping accommodation, though, as there
no ceiling it would probably be very cold in winter. I ascertained that there were about a dozen of these cottages erected in the union by the Board of Guardians and that the rent was 18. 3d. per week. The cottages are certainly great improvements on the old mud cabins; and, with the half acre or acre of garden, are an immense boon to the agricultural laborers. Those who possess them are, indeed, “on the pig's back.” My old friend was a widower with a son and daughter, aged respeetively twenty-two and nineteen years. The son who was also an agricultural laborer, was away in a contiguous vil. lage. The daughter, as we entered the cottage told her father that his “tay" was ready, and she gave him, out of a tin teapot which had been lying on the hob, a cup of that beverage. Tom, with characteristic Irish hospitality, invited me to join him in the repast,