FERMANAGH FOLKLORE. By EAMON ANDERSON. THE TERRIBLE FAMINE DAYS. In the hurry of writing last week there were a couple of sentences towards the end in which I did not choose my words carefully and they might give readers the false impression that the British Government of that day, being pressed by Parnell and his party, actually voted money to relieve the terrible distress and famine in Ireland in 1879 and later. No such thing did they do during any of the terrible famines of the last century, not one penny at that time did they give gratis. The money that came in ’79 and ’80 to supply what was known as “Parnell’s meal’ and ‘Parnell’s bread’ to the starving multitudes in Ireland was raised by subscriptions, principally from the Irish race in America. There is no doubt of course that many charitable people in England, especially of the Quaker persuasion, did subscribe money during famine years, but their Government gave us nothing, only coercion and plenty of it The landlords ignored the distress, they wanted their rents whether the land earned them or not. The Government ignored the distress and sent out their police and military to enable the landlords to collect their pound of flesh off the walking skeletons in the bogs and mountains to protect, the process-servers and the “bone-grippers” and the crow-bar brigade, and the grabbers and emergency men and the agents and bailiffs and all others of that unholy alliance. In ‘Black ’47’, when the people of Ireland were dying in the ditches in tens of thousands, —when the coffin ships were crossing the Atlantic crammed with starving human beings, dying of famine and fever and being thrown overboard to feed the sharks, the London “Times,” chief organ of the Tory party in England, gloated over the extermination of the Irish race in these words; “The Celts are going— with avengeance. Soon a Catholic Celt will be as rare in Ireland as a Red Indian on the shores of Manhattan.” But strange to say, this stiff-necked Irish race (survived it all—and the Catholic Celt is very much alive to-day—in Ireland, and all over the world.
A DUCAL “JOKE.” And here is what the Duke of Cambridge said during Black ’46 — ‘Ireland is not in so bad a state as has been represented. I understand that rotten potatoes, and even grass properly mixed, afford a very wholesome and nutritious food. We all know that Irishmen can live upon anything, and there is plenty of grass in the fields, even if the potato crop should fail.” This was in the early stage of the famine, before the real horrors began. O’Connell’s answer, to this outburst is well worth recording:— “There” said O’Connell, ,“is the son of a king—the brother, of a king—the uncle of a monarch—there is his description of Ireland for you. Perhaps he has been reading Spencer—who wrote at a time when Ireland was not put down by the strong arm of force or defeated, in battle; but when the plan was laid down to starve the Irish Nation (in 1602).; For three years every portion of the crop was trampled down by mounted soldiers; for 3 years the crops were destroyed and human creatures were found lying dead behind ditches with their mouths green, by eating sorrel and grass. The Duke, I suppose, wishes we should have such scenes again in Ireland. And is it possible that in presence of some of the most illustrious nobility, of England that a royal personage should be found to utter horrors of this description.”
AN OLD LORD ERNE,
Perhaps some people may say that this is not the time—in the midst of a great world, calamity—to go raking up the sins of the past – maybe so. As a Christian people we can forgive, subject of course, to repentance and full restitution of our National rights on the part of the aggressor. As Christians we are bound to forgive. But there is no reason why we should ever forget! Having said this much to clear the misunderstanding which might arise from the slight mistake in last week’s article, I will now continue our Fermanagh folklore. The Derrylin Shanachies tell many tales of the generosity of old Lord Erne—the Lord Erne who flourished during ’69 and ’79 and those times. Of course everyone will agree that a man with a rent-roll of £80,0000 a year, drawn largely off lands which his ancestors got for nothing, the confiscated property of the Fermanagh chiefs and clansmen, everyone, I say, will agree that a man like that could well afford to be generous when the whim seized him. His estates stretched like a principality on both sides of the lough as far as the eye could see, and in addition he had vast estates in Mayo and elsewhere. His estate on the west side of Lough Erne included practically the whole parish of Knockninny. Most of the Irish landlords of that day—if a tenant showed any little sign of taste or prosperity, if he whitewashed his house, or had middling deceit clothes, would raise the lent on him at once. But Lord Erne, according to the Derrylin Shanachies, was of an entirely different opinion. He liked taste, he liked his tenants to have, at least, neatly patched clothes and a snug well-kept house and place. Once on a journey through his estates he came to a tenant’s place of which he did not at all approve. The man was ragged in his clothing; his house was badly in need of thatch and black for want of limewash. “What is your name,” asked his Lordship. “My name is Darling,” said the man. “On,” said Lord Erne, “you are the devil’s darling.” On another occasion, with his agent, he was .travelling part of his estate in the Slieve Rushen mountain area when he came to a house and farm tenanted by a widow with a family of small children. The house and place were kept neat and clean, and the children’s clothes were neatly patched. He said to his agent “I will venture to say that the rent of this place is paid up to date.” “No, unfortunately, there are five years arrears against it” said the agent. “Well, there must be something serious wrong, so,”-said Lord Erne. Yes, said the woman there is, ‘I have lost my husband and it takes all the money I can make to rear my family.” “Give this woman a. clear receipt up to date and do not ask her to pay any rent until she is able to do so,” said Lord Erne to his agent. “You are a great woman” he continued “and I am proud to have you for a tenant. – In spite of all your difficulties you are keeping your house and place in good styled and keeping your children, neat and clean.” Another tenant also owed several yearns rent as his cattle had died but as he was keeping his place and himself neat and decent, his Lordship commanded the agent to give him a clear receipt. At his castle of Crom, every year the used to give prizes for. home industries, for neatly patched clothes, for sewing, knitting and spinning, etc. .
DERRYLIN MAN’S APPEAL. On the 1st November, 1869, an immense Tenant Right meeting was held in Cavan town, which was attended by great numbers of Fermanagh farmers and people generally. Even Enniskillen town though 32 miles away, sent a large contingent by jaunting cars and horse-drawn waggonettes. At that time bicycles and motor cans were not even dreamt of. A score of years had still to pass before such things were invented and another score of years passed before any of them were seen in Fermanagh. At any rate the Chairman at that meeting was Fr. Pat O’Reilly, the parish priest of Drumlane, in which parish is situated Belturbet town, near the Fermanagh border. In the course of his address the Reverend Chairman said that if all the landlords of Ireland were as good as Lord Erne there would have been no need to hold a meeting like that. Lord Erne, like all his class probably never read any papers, only such as came from the Tory Press. Certainly he would not read the speeches of those whom he would call “disloyal agitators,” so he was unaware of the- compliment paid him by the Rev. Chairman at the meeting. Some time later he found out that a number of his tenants in Derrylin district, had attended the meeting so he gave orders to have them evicted from their holdings without delay. There was a man named Doogan—a Derrylin man, and he was one of the best judges of a horse in Ireland and Lord Erne had always employed him to buy horses, and he had great influence with his Lordship. So the poor men who were threatened with eviction—which was almost as bad as sentence of death in those days, asked Doogan to do his utmost with his Lordship to have their sentences revoked. Doogan went to Crom Castle and met his Lordship out on the lawn walking with the Countess. He absolutely refused to reconsider his decision and said that, the offending tenants must go out. Doogan then asked him if he had read the speeches at the meeting and he said “No, I would not read the speeches of agitators.” Doogan then handed .him a paper and asked him to read the Rev. Chairman’s speech. At first he refused to read it, but the Countess prevailed on him to do as the man asked him, so he sat down and read the speech. Then said Doogan, “Will you evict your tenants now for attending that meeting?” “No,’’ said. Lord Erne “I will not. That man speaks very fair.’’
In some future article I will say a lot about that Tenant Right meeting of 73 years ago. Old Francis Cleary, of Kinawley, who died two years ago, aged 91, told me all about it. He with 100 other young men from this district walked to the meeting 22 miles and back that 1st November, 1869. He could repeat every speech almost word for word. Unfortunately, however, that day ended in tragedy. While the Fermanagh and West Cavan contingents were returning and passing through the village of Drumaloor, near Belturbet,, they were fired on by a party of misguided young Orangemen and a young man named. Morton shot dead. Morton was the servant of the Rev. Chairman, the P.P. of Belturbet, and was driving the priest’s car, and the bullets only missed Father O’Reilly by inches. A number of men were tried for the murder at Cavan Assizes the March following but were acquitted by an Orange jury. Apparently the accused exercised the right of challenging each jury man in turn, till they got twelve men of their own choosing to try them. A friend of mine possesses a newspaper of March, 1870 which gives an account of the trial covering two pages. The young men who fired the shots were sons of tenant farmers themselves, who were amongst the first to reap the benefits of the land agitation. And do we not in our own day in the North of Ireland see the same narrow-minded party bitterness, a party standing against the onward march of the nation although it would be to their own benefit, as well as ours, to have a free and united Ireland. Just one more story of Crom Castle and a former Earl of Erne. In the old days a parish priest of Newtownbutler, was transported for performing the ceremony of marriage between a Protestant and a Catholic. Some time later a great regatta was held at Crom Castle, the Prince of Wales—-who was on a visit there at the time being in attendance. The greatest event of the day was a boat race on Lough Erne between a chosen party of boatmen of Lord Erne’s tenants and a party of boatmen of a gentleman named Saunderson who lived between Crom and Belturbet. Saunderson’s boatmen were a family named Latimer, while Lord Erne’s boatmen were a couple of brothers named Goodwin who lived in Derryvore—that peninsula of Knockninny parish which stretches over the lough almost to Crom and a man called big Ned Martin of Killybrack, also in Derrylin district. In the presence of the Prince of Wales, Lord Erne promised the Goodwins and Martin any favour they would ask for if they would only win the boat race in his honour. That boat race became historic in the Knockninny and Newtown butler districts. After tremendous exertions, the Goodwins and Martin won the race against their wiry opponents. Lord Erne was overjoyed at the honour done to his house with the royal guest present, and he called his boatmen up to name their reward. “Now,” he said, “anything you ask, you shall have it even, to the best farms on my estate.” But the Goodwins and Martin answered as one man: ‘Our only request is that you will procure the release of Father Clarke of Newtownbutler.’’ “Oh ask me anything only that” said Lord Erne. But they still persisted till the Prince, who was listening asked what it was all about. The circumstances were explained to him how Fr. Clarke had been transported for marrying a Protestant and a Catholic. The Prince was shocked. “I did not know” he said that there was such, a law as that upon the Statute Book of England. I must get it removed at once.
So Father Clarke was released and sent home to his parishioners and the iniquitous law was removed from the English Statute Book. As far as I can find out this incident happened long after Catholic Emancipation as there are many people still alive who remember big Ned Martin of Kilnabrack.
A correspondent has written me recently requesting that I write the folklore of the great townland of Aughyoule on the slopes of Slieve Rushen, near Derrylin.. As soon as possible I am visiting that townland—which is the second largest in Ireland—to have a few chats with its Shanachies and I will record everything about it. I find that the folklore of Knockninny parish is almost inexhaustible. Up till lately I thought Kinawley could beat all Fermanagh for folklore, but now I find that Derrylin is
KILTYCLOCHER AND DISTRICT NEWS. Deep regret has been occasioned in, the district by the death of Mr. Patrick Burns, Straduffy, which occurred on Thursday last following a prolonged illness. The late Mr. Burns was a. well- known sportsman. The funeral, which took place to Kilmakerrill on Saturday, was large and representative. Rev. J. P. Brady, C.C., Kiltyclogher, officiated at the graveside. The chief mourners were— Mrs. M. E. Tyrkell, Dublin, and Miss Lizzie Burns (daughters), Messrs. John Burns, Garrison; Tom Burns, Cashel, and P. Burns (sons); Messrs. Thomas and Michael Burns (brothers).
Garrison Fair held on the 26th. ult., was large and prices for all classes of cattle (especially springers) showed an upward tendency.
A farm of 35 acres at Tullyderrin, Rossinver, was purchased for £195 by Mr. Thomas Sweeney, Garrison. Killasnett School, which was closed down some time ago owing to declining attendance has been sold for £80.
A little boy aged three years had a narrow escape from drowning in the Kiltyclogher River during the week. Deep pools in close proximity to the village are unprotected, and are a constant danger to small children playing along the riverside.
The death occurred recently at an advanced age of Mr. George Acheson, Whealt. Deceased, who was one of the most extensive farmers in the Garrison district, was brother in law of Mr. Mr. T. Allingham, Kilcoo.
An official of the Department of Supplies visited Kiltyclogher last week in connection with the flour shortage, but nothing has been done since to relieve the situation, which is worsening. On Friday and Saturday Kiltyclogher was without flour or loaves. Oatmeal is also extremely scarce, and several families have to depend entirely on potatoes
LISNASKEA FATAL ACCIDENT. An R.A.F. corporal was the victim of a fatal accident near Lisnaskea on Friday evening. Corporal Harold Leonard Nieman, a native of Peckham, England, fell from a lorry, sustaining a fracture of the skull from which he died on his way to hospital. The accident took place at Ballindarragh, and, the police being notified, Constable T. McKernan was immediately on the scene.
At the inquest in Fermanagh County Hospital on Saturday, conducted by Mr. G. Warren. Coroner, Head Constable Thornton, Enniskillen, represented the police authorities.
Sergeant H. A. Saberton said the previous night, at 7-30 he was travelling in the rere of a three-ton truck with deceased and two others. As the truck pulled up and crossed the crown, of the road, deceased, who was standing, fell backward to the roadway on his head, and the rere wheel passed over his shoulder. The truck, which had been pulled up gradually, was stopped within three or four yards.
Witness found deceased unconscious and bleeding from mouth, nose and ears. They removed him to the grass verge, and within ten minutes he was placed in a passing car and brought to hospital, but died just approaching Enniskillen.
Dr. T. J.’ O’Hagan, house surgeon, Co. Hospital, said deceased was dead on admission. There was an abrasion on the right cheek and one on the left side of the chin. There was considerable haemorrhage from the nose and right ear. Some brain tissue was mixed with the blood. Death was due to shock and haemorrhage following fracture of the base of the skull and laceration of the brain. Sister Monaghan saw deceased on admission and he was then dead.
Deceased’s squadron leader said deceased was aged 38 and married. A verdict was returned in accordance with the medical evidence, and Head Constable Thornton and the Coroner expressed sympathy with the relatives of the deceased and to the driver of the truck, whom, the Coroner said was not in any way to blame.
APRIL 11, 1942.
DE-CONTAMINATION OFFICER’S INSTRUCTION. MR. BEATTY REFUSES TO CO
When Enniskillen R.D.C., on Tuesday, was requested to send its Decontamination of Food Officer to a course of instruction in Belfast, Mr. J. Brown, Clerk, said Mr. John Beatty, ,J.P., a member of the Council, had been appointed to this post and he supposed it was Mr. Beatty’s duty to attend.
Mr. Beatty—I am not going. I am telling you straight. (Laughter).
Mr. E. Callaghan said no member of the Council had more time at his disposal for attending than Mr. Beatty.
Mr. Beatty said he refused to go.
The Clerk said that in that case he thought the best thing would be for Mr. Beatty to resign. (Laughter).
Mr. J. J. Coalter, J. P., said that supposing gas was used and food was contaminated, he felt the responsibility for any serious consequences arising out of Mr. Beatty’s inability to deal with the situation would rest upon Mr. Beatty. (Laughter)
Mr. Beatty—Don’t think you will frighten me—I am not that green. (Laughter). If there was any £ s d for it I wouldn’t be asked to go. (Laughter).
Chairman (Hon. C. L. Corry, J.P.)— Will you appoint anybody?
Earl of Belmore, D.L.:—No.
Mr, Burns asked if Enniskillen Urban Council had appointed a representative.
The Clerk said it had; so also had Irvinestown and Lisnaskea Rural Council. Mr. Callaghan—Where are the lectures? Clerk—In Belfast. /
Lord Belmore—Oh! hell. (Laughter).
The Council decided to get one of the Sanitary Sub-Officers to attend.
LORRY AND P.O. VAN COLLIDE. SEQUEL AT LISBELLAW COURT
Details of the collision between an army, vehicle driven by Private North and a G.P.O. van driven, by Wm. Norman Kerr, Lisnarick, Irvinestown, which occurred at Gola Cross on 11th February, were given at Lisbellaw Petty Sessions on Friday, when both drivers were before the. Court charged on the usual counts with careless driving. The evidence was that the military van was coming across the road at Gola, proceeding from Lisbellaw down the Belleisle road when it struck the G. P.O. van travelling from Lisnaskea to Enniskillen.
Evidence for the prosecution was given by Bernard McCaughey, a passenger in the G..P.O. van, and Const. Wilkinson. Kerr said he was practically stopped when the impact took place. He had slowed down approaching, the cross.
North admitted in evidence that he did not obey the “halt” sign on his road at the approach to the cross. The summons against Kerr was dismissed and North, who had a previous conviction, was fined 40/- and 2/- costs.
LABOURERS TO RECEIVE 1/- PER HOUR. URBAN COUNCIL DECISION
Enniskillen Urban. Council have decided to pay their labouring men at the rate of 1/- per hour, instead of on the present basis of £2 5s and £2 2s 6d weekly.
Senator Whaley presided at the Council meeting on Tuesday evening, when the Finance Committee reported that they had under consideration the following applications from employees of the Council for increases in wages and make the following recommendations thereon:—
From 13 labourers— their applications being for an increase of the present rates of £ 2 5s per week for men on the permanent staff and £2 2s 6d for men casually employed. It was stated in their applications that the rate of wages payable to general labourers in the district is at present 1/0½ per hour. It was recommended that an increase of 2/6 per week be granted to both the permanent and casual labourers.
The Committee also recommended that an increase of 2/6 per week be granted to Andrew Bell, lorry driver, on his present rate of £2 12s 6d per week, and that the wages of William Hynes, mason, be increased from £3 15s to £4 per week.
Mr. P. Kelly said the wages of labourers employed by the E.B.N.I. and builders in the district was 1/1 per hour. Why should Urban Council labourers be paid only £2 5s or £2 2s 6d weekly when all other labourers in. the district were paid £2 12s. Could the Council do nothing better for its labourers than that?
Mr. Donnelly said he wrote to the Ministry of Labour on the matter, and read the reply to the Finance Committee. The reply stated that only builders’ labourers were paid 1/1 per hour.
Mr. T. Algeo said the Council were paying the best wages in the Six Counties with the exception of two or three others.