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A Hint To Irish Landlords In The Shooting Season. It is obvious that the writer is quite biased, but since the tale is told well, it is useful for illustrating a particular perspective. An excellent article to read for another perspective can be found on line: Early 19th Century Disturbances in Creggan Parish.
Sharon Oddie Brown. February 23, 2013

 

1865 The New Monthly Magazine. Vol 133.

 

 

 

 

A HINT TO IRISH LANDLORDS IN THE SHOOTING SEASON.

 

There is a strange looking, hard old man[1], with a face like granite, at present living in the County of Armagh, within eight miles of Newry, who, forty or fifty years ago, ran the hourly risk of assassination, and still imagines he is hardly safe from Ribbon violence. Bullets have whistled past his head along quiet country roads; they have torn up the bedclothes on his empty bed, while he was himself cowering under the window; his mill has been burnt to the ground; his cattle have been maimed or killed; and he has received more pictures, in the rudest style of Ribbon art, of coffins, skulls, and crossbones, then any Irish landlord or agent of my acquaintance. Yet for forty years past he has been untouched; and no one has ever threatened -- since, I believe, 1820 -- to molest him, or will ever do so, I predict, till the day of his death. Here is a secret for Irish landlords -- an infallible specific against assassination -- which I commend to their judgment.

 

Let me tell you this man's story. He is a farmer and miller, residing in a district of County Armagh, which was once a scene of the most shocking murders and robberies; and he has amassed, by great industry and thrift, a considerable sum of money. Fully six feet in height, with almost no perceptible stoop, he retains in his seventy-sixth year much of the elasticity and vigor of his youth; but his scarred face, and his uneasy wandering eye, evidently belong to a nature that has been fearfully tried and scathed. This man was, till two years ago, a member of my congregation, and I know that he never came to church without a large pistol in his pocket; he never stayed till night at either fair or market; he never allowed anyone to travel behind him on the road without challenge or question of some sort; and -- if he had to journey in the dark -- he was never without company. One night, as he was going home from Newry with his carts and servants, he is dropped somewhat behind, and was hastening onto the front, when he heard a voice from behind say, “It's a fine night, Mr. H”. Before the words had almost passed the speaker's lips, he felt the cold muzzle of the old man's pistol on his brow, and might have been shot on the spot but that he mentioned his name, which was that of a well-known and trusty neighbor. The fact is, that Mr. H., though quite secure from assassination, has never yet got rid of his fears and suspicions.

 

I was once spending the evening under his hospitable roof, and the conversation very naturally turned -- for old men are retrospective -- upon the incidence of his early life.

 

“How is it”, said I., “That you became so noxious to your neighbors?”

 

“Well”, said he, “It was in the year 1816 -- the very year, I think, of the Wild-gorse Lodge[2] murders -- that I came over to live in my present place. I found myself almost the only Protestant in the midst of a dense Catholic population. I had none but Catholics in my mill. My head miller displeased me, and I dismissed him from unemployment, and took another man in his place -- of course, a Catholic like himself. In a day or two I found a notice posted on my mill door, demanding that I should at once reinstate the old overseer, and threatening to burn my mill if I did not instantly obey. The notice was signed by the Carders, who gave a great deal of trouble about that time in the country; but I defied their threats, and refuse to take back my old miller. The Carders were as good as their word. They burned down my mill. I then applied to the grand jury for damages, and got what rebuilt my mill and indemnified me against all losses; and what made the thing very galling to the Carders, who are mostly my nearest neighbors, the whole amount was levied by the High Sheriff of this and another townland. The poor creatures were obliged to pay the large sums assessed upon them, but they were resolved to take their revenge upon myself. I received due notice to make my will, and got instructions to have my coffin ready, for the Carders were resolved to clear me out of the country.

 

“I followed my business as usual; minded my mill and my farm; tried to keep my mind as easy as possible. But I was very uneasy. I seldom slept during the entire night, and often heard, as I imagined, the steps of Carders near the doors. One night, however, in 1816 -- a week after the Wild-gorse Lodge murder -- while my wife[3] was brought to bed of twins[4], and her mother was sitting up in the room, we heard a knock at the back door. I never opened my door after dark at that time, but the servant maid had been sent to a neighbour’s house on an urgent errand, and my mother-in-law, and imagining that it was a knock of the girl, hastily ran to the door and opened it. Instantly a band of Carders, with blackened faces, rushed into the house; I leaped into my wife’s bed and lay beyond her, covered with the bedclothes, with the little twins beside me. The Carders immediately entered the bedroom, and demanded my person. I gave myself up for lost. One of them took down from the wall an old cavalry sword, and threatened to finish me on the spot. My wife cried to them to have mercy upon me, and showed them her twins not two hours born. They then cried for drink, and my wife treated them liberally, so that they left, after threatening to take my life at another time.

 

“Soon afterwards, three of this gang were arrested[5], tried at the Armagh Assizes, and convicted. One of them – “Jack the Carder” -- who was the leader of the party, was sentenced to be hanged[6] on the common, within view of my house, and the other two were transported beyond the seas. I remember the day of the execution well. My wife tried to save his life, for she said to the judge, at the assizes:”My lord, this was the only kind and feeling one of the party, for it was he that commanded the rest to leave the house, and not molest my husband”. It was this very testimony of my wife that clinched the case against Jack, for proved him to be the leader of the gang.

 

“I thought I would now have peace. But the threatening notices came thicker than ever. The Carders were resolved to have revenge. I was obliged to send my wife and children away to her father’s in County Monaghan, and for six or eight weeks I never slept in a bed or with my clothes off. I had to barricade all the doors and windows by night; yet shots were poured in and struck the clothes and posts of the bed, for they supposed I was asleep in my usual sleeping place. During all these dreadful weeks I sat and dozed by the kitchen-fire with loaded pistols near it and, and a musket and bayonet resting against the dresser, while the window opposite my seat was built up, so as to secure me against unexpected bullets.

 

“Surely”, said I., “That was a dreadful life to lead. How could you have borne it at all?”

 

“I was resolved”, he continued, “not to yield; for my neighbors wanted me to leave the country altogether, and return home to my old place. But the Carders, I believe, want of my life. It happened that on one fair day below” [at the end of his land], “there was a great gathering of the boys from all parts. I was at the fair. I got a hint to go home as fast as I could; but it was too late. A mob of Catholics ran at me with stones. I leapt into the river for safety, hoping to hide myself under the bridge; and there I was for nearly two hours pelted with stones, assailed with the most horrible imprecations, and nearly dead from standing up to my knees in the water. But I was relieved by my neighbor, John H.[7], who hearing the noise, ran down to his house and bringing out his yeoman gun and cartridge box, began to blaze away at the crowd with as much coolness as if he been on parade, or were shooting at a target. The crowd instantly scattered, and I got away home by the shortest route. My neighbor’s ball practice was very effective. He killed a poor weaver sitting innocently at his loom, and wounded several others, one of them mortally. John H. got a year in jail, but he's never forgiven me for the bloody part he took that day for my safety.

 

“How, then”, said I., “Did you escape after that fight?”

 

“My landlord, Counselor D.[8], was down on a visit to this neighborhood, and was, of course made acquainted with my history. He hit upon a capital plan to save my life. He called all the tenantry together -- they were nearly all Catholics -- and he told them he would give them leases of their holdings, and he made me the life of every lease. They were delighted that their landlord's kindness, and thanked his honor in the warmest terms. From that hour to this -- between forty and fifty years -- I've never been assaulted or threatened. It is the interest of every neighbor I have to keep me alive I am surrounded by the sons and grandsons of a man who threatened my life; and though they hate me, still there is no man's death in this country that will be more lamented than mine, for the farmers have their land here for two or three shillings an acre.”

 

Mr. H. still believes the Catholics hate him, and never -- as I've said -- goes abroad to this day without pistols. His wife, who was a sister of a well-known London clergyman[9] now deceased, lost the sight of both her eyes shortly after the execution of “Jack the Carder”; and the Catholic neighbors, of course, interpreted it as God's judgment upon her house for its sins.

 

I commend Counselor D.’s specific against assassination to all Irish landlords, agents, or bailiffs, whose lives may be in danger. So long as Ribbon men have an idea that the only remedy for agrarian wrongs is a blunderbuss with slugs, there'll be murder; but if they get the idea into their heads to shoot the landlord or agent, who may be the life of the releases, would be madness, there will be an instant breaking up of Ribbon Lodge's, and a new era of industrial prosperity and peace for Ireland. Will the landlords try this experiment? It's advantages are twofold. It will make the Irishman a better farmer, and it will increase the longevity of landlords and their agents. There may be differences of opinion about the leasing system in Ireland, but there can be little doubt that, in the North at least, the lease is a great desideratum of the tenantry, and it would be the best protection of life against Ribbon bullets.

T.C.

 

 

 

 



[1] Arthur HARRISON, who farmed at Camly (Ball), a miller and farmer, who also served as High Constable of the Barony of Upper Fews..

[2] Actually, this is usually referred to as: The Wild Goose Lodge killings, which happened in 1816.

[3] Name of his wife?

[4] Twins born in 1816.

[5] Patrick CUSKERY was one of the leaders, and went to trial.

[6] It may be that his was the last hanging in the region.

[7] John H.?

[8] Counselor D. perhaps DAWSON

[9] I don’t know his name.

 

 

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