Page images
PDF
EPUB

LETTER XI.

Belfast, August. Little prospect appearing of a change in the weather, a plan was devised to shew me the Lower demesne, as it is called, of Tandragee castle. I was seated in a small carriage, or rather a garden chair, with one good-humoured young Irishman between the shafts, another at the back, Mr. Porter and W. well cloaked, on foot beside me, two fine dogs to complete the cortége, and in this fashion was actually paraded not only through the grounds, but also along the endless street of the town. Think what a gaping train would have followed such a show in our country! In Ireland, let your situation be what it may, you have only to laugh, and every body laughs with, nobody at you. The descent, however, into the Lower demesne was no laughing matter : the united strength of three men could scarcely prevent my carriage from running full speed down the bank, at the bottom of which rushed a most formidably rapid little torrent, with a level bridge just sufficient for a safe passage; had I missed it but by an inch there is no saying what would have been the consequence. This is the strangest place I ever beheld; and certainly it must be magnificent when the weather allows it to be fairly seen: but what with the thick rain drops incessantly falling from immense trees over head, the double gloom shed around by cloudy weather, and the nervous trepidation excited, I could scarcely discern the features of the scene. The most remarkable were the height, size, and number of its venerable trees, and the violent speed of a river that went hurrying on between smooth banks, and with no visible cause for such extraordinary rapidity. It is much wider than the mountain stream at Tollymore, but the waters, at least on that day, were so yellow and turbid that they reminded me of the Douro; as described by some of my Peninsular friends. Just as I reached a fine prospect on its borders, the rain came down in such torrents that it was absolutely necessary to retreat; and I can only say that from a very slight view under very unfavorable circumstances, I think Tandragee a most noble place. We took shelter in a boys' school house, where I was much pleased with the method of teaching pursued, and the progress made by the lads : afterwards we paid a short visit to a family of whom I should have liked to see more; and returned in state to the castle, dripping at every thread. We were to have dined with the Dean of Tuam, whose handsome place looked most inviting from the library window, but to reach it was impossible: I had taken cold already, and dared not run any farther hazards.

Sunday morning proved bright, and we walked to the boys' school across the grounds, where I chose a very young class, and tried hard for an hour to impress on their tender minds the import of that comprehensive verse, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” My dear little boys were very attentive, and the period being elapsed, I enjoyed a specimen of the uncompromising spirit which I so dearly love. The children being drawn up on each side the long room, the teachers at the bottom, Mr. Porter at the head, all joined in singing those fine stanzas of Watts

In Gabriel's hand a mighty stone
Lies, a fair type of Babylon.

After this, we repaired to the church, and then I had another class of another school, a Scripture class, who answered admirably on whatever point they were questioned. Being too soon for afternoon service, we walked up to the top of the steeple, and thence I took a long earnest survey of the Mourne-mountains, and sent my heart into the midst of the beloved dwellers at the foot of Slieve Donard. There was a shocking deed perpetrated here not long ago : who were the culprits has not been discovered; but these wild Irish will stick at nothing, however treasonable. You have not, of course, forgotten the memorable campaign in which Lord Mulgrave sent his troops to gather laurels among the lilies. Tandragee is an awfully bad place : there was no knowing what might happen if the town was not strongly garrisoned before the 12th of July. It was even said that a garland of the obnoxious flowers was to be stretched across the street; but if any such enormity was in contemplation the presence of the troops happily prevented the outrage. They marched in, took up their quarters to the best advantage, furbished their arms, primed, loaded, and went to bed. Instead of following their praiseworthy example, some wight was hardened enough in wickedness to provide himself with a long pole and a rope, and in the dead of night ascended the church steeple, which as I told you, crowns the hill, and is visible to the whole town. In short, when the military looked out from their cantonments at the top of the morning' they beheld, to their inexpressible dismay, the complete frustration of all their labours in the preventive service ; for there, in audacious defiance of the allied powers in Dublin, a flag, hoisted on the steeple, danced right merrily in the breeze, just as though it had done nothing to be ashamed of. You may suppose what a cry there was for scaling ladders to take it down—no such thing: the soldiers looked at it, and went to breakfast. No notice was taken-it might have been rather a delicate step to invade Lord Mandeville's territory, and the church is within his castle-wall. His lordship was not there, it is true ; but, somehow, the flag was left to float, and formed a very pretty object in the sight of the people, who have too much sense to quarrel with an orange lily, and who wondered from what the troops came to protect them.

The flag-staff, which seemed to be neither more nor less than the slender trunk of a tall young tree, was still lying on the steeple, where I lingered to enjoy the luxuriant prospect. It was indeed indescribably grand, and gave me an idea of what I lost through the misty atmosphere on Slieve Donard, which is about ten or fifteen times as high as the point where I then stood. Lough Neagh was very distinctly seen, as a glittering silver

« PreviousContinue »