ATHENRY IN 1889

BY VINCENT J. CARLYLE

SOURCE: GALWAY EXPRESS, 1ST JUNE 1889

‘Foolish People’

The present year shows great prospect of a most beautiful harvest and no doubt the surrounding tenantry have everything to hope for, and nothing to fear except their own inclination to squander the rent which justly belongs to the landlord. A great change has taken place in the manners and living of the tenants around Athenry the past six years. It is first necessary to remark on the great lack of industry and their prowess to sloth and drunkenness, which prevails as a wide-spread malady amongst the tenantry of this locality. The general custom of these foolish people is to repair to our “old town” every night to indulge in strong and “ardent” spirits”, a practice which was unknown in this neighbourhood six years ago, and in this manner the rent of the land is hurled into the tills of our beer merchants in Athenry.

Liquor ‘evening parties’

The population of our “old town” is about 800, and yet it contains 33 thriving beer shops! It is easily therefore to imagine that these 800 inhabitants are not capable of supporting these thriving liquor shops. The “country evening trade” has adorned our “little village” with at least twenty of these liquor “evening palaces”.

Temperance Hall

We have also in our town a most historic building, which is known as the Temperance Hall, but I am sorry it is only nominal. This Hall is capable of accommodating five or six hundred members, and disregarding the few grabbers who play the “tin band”, a baker’s dozen would embrace its members. It is impossible to have a flourishing temperance society under such circumstances.

Teaching of the Land League

Now what has caused this revolution in our town? The answer is very simple indeed. The infamous teaching of the Land League, which has darkened our horizon with bloody crimes, and has led our people from the peaceful level of societal unity to the towering heights of perdition and vice. The tenants have been taught, or as I might correctly say, duped by this hellish doctrine to pay no rent, and what has befallen them? They were evicted, and some are now living in the wild but prolific lands of Canada, others we can see jostled from one house to another earning an occasional day’s hire, whereas if they ignored the false doctrine of the League, they would be comfortable and worth some money today.

Change of diet

Another great change has taken place among the tillers of the soil around here, and one which it is impossible to detect from an exterior knowledge of their habits – and that is, their diet has changed from that simple bill of fare which for generations has proved so wholesome to those engaged in farm labour, to a

higher class, which would bear comparison fairly well with what we would find in a third class hotel.

Improvement in clothing

We may next direct our attention to a feat which makes itself self evident to every person who can see for himself, that is, the great improvement in the clothes now worn by our country folk, and those worn a few years ago. It may be the idea of the peasantry to encourage Irish industry by purchasing Irish tweeds, but they should not be blind to the fact that an Irish tweed is fit to stand in the field against a good Scotch corduroy. Latterly, no matter what tailor’s shop one enters, balls of Irish tweeds are to be seen, while not a particle of corduroy can be seen, which has been proven by the test of a century to be the cheapest, most endurable and best article of clothing for our once industrious peasantry. But alas! The days of industry have fled and with them has fled peace and prosperity.

Lawful debt and rent

Another striking characteristic presents itself to the mind of any thinking individual in connection with the tenantry around here, vis., they are disinclined to pay any lawful debt, especially their rent. This propensity no doubt is engendered amongst them by the false and pernicious teaching of the Land League, which has unfortunately destroyed this country as the locust plague destroyed everything prolific and fruitful in the land of Egypt.

‘Drinking well, clothing well and paying nil’

Happily our country is recovering from the plague and beginning to resume its former verdure. A very good suggestion and one which after a little time would bear fruit in Athenry, would be for those peasants who are so given to “ardent spirits” to join our Temperance Society, which only requires a small sum, and by this means avoid squandering the rent, which justly belongs to the landlord, in our local beer shops, for which Athenry is proverbial. Instead of their being only a few members there should be at least a hundred, as was the case in Athenry before the infamous Land League began to exist, but which is now dead, and its successor, thanks to Providence. I hope after a short time that the peasantry around here will consider their position as critical and lower their present ensign of “drinking well” – clothing well, and “paying nil”., and erect the standard of moderation, temperance, and industry, in its place. I may, with the kind permission of the Editor, in next issue show the success of the plantation scheme, and how it would work in the Athenry district.