Tag Archives: Drogheda

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: The scenery

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“I pity the traveler of the future here, if he is never to know the delight of traversing these wild and picturesque wastes in such weather as we have had today, on a [jaunting] car, well-balanced by a single pleasant companion, drinking, as he goes, deep draughts of the Atlantic air.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

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For this post, I want to step away from Hurlbert’s political and socioeconomic views of 19th century Ireland and focus on his references to Irish landscapes and landmarks. Remember, he wrote the book 130 years ago. He traveled by rail, by jaunting car, and by foot. No airplanes overhead. No map app in the palm of his hand. These examples are from the early weeks of his trip, late January and February, 1888.

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“Drogheda stands beautifully in a deep valley through which flows the Boyne Water, spanned by one of the finest viaducts in Europe.”

The Boyne Viaduct, built in 1855.

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” … despite the keen chill wind, the glorious and ever-changing panoramas of mountain and strath through which we drove were a constant delight, until, just as we came within full range of Muckish, the giant of Donegal, the weather finally broke down into driving mists and blinding rain.”

Muckish, from the Irish for “the pig’s back.” Photo by Rita Wilson/Donegal Film Office.

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“[In eastern Donegal, we] entered upon great stone-strewn wastes of land seemingly unreclaimed and irreclaimable. Huge boulders lay tossed and tumbled about as if they had been whirled through the air by the cyclones of some prehistoric age, and dropped at random when the wild winds wearied of the fun. The last landmark we made out through the gathering storm was the pinnacled crest of Errigal. Of Dunlewy, esteemed the loveliest of the Donegal lakes, we could see nothing as we hurried along the highway…”

Mount Errigal is Donegal’s tallest peak. Emma Russell/Donegal Film Office.

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“The wonderful granitic formations we had seen on the way from Gweedore stretch all along the coast to the Roads of Arranmore. At Burtonport they lie on the very water’s edge. At a place called Lickeena, masses of beautiful salmon- and rose-colored granite actually trend into the tide-water, and at Burtonport proper is a promontory of that richly-mottled granite which I had supposed to be the peculiar heritage of Peterhead, and which is now largely exported from Scotland to the United States. Why should not this Irish granite be shipped directly from Donegal to America, there to be built up into cathedrals, and shaped into monuments for the Exiles of Erin?

The jaunting car was a light two-wheeled carriage for a single horse.

NEXT: Lixnaw murder

NOTES: From top, quotes are from 115, 73, 80, 81 and 118 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Sultan’s aid to Famine Ireland: new telling of an old tale

In 1847 a Sultan of the Ottoman Empire provided relief to Ireland during the Great Hunger, An Gorta Mor. That the ruler sent money appears beyond dispute. Whether he also directed shiploads of food to the Irish port of Drogheda, County Louth, is more of a mystery.

Freelance writer Tom Verde has produced a well-researched telling of this old tale in the Jan./Feb. 2015 issue of AramcoWorld magazine, which is dedicated to Arabic and Islamic cultures.

Whatever the truth, this chapter in the history of “The Great Hunger” has nonetheless been immortalized in paint and in stone, and may yet be made into a feature film—should the ambitions of Turkish producer Omer Sarikaya be fulfilled. Yet, at its heart lies the undisputed fact of a generous gesture on the part of an Ottoman ruler toward a people to whom he owed nothing but the mercy required of him by faith and personal character.

Here’s a link to the full story.

Former Irish President Mary McAleese was criticized for believing too much of the story during her 2010 visit to Turkey. Verde reports the proposed movie, in the works since 2012, will be released later this year.

The nearly 170-year-old story appears to have gained new popularity in the age of the Internet, as well as increased attention to the relations between Islam and the West.

There were nearly 50,000 Muslims living in Ireland in April 2011, “a sharp rise on five years previously,” the Central Statistics Office reported in October 2012.  From 1991 to 2011, the number of Muslims increased from just 0.1 to 1.1 per cent of the total population.

Tragedy and triumph in Irish transportation

I’ve come across two historical transportation stories.

This month marks the 125th anniversary of the Armagh train tragedy, which remains Ireland’s largest rail disaster. The Belfast Telegraph explains:

The train was packed as it pulled away from the station at 10:15 am, but around three miles out of the city a nightmare unfolded as the train was trying to pull up the slope out of Armagh, but was pulled back by its weight. A decision was taken to decouple the front four carriages, move them to Hamiltonsbawn, and then to return for the remaining eight carriages. Stones were placed behind the wheels of those carriages, but they rolled backwards, crushed the stones and began to build up speed as they continued back down the slope. The runaway carriages crashed into another train, resulting in the loss of 89 lives. All denominations suffered – Catholic, Church of Ireland, Methodist and Presbyterian.

June 1889 rail disaster at Armagh.

June 1889 rail disaster at Armagh.

This August will mark the centennial of the death of John Phillip Holland, builder of the first successful submarine, known as the Fenian Ram. His experimentation began in Drogheda, County Louth. In America, a later design became the U.S. Navy’s first commissioned submarine, according to this story in The Irish Times.

He died in August 1914, relatively poor, and just weeks before HMS Pathfinder became the first ship to be sunk by a torpedo fired by submarine – and nine months before a German U-boat set its sights on the Lusitania.