Tag Archives: Muckish

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