Garret Mac Eniry, A Tale of the Munster Peasantry

Patrick Weston Joyce

[I wrote this little story when I was very young, and put it aside for some years. It was published in the year 1857, in a local newspaper, "The Tipperary Leader"—over the pen-name "Carnferay": my first appearance in print. It represents faithfully the dialect of the Limerick peasantry of seventy years ago, which I think is still much the same as it was then. Most or all of the scenes and incidents are depicted from real life, as I witnessed them in my boyhood and youth. As the Palatines figure in this story a few words about them will not come amiss.

The Palatines were German Protestants from the Palatinate of the Upper Rhine. In the beginning of the eighteenth century, great numbers of them were brought to England, where they were settled on farms at low rents. From England a number were brought to Ireland by Sir Thomas Southwell (or "Lord Southwell," as I heard him called) of Limerick, who settled them about Rathkeale. From this place again many families were transferred to Glenosheen, Ballyorgan, and Garranleash near Kilfinane, where the landlord, the Right Hon. Silver Oliver, gave them small plots at trifling rents, with help to build their houses.

In my time there was a popular rhyme:—

“In the year seventeen hundred and nine

In came the brass-colored Palatine

From the ancient banks of the Swabian Rhine.”

In Glenosheen the land given them was unoccupied, so that there were no evictions—Oliver took care of that; and as the place was mostly wooded they had to clear the bush before tilling their little farms. At the time of their arrival and for many years subsequently, they had several customs that seemed very strange to the natives:—their dress was made of canvas, even to the shoes—except the soles; they ate "sour krout" (a preparation of cabbage); and slept between two feather beds. This is the account that I had in my early days, as handed down by the old people; but these peculiarities had all disappeared long before my time. They were dark yellow and rather swarthy in complexion, as are most of their descendants to this day.

As to religion, they were all Methodists: but they attended the little Protestant church, as they were too few to be able to afford a church and pastor of their own. But they often engaged the services of a Methodist preacher for a short time. He was entertained in the houses of the well-to-do by turns, and they treated him hospitably: in fact, he lived on the fat of the land while he was among them.

As I remember them, they were steady, sober, and industrious: good farmers: understood gardening; kept bees; and were fond of making pastry.[1]

In my early time Glenosheen had a mixture of Catholics and Protestants (chiefly Palatines) about half and half, and we got on very well together: in recalling the kindly memories of my boyhood companions, Palatines come up as well as Catholics.

The following were some of the prevailing Palatine family names in my neighbourhood seventy years ago:—Bovenizer, Alltimes or Alton, Stuffle (Stoffel), Young, Glaizier, Ruttle, Ligier (Ligonier), Heck, Barkman (Berchmans), Strough (with a strong guttural at the end), Fizzell, Shoultiss, Delmege. But of these not more than four or five are extant now: all the rest have been cleared out by death or emigration.]


[1] Gerald Griffin, who knew the Palatines well, depicts their character truly in his story, "Suil dhuv the Coiner."