Garret Mac Eniry (Mourning amongst the Irish peasantry), A Tale of the Munster Peasantry

Patrick Weston Joyce

The Palatines had resided sufficiently long among the Irish to adopt many of their habits; they attended wakes and funerals, and even joined in the lament over the dead. Garret's cottage was thronged that night, both by the villagers and by the more distant inhabitants of the valley. Next day Mary was carried to her resting place on the hill of Ardpatrick; the funeral attended by all the grown persons of the village. She was laid, as she had requested, under the old whitethorn bush, by the side of her little Jimmy; and Garret returned for the first time to a lonely house.

During the whole troubled period from the last struggle of the sufferer, there is no time at which so keen a sense of their loss is felt by the mourners as when they first enter home after the funeral. The dreary appearance of the house, all in confusion after the wake; the cheerless hearth without its usual blaze—for all attend the funeral, the fires are put out, and the door locked—the complete silence, rendered more chilling by contrast with the hurry and confusion and lamentation that still ring on the ears of the mourners; but, above all, the sudden recollection, forcing itself vividly on their minds, that there is one absent, abandoned for ever to the cold abode—all these, aided by the bodily exhaustion which want of rest produces, throw a feeling of chilling desolation over the mind, which those only who have experienced it can understand. How intense a feeling of misery Garret felt on first entering his lonely cottage, and seeing Mary's chair empty, and missing her accustomed kind welcome, we shall not attempt to describe. But he resolved that this should be his last night in Glenosheen; and he kept his resolution.

Garret had one younger brother, to whom he was much attached, and who in early life left his home and settled in some distant part of the country, where he occupied a farm. At that time the means of communication between different parts of the country were very imperfect. The country was wooded and thinly populated, and there were few roads except between the larger towns; so that Garret had never seen his brother since they parted, and for the last eight or ten years had not even heard from him. Once indeed a pedlar, who had travelled in that part of the country about four years before, brought him word that he had heard his brother intended to remove to another locality, still more distant; so that he was in a state of uncertainty with regard to his place of residence. To him he now however turned his thoughts; he determined to seek with him an asylum for his remaining days, and leave a place that only embittered his existence by many painful recollections.

He had a few articles of household furniture, and some simple agricultural implements left. These he readily disposed of among his neighbours, merely however for the purpose of obtaining whatever trifle of ready money would be necessary to bear the expenses of his journey. Few preparations were necessary, his intention soon became known through the village, and early on that evening he was standing, with a small bundle in his left hand and a stick in his right, surrounded by a group of the villagers taking his farewell of them. Some of the neighbouring farmers were also there. From the beginning they had endeavoured to dissuade him from his purpose, and now pressed on him with double earnestness to remain. "Sure, Garret, man alive, can't you stay for a couple o' days, anyway? You can stop below at the house, an' welcome; there's a spare feather bed there, that we have no use in life of, an' the ould woman will have a rale Céad mile fáilte for you. I'll be bound if you stay wid us for a few days, it'll wear away, an' may be you'd be continted to remain intirely."

"Indeed Tom," said Garret, "I know I'd be welcome to stay with you—you 'an yours never shut your doore in the face of a sthranger, let alone an ould neighbour, the blessin' o' God be on you for id. But indeed Tom, there's no use in thinkin' I could live here; no, I must go, an' wid God's help I will. Roger was a good brother whin we wor both young; he had the big heart o' the MacEnirys in him; an' I know he'll not refuse to shelther these grey hairs in my ould days."

"The deer knows," observed a woman to her neighbour, "'tis a burnin' shame to let the poor ould crathur go at all, so it is. Sure he's out of his mind clear 'an clane wid throuble, 'an hardly knows what he's doin.'' "Why thin indeed Nancy agragal, that's thrue for you, an' I'll go bail he'll be sarry for id yet. But anyway, goodness knows 'tis no wundher the way he's in now, God help him, without a mother's sowl belongin' to him to care for him. Sure after all, Nancy, no one has the nature for a person like one's own, an' God help uz 'tis a sarraful thing to be left all alone. God rest poor Mary's sowl, 'tis she was the good housekeeper in her day, an' the good warrant to take care of her husband. But anyway Nancy I think we ought to spake to him, along wid the rest, an' thry to make him stop."

"Garret," said a grey-headed old man, who took him warmly by the hand, "you're now ould an' haven't the sthrinth to go thro' much, an' you ought to considher what you're about afore you go. 'Tis a hard journey you have afore you, an' many a long road you'll have to thravel, afore you meet wid a Christhen that would as much as say 'God save you.' Indeed the never a one o' me likes the iday of you attemptin' that journey at all at all."

In this manner was he earnestly pressed by several persons, but in vain; Garret, tho' quiet in his disposition, was resolute in character. But he was deeply affected by their kindness: he tried in vain to conquer his emotion, for tears filled his eyes, as he finally replied:—

"Misther O'Brien, God knows but id goes to my heart to refuse you an' all my ould neighbours. Many a long day we all spint together, an' God sees that my heart's nearly broke to be lavin' the ould frinds and the ould hills behind me. I'm goin' now, neighbours, from among ye, an' may the God of Heaven keep ye, that doesn't forget an ould an' frindless man, from bein' ever left solithary like me."

They ceased to press him further, and he was on the point of taking his final leave when he encountered another appeal not less powerful than that of his neighbours. Among the many privations which he suffered, death as if tired of persecuting him had left him his dog. He was a great shaggy animal, with huge tail, and hair which was originally nearly black, but which age had converted into a kind of dirty grey. In his more youthful days, before affliction had visited him, Garret was fond of hunting, armed merely with a heavy stick, and always accompanied by Bran. In these excursions, from his great skill and the sagacity of his dog as well as from the abundance of game on the mountain, he was often more successful than the best accoutred sportsman of modern days, with choice brace of pointers.