Mr. Reilly from Ballyvourney

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER III (9) start of chapter

Amongst other settlers whom we visited was a Cork man, named Reilly, from beyond Macroom, and who, 'every day he rose in the old country saw Ballyvourney before his two eyes.' Reilly was a man of middle age, grave countenance, handsome features, including a marked aquiline nose, of deliberate utterance, the richest of Munster brogues, and a splendid faculty for rolling the 'r' like the rattle of a drum under the hands of a Frenchman; and it would seem as if honest Reilly had a preference for words that enabled him to display this faculty to the greatest perfection. The manner in which he pronounced 'your lordship,' 'your-r-r lor-r-rdship,' was grand.

Reilly had come out in the May of 1862; and all he had, besides an immense family—there were eleven children in the settlement in October 1866—was a little money for provisions, and an axe. But the man, and the axe, and the will and power to use it, were 'with God's help,' equal to the work to be done; and so resolutely did he set to his task, so vigorously did he and his eldest boy hew away at the forest, that he was enabled to gather in 100 bushels of potatoes that fall. These, and what remained in the flour-barrel, kept the wolf from the door of Reilly's little sheepfold. And so the stout Cork man and his sturdy boy toiled on, season after season, and year after year, until, in October 1866, the settler of 1862 had cleared between forty and fifty acres of land, and was the owner of two yoke of oxen, six cows, several sheep and hogs, a good log house, to which he had just added a commodious loft, a fine barn, a piggery of suitable strength and dimensions.

'Well, Reilly, I congratulate you,' said the Bishop. 'What you have done in the time is most creditable to you.'

'Well, my lord, I am getting along purty well, I thank my Maker for it. We have raison to be grateful and contented, your lordship, with what we've done. There is a good prospect for us and the children, the Lord be praised! Sure enough, 'twas a great change from the ould country to this. Glory, too, to the Lord for that same!'

It may be remarked, that my excellent countryman secured to himself in this short speech ample opportunity for the display of his r's, which came magnificently into play.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

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