Neither Rent nor 'Gale'

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER III (13) start of chapter

Through one door the women passed out, through the other the men. By the latter sex I was at once surrounded, and I was soon satisfied that every province and most of the counties in Ireland had a representative in that congregation. For a good hour they talked and chatted outside the little church, though the air was keen and the morning still raw. They eagerly enquired after places as well as persons, priests or politicians, and 'how the old country was getting on,' and 'whether anything was really to be done for it?' One gave a case of oppression, another of hopeless struggle against rack rent or insecure tenure, as the reason of his flight from the land of his fathers. But of their new home not one had a desponding word to say. They spoke with pride of their hard work, and their steady progress, and the future which they confidently anticipated.

'Well, thank God, 'tis our own, any how, and nobody can take it from us,' said one of the settlers; to which there was a general chorus of 'amens,' and 'true for you.'

'Take care, Mick, you haven't the half-year's rent ready; so don't be crowing.'

This pleasant sally from a wag much tickled the audience, who, to do them justice, were willing to laugh at the smallest joke.

''Tis true, Dan, boy; but there's nobody lookin' for it,' replied Mick, who added, in a voice of affected commiseration that was 'as good as a play,' and was rewarded with an approving shout— 'but, faith, I'm thinking the agint has the mazles, or the rhumatiz, poor man! or he'd be here before now for it.'

'Jimmy'—to my friend of the day before—'is your gale to the fore?' asked a pleasant-looking Tipperary boy.

'Little we trouble ourselves with gales, or storms aither, in these parts,' replied Mr. M'Allister, whose innocent wit was rewarded with such vociferous applause that I dreaded the effect on his naturally abundant vanity.

'True for you, Jimmy, the misthress attends to the rint, and that kind of business. I hope she'll be sure and keep the resate,—'tis bad to lose the writin'—as I know, to my cost.'

'There's a boy,' said Mr. M'Allister, pointing to a vigorous young settler of some six feet in his vamps, 'and I ask you, sir, this blessed morning, wasn't it a mortial sin to turn his father, and three boys as likely as himself, out of the ould country? Sheep they wanted, indeed! Christians wouldn't do 'em. Well, the Lord had a hand in it, after all, for here they are, all the boys, with their hundred acres apiece; and what do you think, sir—eh, Terrence, my buck! Faith, sir, he's looking out already.

Don't mind the boys laughing, Terry; you'll never do it younger. But, sir, there they are, them four fine lads, and every man of them the lord of his own estate. After all, there's nothing like being a man's own master.'

'He doesn't always be that same, Mr. M'Allister, when once he's married,' suggested one of the bystanders, with a sly twinkle in his eye.

Mr. M'Allister did not seem to have heard the observation; nevertheless he rapidly changed the conversation, and, plunging deep into the politics of Europe, appeared immensely interested in the intentions of the Emperor Napoleon towards the Court of Rome. Jimmy was in high spirits that sharp morning, influenced not a little by the knowledge that his excellent wife was then enjoying 'a comfortable snooze in her best feather bed' at the safe distance of half a dozen miles from where her husband stood, the centre of an admiring circle. It was not the right occasion for ailing a grievance; and, indeed, his pet grievance—the want of the resident clergyman—had been so completely demolished by the assurance publicly given by the Bishop, that it was hopelessly past use. The temporary delay in establishing the second school in the settlement afforded him both a theme and a consolation; but even of this text for an occasional harangue he was soon to be deprived. Jimmy may now be in search of a grievance; and, when found, it is to be hoped it may not be a very serious one—barely sufficient to afford a gentle provocation to amicable discussion.

To my humble self, I must gratefully admit, Mr. M'Allister did the honours of the settlement in a manner at once affable and patronising.

When we took our departure, which was not achieved without vigorous and repeated hand-shakings, and prayers and blessings unnumbered, we were accompanied a couple of miles of the road by the Resident Magistrate of the settlement, who also combined in his own person the additional dignities of Captain of Militia and Councillor of the Parish. Mr. Cummins was himself one of the settlers, and he recounted with modest pride the story of his early efforts and his daily increasing prosperity.

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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