Reckless Improvidence

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER IX (10) start of chapter

In daring and energy in the prosecution of their adventurous pursuit, the Irish are in every respect equal to the other fishermen who hunt the seal, or capture the cod and ling of the great bank. Indeed it would be difficult to see anywhere a body of men more full of life, vigour, and intelligence, than may be found issuing from the Catholic cathedral any Sunday in those portions of the year when the fishermen are at home. There is, however, one thing to be regretted—that the money so gallantly earned is not always wisely spent. It is a matter of regret that the nature of the fisheries is such as to leave long intervals of unemployed time at the disposal of those engaged in them, and this is especially felt when the fisheries are unproductive. In prosperous seasons the earnings of the men are sufficient for their support for the year; but this facility of earning money has its disadvantages, particularly in inducing a spirit of recklessness and habits of extravagance, which not unfrequently tend to much misery. It is no uncommon thing in the seal fishery for a man to earn 20l., 30l., or even more, in a month or five weeks; but, alas! it often goes as rapidly as it is acquired. This, unfortunately for the world at large, is a common result with money so rapidly earned; but in Newfoundland there is the superadded evil of long intervals of idleness, during which the once jovial sinner mourns, in sackcloth and ashes and unavailing repentance, the follies of his prosperous hours. The Irish, perhaps, are not worse than others in their spirit of recklessness and their habits of baneful indulgence; but certainly they are not better than their neighbours in this respect. Social, impulsive, and generous, there are no people in the world, Newfoundland included, whom self-restraint would benefit more than those of Irish birth or origin.

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

ebook: The Irish in America