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IRISH STORIES., Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIX, Issue 9584, 11 April 1919
GRAND JURY RECORDS
The tourist, when he goes to Ireland, visits Killarney, Wicklow, or Connemara; the business man sees little, outside Dublin and Belfast; the result is that the Midland Counties of Ireland are almost unknown to the outside world. Yet, in spite of their being perhaps the most unfrequented counties in Ireland, they have been well "within the pale" for hundreds of years, and in the eighteenth century they appear to have been the scene of considerable social activity. We recently came across an old book which gives a curious> insight into this forgotten society of i long ago, says the "Saturday Review."
"The Grand Juries of the County of Kilmanagh, from the year 1727 to the year 1853, with an Historical Appendix." such is the title of the book. The first part consists merely of the lists of the members of the Grand Juries between i the dates specified. The second part is nominally composed of an appendix, to the first, but the appendix is a mere excuse for the notes thereto, which are by far the most entertaining part of the whole book.
A large number of the stories told in those notes lead us to believe that the drinking habits of Kilmanagh society in the eighteenth century were hv no means at variance with those of the period in other parts of the kingdom. Among; those famous for their exnloits with the bottle, a certain Mr William Nolan, familiarly known as "Billy Nolan," was the most celebrated in the neighbourhood. This gentleman lived by himself in a small house iust outside Ballyhlill. Being, like Pepys, quite tfltable to enjoy a! meal eaten alone, he was in the habit of bringing in any chance passer-by to share his dinner with him. On one occp-sion. as he was walking along the road in front of his house, he met a tsilj, powerful man on a horse, with, a Portmanteau slung on the front of the S&MJe in front of him, as if he was eoittK on a journey. He asked the strafiw-or .MJj and the latter, who exprassed great nleasuro at meeting the famous Billy Nolan, accepted .t>!ls inYita.tion. They ■ s»t- tJj'Wri to'clinnet', 'an 3 Nolan, having ordered up 12 bottles of prime old port, told the servant to retire. At 4 o'clock in the morning the bell rang, and when the servant ro-appcared ha found his master lying insensible on the.floor, and the stranger standing over him with the last bottle of oort in his hand. "Here is Billy Nolan's health," said the stranger; "I never met a better man." Bill had met liis match.
There were many "characters" in the country, and John O'Doriel, or "Jack the Buck," was probably the ; best known of these. It is related of him that when on a visit to Bath,, he was standing one evening watching a game of cards at which the husband of the famous Countess dv Barry was one of the players.. All at once he began to suspect that dv Barry was cheating. O'Donel went over to the sideboard and selected a carving; fork with long and sharp prongs. He went back to the table and continued quietly to watch the game. Suddenly, when dv Barry had got to the last card, O'Donel with, a vigorous prod of the fork transfixed dv Barry's hand to the table, and said in the politest voice imaginable: "Sir, if you have not the ace of clubs under "that hand I shall certainly beg your pardon." The Comte dv Barry was hustlqd from the room.-' *'■■'
Jack the Buck met his end in a duel in London. The nuarrel was about an actress, and his opponent, a Frenchman, was supposed to have protected his chest with paper, for when O'Donel made a pass at him his sword broke, and the Frenchman ran him through the bbdv.
Sometimes the scene of the stories is in Dublin, and there is an anecdote connected with the Duke of Wellington which, whether true or false, is certainly interesting. A Kilmanagh gentleman, named Captain Hugh Tynan, was one of the guests at a card party in Dublin at which Captain Arthur Wellesley, then A.D.C. to Lord Westmoreland, was present. Captain Tynan, who had retired from the Army some years before, still wore his hair in the military fashion —that is to say, with a short pigtail down his back. As he sat playing'cards he felt somehow that he had become the centre of attention and an object of mirth, and, looking round, he found that Captain Wellesley, who was standing behind him. had taken hold of the end of his pigtail and was toying with it in a manner which was causing intense amusement to a group of young officers standing near. Captain Tynan, who was a tall, strongly-built man, said not a word; he simply rose from his seat, and, grasping the future Duke of Wellington by the back of the neck, raised him a. foot or two off the ground and then let go. Having done this he resumed his seat and went on with his game of cards. Captain Tynan, of course, fully expected to- receive a challenge to a duel, but when the game was finished Captain ■ Wellesley, accompanied by another officer, came up to him and apologised. " Sir," said Captain Tynan, "as the apology has been as public as the offence, I will consent to overlook it." l
The most tragic story in the book is that told of the unhappy Lady Sharles* town, whom her husband, for a supposed infidelity of which she was entirely innocent, caused to be imprisoned in a country house for about 30 years. During the first 15 years of her imprisonment she was given a certain amount of liberty, being allowed to walk about the grounds and to receive visits from her children. But, unfortunately for herself, she contrived eventually to escape and to. make her way to Dublin. There she took the worst step possible, by going for protection to the house of her brother-in-law and his wife, for it was none other than his own brother whom the Earl of Charlestown suspected of being his wife's lover. This action of Lady Charlestown's merely confirmed her husband's suspicions; ' she was recaptured after a few days' liberty, and until her husband's .death 13 or 14 years later was subjected to a confine-, ment far closer than that which she had endtired previous to her escape. This story was well known in the country, and the chief authority at the time the "Grand Juries" were written was an old man who, when a boy, had been servant to Lady Charlestown during her imprisonment.
The notes are packed with other anecdotes too numerous to relate at length, and so only a passing reference must be made to the Chatelaine of Tobermore House, who< at breakfast on New Year's Day offered her daughter's hand (by way of a New Year's gift) to a gentleman who had travelled down from Dublin to visit his estates and had asked for hospitality on the last night of the old Tear. There were no back doors at Tobermore House, as the book wittily puts it, and the offer was ac-
IRISH STORIES., Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIX, Issue 9584, 11 April 1919
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