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Stories of Ireland

'Is maith an scéalai an aimsir
Time is a great storyteller' - Irish Proverb


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   The Night of the Big Storm.

The Legend of the Leprechaun
The Legend of the Shamrock
The Legend of the Blarney Stone
The Story of the Irish Race
Feedback to "The Story of the Irish Race"
Jonathan Swift (1667 - 1745)
Was St Valentine a true blue Dub?



Rain. You never saw anything like it! Wind. You never felt anything like it! If I tell you what I saw and what I felt, you won't believe me. But the marks are there. The signs of devastation linger.

I was only a gossoon at the time. A time of great troubles. Maguires, O'Neills, O'Donnells, raiding and pillaging. And no one could gain the upper hand.

My father was killed. An uncle too. My mother grieved full sore. Down to the abbey she would go. Masses for their souls. Novenas for peace. Paters and Aves, "Is eadh do bheathas" and "Ar n-athars."

For me, the life of a monk. 'Twas all laid out. She and the abbot agreed. Two more years and a novice monk of Bernard I would become.

The night of the big wind changed all that. And not for me alone. Changed the lives of everyone.

That was a strange year, a very strange year. A dry spring. A drier summer. Then came the sickness Madar had foreseen. Now, that was a name I couldn't mention in mother's hearing. "A mad man. A really bad man. Read the clouds? Read my backside!" Mother was like that. A prayerful woman. A pious woman. A righteous woman. But, when roused, a holy terror who didn't mince words. Maybe 'twas the O'Neill blood in her, for didn't she come from Tir Eoghan?

Maybe that's where I get my own contrariness. When I take a scunner--- What? The big wind? The night of the big wind? Sure that's what happens when you're growing old. Easily led astray. The thoughts come crowding in. The memories won't go away. And sometimes they get jumbled up.

What was I? Just turning twelve summers the next year.

Tending castle horses was my job, on the hill above the ford. A meanly job. Not a job for a soldier's son. But my mother's wish was law, and the warrior corps was forbidden to me.

The month after Nolaig, on the eighth day, and the sun clouding to the west, was when the horses sensed it. At first a general restlessness. Then, as the clouds grew greyer, a tossing of manes, a stamping of feet, a nervous whinnying.

All wind died. The air itself stood still. The hair on my scalp rose up.

Across the bay, from Knocknaree to Slieve League, a solid bank of purple black. Menacing. Threatening. Lowering.

Off the hill I chased the horses, down the north bank and into a swale. There they milled nervously, rolling eyeballs, dripping sweat.

Back to the summit to see what was happening, and no sense that anything could happen to me.

Down at the bothans I saw people running. Some for the castle. Some up the river. A lot on the cliff above the south bank.

Below to my right something came to my sight. The estuary waters-- they drained right out! Otters and seals flopped on dry land.

I tell you the bar was as dry as cork in an empty bottle! The sea retreated into the bay. To the edge of the universe, it seemed like to me.

Then a roar split the heavens. The ocean rose up and raced for the shore. The great bank of cloud sent flashes of lightning and pealings of thunder. And it, too, moved landward, gathering speed.

High above on Cnoc na gCapall, the Hill of the Horses, I saw it all, how the sea formed one wave, a massed mountain of water, and came crashing inshore.

A great tidal bore, it smashed through the bar and swept up the river. It altered its channel, you can see to this day.

Inis Saimer was buried, Muldory's old dwelling swept away.

Now comes the part you'll find hard to believe. That immense wave, that mountain of water, swept over Assaroe!

At Caol-Uisce its fury was spent, and the Erne sent it back to the sea.

All the while the winds grew in strength, with deafening thunder and a deluge of rain. Trees uprooted, cattle drowned. Bothans and houses beaten into the ground. People buried underneath. Desolation all around. And it lasted all night.

To this day you can gather seashells in the Erne's watercourse. To this day the old people talk about the night of the big wind. I, Miles, saw it all, rain sodden, clinging to a strong yew tree, high on the hill, on Cnoc na gCapall.

My mother, God rest her, perished that night. With her death died her dream that I enter the monkery. My spirit was set free to soar as high as that hawk you see, circling, circling, circling, in the blue sky above the Falls of Assaroe.

"The Age of Christ, 1478. A great tempest arose on the night of Epiphany, which was a night of general destruction to all by reason of the number of persons and cattle destroyed, and the trees and houses, both on water and land, prostrated throughout Ireland." (Annals of the Four Masters).

The Night of the Big Storm.

OICHE NA CAOITHE MOIRE The Night of the Big Storm


On the evening of Saturday 5th January 1839 heavy snow fell throughout Ireland. The morning was completely calm and the sky was covered with motionless dense cloud. As the morning progressed the temperature rose well above the January average. The snow quickly melted. Unknown to all a deep depression (estimated to have been 918 Millibars at its minimum) was then forming in the north Atlantic. As the warm front which covered the country gradually moved eastwards, and rose in the atmosphere, it was replaced by a cold front which brought with it high winds and heavy rain. The rain commenced before noon in the west and spread very slowly eastwards. In Mayo, the late afternoon turned chilly while the east of the country still enjoyed the unseasonally high temperatures experienced in Mayo earlier that day. At dusk, wind speeds increased, conditions got colder and alternate showers of rain and hail began to fall. By nine o'clock at night the wind had reached gale force and continued to increase. By midnight it had reached hurricane force and remained at that level until five o'clock in the morning when it reduced again to gale force. During the hurricane the wind blew variously from the south-west, west and north-west. Gales continued until six o'clock on Monday evening. At nine o'clock on Monday morning air pressure was at 972.6 Millibars and the temperature was then 4.4. Degrees Celsius in Dublin.

Have you ever noticed that many of the old houses in the parish of Addergoole are built in a hollow?

I often wondered why this was so and only recently discovered the reason. I was told that the reason for this was the fear that remained in people's memories from the night of the "Big Wind." They felt that by building their houses in a hollow they would be more sheltered in case another hurricane-type storm like that of 1839 would recur. The horror of seeing the roofs blowing off the houses and animals being killed by flying debris, and trees falling, and whole families left homeless in the wake of the terrible wind of the 6th January, 1839, still lived in peoples memories.

Brendan McWilliams

We shall never know for sure if the storm that struck Ireland on the night of January 6th/7th 1839 was the most severe this country has ever experienced, but its reputation has proved to be the most enduring. That night 156 years ago is remembered as Oíche na Gaoithe Móire - ``The Night of the Big Wind.''

Damage to shipping by the storm around the Irish coast was estimated at half a million pounds, an almost unimaginable sum of money in those days. In Dublin, the Liffey rose many feet to overflow the quay walls, and the splendid avenue of elms which graced the main thoroughfare of the Phoenix Park was completely levelled. Around the country great distress was caused to farmers by the loss of virtually all their cattle fodder, and the stately demesnes of many great houses were laid low. More than a hundred people lost thier lives all told, crushed by falling masonry or swept away in the floods that accompanied the raging winds.

From the evidence available we now know that the ``Big Wind'' was caused by a very deep depression that originated over the Atlantic and passed eastwards just to the north of Ireland and Scotland. In the early hours of Monday, January 7th, it lay over the northern Hebrides, and it was the very strong westerly winds that it genereated over Ireland from this position which caused the havoc - all the more fearsome in that it was confined almost entirely to the hours of darkness.

Taken from the Weather Eye column in The Irish Times of January 6, 1995.

The Legend of the Leprechaun

If you should be walking along a wooded path some moonlit night in Spring and hear the faint tap-tapping of a tiny hammer, you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of an Irish leprechaun, the elfin shoemaker. His roguish tricks are the delight of Irish story-telling. According to legend, the leprechaun has a pot of gold hidden somewhere, and he must give up his treasure to the one who catches him. You'll have to step lively and think quickly to capture a leprechaun's gold though, because this sly little fellow will fool you into looking away for an instant while he escapes into the forest.

A story is told of the man who compelled a leprechaun to take him to the very bush where the gold was buried. The man tied a red handkerchief to the bush in order to recognize the spot again and ran home for a spade. He was gone only three minutes, but when he returned to dig, there was a red handkerchief on every bush in the field!

As long as there are Irishmen to believe in the "little folk," there will be leprechauns to reflect the wonderful Irish sense of fun. Many a new story of leprechaun shenanigans will be added to Irish folklore each year. Will you be the lucky person to catch a leprechaun and find the pot of gold? Perhaps it's at the end of everyone's rainbow!

The Legend of the Shamrock

Long ago, when Ireland was the land of Druids, there was a great Bishop, Patrick by name, who came to teach the word of God throughout the country. This saint, for he was indeed a saint, was well loved everywhere he went. One day, however, a group of his followers came to him and admitted that it was difficult for them to believe in the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Saint Patrick reflected a moment and then, stooping down, he plucked a leaf from the shamrock and held it before them, bidding them to behold the living example of the "Three-in-One." The simple beauty of this explanation convinced these skeptics, and from that day, the shamrock has been revered throughout Ireland.

It has been said that St. Patrick also used the shamrock to demonstrate the mystery of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) to the Ancient High Kings of Ireland. The word shamrock is derived from the Irish "seamrog," meaning "summer plant." The symbol of the shamrock is found on Irish medieval tombs and on old copper coins, know as St. Patrick's money. The plant was reputed to have mystic powers --- the leaves standing upright to warn of an approaching storm.

Green is associated with St. Patrick's Day because it is the color of the shamrock, the color of Spring and new life, and the color of Ireland. The Irish landscape is green all year round. The shamrock is worn by millions of people all over the world on St. Patrick's Day, not only by the Irish and those of Irish descent, but by all who relate to the indominable spirit of Ireland.

The Legend of the Blarney Stone

For many centuries, as everyone knows, English monarchs tried to impose their will on Ireland. Queen Elizabeth I, eager to extend the influence of her government, sent a deputy to Cormac MacDermot MacCarthy, who was Lord of Blarney, and demanded that he take the tenure of his lands from the Crown. Cormac set out to visit the Queen and plead for his traditional right to his land, but he despaired for success for he was not fluent of speech.

Shortly after starting his journey, he met an old woman who asked him why he looked so forlorn. He told her his story and she said, "Cormac, when Blarney Castle was built, one stone was put into place by a man who predicted no one would ever be able to touch it again. If you can kiss that stone, the gift of eloquence will be conferred upon you."

Cormac traveled back to his castle and succeeded in kissing the stone. He then was able to go and address the Queen with speech so soft and words so fair that as long as he lived, he never had to renounce his right to his land. From that time forward, people have traveled from many lands to try to kiss the Blarney stone and receive the "gift of gab" and eloquence of speech.

The Story of the Irish Race

The Irish race of today is popularly known as the Milesian Race, because the genuine Irish (Celtic) people were supposed to be descended from Milesius of Spain, whose sons, say the legendary accounts, invaded and possessed themselves of Ireland a thousand years before Christ.

The races that occupied the land when the so-called Milesians came, chiefly the Firbolg and the Tuatha De Danann, were certainly not exterminated by the conquering Milesians. Those two peoples formed the basis of the future population, which was dominated and guided, and had its characteristics moulded, by the far less numerous but more powerful Milesian aristocracy and soldiery. All three of these races, however, were different tribes of the great Celtic family, who, long ages before, had separated from the main stem, and in course of later centuries blended again into one tribe of Gaels - three derivatives of one stream, which, after winding their several ways across Europe from the East, in Ireland turbulently met, and after eddying, and surging tumultuously, finally blended in amity, and flowed onward in one great Gaelic stream.

The possession of the country was wrested from the Firbolgs, and they were forced into partial serfdom by the Tuatha De Danann (people of the goddess Dana), who arrived later. Totally unlike the uncultured Firbolgs, the Tuatha De Dannann were a capable and cultured, highly civilised people, so skilled in the crafts, if not the arts, that the Firbolgs named them necromancers, and in course of time both the Firbolgs and the later coming Milesians created a mythology around these.

In a famed battle at Southern Moytura (on the Mayo-Galway border) it was that the Tuatha De Danann met and overthrew the Firbolgs. The Firbolgs noted King, Eochaid was slain in this great battle, but the De Danan King, Nuada, had his hand cut off by a great warrior of the Firbolgs named Sreng. The battle raged for four days. So bravely had the Firbolgs fought, and so sorely exhausted the De Dannann, that the latter, to end the battle, gladly left to the Firbolgs, that quarter of the Island wherein they fought, the province now called Connaught. And the bloody contest was over.

The famous life and death struggle of two races is commemorated by a multitude of cairns and pillars which strew the great battle plain in Sligo - a plain which bears the name (in Irish) of "The plain of the Towers of the Fomorians". The Danann were now the undisputed masters of the land. So goes the honoured legend.

Courtesy of StudyWeb.

Study Web

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Sligo became one of their main Firbolg colonies. Far from being "uncultured" they were described as strong and athletic, famous as champions and wrestlers. They seem to have been a pastoral people. It is only as a defeated people are they described as "black, loquacious, lying, tale-bearing, and of low groveling mind" by their conquerors.

By the Bardie Accounts the Firbolgs and the Tuatha de Danana were of commom descent and were not "two races". Eochy, King of the Firbolgs, hearing of the sudden appearance of the Tuatha de Danana on the borders of what is now Sligo sent his best warrior, Sreng, to abtain as much information as possible. Sreng met with Breas, warrior of the Tuath de Danana, and discover they both spoke the same language.

Agreement on the division of land was not reached and the Tuatha de Danana moved further South and West to Mount Belgarden, on the plain of Moytirra (near the village of Cong in Mayo).

The battle commenced on Midsummer's Day, and continued for four successive days, when the Firbolgs were defeated with great slaughter and the loss of 300 fighting men. Sreng dealt Nuada a blow which severed his arm at the shoulder (the confusion over arm or hand could arise from the nickname he acquired - 'silver-handed'). Sreng was killed here.

Eochy, the Firbolg king was not killed in this battle. Eochy had left the battle-field with a bodyguard of 400 men, followed by a party of 150 of his enemies who pursued him as far as Traigh-Eothaile (now Beltra Strand near Ballysodare, Co. Sligo). It was here that King Eochy was killed and buried where he lay.

The cairns are on the opposite side of Ballysodare Bay and of course have nothing to do with the battles.

Contributed by:

Jim McDonald


(ahgh-mah) or (Ogh-muh), the Wrestler, is the god of knowledge. It is he who presides over learning and writing, and the first Gaelic alphabet, Ogham, was named in his honor. Oghma is also the god of wrighting, runes, magic, and wisdom. He empowers runes with his magic, helped us learn to write, and he is the father of wisdom and the wise.

Oghma was the Irish God of literature and eloquence. He was the son of De Dagda and the champion of the Tuatha de Dannan. He carried a huge club. He was also called Cermait, which means `honey-mouthed` or Grainainech, meaning `sunny-faced`. He married Etain, daughter of Diancecht, the God of Medicine, and got several children. His son Cairpre became the professional bard of the Tuatha de Dannan.

He is sometimes thought of as the patron deity of poets. Writing was considered a very sacred and holy act by many early people including the Celts. It is for this reason that the Celts had a strong oral tradition, even among their magickal folk, as very little was believed safe to commit to paper.

Aside from Oghma's literary association, he was a warrior of Tara who fought with Llugh against the Fomorians. He was also given a role in myth of helping to escort the recently dead to the Otherworld.

He had two nicknames which tell much about his character. One was Cermait, which means "the honey-mouthed", relating to the Irish gift of gab known as blarney, and the other is Grianainech, "the sunny-faced", believed to come from his great wisdom.

Contributed by: Steeler059

Jonathan Swift (1667 - 1745)

by Charles A. Read
Originally published in The Cabinet of Irish Literature, Dublin: 1880

In the spring of 1667 Jonathan Swift, full cousin to the poet Dryden, and steward to the Society of King's Inns, Dublin, died in poor circumstances leaving a widow. Seven months later, on the 30th of November, in a little house in Hoey's Court the poor widow gave birth to a son who was named Jonathan after his dead father, and whose life, began thus miserably, was fated to be one constant round of warfare and suffering, of defeat in victory and of disappointment in success. Born with a spririt fitting him to rule, the greatest satirist of England felt in the very first years of his life the cold hand of poverty pressing him to the earth and branding him a slave.

From his earliest days there seemed to be something in Swift's life different from other men. His father had been buried at the expense of the society he served; his mother and himself were kept in existence by the scanty, and we believe necessarily scanty, bounty of his uncle Godwin. Still, it seems he had a nurse, and this nurse like other women in after days became so attached to him that when she was called away to England to the death-bed of a relative she carried him with her clandestinely. After she was found the mother refused to insist on taking the child from her, fearing that because he was delicate he might not be able to stand the fatigue of a voyage from Whitehaven to Ireland. So in Whitehaven Swift remained three or four years, and there learned to read the Bible with ease.

When he was about five years of age his nurse carried him to Ireland again, where alas! there was now no kind mother to receive him, she having gone to live with a relative at Leicester in England. The little waif was taken into the family of his uncle Godwin, by whom he was sent to Kilkenny school when he reached six years of age, and there he remained for about eight years. According to Sir Walter Scott, his name, cut in school- boy fashion upon his desk for form, is still shown to strangers. There he learned to celebrate his birthdays by reading from Job the fierce passage in which that patriarch curses the day in which it was said in his father's house "that a man-child was born," and there, no doubt he suffered many an indignity from the poverty-stricken state in which he was maintained by an uncle who seemed (but in reality was not), rich.

At the age of fourteen he was entered into the University of Dublin, being on the 24th of April 1682 received as a pensioner under the tuition of St. George Ashe. His cousin Thomas Swift was also admitted at the same time, and owing to this fact and to the mention of surnames alone in the college record, great difficulty has arisen in tracing certain details of their lives. At the university Swift rebelled against having to study the learned sophistry of Smiglecius and his fellows. Instead he dived deeply into studies of a wide but desultory kind, and while so doing drew up, young as he was, a rough sketch of his Tale of a Tub. Not only did he rebel against Smiglecius and his crew, he rebelled also against the college discipline, and became reckless and violent in other respects. Like Johnson in a similar condition he "disregarded all power and all authority;" he was "miserably poor, mad, and violent," and what "was bitterness, that they mistook for frolic." For this he suffered several and severe penalties, and in February, 1685-6, the heaviest punishment of all in having his degree conferred on him by special favour. He still remained in college however, and still continued to be a rebel to its rules. On the 18th of March 1687 he was publicly admonished for neglect of duties, and on the 20th of Novemeber 1688 he and some others were convicted of insolent conduct to the junior dean, and he and another had their academical degree suspended. They were condemned to publicly crave pardon of the offended dignitary.Whether or not Swift ever submitted to the latter degradation is unknown, but shortly afterwards he left the college "without," as Scott says, "a single friend to protect, receive, or maintain him," - his uncle having died a year or two before. The war of the Revolution had just broken out in Ireland, so he turned his back upon that country. Footsore and weary, he presented himself at his mother's residence in Leicestershire. There it was impossible for him to remain, as his mother was herself only the recipient of the bounty of her friends, and an inmate of a house which was not her own. She advised him to apply to Sir William Temple, a retired statesman, into whose house he was received as amanuensis at a salary of 20 pounds a year.

Swift resided for a couple of years at the residence of Temple at Moor Park, near Farnham. In the earlier part of his stay he was treated with coldness and distrust, as one who had far too confident a mien and too presuming a temper for one so poor. However, he gradually grew in favour as his worth and strength became apparent, and after he a had made a short visit to Ireand for the good of his health Temple took him into confidence so far as to have him present at private interviews with the king. About this time he also went to Oxford, where on the 5th of July 1692 he was admitted to the degree of Master of Arts. At Oxford Swift composed his first extant poetical work, a translation of the eighteenth ode of the second book of Horace. Shortly after he attempted a higher flight in the production of Pindaric odes. These he showed to Dryden, who at once answered decisvely, "Cousin Swift, you will never be a poet." The remark was never forgiven or forgotten, for to the proud bitter soul of Swift it seemed another of the insults to which his youth had been subjected. Despite Dryden's opinion, Swift began to acquire a literary reputation and to make friendships among such men as Congreve - to whom in November 1693 he addressed a copy of verses. In these very verses, as Scott has well remarked, he shows that he felt confidence in his own powers and was already gifted with that "hate for fools" which made him so feared, and for which the "fools" yet make his memory pay dearly. >P> My hate, whose lash just Heaven had long decreed,

Shall on a day make sin and folly bleed.

After Swift's return from Oxford, where he had been flatteringly received, Temple and he grew gradually colder to each other. Swift saw clearly that he was but very poorly rewarded by his patron, who kept him in his present state for selfish reasons he believed Temple looked upon Swift's anxiety for advancement as ingratitude, and offered him a post in the Rolls Office in Ireland which was, it is said, expected to be refused. Swift did refuse it and the two parted in mutual bad temper. Swift made another foot journey to Leicester, stayed there for a short time with his mother, then went over to Ireland - determined to enter his orders. Before being admitted a deacon he had however to write to Sir William Temple for a certificate of conduct. This, after some delay, he brought himself to do. In his letter he made admissions that he had been perhaps over- hasty, if not absolutely wrong in his conduct, and Temple not only gave him the certificate but pleaded his cause with Lord Capel. Due to this influence he was at once, after admission to deacon's orders in January 1694-5, appointed to the prebend of Kilroot near Carrickfergus, worth about 100 pounds a year.

Swift's stay at Kilroot was not for long. He soon became weary of its rude society and dulness. Sir William found that he had lost an indispensable companion whose real value only began to be properly seen when he was no longer present. Swift soon became aware of Sir William's desire for his return, but for a while his pride caused him to hesitate. The situation was resolved almost by accident. One day he met a curate with whom he had formed an acquaintance and who had proved to be not only a good man and modest, but well-learned and the father of eight children, whom he suported on an income of 40 pounds a year. Borrowing the clergyman's horse, Swift started off at once to Dublin, resigned his preferment, and obtained a grant of it for the poor curate, who was so affected with gratitude that the benefactor never forgot the pleasure of the good deed so long as he lived.

On Swift's return to Moor Park in 1695 he was treated "rather as a confidential friend than a dependent companion," and the two great men soon became really fast friends. Once more settling down to work Swift completed his Tale of a Tub, and also wrote The Battle of the Books, neither of which was published until 1704. The latter was written in defence of Temple's side in an argument into which that statesman had got involved as to the relative values of ancient and modern learning.

During this second residence at Moor Park Swift made the acquaintance of Esther Johnson, whom he has immortalized as Stella, an event the most unfortunate in his life as it gave a handle to his enemies to vilify his name. In January 1698-9 Sir William Temple died and the four quietest and happiest years of Swift's life were brought sharply to an end. In his will Sir William left his secretary 100 pounds, and what was looked upon as of much greater value than the money, his literary remains. These Swift edited earefully, and published with a dedication to King William. A petition was also presented to the king reminding him of his promise to Sir William to bestow a prebend of Canterbury or Westminster on Swift; but as the dead statesman's services could no longer be turned to account his secretary's talents and claims ceased to have any force. Swift never even had an answer to his request.

After long waiting, which must have been bitter indeed to his haughty spirit, Swift accepted an offer of the Earl of Berkeley, and went with that nobleman to Ireland as chaplain and private secretary. Before long an intriguer of the name of Bushe was appointed to the place of private secretary, amends being promised to Swift in the shape of the first good church living that should become vacant. In this Swift was again disappointed and tricked. The rich deanery of Derry fell vacant, but Bushe, who seems rapidly to have gained influence over Berkeley, declared Swift should not have it without a bribe of 1000 pounds. Swift, classing master and man together as partners in the vile transaction, burst into an impetuous cry - "God confound you both for a couple of scoundrels!" - and on the instant departed from his lodgings in the castle. Berkeley, alarmed at the thought of Swift's satiric lash, hastened to patch up the breach, and the vicarages of Laracor and Rathbeggan as well as the rectory of Agher, (all in the diocese of Meath), were conferred upon him. These were altogether worth about 270 pounds a year, not half the value of the deanery withheld, but Swift accepted them. Berkeley and Swift never were real friends again, but Lady Berkeley and her two daughters still retained the esteem of the late secretary. One of the daughters, Lady Elizabeth, remained to the end of his days one of his most valued correspondents.

At Laracor he preached regularly on Sundays, and said prayers twice a week - on Wednesdays and Fridays - a thing not them much in vogue. The church, which was in a sad state of dilapidation, he repaired, as well as the vicarage which had almost fallen into ruin through the avarice of former incumbents. He increased the glebe from one acre to twenty. He also purchased the tithes of Effernock, and settled them by will upon the incumbent of that living.

While these things were being done, Stella and her companion Mrs. Dingley took up their abode in the town of Trim, near at hand Johnson, like nearly all Swift's biographers, calls her the "the unfortunate Stella," but we cannot see how the appellation is justified. Her connection with Swift has made her name remembered which it otherwise would never have been. In the company, conversation, and confidence of such a master mind she had a full recompense for sacrifices treble those she seemed to make. Whether in the end Swift did or did not marry her is a matter of little moment, and a thing impossible to determine. It is sufficient for us to know that he and she were pure true friends to the last, and that so far as he was concerned no trace of lower passion was allowed to enter into their intercourse. To avoid scandal he and she continued to live apart; she and Mrs. Dingley occupying the parsonage in his absence, but retiring from it on his return. They also took care never to meet except in the presence of a third party, a piece of precaution that evidently originated with Swift.

In 1701 Swift's career began in earnest by the publication anonymously of his treatise on Dissensions in Athens and Rome, a work in which he showed how easy it is for liberty, by degenerating into license, to force itself to be extinguished by tyranny. The work made a great stir, and was attributed successively to Lord Somers and Bishop Burnet. Burnet, to escape an impeachment by the commons was forced to make a public disavowal of any share in the work, though in private he was no way offended at having it attributed to him. In 1702 on a visit to England Swift publicly avowed the authorship. In 1704 appeared The Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books. The first of these at once placed Swift in the very foremost rank of living writers, and showed to the world and to the friends that flocked around him - Addison, Steele, Arbuthnot, Somers and Halifax - that a new and tremendous literary force had arisen in their midst. In The Tale of a Tub Swift presents as an allegory three sons who mistook, altered, observed, and neglected the will of their father. In the records of their conduct he satirizes the corruptions and follies of the churches. At the same time in his digressions he points his sarcastic thrust at the pedants, authors, and critics of his own and future times. It gave offence in many high quarters, however; notably to Queen Anne who never forgave him for writing it, and who would never afterward listen to his having the bishopric which he desired, earned, and deserved.

Four years later, that is in 1708, appeared The Sentiments of a Church of England Man; Arguments against Abolishing Christianity; Letter upon the Sacramental Test; and the witty ridicule of astrology under the name of Bickerstaff Predictions for 1708 (published at the end of 1707). The first work "is written," says Johson, "with great coolness, moderation, ease, and perspicuity;" and the second "is a very happy and judicious irony." Next year he published his Project for the Advancement of Learning, as well as the Vindication of Bickerstaff, and the curious explanation of an Ancient Prophecy.

In 1710, on the persuasion of the primate of Ireland, Swift solicited the queen for a remission of the first-fruits and twentieth parts to the Irish clergy. In doing this he was joined by the Bishops of Ossary and Killaloe, but the matter was to be left entirely in his hands in case the bishops left London before it was brought to an end. Starting on his journey to London on the first of September, he reached Chester on the 2nd, and there wrote the first of the letters in his Journal to Stella. When he reached London he was full of bitterness against the fallen Whigs who had neglected him, and on the first October he wrote Sid Hamet's Rod, a lampoon on Lord Godolphin. On the 4th he was introduced to Harley, and by Harley he was presented to St. John. Between him and these two ministers a warm friendship commenced. Almost at once he became a close adviser, and was admitted to the meetings of the ministry. On the 10th November 1710 appeared Swift's first number of The Examiner, in which, till the 14th of June 1711 "he bore the battle upon his single shield" - a battle in which he found opposed to him all the friends he had made on his previous visits to London - Steele, Addison, Congreve, Rowe, Burnet. But he was more than a match for them all, and one after another he planted his rankling shafts in the bosoms of Wharton, Somers, Marlborough, Sunderland, and Godolphin. Against Wharton he poured out the very vials of his wrath in his Short Character of the Earl of Wharton. In the midst of the turmoil he did not forget the mission on which he had left Ireland, and at length, owing to the influence he acquired over the ministers he brought it to a successful issue just at the moment the bishops recalled his commission on the pretext of putting it in the hands of the Duke of Ormond. >p> In the latter part of November 1711, a few days before the meeting of parliament, his treatise on The Conduct of the Allies appeared. In the space of a week four editions were swallowed by the public. To this treatise is attributed the conclusion of the peace of Utrecht. It was a masterly piece of political workmanship, drawn up with great care and skill, and carried public opinion with it in a wave. The Whigs denounced it violently, and even Walpole and Aislabie urged that Swift should be impeached at the bar of the House of Lords. Swift however took no notice of the little storm, and continued his work for his friends by drawing up The Representation of the House of Commons on the State of the Nation, and An Address of Thanks to the Queen. In July 1711 he wrote his Proposal for Correcting, Improving, and Ascertaining the English Tongue, which was published in May 1712. Also in 1712 appeared the Reflections on the Barrier Treaty, and his Remarks on the Bishop of Sarum's Introduction to his Third Volume of the History of the Reformation, a bitter reply to the bishop's pamphlet.

Meanwhile, as occasion offered, he busied himself in good offices for his friends, even for those who for political reasons had become his enemies. "Congreve, Rowe, and Philips experienced in their turn the benefits of his intercession," says Sir Walter Scott, "and it appears he was really anxious to be of service to Steele." He smoothed Parnell's way for him, and caused him to receive "that prompt attention which is most flattering to the modesty of merit." Pope had his warmest support while at work over Homer, and Gay was made known to Bolingbroke through him. Berkeley also "owed to Swift those introductions which placed him in the way to promotion." Dr. King, an antagonist, when in distress, received from him effectual assistance and advice.

At this time his desire for a life of ease began to assert itself, and Swift called upon his ministerial friends to redeem the promises of "doing something for him" which they had so often given as compensation for his services as a writer for the press, &c., which they found invaluable. The policy of the Tory party was to bring about a peace and draw with them the popular feeling. In this Swift's pen effected what no other means in their power was sufficient to produce. In his writings he pointed out the attempts of the Dutch to get the better of England in all their treaties, and also represented the financial loss of the country in consequence of a war which would have ended but for the ambition of Marlborough. A bishopric was the least he expected and deserved, and there is no doubt that on a vacancy occurring in the see of Hereford, Bolingbroke struggled hard that he should have it. But an angry woman stood in the way. The Dutchess of Somerset had been ridiculed by Swift in his Windsor Prophecy some time before, and she now used all a clever woman's skill to keep him down. Joined to her was Archbishop Sharpe of York, who did not scruple to describe The Tale of a Tub as "a satire on religion in general," and the writer as "little better than an infidel." The result was that the Queen would not even see Swift, a piece of woman's folly which he generously repaid by never once allowing his pen to say a single bitter word of her. Finally it was arranged that Dr. Sterne should be promoted from the deanery of St. Patrick's in Dublin to the bishopric of Dromore, and Swift was prevailed upon to become a dean. Early in June 1713 he departed for Ireland, feeling more like a person going into exile than one returning to his native land.

In a letter to Stella he says, "At my first coming I thought I should have died with discontent, and was horribly melancholy while they were installing me, but it begins to wear off and change to dulness." In a fortnight's time however he was recalled to England to reconcile Harley and Bolingbroke, between whom a feud had broken out, and upon whose cordial co-operation and confidence the success of their government entirely depended. Swift brought about an interview, and a temporary reconciliation was effected. But perfect confidence between the two was impossible, and the feud broke out again, bringing in its train ruin and disaster. Scarcely had Swift found himself in London again when he too became a party to a bitter feud between himself and Steele, in which Steele shows to much advantage. Swift conducted himself with fierceness and cruelty, and showed all his wit; Steele wrote well and manfully, and conducted himself with considerable generosity. It was the unappeasable Achilles and the more humane Hector over again, though the Hector in this case was not dragged at the chariot-wheels of his rival. Steele in his Crisis admired the wisdom of the union and praised the Scottish nation. Swift took the opposite side, and as he "disliked the Scots and had quarrelled with Argyll," he spoke of the Scots in The Public Spirit of the Whigs, as "a poor fierce northern people." The Scotch lords took the gibes flung at them very ill, and through their influence three hundred pounds were offered for the discovery of the author of the pamphlet. Morphew the bookseller and Barber the printer were both arrested. By the management of the ministry the storm was played with till it had blown itself out however, and Swift, at one moment in great danger, soon found himself of greater importance than ever.

By this time matters between Oxford and Bolingbroke had reached such a height that Swift had once more to try to reconcile them. The attempt failed and he retired, telling them that "all was gone," and that he "would go to Oxford on Monday since he found it was impossible to be of any use." On that Monday he set out for Oxford, and at the house of Mr. Grey, Upper Letcomb, Berkshire, he composed his Free Thoughts on the State of Public Arrairs. This he sent to Barber, Barber showed it to Bolingbroke, and Bolingbroke at once added to it such things as made it very hurtful to Oxford. Swift hearing of this demanded its return. After some delay the manuscript was returned to its author. A little later, and before anything could be done to heal the breach in the Tory ranks, Queen Anne died. Bolingboke and Ormond fled the country; Oxford, Wyndham, Prior, and others were imprisoned; and Swift, finding that the spirit of the Tories was utterly broken, retired into Ireland where he was very badly received and insulted at first.

Very soon however Swift began to make himself at home in his new sphere. He obtained lodgings for Stella and Mrs. Dingley in a house on Ormond's Quay. He himself took possession of the deanery-house, where twice a week he entertained such people as the Grattans, Rev. Mr. Jackson, George Rochefort, Peter Ludlow, Dr. Walonsley, Dr. Helsham, Dr. Sheridan, Mr. Stopford, and Dr. Delany. Before long however a bird of ill omen appeared in Dublin in the shape of Miss Vanhomrigh, "Vanessa," whose acquaintance Swift had made while in London, and who seemed to think, though without any foundation for the thought, that he was likely to marry her. Her appearance roused the jealousy of Stella and made Swift fear for his reputation. He spoke to her harshly of her conduct, but she replied with tears, and fearing that decisive measures might lead to some tragic ending he began a system of temporizing between the two foolish women, and entered upon that course of misery which ended in his madness.

In the year 1716 some say he consented to a marriage with Stella on condition that it was kept a perfect secret, and that their old course of life was continued. That such a marriage ever took place we can hardly believe, and more evidence than that at present existing is required to establish the fact. Anyhow, after this time Swift seems to have redoubled his efforts to make Vanessa forget her wretched passion. But she grew only the more headstrong, and in 1717 she retired like a mourning hermit to her house and property at Celbridge. Here she was occasionally visited by Swift, and to her while here he addressed his finest poem Cadenus and Vanessa. In 1720 Vanessa's sister died, and left alone in the world she made a last effort to secure Swift by writing Stella to know what relations existed between the two. Stella in a rage declared herself the wife of the dean, and sent him Vanessa's letter. Swift's rage was terrific. Mounting a horse he rode at once to the residence of Vanessa, and with a face full of the bitterest anger and contempt flung her letter on the table before her. Then he dashed out of the house and rode madly back to Dublin. In a few weeks the news reached him that the passionate woman was dead of a broken heart, having before dying revoked a will made in his favour, and made another by which she left all she possessed to Dr. Berkeley and Mr. Marshall, afterwards a judge in the Irish Court of Common Pleas.

From 1716 to 1720 there is good reason to believe Swift was engaged in reading up for and in planning and writing portions of his Gulliver's Travels. In 1720 his indignation at the treatment of Ireland vented itself in A Proposal for the Universal Use of Irish Manufactures, &c., utterly rejecting and renouncing everything wearable that comes from England. This made him at once very popular, and roused the anger of the authorities to such a pitch that the printer was prosecuted. In 1723, after much intrigue, one Mr. Wood procured a patent to coin 180,000 pounds in copper for the use of Ireland, by which he would have made enormous gain at the cost of the people. To prevent the carrying out of the evil scheme Swift in 1724 wrote the Drapier Letter, and at once became a power as great as that of O'Connell in after days. After a tremendous stir and bold attempt by the government to overcome him by prosecuting the printer, Swift carried the day. The government yielded, and Wood's patent was surrendered for a yearly grant of 3000 pounds for twelve years.

In 1726 Swift visited England, where he was gladly received by all his old friends, but in the autumn of that year he hurried back to Ireland on hearing of the illness of Stella. He left behind him in London the manuscript of Gulliver's Travels, and in November the work appeared. The public went wild over it. "It was read by the high and the low, the learned and illiterate. Criticism was for a while lost in wonder." "Perhaps," says Scott, "no work ever exhibited such general attractions for all classes." At Voltaire's suggestion it was translated into French. By March 1727 Stella had so much recovered that Swift returned to England where he was again well received; and in the same month appeared the three volumes of Miscellanies in which his name appears with that of Pope, to whom he gave the total profits of this as well as the copyright of Gulliver. After a time he was attacked with a heavy illness, and hearing that Stella was once more unwell he left England for the last time in October 1727. In January 1727-28 Stella died, and from that day forward a cloud seemed to have fallen upon him. He grew morose and passionate, "intolerable to his friends, unendurable to himself." In 1736, while engaged writing a poem called The Legion Club, he was seized with a very long-continued fit, and he never after attempted any work of importance. Before that, between 1730 and 1735, he wrote his Rhapsody of Poetry and Verses on his Own Death. From 1737 to 1739 he busied himself in preparing for publication his History of the Peace of Utrecht, Both this work and Directions to Servants he withheld from the press; they appeared after his death. In the summer 1740, on the 26th July, in a pathetic note to his cousin Mrs. Whiteway the last words that he was to write passed from his pen. Soon after this his mind failed him completely, and in the next year he broke out into violent lunacy. In 1742 reason returned for a few days but only to mock the hopes of his friends, and on the 19th of October 1745 he passed away so quietly that those who watched him scarce knew the moment of his departure.

To make any lengthened comment here on Swift's works would be almost an impertinence. We can scarcely do better than follow the example of Sir Walter Scott, who closes his Memoirs of Swift with the following quotation from "the learned and candid Granger:"

Swift was blessed in a higher degree than any of his contemporaries with the powers of a creative genius. The more we dwell upon the character and writings of this great man, the more they improve upon us; in whatever light we view him, he still appears to be an original. His wit, his humour, his patriotism, his charity, and even his piety, were a different cast from those of other men. He had in his virtues few equals, and in his talents no superior. In that of humour, and more especially in irony, he ever was, and probably ever will be, unrivalled. . . . His style, which generally consists of the most naked and simple terms, is strong, clear, and expressive; familiar without vulgarity or meanness; and beautiful, without affectation or ornament . . . His writings, in general, are regarded as standing models of our language, as well as perpetual monuments of their author's fame.

Was St Valentine a true blue Dub?

written by: Dermot O'Gara

JUST about everybody knows that St Valentine is the patron saint of lovers. You may have known that he was a priest in Rome in the third century, and if you're really on top of your game, you may even have been aware that he died in jail, but you probably didn't know that his final resting place is Dublin.

In fact the good priests of the Carmelite Order have been looking after his remains in their priory in Whitefriar St, just off Aungier St in Dublin, for over 160 years.

We have a good deal of information about St Valentine, but separating the fact from the legend is a bit like trying to separate a teenage couple at a school disco.

Fertility festival It seems he was martyred in 269, supposedly for marrying couples against the wishes of Emperor Claudius II who felt that single men made better soldiers. Legend would have it that he died for his faith on February 14th of that year, and that this is why we celebrate him on that day. However, it's likely that the fact that we celebrate St Valentine at this time of year is more to do with the ancient Roman spring fertility festival of Lupercalia, which like many other pagan holidays was christianised when in 498 Pope Gelasius decreed that February 14th would be St Valentine's Day.

But how did a Roman Martyr, who had never even set foot in what was later to become an island of saints and scholars, end up in a Dublin church.

In the 1820' and 30's, a Carmelite priest by the name of John Spratt had earned a reputation for his work with the destitute citizens of Dublin's Liberties. A man of apparently boundless energy, Spratt started the building process of the Carmelite church in nearby Whitefriar St in 1825.

Exhumed Ten years later, he was invited to speak at the Jesuit Church in Rome, the Gesu. The elite of Rome came to hear him, including representatives of Pope Gregory XVI. As a token of recognition of the work of Spratt, the Pope ordered the exhumation of the remains of St Valentine from St Hippolytus cemetery near Rome to be shipped to Whitefriar St Church, in Dublin.

In November 1836, the remains were received with great pomp and ceremony, but with the death of Spratt some years later, the remains ceased to be of major public interest.

Some 40 years ago however, they were restored to the public eye having gathered dust for decades in the nether regions of the priory, and are now featured in a purpose-built shrine in the church itself.

This year on February 14th, at 11am and 3.15pm, as has become customary, there will be a special celebration of St Valentine in the place where he now rests, Whitefriar St Church. Carmelite priest, Fr Tony McKenny will celebrate mass and conduct a ring blessing ceremony for engaged and married couples.

It would appear that neither cohabiting couples nor teenagers need apply!

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