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!! Ballina Chronicle; May 15, 1850; Letter from T.F. Meagher- part 1

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  • Cathy Joynt Labath
    BALLINA CHRONICLE Ballina, Mayo, Ireland Wednesday, May 15, 1850 Mr. Meagher, M.P. for Waterford (father to Mr. Thomas F. Meagher) has received a letter from
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 10, 2006
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      BALLINA CHRONICLE
      Ballina, Mayo, Ireland
      Wednesday, May 15, 1850

      Mr. Meagher, M.P. for Waterford (father to Mr. Thomas F. Meagher) has
      received a letter from his son, in which he gives a description of how he is
      circumstanced, and his treatment, in his new penal home. His health was
      never better- his spirits good, and his general treatment is not to be
      faulted. He has, to a certain extent, his freedom- his "castle", or hut to
      live in- and his books to read. Many of these comforts have been denied to
      Smith O'Brien in consequence of his obstinacy, for which he himself is the
      sufferer.

      LETTER FROM T.F. MEAGHER
      Van Dieman's Land, 1st Dec. 1849

      After a very wearisome and somewhat stormy passage across the Indian
      Ocean, we sighted the extreme southern point of this island about one
      o'clock on Saturday, October 28th. The day was extremely beautiful, and this
      was all the more delightful to us, not alone that we had been sickened, for
      many days previous with wet and boisterous weather, and required a soft and
      sunny change to cheer us up, for that we were thereby afforded an
      opportunity of enjoying to the best advantage the charming, noble scenery
      which lines the shores of the bay, at the mouth of the river Durvant. I skip
      over six weeks' sailing from the Cape, for a very good reason indeed, for
      the best of all reasons- that I have nothing to say about it. Not a sail was
      seen the whole way across. I must not omit, however, to mention what
      occurred at the Cape on our arrival there. About eight o'clock in the
      evening on the 11th Sept., we cast anchor in Simmond's Bay, a fine, deep,
      spacious basin, lying somewhere near 20 miles from Cape Town, the capital of
      the colony, and the seat of government. In less than five minutes after we
      were boarded by a lieutenant, who came direct from the commodore in command
      of the station, bearing instructions of a very startling nature. These
      instructions forbade any one on board the "Swift" to land; forbade, in the
      next place, any communication between the "Swift" and the shore; and,
      finally, they conveyed the desire of the commodore that we should make sail,
      and be out of the harbour by 12 o'clock the next day. This was delightful
      intelligence, surely! considering that we had nothing but salt provisions on
      board. The captain, however, could see the commodore on board his ship, the
      "Castor;" and, as far as she was able, the latter would supply the "Swift"
      with fresh provisions. Next morning before sir, I was on deck, staring most
      inquisitively at the 30 or 40 houses which constituted the little town of
      Simmond's Bay. It is situated at the base of the long high table lands,
      which spring up almost abruptly on three sides of the Bay. Bleak, sterile
      heights they are; variegated in their entire extent with alternate patches
      of sand and brown grass, and having nothing in the least inviting about
      their look or nature. At this early hour, the water-tank- the hulk of an old
      Brazilian slaver, by the by- was moored alongside, and out of it a party of
      Marines from the "Castor" were pumping a supply of fresh water into the poor
      thirsty little "Swift." Then further on in the morning we had boats putting
      off from this benevolent old "Castor" loaded with joints of Cape beef, and
      eggs, and potatoes, and a head or two of sheep, and rolls of butter, and
      pints of milk, and loaves of bread. By and by, odd spars and timbers, and
      spare canvas, along with some pound of tobacco, and the requisite quantities
      of rum and Hollands, were stowed away on board, and by 12 o'clock we were
      standing out to sea with a stout breeze behind us, and a wild black sea
      sweeping down upon our bows. In a few hours we found ourselves companionless
      once more among the waters. And so continued, until as I have said, we
      sighted the extreme southern point of Van Dieman's Land upon Saturday, the
      28th October. Yet a delightful compensation was afforded us by the scenery,
      through which, from Storm Bay, we glided up to Hobart Town. Bold cliffs,
      springing up fully eighty feet above the blue water, and bearing on them
      summits, the forest of the gum tree- a tree tall and beautiful, as the cedar
      of Lebanon, and, like the palm tree of the desert, throwing out the richest
      foliage from the capital of its bare, but stately shaft; a wide cleft next,
      from which, as from some delicious valley of our green isle, a farm house,
      with its garden in front and stout hay ricks behind, peeped out so quietly;
      by and bye a signal tower, with the red flag, waving above the tallest tree;
      then again a fishing boat, sparkling all over with the silver light that
      flashed from the spangled waters; and, after a little, Mount Wellington in
      all its glory! This is a noble mountain which rises to the height of 4,000
      feet, immediately behind the town. Yet, all this while, twilight was
      effacing the bright colouring of the scene and blending rock and tree, the
      signal tower, the sky and mountain, into one deep mass of purple shadow.
      Night had set in when our anchor dropped. Captain Aldham shortly after went
      ashore and having returned in an hour or so, informed us we were not to be
      removed for a day or two. Next day we amused ourselves looking through the
      glasses, prying into gardens, streets, stores and buildings of every
      description - scanning, too, the features of soldiers, sailors and civilians
      and following to the uttermost point of observation, the horses, carriages
      and cabs, which turned out one street and then dashed up another, and flying
      past some open spaces disappeared at length, within a labyrinth of red
      bricks, or the foliage of the park. Hobart Town, you must know, boasts of
      such a resource, and a first rate one it is too.
      This day we had the Swift, I must say, all to ourselves; the officers,
      and towards evening, most of the men, being away through the town enjoying
      themselves every direction as well as they might, poor fellows! after the
      hard quarter's work they went through. During the day, several boats decked
      out in the gayest colouring and swept along with brick and flashing oars,
      playing round us in the most lively spirit; and as they neared the gang-way,
      or speeding by us crossed our stern, we saw many an inspiring glance thrown
      up towards the quarter deck, where the prisoners were supposed to be.
      Sometimes a hat was raised, a parasol thrown back and a handkerchief waved;
      at other times, despite the order of a marine on guard "to keep off" a
      little craft, more zealous and intrepid than the rest, pulled in close to
      the gangway, and a friendly voice bidding defiance to the bayonet which
      gleamed above, and the ball cartridge it betokened inquired "how the
      gentlemen were, and when they would come ashore." In all these incidents,
      slight and feeling as they were, we saw at once the evidence of a kindly
      feeling towards us; and somehow we felt as though a few warm whispers of the
      old Irish heart at home were floating through the air. How were we wrong in
      this, for later still, we heard in its full broad tone, the true expression
      of that old, but faithful, and enduring heart. About 7 o'clock O'B and I
      were waling up and down the quarter deck together when a boat rowed by, a
      fine young lad, and having two women in it, stole quietly along side. The
      sentry, however, was wide awake, and was not long in bidding them "be off."
      "Ah! then, why would you be tellin' us to be off, sentry, my darlin', when
      you're the best of the country abroad?" The accent and the sentiment were
      not to be mistaken as O'B and I moved forward to have a nearer view of the
      visitors. The moment they saw us the eldest of th4e women- for one of them
      was rather old, and the other was both young and handsome- clapping the
      hands, with the pocket handkerchief between them, exclaimed, "Oh! you're
      welcome to us! though its a quare home you're coming to." Here the sentry
      conceived it his duty to be a degree or two more peremptory, and pitching
      his voice to a level with the conception ordered the boat to "be off" and
      "not to be a minute about it." Upon which our poor countrywoman renewed her
      welcome, and adding, "shure it was a hard case not to get a sight of the
      gentlemen at all," wished us good night. Next morning, along with a number
      of other women, who had come for the officers linen, she was found on board.
      She had a long talk with- about Limerick and Clare, and the gentry on both
      sides of the Shannon from Tarbert to
      Doonas; for she knew them all well, "that she did. and why not when she was
      born, bred, and reared in Newmarket-on-Fergus, where she had seen many a
      bright May-day and many a harvest home, and cheerful Holy eve." To continue
      her story, her husband had been in the "troubles" some years ago, a
      Whiteboy, or something of that sort, and after he got his liberty, she came
      out to him, and brought "that slip of a boy we saw in the boat, and his
      sister beside him, long with her," all the way from the Cove of Cork, out
      here; but she heard it was a beautiful climate, and money in plenty and
      mutton for nothing. So they took a farm, but the bad times came - there are
      bad times here as well as at home, says she - and they had to come into
      town; and her husband was working for Mr. Somebody over the way, and she did
      a little in the mangling line; but that wouldn't have brought her here on
      deck if Mister O'Brien wasn't there for his country, and her starving poor-
      God help the crathurs!"

      ...to be continued...
      Cathy Joynt Labath
      Ireland Old News
      http://www.IrelandOldNews.com/
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