An Irish Cabbin

Artist(s) : Arthur Young (Draughtsman), Isaac Taylor, the Elder (Engraver)

View of a thatched Irish cabin, with smoke issuing from the door and vegetation sprouting from its thatched roof. There are no windows to be seen. The corner of another cabin is seen at the left-hand border of the image. The ground in front of the cabin is bare. Beyond the dwellings, on a hillside to the right, lie orderly cultivated fields.

Inscribed in Image

  • Signature – I. Taylor sculp.
  • Caption outside of boundaries of image – An Irish Cabbin.

Image Details

Genre Landscape
Technique Engravings
Subject(s) Agriculture, Architecture, Horticulture, Manners and customs, Rural life
Keywords(s) Cottages, Farming, Mountains
Colour Monochrome
Dimensions 15.1 cm x 19.4 cm15.1 x 19.4
Published / created 1780
Closely related image:
  • Irish Cabin with Livestock – The drawing by Young in the copy of A Tour in Ireland with unique drawings held in the National Library of Ireland (LO 10203) appears to be the source of the engraving published in other copies of the work under the title 'An Irish Cabbin'.

Bibliographical Details

Travel Account A Tour in Ireland [Young; copy with unique drawings]A Tour in Ireland [Young]
Contributor(s)
Print or manuscript Print
Location of image in copy opp. p. 25 (vol. 2)opp. p. 25 (vol. 2)
Source copy National Library of IrelandNational Library of Ireland J.9141.YOU/1780
Permalink
Rights Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

Related text from travel account

HABITATIONS. / The cottages of the Irish, which are all called cabbins, are the most miserable looking hovels that can well be conceived: they generally consist of only one room: mud kneaded with straw is the common material of the walls; these are rarely above seven feet high, and not always above five or six; they are about two feet thick, and have only a door, which lets in light instead of a window, and should let the smoak out instead of a chimney, but they had rather keep it in: these two conveniencies they hold so cheap, that I have seen them both (stopped up in stone cottages, built by improving landlords; the smoak warms them, but certainly is as injurious to their eyes as it is to the complexions of the women, which in general // in the cabbins of Ireland has a near resemblance to that of a smoaked ham. The number of the blind poor I think greater there than in England, which is probably owing to this cause. The roofs of the cabbins are rafters, raised from the tops of the mud walls, and the covering varies; some are thatched with straw, potatoe stalks, or with heath, others only covered with sods of turf cut from a grass field; and I have seen several that were partly composed of all three; the bad repair these roofs are kept in, a hole in the thatch being often mended with turf, and weeds sprouting from every part, gives them the appearance of a weedy dunghill, especially when the cabbin is not built with regular walls, but supported on one, or perhaps on both sides by the banks of a broad dry ditch, the roof then seems a hillock, upon which perhaps the pig grazes. Some of these cabbins are much less and more miserable habitations than I had ever seen in England. I was told they were the worst in Connaught, but I found it an error; I saw many in Leinster to the full as bad, and in Wicklow, some worse than any in Connaught. When they are well roofed, and built not of stones, ill put together, but of mud, they are much warmer, independently of smoke, than the clay, or lath and mortar cottages of England, the walls of which are so thin, that a rat hole lets in the wind to the annoyance of the whole family. The furniture of the cabbins is as bad as the architecture; in very many, consisting only of a pot for boiling their potatoes, a bit of a table, and one or two broken stools; beds are not found universally, the family lying on straw, equally partook of by cows, calves and pigs, though the luxury of flies is coming in in Ireland, which excludes the poor pigs from the warmth of the bodies of their master and mistress: I remarked little hovels of earth thrown up near the cabbins, and in some places they build their turf stacks hollow, in order to afford shelter to the hogs. This is a general description, but the exceptions are very numerous. I have seen in a multitude of cabbins that had much useful furniture, and some even superfluous; chairs, tables, boxes, chests of drawers, earthen ware, and in short most of the articles found in a middling English cottage; but upon enquiry, I very generally found that these acquisitions were all made within the last ten years, a sure sign of a rising national prosperity. I think the bad cabbins and furniture the greatest instances of Irish poverty, and this must flow from the mode of payment for labour, which makes cattle so valuable to the peasant, that every farthing they can spare is saved for their purchase: from hence also results another observation, which is, that the apparent poverty of it is greater than the real; for the house of a man that is mailer of four or five cows, will have scarce anything but deficiencies; nay, I was in the cabbrns of dairymen and farmers, not small ones, whose cabbins // were not at all better, or better furnished than those of the poorest labourer: before, therefore, we can attribute it to absolute poverty, we must take into the account the customs and inclinations of the people. In England a man's cottage will be filled with superfluities before he possesses a cow. I think the comparison much in favour of the Irishman; a hog is a muck more valuable piece of goods than a set of tea things; and though his snout in a crock [footnote: ‘the iron pot of an irish cabbin’] of potatoes is an idea not so poetical as / Broken tea cups, wisely kept for shew, / Rang’d o’er the chimney, glisten’d in a row. / Yet will the cottar and his family, at Christmas, find the solidity of it an ample recompence for the ornament of the other. [vol. 2, pp. 25-26]
HABITATIONS. / The cottages of the Irish, which are all called cabbins, are the most miserable looking hovels that can well be conceived: they generally consist of only one room: mud kneaded with straw is the common material of the walls; these are rarely above seven feet high, and not always above five or six; they are about two feet thick, and have only a door, which lets in light instead of a window, and should let the smoak out instead of a chimney, but they had rather keep it in: these two conveniencies they hold so cheap, that I have seen them both (stopped up in stone cottages, built by improving landlords; the smoak warms them, but certainly is as injurious to their eyes as it is to the complexions of the women, which in general // in the cabbins of Ireland has a near resemblance to that of a smoaked ham. The number of the blind poor I think greater there than in England, which is probably owing to this cause. The roofs of the cabbins are rafters, raised from the tops of the mud walls, and the covering varies; some are thatched with straw, potatoe stalks, or with heath, others only covered with sods of turf cut from a grass field; and I have seen several that were partly composed of all three; the bad repair these roofs are kept in, a hole in the thatch being often mended with turf, and weeds sprouting from every part, gives them the appearance of a weedy dunghill, especially when the cabbin is not built with regular walls, but supported on one, or perhaps on both sides by the banks of a broad dry ditch, the roof then seems a hillock, upon which perhaps the pig grazes. Some of these cabbins are much less and more miserable habitations than I had ever seen in England. I was told they were the worst in Connaught, but I found it an error; I saw many in Leinster to the full as bad, and in Wicklow, some worse than any in Connaught. When they are well roofed, and built not of stones, ill put together, but of mud, they are much warmer, independently of smoke, than the clay, or lath and mortar cottages of England, the walls of which are so thin, that a rat hole lets in the wind to the annoyance of the whole family. The furniture of the cabbins is as bad as the architecture; in very many, consisting only of a pot for boiling their potatoes, a bit of a table, and one or two broken stools; beds are not found universally, the family lying on straw, equally partook of by cows, calves and pigs, though the luxury of flies is coming in in Ireland, which excludes the poor pigs from the warmth of the bodies of their master and mistress: I remarked little hovels of earth thrown up near the cabbins, and in some places they build their turf stacks hollow, in order to afford shelter to the hogs. This is a general description, but the exceptions are very numerous. I have seen in a multitude of cabbins that had much useful furniture, and some even superfluous; chairs, tables, boxes, chests of drawers, earthen ware, and in short most of the articles found in a middling English cottage; but upon enquiry, I very generally found that these acquisitions were all made within the last ten years, a sure sign of a rising national prosperity. I think the bad cabbins and furniture the greatest instances of Irish poverty, and this must flow from the mode of payment for labour, which makes cattle so valuable to the peasant, that every farthing they can spare is saved for their purchase: from hence also results another observation, which is, that the apparent poverty of it is greater than the real; for the house of a man that is mailer of four or five cows, will have scarce anything but deficiencies; nay, I was in the cabbrns of dairymen and farmers, not small ones, whose cabbins // were not at all better, or better furnished than those of the poorest labourer: before, therefore, we can attribute it to absolute poverty, we must take into the account the customs and inclinations of the people. In England a man's cottage will be filled with superfluities before he possesses a cow. I think the comparison much in favour of the Irishman; a hog is a muck more valuable piece of goods than a set of tea things; and though his snout in a crock [footnote: ‘the iron pot of an irish cabbin’] of potatoes is an idea not so poetical as / Broken tea cups, wisely kept for shew, / Rang’d o’er the chimney, glisten’d in a row. / Yet will the cottar and his family, at Christmas, find the solidity of it an ample recompence for the ornament of the other. [vol.2, pp. 25-26]