View of Ardfinnan, seen from the north-east. The partially ruined Ardfinnan Castle towers above the village, in the centre of the image. Below the ruin, a road winds between two rows of houses, some thatched, some tiled or slated. A man on horseback rides towards the viewer. Behind him, and to the left, a man and a woman converse. To the right, a child is crouched on the road, possibly playing. On the right-hand side of the road, a woman stands near two men in conversation.
Inscribed in Image
|Subject(s)||Antiquities and archaeological sites, Architecture, Cities and towns, Forts and fortifications|
|Keywords(s)||Archaeological sites, Buildings, Cabins, Castles, Children, Cottages, Hats, Hills, Horses, Houses, Men, Peasants, People, Ruins, Towers, Trees, Women|
|Dimensions||9 cm x 15.5 cm|
|Published / created||1847|
|Travel Account||A summer visit to Ireland in 1846|
|Print or manuscript|
|Location of image in copy||opp. p. 63|
|Source copy||National Library of Ireland J 9141|
This is a link to a digital copy hosted by an external website.
|Rights||Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland|
Related text from travel account
|Ardfinnan is a poor village excessively picturesque, with its old fortress that perched up on a precipitous rock overhangs the river, and commands the place. "It was built by King John when Earl of Morton in 1184;" so saith Mr. Frazer in his altogether very useful Guide Book, which I recommend to travellers, more especially for the clear little maps with which it is furnished. He says, moreover, that it afterwards passed into the hands of the Knights Templars. In whose soever it may be now it will not remain a ruin long; for I saw scaffolding and ladders, and workmen busily repair- [p.64] ing the damages of time; building up walls, and putting in windows; and of a certes, it is a charming place for any one who loves life in the wilderness.
We rather went out of our way to visit Ardfinnan, in consequence of a very interesting tale told to me by a friend who figured in it, the scene of which was laid here.
It is necessary I should describe the locale. Immediately below the Castle the river winds round a green peninsula, having a long bridge of five arches, a common mode of construction in Ireland, and encircled by low hills. This particular site was destined some twenty years ago to be that of the execution of five criminals for the perpetration of the following horribly atrocious murder.
An English farmer and his wife took some land under a neighbouring Squire, having succeeded to persons of loose and idle habits, who were ejected to make room for the Sassenachs. One night they were awakened by people breaking into their house, and starting up beheld five figures with blackened faces surrounding their bed. The unfortunate farmer was instantly shot before his wife's eyes, and the trembling woman compelled to get up and [p.65] light the villains about the house. They broke open every cupboard and bureau, and having possessed themselves of the lease and other papers burnt them, and decamped, not stealing a half penny, and leaving the wretched widow more dead than alive. However, during their frequent comings and goings about the dwelling, they occupied so much time, she had leisure for observing their persons through the masks; and recognised the features of all the five to be those of the ejected tenants, and her husband's own labourers. She gave immediate information against them, and the whole five were taken up and lodged in Clonmel Gaol; tried, proved guilty, and sentenced to die.
When the day of execution arrived, my informant was summoned with a troop of the Scotch Greys, to keep the peace, which it was rumoured would be broken, for a general rising was threatened among the peasantry. The soldiers were drawn up on the bridge, and round the green spot before described beneath it, in the midst of which the gallows were erected. Looking up they perceived the tops of the hills which girdle in the vale crowded with women; not one man was to be seen! The priests were [p.66] supposed to have forbidden their attendance from apprehension of mischief and bloodshed.
It was contrived that the five miscreants might swing at once, and at the moment of the cart's being withdrawn, as the drop fell, a yell burst simultaneously from the hill-tops, so terrible, so piercing, that my friend said every soldier turned pale, every heart "felt small," the chargers started and plunged in affright, and had men instead of women been the performers, and had they descended from their post of eminence, and made an onslaught on the Dragoons, it is possible Her Majesty's Greys might have been in a different position, and have had a different tale to tell!
These females then broke out into the Keen, and the effect of it from the lips of thousands rending the air, and thrilling upon the hearers, was a thing he said he never should forget!
The widow of the murdered man continued to live on in the same farmstead, protected by the policemen quartered in her house. This state of things endured for four years, during which she met with nothing to lead her to suspect she had an enemy left. At the expiration of the fourth year [p.67] she dismissed the officers, thinking it unnecessary to detain them any longer. She was murdered the following day! [pp. 63-67]