Sunday, March 19, 2017

Visiting the Homeland, 1876 – Part 2: Roast Duck With All the Trimmings

Today we're back in Ireland with Robert J. and John I. Howe as they visit their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends. Rob and John had never met these relatives before. Still, they didn't consider them strangers. These American-born brothers had heard their immigrant parents tell stories about their Irish family, and the Howes in Ireland had received many letters from their emigrant son and knew much about his American-born family.
The Howe Brothers Who Traveled to Ireland

The photo of Robert (far right) is from one of the scrapbooks compiled by his daughter, Sarah Eva Howe. The handwriting is hers. The photo of John comes from a Howe family album. I have wondered if these images show the same man, but I'm trusting the identifications provided by their contemporaries.

We pick up the brothers' travel diary as they rise and eat breakfast at Uncle Joseph Brown's cottage on a Friday market day.

Friday, Feb’y 11th

Got up just before 8 o’clock. Just at breakfast time Sarah A[rmstrong] arrived to get our washing, ate breakfast with us, when we started over to Aunt Eliza’s with her. John wrote a private letter to Ma, and Robert wrote to George [a younger brother]. After taking a lunch we and Sarah started to town on foot arriving there at 2 p.m. We found Uncle Joseph who had gone into town in the morning. As it was market day we found a large crowd of people, among them Grandpa’s wife [Jane Hopkins Bell], Hugh Robinson, Uncle Geor. Hetherington and daughter, and other friends. Called at the post office, saw Mrs. Spence, but found no letters for us. Called on the Misses Alexander, who were very glad to see us. After three hours very busily spent lunching and taking punch with our kinfolks, and shopping with Cousin Sarah, we started out home with Hugh Robinson. Arrived at his house (3 miles from 5-mile town) a little after 6 o’clock. After dinner and tea his brother-in-law Jas. West came in and we chatted about America, etc. until 1-30 when we retired in a very comfortable room to ourselves. We found here the same ground floors and furniture style of beds, tables, etc. as at other places but Mr. H. R. and wife appear to want no better and look fat and rosy as do the people everywhere we have been in the neighborhood.

Saturday, Feb’y 12th

Arose just a little before 8 o’clock, after breakfast John wrote up the Journal for yesterday and Bob read the Democrat of 22nd ult. until 10-15 when we started out accompanied by Mr. Robinson, crossed over through his place to the Clabby and Tempo road, followed that out to Clabby. The front gates of the churchyard were closed but we entered by the minister’s gate, looked through the yard, saw the tombs and exterior of the church but could not get into the church until we went down into the village and got the custodian, Mrs. Morrow, who came and showed us through it. It is roughly arranged inside and poorly kept. We saw about a foot of rubbish in the Belfry, deposited by the jackdaws. At Clabby we met Francis Kirkpatrick, Andy Coulter, and other of pa’s acquaintances. Leaving Clabby, struck out for Cleine(?) Hill, which we ascended. The day was not clear and our view was obstructed; we spent a few minutes reflecting on the scenes of Pa’s, Cousin Irvine’s and the Hetheringtons’ schoolboy days, then descended on nearly a direct course for Mr. Robinson’s house. Arriving there 1-15 we found Grandpa awaiting us and in a short time Mrs. Robinson’s sister came in and we all started to partake of a good dinner consisting of roast duck, stewed potatoes and rice, finishing up with Punch. The duck tasted elegant, notwithstanding it was cooked on a bare turf fire, which is the manner of cooking everything here in Ireland. Each fireplace has an iron bar, or a chain, suspended from above upon the end of which there is a hook which can be lowered or heightened by means of holes in the iron bar or by the links in the chain. Pots, kettles, etc. are suspended form the hook. A very primitive and unhandy way of cooking, though the victuals can be cooked astonishingly well. When the balance of us were nearly through eating, Mrs. Robinson’s brother, James West, and his wife came in.

As soon as we could get away after dinner we started off with Grandpa about 6-30 p.m., found Grandma looking out for us. As soon as we got warm we had tea after which we sang some songs in the "Pure Gold" for the old folks, cleaned and polished our boots and brushed our clothes. When we retired about 10 p.m. into the best room and the only bed in the house, the old folks fixing a pallet in the kitchen. Going through the fields from Mr. Robinson’s, John had a fall, the only one he has had since leaving home. He dirtied his clothes some though does not feel much hurt.

While we like to think of Ireland's rolling green fields, the Ireland John and Robert saw in February 1876 looked more like this frost-covered landscape. (Image of winter Ireland courtesy Pixabay.com)




Sunday, Feb’y 13, 1876

After breakfast started up with Grandpa to a neighboring house (Mr. Emmerson’s) to Class meeting. The morning being very disagreeable the class was only attended by the Emmerson family, ourselves, grandpa, and the leader, Mr. James Shaw. We met in a very comfortable room, ground floor covered by a matting, very well furnished with cushioned chairs and sofas, windows curtained, walls hung with pictures, turf fire burning in a grate, the snuggest farmhouse we have been in since arriving in Ireland. The leader called the class to order and all kneeled in private prayer, after which a hymn was sung, then the leader led in prayer, when another verse of a hymn was sung, the leader spoke as is usual in beginning. He then addressed himself to one after the other hearing their experiences and giving each one good advice. We each spoke and were called on to pray, but declined; the leader then prayed and another hymn was sung and class dismissed. Were well pleased with Mr. Shaw, is a good religious man. Inquired about Pa, said he made clothes for him in Fivemiletown when living there. We came back home with Grandpa. Grandma made us eat another breakfast, after which we started off for Aunt Eliza’s in a very disagreeable snowstorm. Grandpa went across the fields with us to show us the road. We are amused at the custom here of calling every little stream a river. On leaving grandpa picked up a pitchfork. We asked him what he intended to do with it. He said he was bringing it along to jump a river that ran through the fields. When we got to the stream we laughed at him and jumped across it. We arrived at Aunt Eliza’s (nearly wet through) about 11-45 a.m. We stopped a few minutes to warm ourselves, took some fruit, and then started off with Sarah Armstrong to Colebrook Church. When we arrived the service had begun. We looked through the graveyard before going into the church, saw the tomb of Sir George Benghe(?) also saw the tablet in the church to Sir Arthur and also others to many members of the Brooke family who are buried in the vaults under the church. Rev. Wm. Burnside preached a sermon from the text, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” We thought a poor effort. Owing to the wet, disagreeable weather, the congregation was light. After service we went back through the demesne of Sir Victor Brooke, stopped at the gamekeeper’s house, and warmed ourselves. Arrived at Aunt Eliza’s about 2 p.m. took dinner (the best we have had in the neighborhood) about 3 p.m. We had intended to go to town to church but being disgusted with the weather, and Aunt Eliza’s insisting on our staying all night with her and Sarah, we concluded to rest the balance of the evening. We spent the time very pleasantly chatting and reading (a neighbor boy coming in occasionally). Took tea at 6-30, after which we read and sung in the “Pure Gold,” bathed our feet in warm water and went to bed at 10 o’clock.



Coming next: The third and final segment of the diary, as the Howe Brothers say good-bye to their Ireland ancestors and cousins.


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