LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Creevey Papers
Thomas Creevey to Elizabeth Ord, 15 September 1828

Vol. I. Contents
Ch. I: 1793-1804
Ch. II: 1805
Ch. III: 1805
Ch. IV: 1806-08
Ch. V: 1809
Ch. VI: 1810
Ch. VII: 1811
Ch. VIII: 1812
Ch. IX: 1813-14
Ch X: 1814-15
Ch XI: 1815-16
Ch XII: 1817-18
Ch XIII: 1819-20
Vol. II. Contents
Ch I: 1821
Ch. II: 1822
Ch. III: 1823-24
Ch. IV: 1825-26
Ch. V: 1827
Ch. VI: 1827-28
Ch. VII: 1828
Ch. VIII: 1829
Ch. IX: 1830-31
Ch. X: 1832-33
Ch. XI: 1833
Ch. XII: 1834
Ch XIII: 1835-36
Ch XIV: 1837-38
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“Besborough (Paradise!),
Monday, Sept. 15, 1828, 7½ A.M.

“. . . Well! what a charming day I had yesterday, during which I said to myself repeatedly—‘And can I really be in this savage, wretched Ireland, as I have always been taught to believe it was, and that it could be no otherwise?’ We went to the parish church yesterday, 2½ miles off. It is a living of £1200 a year in the gift of the Crown. The rector is a most liberal man, and acts hand in hand with Duncannon in everything. . . . The church is larger than yours at Rivenhall, and was literally full; every one being perfectly well dressed, and not a poor person in the aisle. As there are no poor rates in reland, the clergyman in finishing the Communion service says—‘Remember the poor!’ and a box is immediately brought round, into which, if my ears did not deceive me, I heard a chink from every pew.

“The service over, I repaired to my favorite spot, the chancel, to look at the founder of this family in marble, Sir John Ponsonby of Cumberland, a follower of Cromwell, who gave him this small mark of his favor in return—20,000 English acres of land, confiscated property of the Catholicks who opposed the Protector or Usurper, whichever you like to call him. I expressed my surprise to Duncannon at the number of Protestants, and he said a great portion were descendants of the English who had come over with the first Ponsonby from Cumberland. I asked about

* Lord Duncannon, the eldest son of the 3rd Earl of Bessborough, was created Baron Duncannon in the peerage of the United Kingdom in 1834, and succeeded his father as 4th Earl of Bessborough in 1844 in the peerage of Ireland. He married Lady Maria Fane, daughter of the 10th Earl of Westmorland.

the relative number of Catholics, and he said if I had been at their chapel at 10, I should have seen about three times as many. . . .

“Having refreshed nature by a cheerful slice of cold stewed beef, Duncannon and I sallied forth on foot, but with a couple of horses behind, in case we wanted them. He took me first through the village [Piltown]. . . . I ought to apologise for calling it a village, for indeed I believe it is a ‘town’; but be [it] what it may, it is perfect. I went into the school, where I found four of the Miss Ponsonbys sitting on one side of a school desk, in different, distinct parts of it, and with a little party of 5 or 6 or 7 little boys and girls sitting opposite to each of them, under examination as to their catechism, &c., &c. I never saw a more well-behaved, attentive, and yet more cheerful exhibition of tuition. Duncannon took me into the dispensary—an institution of course built by himself. Presiding over it was a most strikingly sharp, intelligent-looking woman, with four daughters—the eldest grown up—as straight as arrows, very well dressed, and with the best of manners.—‘That family,’ said Duncannon, as we left the house, ‘Lady Duncannon found living literally in a ditch, ill, too, of a fever, of which the father and two of the children died.’—This practice of living in ditches, with some thatchwork over them, was very common when Duncannon first came here, but Lady Duncannon has found out every family of the kind, and they are now all housed, and very nicely, too. The dispensary family of course have the house they live in for nothing. The mother’s salary is £2 a year; all the girls have been taught to work, and either make their own cloaths or make for others, or both: but the result is, the whole establishment appears most happy and cleanly, well cloathed and, I suppose, well fed. I need not say they are Catholics. . . .

“In leaving the village, we took a turn towards the more mountainous and, as you should suppose, less civilised parts; but, tho’ the country is very populous and, as you leave Piltown, more and more decidedly Catholic, yet we found in all the groups of people assembled about their chapels or cottages the same marked civility. . . . Upon the slope of a hill
and in a very nice plantation
Duncannon said:—‘The Catholic priest lives there; I should like to say a word to him. Would you mind going with me?’—‘Quite the reverse, my dear,’ says I; so through we went, and a rummish, dirty house we found. A slatternly kind of girl told us he was at home, and in we went and found him and his coadjutor just going to sit down to dinner. . . . The principal was a jolly-looking, pot-bellied, intelligent little fellow as you will see, tho’ somewhat snuffy and dirty, with as perfect [illegible] manners as you can find. He is quite at home with Duncannon, and comes and dines here. . . .

“I walked thro’ the village of Piltown with Duncannon, and I defy anything in the most civilised district of England to surpass it in neatness, comfort and really ornament—begun, of course, and mainly promoted by Lord and Lady Duncannon during the three years they have lived in Ireland, but zealously assisted and acted upon by all about of all descriptions. I never in any spot saw so marked a proof of a rapidly spreading civilisation; and yet this is only four miles from Carrick, one of the most lawless towns in Tipperary. . . . Oh! the English absentees from their Irish properties—what they might have done here by their influence and without Irish prejudices. But I am now becoming a bore. . . . Lady Duncannon shines here; she is devoted to the place, likes nothing so much as living here, and spends her time mostly in the village at her different institutions. Duncannon took me into one of her newly made publick works—a fives court, where a capital game was carrying on by the Irish boys of the village.”