The year begins with an attempt to revive the linen trade which has gone into the decline. It is discovered that there are only eighty looms in Castlebar out of the hundreds which were formerly in use. Mr. Pinkerton of Westport attended a meeting in Castlebar Linen Hall, where he employed a great number of linen weavers, to whom he supplied yarn. He also furnished such weavers as stood in need of loom gear, the price of which he was satisfied to take from them at 6d a week. In January there is fear of a war with France.
A widow names Harriet McKinley was murdered near the gaol. A pair of regimental mittens found beside her are traced to the 41 depot in the Castle Barracks. A soldier Pat Cuff is taken into custody and placed in the military lock up to await trial.
February 11 carries the following report from Westport.
"We thought when we read of the brutal, ignorant and lust loving pot men of London burning the image of the Mother of God in their streets that they became a match for the chief of the fiends of hell. But what shall we say of a man (claiming to be a clergyman) who the other day in Westport exhibited in a gathering of people, what he called a wafer, similar to that used in the Host of the Catholic Church. This wafer he held up to his audience and to show that it possessed neither life not blood he dissected it with his knife and next with holy zeal he rubbed it beneath his clerical boot in the dirty earth.
"Shame, eternal shame upon you, Catholics of Westport."
March the 3rd we discover that Thomas Moore died at Sloperton Cottage at 72 years of age. He gave Ireland its greatest songs during the nineteenth century. In 1798 he narrowly escaped being involved with Emmet and others in a charge of sedition. His Irish melodies were immensely popular and proved to be the most lasting of his works. And it was these works which brought attention to those who circulated in the drawing rooms of London that there was an old culture in Ireland which was steeped in a Celtic past. They are still sung and still carry the emotional idealism of the nineteenth century and a romantic patriotism which still haunts us. Now that there is fear of war with France recruiting is stepped up.
"Since the arrival of the buffs in this town a degree of liveliness pervades the streets owing to their occasional beating up for recruits, a tolerable number of which have already joined; even in the workhouse the melodious notes of fife and drum have evoked a spirit of gallant ambition, and some young lads have joined from thence, while many more regret their youth and height prevent them from being enlisted."
There is an air of confidence among farmers and the fact that '51 brought only partial failure to the crop they feel that next harvest will bring less failure. This means that the Workhouse can be economically supplied by local produce thus keeping the money of the rate payers in the area.
"And the area does need money flushed into it. Several shops are shuttered in Castlebar. In Market Street alone fourteen houses are closed and the children play ball against the shutters."
George Henry Moore of Moore Hall has been active in the House of Commons. His attitudes and politics can be gathered from the following speech.
'What has the landlord-made law done? It has covered the face of this fine and fertile country with the levelled roofs and blackened walls of thousands and the tens of thousands of the cabins and cottages and farm houses on which the infamous Crowbar Brigade has executed its merciless commands. Where are they now? It has hunted neighbours, relatives, brethren, sisters, beloved children away from the land, of their birth and of their affections.' Moore was a gentleman of great courage and one of the great orators of the House of Commons. His political life was both hectic and tragic, his death at Moore Hall melancholic.
During the last years and after the famine the landlords were active sweeping the tenants off the land. Many found their way into exile and many carried the memory of starvation and eviction with them. These images were to lodge deep in the Irish American consciousness.
Now that the spring is here there is a scarcity of hands to do the work. Several boys had to be taken from the Workhouse to help in the labour.
'But the old hands in the poorhouse it seems, have taken out a lease for life and will not be persuaded even by the prospect of wages, to quit the house. The number of those worthless drones are but few, and we trust means will be adopted to make out work for them.'
The weather comes good in April and there are high hopes held out that there will be an influx of tourists.
'The inducements held out to the English tourists, by means of return tickets, are so strong this summer that we have no doubt Ireland will enjoy a large sprinkling of English visitors, who it is needless to say, shall be welcome with an Irish 'Cead Mile Fáilte.'
The weather was indeed too fine in April and the drainage works contributed to the fact that every spring in the town and suburbs dried up. It is now time for emigration and a great number of respectable farmers with their families and luggage pass through the town on their way to Westport. Matthew Gallagher writes from Australia.
'The colony has undergone a sudden change. Gold is found in abundance. Good wages are given and meat is very cheap. It is a splendid country with plenty of work for all kinds of labour and good pay. I am getting 31.1Od per annum as coachman.'
A partial fall of rain relieves the draught and news arrives that orders have been issued for the release of the Irish State prisoners, Smith, O'Brien, John Mitchell and their companions subject to the conditions that they are not to set foot in the United Kingdom again.
There may be gold in Australia but there are dreams of gold in Mayo. 'We have witnessed the successful test made a few days since by our talented townsman, John Atkinson on a piece of granite over three-fourths of which that gentleman has reduced to copper and tin. The area occupied by the strata from which the specimens tested have been taken covers miles of Mayo. You have each of you, gentlemen, California on your estates.' The report does not go unnoticed. An owner of very valuable mining properties in Cornwall offers to put money in if the Mayo find proves viable.
The evictions continue. Villages are destroyed on the property belonging to Sir Roger Palmer. "The Crowbar Brigade move in headed by a gaunt figure, somewhat resembling the Orangutan which made the tour of the county some years ago and will be remembered by the name 'Happy Jerry.'"
There was discovered in the bed of the lake near Rehins, a number of low decanters whose exteriors were coated with tin and copper along with a number of ancient canoes, 17 feet long and four across, hollowed out of huge blocks of black oak wood. Hunters for hidden treasure made their way to Boyd's Island, but beyond finding one silver spoon and two pieces of silver coin nothing was discovered but numerous beds of bone. They have been taken away to be manufactured into bone dust. Perhaps the had come across a Bronze Age site. If so, there must be still remnants of this settlement in the are.
Mr. Atkinson continues his discoveries of ore.
'We have permission to state that four miles around the town on the estate of Lord Lucan a rich field of copper, tin and other minerals, which from the surface appearance, and the result of his chemical operations he believes to be sufficiently prolific to enrich all Ireland."
In June election fever mounts.
'Our battle cry shall be Ireland and Tenant Rights. Down with the Crowbar Brigade and their chiefs. Hurrah for Moore and Higgins,' the slogans proclaim. Even in these slogans we can see the beginnings of a land league the emergence of a new political grouping.
The election fever mounts and in mid-July a troupe of the 11th Huassars, commanded by Major Douglas and Lieutenant Inglis arrive in town to be stationed here during the elections.
Patt Cuff is placed in the dock, tried for murder and condemned to death. The judge wearing his black cap pronounced sentence... "That you Patrick Cuff be taken from the place where you now stand to the place from whence you came, the gaol , thence with your irons taken off, to the common place of execution, the gallows and hanged by the head, and your body buried within the precincts of the gaol and that sentence be executed upon you on the 1st September next and may the Lord have mercy on your soul.'
The news of the sentence is soon forgotten when news gets around that the Freeholders who are to vote in the elections are kidnapped. The landlords are going to make sure that their men are elected.
'An unconstitutional assault on many of the electors has been made. Many of the electors have been carried off by the Darbyites of Mayo and placed in confinement in the local Bastilles in Castlebar, Foxford and Westport in order to make them vote for Colonel McAlpine the avowed supporter of the enemies of the Catholic Religion.
No. 1 Bastille is at Michael Clarke's House in Spencer St. where contrary to the law they have been supplied with a side of beef and other refreshments.
But despite the pressures Moore and Higgins are returned as members of Parliament for Mayo.
The political times they are a changing. Moore will later help found an Independent Party, which is destroyed by parliamentary bribes. Later Parnell will uses a similar party, which successful for a time, is destroyed by the Parnell Kitty O Shea scandal.
In the Castlebar gaol Patrick Cuff prepares for hanging but thee sentence of death is never carried out. It is commuted and he is sentenced to transportation for life.
By August the Breakwater at the new bridge near the Grove is almost completed. But as the farmers watch their fields they are haunted by the memories of the recent years.
'The probability of another failure in the potato crop continues to alarm the people and the exodus from this part of Ireland is going on at a rapid rate. Farmers are disposing of their effects. Labourers are likewise flying with their families to England and Scotland."
Emigration is now a familiar thing.
In August Mr. Atkinson has this to say of his discoveries. 'I have made an immense sacrifice of time and property in making my discoveries and I will not impart my knowledge, to enrich others. without receiving the compensation I am fully entitled to. I know where they abound, but without my reward they shall rest undisturbed.'
In September one of the soldiers, lately returned from California said he observed gold in the gravel being quarried at the Grove Bridge. Gold fever hit the town. It was too late to do anything. Whatever gold was there was now covered with stones and mortar. 'Did you hear that a year ago the sappers and miners told the Government that there were shoals of gold in the river and that to protect it Lord Derby is getting the place closed up' somebody said.
'That shows us the English will never let us rise' someone else commented.
In the same month the Duke of Wellington, the man who defeated Napoleon, died and an era was brought to a close.
In November buyers were buying potatoes in Castlebar for the Dublin markets and driving up the prices. It was a time of improvement for the shopkeepers.
Of the fair someone remarked. 'A most excellent one. We had not sufficient hands to attend the customers. There can be no second opinion on the matter. The times are visibly improving. We must receive the pounds from those you could not squeeze the shillings or pence from in years gone by.'
The editor rejoices at the arrival of the good times but writes. 'We the newspaper proprietors would desire to experience a portion of the improvement from those who have outstanding debts. We desire not if possible to increase the fees of lawyers in seeking what is our own.'
In December the Marchioness of Sligo dies of lingering consumption. Born at Constantinople in 1842, she lived only for 28 years and left one daughter.
It was good year for some a bad year for others. The villages were levelled, the countryside depopulated and patterns of emigration set down. There was the suggestion that Castlebar was surrounded, by untold mineral wealth and Patrick Cuff condemned to death, reprieved and sentenced to transportation for life.
Times are on the upswing. Next week these articles are drawn to a conclusion with the advent of gas light in Castlebar. heal him but he is dead. "