A Woman Spurned, Cavan, 1850

What’s a girl to do, when her ‘best boy’ commences walking out with another?

If she is sensible, she dismisses him post-haste for lack of taste and finds a ‘better’ boy.

Sadly, not all women are sensible.

Check out this salutary story from the Anglo-Celt, June 7th, 1850.

“SUSPECTED POISONING – A few days since, three labourers, in the employment of a farmer named Wilson, residing at the Montiaghs, having partaken of their usual breakfast of stirabout, shortly after became alarmingly ill with every symptom of having taken poison; they were immediately brought to Portsdown, and, under the care of Dr. Bredon, the worst symptoms were allayed, and, although still suffering, may be considered out of danger. A servant girl named Fox, residing in the house, was taken into custody, being strongly suspected of having administered arsenic to be revenged on one of the young men on whom she had been casting “sheeps’ eyes” for some time; for that he, not having the fear of Miss Fox before his eyes, did traitorously walk with a certain young female in the neighbourhood the preceding Sunday against Miss F’s will and consent! however, no direct evidence having been obtained against her she was discharged. So far the case remains involved in mystery.”

Miss Fox does not seem to have been convicted.   Was she unfairly traduced?  Was the arsenic really in the stirabout?  And, if so, could it have found its way there by accident, like this other case reported in the Celt on February 1st of the same year?

“DANGEROUS NEGLIGENCE.–On Friday last, the lst inst., considerable alarm was created in the townland of Collekeel, west Mountnugent, the estate of his Grace the Lord Primate, by a report that a family named HALLIDAY were poisoned. It appeared on enquiry that HALLIDAY’s daughter made a cake, and mistaking a small paper of arsenic, which she found in a box, for soda, mixed it amongst the other ingredients; in some times after she, her mother, four children and a neighbour named BRADY, all of whom had eaten of the cake, were seized with vomiting and other symptoms which continued very alarming for many hours. They are all now going on favourably with the exception of old Mrs. HALLIDAY, who being previously very weak and delicate, cannot be said as yet to have so far recovered as to be pronounced out of danger. Had the quantity of poison consumed fallen to the share of one person instead of being divided among seven, it is more than probably a fatal result would have ensued.”

We shall never know.  But it’s fun to speculate!

For details of other deaths by arsenic in 19th century Ireland, any of which would form the making of a good mystery novel on their own account, click here.

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Checking Out The Girls, 1976

A New Year, like a trip to Stephen’s Green for this Sonny-from-the-Godfather lookalike, 1976, is always full of possibility…

checking out the girls

Which girl do you think he was checking out?  I reckon the one in the red top and - possibly and rather shockingly, given the contrasting sensible shoes - no bra.

What do you think?  Click to enlarge if you’re not sure.

About the preferred girl, that is. ;-)

Pic from ebay.com.

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How A Pretty Girl Could Make Herself Some Money, 1845

breach of promise

Are you a pretty woman, inclined to indolence, and with a yearning for financial security?

Before the era of reality television shows, this breach of promise action from the Armagh Guardian, 26th August 1845.  Interesting that the jury did not pay any attention to the Defendant’s rather pompous barrister and instead awarded the Plaintiff the very considerable amount of £700.

Juries are not fools.   The Plaintiff was no spring chicken at officially 27 (researches into the Little family tree show her to have been in fact over a decade older) and the Defendant himself was old to know better than to be faffing around without clear intentions at the very advanced age of 53.

“At the Cork Assizes, on Friday last, an action of this description was tried, in which Miss Letitia Little, aged 27 daughter of Dr. Little, of Sligo, was plaintiff, and Mr. George Newenham, of Summer-house, Cork, widower, aged 53, defendant. The court was much crowded during the trial, and a great number of ladies were present.  

It appeared, from the facts stated by Mr. Henn, counsel for plaintiff, that the defendant had met the plaintiff at the house of Mr. Beamish, of Cork, and was fascinated by her appearance. From that period he was unremitting in his attentions, and ultimately offered her his heart and hand. He also made proposal of marriage to the lady’s father, who consented to the union. Suddenly, however, a change came over the spirit of the defendant’s dream. A few days afterwards, this elderly gentleman wrote a most doleful letter to Dr. Little, expressing his regret that his means were not such as to warrant him in marrying the young lady ; or, to use his own words, “ the pressing state of my affairs renders marriage at present a most absurd thing for me to think of.” An action was consequently brought for this breach of contract, and damages were laid at £5,000. £500 was lodged in court by the defendant.

Mr. Bennett, who appeared for the defendant, admitted that the defendant was entitled to compensation, but submitted that the sum lodged in court was sufficient. In course of his observations he said—“ According to the case you have heard, this girl, beautiful, accomplished, and well educated, came to this town on the 23d of September last, and the defendant was invited to a gentleman’s house where he saw her at dinner. For some time it does not appear he paid her any particular attention, but on the 24th or 25th of January he appears to have asked her hand in marriage. He is, and was then, a widower, of the age of 53, and she is a beautiful girl—one of the witnesses said she is now 27 ; but what her precise age is we have not accurately learned.

Gentleman, that he was in love, there can be no doubt ; and although I myself am past 53, I can conceive a man of 53—indeed something older—talking love to her, when his passions were moved as his were, and which were not cooled until he discovered he could not support her as he ought to do. He thought, therefore, the course he ought to pursue was to prevent the union taking place. He was threatened with an action, and he had then another course open to him— that of marrying her. He dared the action, for he preferred that to bringing unhappiness on her.

Is there, I ask, a young lady who sees me now—and, indeed, I wish I had in this case a jury of pretty girls to address—(laughter)—and I could easily empannel [sic] them in this court, my lord. Were you, ladies, in that box, to you I would say no more than this—would you rather have a widower of fifty-three, with five little pledges hanging on his back, with a fortune say of £400 or £500 a-year in hand at your disposal?

Ladies of the jury, have you agreed to your verdict? (great laughter). There was a famous poet who wrote of a lady—you have read this, my lord. After giving a history of the lady he described her as being fond of the male sex—(laughter)— indeed, I believe that is a propensity that most ladies have (renewed laughter). Now, she had to draw a comparison, not between a man of 53 and a girl of 26, but between a man of 50 and one of 25. The question was asked ; she look at each, and immediately and very candidly said, “I’d rather have two of 25 than one of 50” (immoderate laughter). But, gentlemen of the jury, the friends of this young lady think differently. They are of opinion that this widower of 53 should pay—for what? Compensation in damages for the loss she sustained? Why, I believe the damages she sustained could never be estimated at £500.

The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff—Seven hundred pounds damages and sixpence costs.”

I wonder did the beauteous Miss Little ever find an alternative spouse?  Available capital of seven hundred pounds would have helped considerably, no doubt.   Perhaps that’s what the jury had in mind when they awarded generously…

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Pineappling Away in Dublin, 1740

The pineapple, that most desirable of eighteenth-century fruits, the taste of which was not only savoured but the shape of which influenced the periwigs of the period, was first cultivated in Ireland by a gentleman called Daniel Bullen at his nurseries in New Street, Dublin, just around the corner from St Patrick’s Cathedral, and sold on by John Phelan at his shop ‘The Sign of the Pineapple’, on nearby Christchurch Lane.  The exotic delicacy of his products was much sought-after, and robberies at the shop commonplace; eventually armed guards had to be retained.

The lust inspired by the sight of this sought-after delicacy was not all bad, however, as evidenced in this biographical account of the celebrated eighteenth-century composer, actor, and vocalist Michael Kelly:-

“His singing masters were the best that could be procured in Dublin; but that improvement, it would seem, was not solely owing to the effects of tuition.  Speaking of one of his instructors, Signor Giorgio, he says “I recall being with him once, when he entered a fruit shop, and ate peaches and nectarines, and at last, took a pineapple, and deliberately sliced it, and ate also.  This completed my longing; and as my mouth watered, I asked why, if I assiduously studied music, I should not be able to earn money enough to lounge about in fruit shops, and eat peaches and pineapples as well as Signor Giorgio?  I answered myself by promising that I would study hard, and I really did so, and, trifling as this little anecdote may appear, I really believe it was the chief cause of my serious resolution to follow up music as a profession.”

It’s difficult, in this ‘five a day’ era to imagine anyone being inspired to career success by the thought of eating fruit regularly, but presumably the same principle could apply to anything sought after, and apparently out of reach?

I wonder if the shop was ‘The Sign of the Pineapple’? I also hope that Michael enjoyed his pineapple, when he finally got to eat it.  But even if he didn’t he probably enjoyed the success, and quite apart from all that, the enjoyment in itself of the work that the dream of it inspired…

Read more about the pineapple here.

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Siamese Twins in Roscommon, 1827

From the Kilkenny Independent, August 4th, 1827, musings on what appears to have been a pair of Siamese twins, born in Roscommon a few days previously:-

WONDERFUL PHENOMENON- The production of nature have occupied the mind of the learned and enrious for many ages- the museums of Europe are magnified with varieties from all parts of the globe, and indeed they are justly celebrated for their choice collections- but we cannot be convinced that any age can produce, or any repository boast of a more extraordinary phenomenon of the works of nature, than a being which a woman, named Mary Corcoran, has given birth to, a few days since, in the town of Boyle.

It has, strictly speaking, but one body, at each end of which is a perfectly formed head, shoulders, arms and hands, naturally placed; in the center, on both sides of the body the thighs are inserted, well formed- and the feet, particularly on one side of the body, are models of symmetry. It seems to be an union of females- there appears to be two separate stomachs, lungs, &c. and the adjunction of this bicorporal being, appears to be at the navel of each-when we saw it, it seemed to be in good health, and each mouth sucked milk from a spoon.

It is remarkable that each side sympathizes with the other in every uneasiness, not a stir from hand to foot on one side of the body but has a corresponding motion of those members on the other. The expression of one of the faces is somewhat more placid than the other, being as fine an infant contour as could be hoped for. We have given but little credit to the existence of beings mentioned in poetry and in fabulous history- the very idea of hydras, &c. – it is laughed at; but let us for a moment suppose this creature grown up, and walking on four legs, and four hands, capable of using these members with dexterity, and going (as we deem it must) side foremost, like a crab- and the Centaur, the Pen, the Mermaid, and the two headed giant, will appear quite reconcileable.

Should it be the will of heaven that this creature live, there arises a question as it has two heads, and apparently two hearts, may it not have different inclinations. Suppose one said, let us go to the south, and another said no, let us go northward, and that neither agree-it must pine away a melancholy life of self-created dissention; and as there can be no hope of a divorce, there must soon be a termination to its existence, which alone can sever this premature and unnatural tie. But, as the different parts appear so to sympathise, perhaps some mysterious unity of the minds of this two-fold creature may produce but one inclination.-Probably the sight of this wonder would prove a useful lesson to the sceptic, as seeing an incomprehensible union of two bodies in material, he would no longer doubt the tri-une existence of the Diety. There is still more room for metaphysical speculation, has the animal two souls- one soul- or no soul”

And a sad coda:-

“Since the above paragraph was written, we find that the little being had ceased to be.  Yesterday (Friday) morning, the father left this town for Dublin, with the remains, for the purpose of presenting it to the Royal College of Surgeons, or any other body disposed to purchase the same.–Roscommon Gazette”

Here’s another account of this ‘double monster’, part of which was called Mary and the other part Catherine; one was dark, and the other fair, each in their feelings and actions independent of the other; sometimes one would cry, while the other remained quiet, but generally they were inclined to be quiet, except when produced to gratify the curiosity of the neighbours, and this production, and the illness they got from it, was apparently the cause of their untimely death.

The poor little mites! I wonder how much their wretched father made out of their remains…

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Wisp: A Girl of Dublin

This is a book, now available on archive.org, set in Dublin during the First World War.  It is about a family of American cousins from Fitzwilliam Square and a little girl called Kathleen Macgillicuddy (‘Wisp’ for short), from Jeffers Court, Cuffe Street.

Wisp is a dote.  She is fourteen years old.  She earns her own living selling flowers on Grafton Street and running errands for local shop keepers.  In her spare time she runs a school for local children with copybooks sewn together with wool.   She is also a dreamer with a touch of genius.  (“Don’t you know how to pretend, just think of things and make up the tales? That’s rare fun if you do be lonesome like, miss“).

Wisp has her very own squat on the top floor of Jeffers Court; a single room with a hole in the roof open to the sky which she calls her Fairy Cottage, and one of the saddest moments in the book is when she comes home to find it torn down.

The American kids are nice too, without being patronising.  They tutor Wisp in secret.  They buy her presents from Switzers.  They smuggle her into their box for the Gaiety pantomime.  If they could, they would have smuggled her into Mitchells (the nicest coffee shop in Dublin) also.   At one stage they all go out for a picnic to Dalkey Island and get marooned.

And they love Wisp to bits, as do I.  She’s impossible not to.  And, when revolution comes to Dublin, she saves their family, by being her very own Dublin street-kid self.

Such a lovely book!  I wish there were a sequel.  I want to read about Wisp grown up, and beautiful, naturally, and her future interactions with Foggy, the good-hearted butcher’s boy and Keith the stuffy Anglo-American prince who refers to her as ‘that little slum child’?  Which one will she choose?  Or neither; or no one at all?  I must know  :-( .

Team Foggy for the win btw; any man who cuts, at your request, a hole in the roof of your tenement so that you can see the stars from your bed, is surely a keeper…

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In the 1570s an Englishman called John Derricke came to Ireland, expecting to make his fortune (he did, later, through getting the right to receive customs duty from the port of Drogheda, but that’s another story).   What he found was a country of dangerously alluring women wont to cavort naked in the undergrowth.

He wrote the following poem “The discovery of the Irish Nimphs, their pleasures, pastimes, and accustomable usages, wherein daily they are occupied” as a warning to the unwary:-

“The nimphs of sundry matrons, I
Have heard do there resort,
As time and fit occasion serve
To use for their disport.
Some for to shade them from the heat,
And some an other thing:
According as the rain doth fall,
So do the flowers spring.
One doth rejoice to spend the day
In playing barley-break; 
Another doth (I mean no harm)
As great a comfort take.
This nimph doth joy to scud along
The wood and riverside;
But she in snorting in a bush
Receiv’th as great a pride.
These do invite the murmuring brooks,
These dive and rise again,
And bathing in their sweet delights
So long they do remain,
Till Cupid toll’th his sacring-bell 
To enter other rites.
Ah, would revive a man half dead
To see those naked sprites! . . .

Oh, nimphs of lasting memory
Your virtuous actions rare:
With Venus for integrity
I freely may compare.
With Venus for agility
(Speak I of venial sin),
In her celestial paradise
Ought you to enter in.
For you are they which store the ground
With fruits of your increase
And make it daily to abound
(Mean I with rest and peace?)
With little nimphs and mountain Gods
Transformed now and then
From boars to bears, and yet sometime
Resembling honest men.
From whence there flows as from a spring
Another generation,
More subtle than the foxes are
In their imagination.
Who as they grow in elder years
And springing rise in strength,
So do they work the realm’s annoy
And hindrance at the length.
So do they work the land’s decay,
Procuring what they can:
The ruin and undoing quite
Of many an honest man. . . .

We know by good experience,
It is a dangerous thing
For one into his naked bed
A poisoning toad to bring;
Or else a deadly crocodile
Whenas he goeth to rest,
To lead with him, and as his mate
To place next to his breast.
The mischief thereof certainly
Is this that doth ensue
Even nothing but sudden death
To careless persons due.
Then since the harm is manifest,
Consent with willing mind,
To rid your hands from such a sort
For cat will after kind,
And be not witched evermore
With their eternal sight—
For why should men of the English Pale
In such a crew delight?”

Why indeed?  Poor Mr Derrick and his Gaelic Mata Haris!  We was hot, once (see also: Edmund Spenser, Francisco de Cuellar and many more).  Nice to think of someone liking us in our natural soft-bellied non-Continental-coloured state.  You can read Derrick’s book ‘The Image of Ireland, with a Discovery of Woodkarne’ (1888 edition) here.

Sadly the woodcuts did not include any gambolling Irish nymphs, so I had to borrow this lot from Bouguereau above…

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