CELT document E620001

A Discourse of Ireland, anno 1620


A Discourse of Ireland, Anno 1620, by Luke Gernon

Of the author of this Discourse of Ireland, which is preserved among the Stowe Papers at the British Museum, 1 and has not hitherto been printed, not much can now be ascertained. But the accuracy of the endorsement on the manuscript, which ascribes it to one Luke Gernon, is borne out by the internal evidence of the narrative. The writer mentions that he was resident in Limerick, the seat of the presidency of Munster, and that he was a member of the council by which the affairs of the province were administered. And it appears that one Luke Gernon was appointed to the office of Second Justice of the province of Munster in 1619. 2 Gernon became a member of the King's Inns at Dublin in the same year, and it is perhaps reasonable to identify him with the “Lucas Garnons of Beds, gent.,” who was admitted to Lincoln's Inn on May 5, 1604. That he held that position at least nominally until the Restoration appears from the patent of appointment of his successor, one John Naylor, and the provision of a pension of 100£. a year in Gernon's favour, payable out of the “casual profits of the provincial courts in Ireland.” Of Gernon's career prior to his appointment to the provincial judgeship nothing can be ascertained. His name, which is an old one in the counties of Louth and Meath, suggests an Irish origin. But a letter of Sir William St. Leger, President of Munster from 1626 to 1642, to Dudley Carleton, Lord Dorchester, the well-known Secretary of State to Charles I., speaks of Gernon as having been recommended for preferment by “his friends in Hertfordshire,” 3 where, as in other English shires, families of the name were long seated.


These friends may however have been his wife's relatives, for it appears that there was some connection between Mrs. Gernon and the second Lady Dorchester, 4 and the latter seems to have used her good offices, but unsuccessfully, to procure Gernon's promotion to a judgeship in Dublin. The whole tone of the Discourse suggests, however, that the author was of English birth, and he was quite certainly bred in England.

Gernon remained in Limerick until the outbreak of the rebellion of 1641, when, like most persons in the south of Ireland connected with the English interest, he fell upon evil days. A petition sent by his wife to Cromwell5 in 1653 describes him as having been deprived of all his estate to the value of 3,000£, and as having been constrained with his wife and four small children “to travel all naked through woods and bogs in the depth of winter,” whereby one of his children was “starved to death” and Mrs. Gernon lost the use of her limbs. Cromwell, it appears from this petition, had when in Ireland granted Gernon a pension of 100 marks per annum, probably at the instance of Lord Orrery, with whose father, the great Earl of Cork, Gernon had been well acquainted. 6 The pension, however, had not been paid, hence the petition to Cromwell. The earlier petition by Gernon himself on which Cromwell first granted a pension contains a declaration by Gernon of his “free submission” to Cromwell's Government, but his claims to the Protector's favour seem to have been based chiefly on those of the suppliant's wife, “a lady of quality whose worth the petitioner doth much tender,” and who was certified by Archbishop Ussher to be “a most fit object of Christian charity.” That Gernon survived the Restoration, and that his pension of 100 marks was continued to him by the Duke of Ormond's Government appears from a letter of Lord Orrery's, but the exact date of his death is unknown. In 1673, however, administration in respect of the goods of “Luke Gernon, lately of Cork, Esquire, deceased,” was granted to his principal creditor, one Thomas Sheridan. A daughter of Gernon's, marrying a Royalist officer of Bandon, became in 1659 the mother of Nicholas Brady, the joint author with Nahum Tate of the metrical version of the Psalms. 7 Another of Gernon's descendants, through the same  p.347 alliance, Maziere Brady, was Lord Chancellor of Ireland in the last century.

Gernon's Discourse is undated, but apart from the fact that it was manifestly written within a short time of his arrival in Munster, the approximate date of its composition appears from the narrative. Gernon states at p. 350, “It is now since she (Ireland) was drawn out of the womb of rebellion about sixteen years, by'r-lady nineteen,” and as Tyrone's submission was made in 1603, this would show his Discourse to have been written between 1619, the year of the writer's appointment, and 1622. A more precise reference at p. 354 reduces this period of three years to one. The fire at Galway mentioned as having “happened in May was twelve month” is known to have occurred in 1619. 8 The winter of 1620 is therefore the most probable date of the Discourse.

Gernon's narrative is full of many of the mannerisms of the time, and in certain passages he expresses himself with a freedom not quite appropriate to the social amenities of the twentieth century. Such colloquial licence seems less jarring in the garb of seventeenth-century orthography, and for this reason the spelling of the original manuscript has been retained.

Luke Gernon

Edited by Caesar Litton Falkiner

A Discourse of Ireland, anno 1620

A Discourse of Ireland


When I am playing at poste and payre, 9 my opposite challengeth with two counters; If I answer him with two other, and rest, I have but a faynte game, but if I see that, and revye with foure more, my game is a vigorous game, that will hold water. So it is in letters. You have written unto me, and I have answered, if it should stopp there, it were a signe of could friendshipp. I must revye it with something that may be plausible and delightfull. I am casting for an essay. Should I tell of our old trickes. It is a pleasant thing to recorde, but not to rescribe. Olde things are paste, and new things come in place. Should I speake of matters in England haec vobis dicenda relinquo. What then? On the backe of your letter there is inscribed Ireland. Ireland shall be my theame, not so much because I am resident there,  p.349 as for this cause that it will be most appropryated to your love, for though you would not look into Ireland but for me, yett when you look after me, your imagination transports yourself into Ireland. Do you look that I should describe the clymat, the degrees, the scituation, the longitude, the latitude, the temperature, &c. Go look in your mapps, I must have a more quaynt and genuine devise. It was my chance once in a place, but I know not where, to see a map of Europe, and it was described in the lineaments of a naked woman, and upon the surface was a mapp of the countreyes. I dare not set downe how every country was placed, least I should misplace them, but one was in her forhead, another on her right brest, another on her lefte, others in her armes, others on her thighes, and Fraunce with a pope was in her plackett. In such a forme will I represent our Ireland, and yett, if my cunning fail me not, I will depaynt her more lively and more sensible to your intelligence then if you had her in a table.

This Nymph of Ireland, is at all poynts like a yong wenche that hath the greene sicknes for want of occupying. She is very fayre of visage, and hath a smooth skinn of tender grasse. Indeed she is somewhat freckled (as the Irish are) some partes darker than other. Her flesh is of a softe and delicat mould of earthe, and her blew vaynes trayling through every part of her like ryvoletts. She hath one master vayne called the Shanon, which passeth quite through her, and if it were not for one knot (one mayne rocke) it were navigable from head to foot. She hath three other vaynes called the sisters, the Seuer, the Noyer & the Barrow, which rysing at one spring, trayle through her middle partes, and ioyne together in theyr going out. 10 Her bones  p.350 are of polished marble, the grey marble, the blacke, the redd, and the speckled, so fayre for building that their houses shew like colledges, and being polished, is most rarely embelished. Her breasts are round hillockes of milk-yeelding grasse, and that so fertile, that they contend with the vallyes. And betwixt her leggs (for Ireland is full of havens), she hath an open harbor, but not much frequented. She hath had goodly tresses of hayre arboribusq' comae, but the iron mills, like a sharpe toothed combe, have notted & poled her much, and in her champion partes she hath not so much as will cover her nakedness. 11 Of complexion she is very temperate, never too hott, nor too could, and hath a sweet breath of favonian winde. She is of a gentle nature. If the anger of heaven be agaynst her, she will not bluster and storme, but she will weepe many dayes together, and (alas) this last summer she did so water her plants, that the grasse and blade was so bedewed, that it became unprofitable, and threatens a scarcity. Neyther is she frosenharted, the last frost was not so extreame here as it was reported to be in England. It is nowe since she was drawne out of the wombe of rebellion about sixteen yeares, by'rlady nineteen, and yet she wants a husband, she is not embraced, she is not hedged and diched, there is noo quicksett putt into her.

How shall I describe her townes, her people, her flockes. Her townes shall be her pallaces. I have sacred warrant. The daughter of Zion is all desolate, her pallaces are destroyed. Those which are called by the name of cittyes are Dublin, Waterford, Corke, Lymerick, Galloway, Killkenny, the Derry and Colrane. A poynt must serve for a description, but I will place it in that part which is most worthy of your apprehension.

Dublin is the most frequented, more for conveniency then for Maiesty. There reside the deputy, and the Councel; there she receyves intelligences, advertisements, instructions. The buildings are of timber, and of the English forme, and it is resembled to Bristoll, but falleth shorte.  p.351 The circuit of the Castle is a huge and mighty wall four-square, and of incredible thicknes, built by King John, within it are many fayre buildings, and there the deputy keeps his court. There are two cathedralls under one Archbishopp. St. Patrickes, and Christchurch. St. Patricks is more vast and auncient, the other is in better repayre. 12 The Courtes of Justice (the same as in England) are kept in a large stone building parcell 13 of Christchurch, which is built in forme of a crosse, at the foure ends are the foure courts well adorned, the middle is to walk in. There is a house of Courte where the Judges and other lawyers have chambers, 14 and a common hall to dyne in, and it is called, the Innes, the Judges, and the Kings Councell make the Benche, in which number I am, the rest are barristers, and atturnyes. further there is a Colledge which is also an University. You will expect to know the state of our state. It is not very magnificent, nor to be disregarded. There is a presence where they stand at all times uncovered, and a clothe of state under which the deputy sitteth. When that he sitteth at meate, there sitt of men of quality as many as the table will contayne. When he goeth abroad in solemne manner, all whom it concernes do attend him. Before him goe the gentlemen captynes, knights, and officers, all on foote. Then commeth the deputy ryding in state, and before him a knight bareheaded carrying the sword. After the deputy, the nobles, the Councell, and the Judges, all in footeclothes. His guarde consists of fifty tall men, they weare not redd coates, but soldiers cassockes, and halberts in theyr handes. 15 On principall festivalls, the herauld goes before him in a cote of armes. 16 So much of Dublin. I may call it her Whyte hall. Lett us tak our iourney to Waterford.

Waterford is scituated upon the best harbour, and in a  p.352 pleasant and temperat ayre. The buildings are of English forme, and well compact. There is a fayre cathedrall, but her beauty is in the key, for the wall of the towne extending for neare half a mile along the water, between that and the water, there is a broad key maynly fortifyed with stone and stronge piles of timber, wheer a shipp of the burden of 1000 tunnes may ryde at anchor. It was famous for merchandise, but her high stomacke in disobeying the state, depryved her of her magistrate, and now she is in the governement of a souldyer. 17 In her prosperity, there was a league between her and Bristoll that theyre merchants respectively should be exempted of custom, but now she complayns that Bristoll refuseth her. Our next iorney is to Corke.

Cork is a porte of the sea also, but stands in a very bogge and is unhealthy. The building is of stone, and built after the Irish forme, which is Castlewise, and with narrow windows more for strength then for beauty, but they begin to beautify it in better forme. There is the quarry of redd marble, which maketh the towne appeare of a ruddy colour. There is also a cathedrall but in decay. It is a populous towne and well compact, but there is nothing in it remarkeable. There is nothing to commend it but the antiquity, and nothinge dothe disgrace it so much as theyr obstinacy in the antick religion. Passe on to Lymerick.

Lymericke is the place of my commerce, lett me entertayn you with a broad cake, and a cupp of sacke as the maner is, you will be the lesse sensible of my tediousnes. Lymericke divides itself into two partes, the high towne, which is compassed with the Shanon, and the base towne, and in forme it doth perforth resemble an hower glasse, being bound together by that bridge which divides the two partes. A philosopher that saw a little towne with a wyde open gate, gave warning to the citizens to shutt up theyr gate, least the towne should runne out. The founders of this citty were more considerate, for they have fensed the base towne with such a huge strong wall that travaylers affirme, they have  p.353 not scene the like in Europe. It is a mile in compasse, and three men a breast may walke the round. 18 Notwithstanding theyr provydence I am of opinion that that part hath crept over the bridge into the high towne, for now there is nothing remayning in that part, but a street of decayed houses, with orchards and gardens, saving a church and a storehouse, monuments of former habitation.

The other parte is a lofty building of marble. In the highe streete it is builte from one gate to the other in one forme, like the Colledges in Oxford, so magnificent that at my first entrance it did amase me, sed intus cadavera, noysome, & stincking houses. The cathedrall is not large but very lightsome, and by the provydence of the Bishop 19 fayrely beautifyed within, and as gloriously served with singing and organs. There is in this citty an auncient Castle, the Bishop's pallace, and a stone bridge of fourteen arches. 20 But that which is most notorious to my iudgement is the key wall. This wall is extended from the towne walle into the middle of the ryver, and was made for a defense and harbor for the shipping. It is in lengthe about 200 paces, and it is a double wall. In the botome it is a mayne thicknes, and so continueth untill it be raysed above high water. Then there is within it a long gallery arched over head, and with windowes most pleasant to walke in, and above that a tarace to walke upon with fayre battlements, at the end of it there is a round tower with two or three chambers, one above the other, and a battlement above. This towne now reioyceth in the residence of the president. The presidency is kept in the forme as it is in Wales. 21 A president, two Justices and a Councell. We sitt in councell at a table.  p.354 When the president goeth forthe, he is attended in military forme, when he rydeth, with a troupe of horse, when he walketh, with a company of foote, with pikes and musketts in hand. I have kept you too long at Lymerick, lett me conducte you towards Galloway.

I was never there myself, but it is reported to be the Windsore of Ireland. 22 It hath been praysed for the magnificent building and a stately Abbey there, used for a parish churche. 23 But a great fyer which hapned in May was twel-month did consume 400 houses, and utterly defaced the Abbey being so vehement that the bodyes of the dead lying in vaults were consumed to ashes. They beginne to reedify. Lett us returne by Killkenny.

Kilkenny is an inland towne scituate in a pleasant valley, and upon a fresh ryver. It is praysed for the wholsom ayer, and delightfull orchards and gardens, which are somewhat rare in Ireland. The houses are of grey marble fayrely builte, the fronts of theyr houses are supported (most of them) with pillars, or arches under which there is an open pavement to walke on. At the one end of the towne is a large cathedrall, at the other end, a high mounted Castle appertayning to the Earles of Ormond, but now it is allotted to the portion of the Countesse of Desmond. 24

The other two Cyttyes, the Derry, and Colrane are of  p.355 the new plantation in the Northe, they are reported to be fayrly built, but they are like new pallaces, they are not slated nor the flowers layd yett let them alone till they be finished.

To the inferior places I will not invite you, onely cast your regard upon Youghall and Bandonbridge.

Youghall is a sea towne, and little inferior to the cittyes. It is scituated between Waterford and Corke, and is a lurcher, for it hath gotten the traffick from them both, especially for transporting of cattle.

Bandonbridge is a new plantation begun with in these fifteen yeares, and is encreased to be neare as large as Lycester. It reioyceth in the patronage of that happy man Richard Boyle, now Earle of Corke, by whose procurement it is now engirting with a new wall for with the province is taxed at 5 s the plowland. It is estimated that the charge will amount to 4000£.

In this peregrination you have viewed the country in passing, the villages are distant each from other about two miles. In every village is a castle, and a church, but bothe in ruyne. The baser cottages are built of underwood, called wattle, and covered some with thatch and some with green sedge, of a round forme and without chimneys, and to my imagination resemble so many hives of bees, about a country farme. In the end of harvest the villages seem as bigg agayne as in the spring, theyre corne being brought into theyr haggards, and layed up in round cockes, in forme of theyr houses. And by the way, there is no meate so daynty as a haggard pigg, a pigg that hath been fedd at the reeke, take him at a quarter old, and use him like a rosting pigg; because his biggness should not be offensive, they serve him up by quarters. Here I would conclude with our buildings, but when I look about I cannot but bewayle the desolation which cyvill rebellion hath procured. It lookes like the later end of a feast. Here lyeth an old ruyned castle like the remaynder of a venyson pasty, there a broken forte like a minced py half subiected, and in another place an old abbey with some turrets standing like the carcase of a goose  p.356 broken up. It makes me remember the old proverb. —It is better to come to the end of a feast, then the beginning of a fray. But I have held you longe among this rubbish.

Lett us converse with the people. Lord, what makes you so squeamish—be not affrayd. The Irishman is no Canniball to eate you up nor no lowsy Jack to offend you.

The man of Ireland is of a strong constitution, tall and bigg limbed, but seldome fatt, patient of heate and colde, but impatient of labour. Of nature he is prompt and ingenious, but servile crafty and inquisitive after newes, the simptomes of a conquered nation. Theyr speach hath been accused to be a whyning language, but that is among the beggars. I take it to be a smooth language well commixt of vouells and of consonants, and hath a pleasing cadence.

The better sorte are apparelled at all poynts like the English onely they retayne theyr mantle which is a garment not indecent. 25 It differs nothing from a long cloke, but in the fringe at the upper end, which in could weather they weare over their heades for warmth. Because they are commanded at publicke assemblyes to come in English habit, they have a tricke agaynst those times, to take off the fringe, and to putt on a cape, and after the assembly past, they resume it agayne. If you aske an Irishman for his cloke, he will tell you it is in his pocket and show you his cape. The churle is apparelled in this maner. His doublett is a pack saddle of canvase, or coarse cloth without skirtes, but in winter he weares a frise cote. The trowse is along stocke of frise, close to his thighes, and drawne on almost to his waste, but very scant, and the pryde of it is, to weare it so in suspence, that the beholder may still suspecte it to be falling from his arse. It is cutt with a pouche before, which is drawne together with a string. He that will be counted a spruce ladd, tyes it up with a twisted band of two colours like the string of a clokebagge.  p.357 An Irishman walking in London a cutpurse took it for a cheate, and gave him a slash. His broges are single soled, more rudely sewed then a shoo but more strong, sharp at the toe, and a flapp of leather left at the heele to pull them on. His hatt is a frise capp close to his head with two lappetts, to button under his chinne. And for his weapon he weares a skeyne which is a knife of three fingers broad of the length of a dagger and sharpening towards the poynt with a rude wodden handle. He weares it poynt blanke at his codpiece. The ordinary kerne seldome weares a sword. They are also wedded to theyr mantle, they plow, they ditch, they thressh with theyr mantles on. But you look after the wenches.

The weomen of Ireland are very comely creatures, tall slender and upright. Of complexion very fayre & cleare-skinnd (but frecled), with tresses of bright yellow hayre, which they chayne up in curious knotts, and devises. They are not strait laced nor plated in theyr youth, but suffred to grow at liberty so that you shall hardely see one crooked or deformed, but yet as the proverb is, soone ripe soone rotten. Theyr propensity to generation causeth that they cannot endure. They are wemen at thirteene, and olde wives at thirty. I never saw fayrer wenches nor fowler calliots, 26 so we call the old wemen. Of nature they are very kind and tractable. At meetings they offer themselves to be kiste with the hande extended to embrace you. The yong wenches salute you, conferre with you, drinke with you without controll. They are not so reserved as the English, yett very honest. Cuckoldry is a thing almost unknowne among the Irish. At solemne invitements, the Benytee, so we call the goodwife of the house meets at the hall dore with as many of her femall kindred as are about her all on a row; to leave any of them unkist, were an indignity though it were done by the lord president.

I come to theyr apparell. About Dublin they weare the English habit, mantles onely added thereunto, and they  p.358 that goe in silkes, will weare a mantle of country making. In the country even among theyr Irish habitts they have sundry fashions. I will beginne with the ornament of theyr heads. At Killkenny they weare broad beaver hatts coloured, edged with a gold lace and faced with velvett, with a broad gould hatt band. At Waterford they weare capps, turned up with furre and laced with gold lace. At Lymerick they weare rolles of lynnen, each roll contayning twenty bandles of fyne lynnen clothe (A Bandle is half an ell 27), and made up in forme of a myter. To this if it be could weather, there is added a muffler over theyr neck and chinne of like quantity of linnen; being so muffled, over all they will pinne on an English maske of blacke taffaty, which is most rarely ridiculous to behold. In Conaught they weare rolles in forme of a cheese. In Thomond they weare kerchiefs, hanging downe to the middle of theyr backe. The maydes weare on the forepart of theyre head about foure yards of coloured ribbon smoothly layd, and theyr owne hayre playted behind. In other places they weare theyre hayre loose and cast behind. They weare no bands, but the ornament of theyr neckes is a carkanett of goldsmyths worke besett with precious stones, some of them very ritch, but most of them gawdy and made of paynted glasse and at the end of them a crucifixe. They weare also braceletts, and many rings. I proceed to theyr gowns. Lend me your imagination, and I will cutt it out as well as the tayler. They have straight bodyes, and longe wasts, but theyre bodyes come no closer, but to the middle of the ribbe, the rest is supplyed with lacing, from the topp of their breasts, to the bottome of theyr plackett, the ordinary sort have only theyr smockes between, but the better sort have a silke scarfe about theyre neck, which they spread and pinne over theyre breasts. On the forepart of those bodyes they have a sett of broad silver buttons of goldsmiths worke sett  p.359 round about. A sett of those buttons will be worth 40 s some are worth 5£. They have hanging sleeves, very narrow, but no arming sleeves, other then theyre smocke sleeves, or a wastcoate of stripped stuffe, onely they have a wrestband of the same cloth, and a lyst of the same to ioyne it to their winge, but no thing on the hinder part of the arme least they should weare out theyr elbowes. The better sort have sleeves of satten. The skyrt is a piece of rare artifice. At every bredth of three fingers they sew it quite through with a welte, so that it seemeth so many lystes putt together. That they do for strength, they girde theyr gowne with a silke girdle, the tassell whereof must hang downe poynt blanke before to the fringe of theyr peticotes, but I will not descend to theyr petycotes, least you should thinke that I have bene under them. They beginne to weare knitt stockins coloured, but they have not disdayned to weare stockins of raw whyte frise, and broges. They weare theyr mantles also as well with in doors as with out. Theyr mantles are commonly of a browne blew colour with fringe alike, but those that love to be gallant were them of greene, redd, yellow, and other light colours, with fringes diversifyed. An ordinary mantle is worthe 4£, those in the country which cannot go to the price weare whyte sheets mantlewise. I would not have you suppose that all the Irish are thus strangely attyred as I have described. The old women are loath to be shifted out of theyr auncient habitts, but the younger sort, especially in gentlemens houses are brought up to resemble the English, so that it is to be hoped, that the next age will weare out these disguyses. Of theyr cleanlynes I will not speak.

  1. {}which hidden sure is best.
    Happy is he, that will believe, and nevere seek ye rest. 28

Lett us not passe by theyr entertaynements, I will not leade you to the baser cabbins, where you shall have no drink but Bonyclabber, 29 milk that is sowred to the condition of buttermilk,  p.360 nor no meate, but mullagham (mallabanne), a kinde of choke-daw cheese, and blew butter, and no bread at your first coming in, but if you stay half an hower you shall have a cake of meale unboulted, and mingled with butter baken on an yron called a gridle, like a pudding cake. 30 But we will goe to the gentleman that dwells in the castle. See the company yonder, they are ryding to a coshering, lett us strike in among them. (Cosherings are publick invitations, by occasion of marriages, neighbourhood or the like, and for the present open house.) Marke how they be mounted, some upon sidesadles, and some upon pillyons. The Irish saddle is called a pillyon, and it is made on this forme. The tree is as of an ordinary saddle, but the seate is a playne table of two foote longe, and a foote broad or larger, high mounted, and covered with a piece of chequered blanketting. It is not tyed with girths, but it is fastned with a brest plate before, and a crupper behind, and a sursingle in the middle. The men ryde upon it astryde, with theyr leggs very farr extended, and towards the horse neck. If the horse be dull, they spurregall him in the shoulder. It seemeth very uneasy to us, but they affirme it to be an easy kind of ryding. If it be, it is very usefull, for a man may ryde astryde, a woman may ryde a syde, and a man may ryde with a woman behind him, all upon the like saddle. It is an excellent fashion to steale a wench, and to carry her away.

We are come to the castle already. The castles are built very strong, and with narow stayres, for security. The hall is the uppermost room, lett us go up, you shall not come downe agayne till tomorrow. Take no care of your horses, they shall be sessed among the tenants. The lady of the house meets you with her trayne. I have instructed you before how to accost them. Salutations paste, you shall be presented with all the drinkes in the house, first the ordinary beere, then aquavitae, then sacke, then olde-ale, the lady tastes it, you must not refuse it. The fyre is prepared in the middle of the hall, where  p.361 you may sollace yourselfe till supper time, you shall not want sacke and tobacco. By this time the table is spread and plentifully furnished with variety of meates, but ill cooked, and with out sauce. Neyther shall there be wanting a pasty or two of redd deare (that is more common with us then the fallow). The dishe which I make choyce of is the swelld mutton, and it is prepared thus. They take a principall weather, and before they kill him, it is fitt that he be shorne, being killed they singe him in his woolly skynne like a bacon, and rost him by ioynts with the skynne on, and so serve it to the table. They say that it makes the flesh more firme, and preserves the fatt. I make choyce of it to avoyd uncleanely dressing. They feast together with great iollyty and healths around; towards the middle of supper, the harper beginns to tune and singeth Irish rymes of auncient making. If he be a good rymer, he will make one song to the present occasion. Supper being ended, it is at your liberty to sitt up, or to depart to your lodgeing, you shall have company in both kind. When you come to your chamber, do not expect canopy and curtaynes. It is very well if your bedd content you, and if the company be greate, you may happen to be bodkin in the middle. In the morning there will be brought unto you a cupp of aquavitae. The aquavitae or usquebath of Ireland is not such an extraction, as is made in England, but farre more qualifyed, and sweetened with licorissh. It is made potable, and is of the colour of Muscadine. It is a very wholsome drinke, and naturall to digest the crudityes of the Irish feeding. You may drink a knaggin without offence, that is the fourth parte of a pynte. Breakfast is but the repetitions of supper. When you are disposing of yourself to depart, they call for Dogh a dores, that is, to drink at the doore, there you are presented agayne with all the drinkes in the house, as at your first entrance. Smacke them over, and lett us departe.

Should I enter into a discourse of the conditions of the people, theyr pollicyes, theyr assemblyes called parly hills, theyre husbandry, theyr huntings, which are strange kind of excursions, the passages of theyr lives, the antickes at theyr  p.362 buryalls, I could tell as much as most of my time, but I liste not to make it a labour. A word of the provisions of Ireland and but a word.

What feeds on earth or flyes in th'ayre, or swimmeth in ye water, Lo, Ireland hath it of her owne, and lookes not for a cater. But I have drawne you too farre a field, keepe your self in England, farewell.

Endorsed: A discourse of Ireland by L. Gernons.

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Title (uniform): A Discourse of Ireland, anno 1620

Author: Luke Gernon

Editor: Caesar Litton Falkiner

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Funded by: University College, Cork and The President's Strategic Fund via the Writers of Ireland II Project.

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Date: 2010

Date: 2013

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  • British Library, Stowe MS, volume 28, folio 5.

Further Reading

  1. Sir James Ware, De Praesulibus Hiberniae Commentarius (Dublin 1665). [Translated into English as 'A commentary of the prelates of Ireland, from the first conversion of the Irish nation to the christian faith down to our times', in: 'The antiquities and history of Ireland, by the Right Honourable Sir James Ware' (London 1705).]
  2. Walter Harris (ed. and transl.) The works of Sir James Ware concerning Ireland revised and improved. 3 vols. (...) I. Containing, the history of the bishops (...) II. Containing, the antiquities of Ireland. (...) III. Containing the writers of Ireland. In two books. All written in Latin (...) now newly translated into English (...) (Dublin 1739–1746).
  3. James Hardiman, The history of the town and county of the town of Galway, from the earliest period to the present time, enbellished with several engravings, to which is added, a copious appendix, containing the principal charters and other original documents. (Dublin 1820). [Reprinted 1926, 1958, 1975.]
  4. Bartholomew Thomas Duhigg, History of the King's Inns, or, An account of the legal body in Ireland, from its connexion wth England (Dublin 1806). Available online at http://www.archive.org in .pdf format.
  5. Thomas Dinely, Observations on a tour through the kingdom of Ireland in 1681. Dublin 1858. Reprinted by E. P. Shirley (ed.) as 'Observations in a voyage through the kingdom of Ireland, 1680', Journal of the Kilkenny and South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society, new ser., 1 (1856–1857), 143–146, 170–188; new ser., 2 (1858–1859), 22–32, 55–56; new ser., 4 (1862–1863), 38–52, 103–109, 320–338; new ser., 5 (1864–1866), 40–48, 268–290, 425–446; new ser., 6 (1867), 73–91, 176–204.
  6. Barnaby Rich, New Description of Ireland, London 1610.
  7. William Camden, Britannia [in Latin] (London 1610). The first translation into English by Philemon Holland was published in 1610. (A full critical edition in Latin and English is available at http://www.philological.bham.ac.uk/cambrit/). A second edition, translated into English, with additions and improvements was published by Dr Edmund Gibson 1722.
  8. John Dymmok, 'A treatice of Ireland. Edited by Richard Butler', Tracts relating to Ireland 2, 1–90, Irish Archaeological Society (Dublin 1843). [Available online at CELT.]
  9. Thomas Carte, (ed.), The life of James, Duke of Ormond: containing an account of the most remarkable affairs of his time, and particularly of Ireland under his government; with appendix and a collection of letters, serving to verify the most material facts in the said history. 6 vols. (Oxford 1851).
  10. William Lithgow, The totall discourse of the rare adventures & painefull peregrinations of long nineteene years travayles from Scotland to the most famous Kingdomes in Europe, Asia and Affrica. (Glasgow 1906).
  11. The Memoirs of Anne Fanshawe, edited by Herbert C. Fanshawe (London 1907).
  12. William Lithgow, Rare adventures and painful peregrinations of long nineteen years travayles (1632). Reprint, edited with an introduction by Gilbert Phelps. (London 1974).
  13. Gerard Boate, Ireland's Naturall History (London 1652). Chetham Society. [Available online at CELT.] Reprinted as 'Gerard Boate's natural history of Ireland', edited, with an introduction, by Thomas E. Jordan (New York 2006).
  14. Stanley G. Mendyk, Gerard Boate and 'Irelands Naturall History'. Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 115 (1985), 5–12.
  15. Roderic O'Flaherty, A chorographical description of West or h-Iar Connaught, written A.D. 1684; ed. J. Hardiman. (Dublin 1846).
  16. A. B. Grosart, (ed.). Lismore papers. 1st ser., 5 vols.; 2nd ser., 5 vols. 10 vols. 1886–1888.
  17. P. W. Joyce, A Social History of Ancient Ireland (New York, London, and Bombay: Longmans, Green, & Company. 1903. 2 volumes.
  18. Constantia Maxwell, The stranger in Ireland: from the reign of Elizabeth to the Great Famine (London 1954).
  19. P. W. Joyce, The origin and history of Irish names of places. [Facs. of the original edition in 3 volumes published 1869–1913.] With a new introductory essay on P.W. Joyce by Mainchín Seoighe. Dublin: Éamonn de Búrca for Edmund Burke 1995.
  20. Richard Bagwell, Ireland under the Stuarts and during the Interregnum. Vol. I: 1603–1642; Vol. II: 1642–1660; Vol.III: 1660–1690.(London 1909–1916). (A digital copy is available at www.archive.org.)
  21. Brian S. Robinson, Elizabethan Society and its named Places, Geographical Review 63/3 (July 1973. 322–333.
  22. John McVeagh (ed.), Irish Travel Writing. A Bibliography. (Dublin 1996).
  23. John Morrill (ed), The Oxford Illustrated History of Tudor & Stuart Britain (Oxford 1996).
  24. Hiram Morgan, The Battle of Kinsale (Bray 2004).
  25. C. J. Woods, Travellers' accounts as source material for Irish historians (Dublin 2009).

The edition used in the digital edition

Falkiner, C. Litton, ed. (1904). Illustrations of Irish History and Topography, mainly of the seventeenth century‍. 1st ed. xvii + 426 pages. London, New York, Bombay: Longmans Green, and Co.

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  title 	 = {Illustrations of Irish History and Topography, mainly of the seventeenth century},
  editor 	 = {C. Litton Falkiner},
  edition 	 = {1},
  note 	 = {xvii + 426 pages},
  publisher 	 = {Longmans Green, and Co.},
  address 	 = {London, New York, Bombay},
  date 	 = {1904}


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Date: c. 1620

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  • Introduction in modern English, body of text in seventeenth-century English. (en)
  • A few words are in Irish. (ga)
  • A few words are in Latin. (la)

Keywords: travel; description; essay; prose; 17c; Ireland; customs

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  1. 2019-06-05: Changes made to div0 type. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
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  6. 2007-06-15: File proof-read (3); additions to bibliography made; more markup applied; file parsed; SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
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  1. The Discourse is to be found in Stowe MSS. vol. 28, folio 5. The manuscript contains no clue to the authorship beyond the endorsement, in a seventeenth-century hand, “A Discourse of Ireland by L. Gernons.” 🢀

  2. Liber Munerum Hiberniae, vol. i. pt. ii. p. 186. 🢀

  3. S.P. (Ireland), vol. 251, No. 131. 🢀

  4. Cal. S.P. (Ireland), 1625–32, p. 598. 🢀

  5. S.P. (Ireland), vol. 283, No. 303. 🢀

  6. Lord Cork's diary contains entries of loans of 20£. and 10£. in 1622 and 1627 to “Mr. Second Justice Gernon.”—Lismore Papers, 1st series, ii. pp. 61 and 241. 🢀

  7. Brady's Records of Cork, i. p. 182. 🢀

  8. See Hardiman's History of Galway, p. 101. 🢀

  9. Post and pair is explained in Nares's Glossary (ed. Halliwell and Wright, 1867, ii. p. 676) as a “game on the cards, played with three cards each, wherein much depended on vying, or betting on the goodness of your own hand.” In certain points, which are specified by Nares, “it would,” he says, “much resemble the modern game of commerce.” Ben Jonson in The Masque of Christmas (1616) introduces Post and Pair among the ten sons and daughters of Christmas. “Post and Pair, with a pair-royal of aces in his hat; his garment all done over with pairs and purs; his squire carrying a box, cards and counters.” Nares has a long note on “Pur” (s. v.), of the meaning of which he is uncertain. In Jonson's Works (ed. Gifford, Chatto & Windus, iii. p. 107) will be found a note by Gifford, in which he refers to having read prose descriptions of the game, and quotes from John Davies's Wittes Pilgrimage, part of a poem entitled Mortall Life compared to Post and Pare.The whole of this poem will be found in Grosart's John Davies of Hereford, Wittes Pilgrimage, p. 38. Jonson again mentions “post and pair” in his Masque of Love Restored (speech of Plutus as Cupid). The game is spoken of by Heywood in A Woman Kilde with Kindness (Pearson's Heywood, 1874, ii. p. 122). In Halliwell's Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, references are given under “Post and Pair” to “Florio [Italian Dict., under Gile], p. 210; Taylor's motto, 1622, sig. D, iv.” See also T. L. O. Davies, A Supplementary English Glossary (1880) under “Post” and under “Greek”. 🢀

  10. Cf. Spenser's Faery Queene, Book IV. canto xi. 42: And there the three renowmed brethren were,/{}/ The first the gentle Shure that, making way/ By sweet Clonmell, adornes rich Waterford;/ The next, the stubborne Newre whose waters gray/ By faire Kilkenny and Rossponté boord;/ The third, the goodly Barow which doth hoord/ Great heupes of salmons in his deepe bosóme. 🢀

  11. See Part I. The Woods of Ireland, CELT file E900000-001, p. 150 supra🢀

  12. This is incorrect as to the relative antiquity of the two cathedrals. St. Patrick's Cathedral was consecrated in 1191, Christ Church in 1038. 🢀

  13. We are grateful to Stuart Kinsella from Friends of Medieval Dublin for the reference first mentioning this expansion, i. e. "Colum Kenny, 'The Four Courts in Dublin before 1796', Irish Jurist, xxi (1986), 107–24, revised as Colm Kenny, 'The Four Courts at Christ Church, 1608–1796' in W.N. Osborough (ed.), Explorations in law and history: Irish Legal History Society discources, 1988–1994 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press in association with the Irish Legal History Society, 1995), 107–32, at 113 (of Osborough edition)." 🢀

  14. The King's Inns had been quite recently constituted. See as to the allocation of chambers in 1609, Duhigg's History of the King's Inns, p. 75. 🢀

  15. See Part I. The Irish Guards pp. 85–86 supra🢀

  16. See plate vi. to Derricke's Image of Ireland, illustrating Sir Henry Sidney leaving Dublin Castle on a State progress. 🢀

  17. Waterford was without a charter from 1617 to 1626. 🢀

  18. The walls of Limerick were dismantled in 1760. Only a very small portion now remains. 🢀

  19. The Bishop of Limerick in Gernon's time was Dr. Bernard Adams. This prelate, who held the see from 1604 to 1626, was a fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. Ware has recorded his munificence as a restorer of the cathedral. Ware's Bishops🢀

  20. See the drawing in Dinely's Tour, p. 109. The bridge is also well shown on a map by Thomas Phillips, drawn in 1685, which is preserved at Kilkenny Castle. See Ormonde Papers, ii. p. 310.  🢀

  21. See Part I. p. 130 supra🢀

  22. This will appear an exaggerated eulogy, but the relative importance of Galway among Irish cities was greater in Gernon's day than it has been in later times. It was then accounted the second city in Ireland, and is so placed as late as 1652 by Boate: “Next to Dublin is Galway, the head city of the Province of Connaught to be reckoned, as well for bigness and fairness as for riches.” Boate places the cities of Ireland in this order: 1., Dublin; 2., Galway; 3., Waterford; 4., Limerick; 5., Cork; 6., Londonderry.—Ireland's Naturall History, chap. i. And see Lady Fanshawe's Memoirs, pp. 86–90. 🢀

  23. The Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas, Galway, was founded in 1320. 🢀

  24. Elizabeth, only daughter of Thomas, tenth Earl of Ormond, being a ward of James I. was given in marriage to his favourite, James Preston, created Earl of Desmond. Under an award of James I. the Castle and a great portion of the extensive Ormond estates were, at this time, divorced from the bearer of the hereditary honours of the Butler family. But they were reunited a few years later than Gernon's narrative in the person of the Countess of Desmond's only daughter Elizabeth, who married the twelfth Earl of Ormond, afterwards so well known as the first Duke of Ormond. —See Ormonde Papers, vol. ii, New Series, p. 345. 🢀

  25. It is interesting to compare Gernon's description of the dress of the native Irish with Spenser's account of it a quarter of a century earlier. View of the State of Ireland, p. 89 (Prof. Morley's edition [Henry Morley (ed.), Ireland under Elizabeth and James the First, described by Edmund Spenser, by Sir John Davies ... and by Fynes Moryson, Carisbrooke Library Series 10, London and New York 1890.]). Gernon's written in a much more liberal spirit than the poet's. For a careful account of Irish dress see Joyce's Social History of Ireland, ii. p. 189 et seq. See also Fynes Moryson's observations at p. 321 supra online in The Manners and Customs of Ireland, CELT file T100073. 🢀

  26. It is difficult to account for the etymology of calliot. It is perhaps the same word as callet, a scold. Or it may be connected with callot, which Nares defines as “a kind of scull cap or any plain coif” such as matrons might wear. R. Dunlop has suggested (in a review of C. Litton Falkiner's book, published in The English Historical Review 1905, 798, that calliot derives from Ir. cailleach, 'a hag', and that English calliot was a derogatory term applied to Queen Elizabeth. 🢀

  27. The clothing is a sort of frieze, of about twenty inches broad, whereof two foot, called a bandle, is worth from 3 1/2d. to 18d. Of this, seventeen bandles make a man's suit, and twelve make a cloak. — Sir W. Petty's Political Anatomy of Ireland, chap, xii. 🢀

  28. The whole of the quotation is not decipherable in the MS.  🢀

  29. See p. 230 supra.  🢀

  30. Dinely's enumeration of the food of the people (Tour, p. 23) is very similar to Gernon's. But by Dinely's time, about two generations later, potatoes had become part of “the dyet of the vulgar Irish.” 🢀


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