a convergence of tea time thoughts for ladies

The Highland Lady of Ireland


image What can I say?  I loved  reading this book!  Elizabeth Grant is the Highland lady of Ireland who wrote this- her day to day journal in 1840-1850 as she lived in Ireland, although she  was a Scottish woman.  Here’s a description of Elizabeth Grant’s life    She met her Irish ‘husband to be’ in India as her family was living there.  This article link explains it all in 2 or 3 pages, about how her husband inherited the Baltiboy estate from his brother who died.  She did so much for the tenants that lived and farmed there.   I was transported to the 1840’s in Ireland by reading this book.

image  Lot of thatched roofs over there; here’s one for pigs.  website where this photo is.

image I don’t know if this is a barn or a house.

 image Oh… so that’s how it’s done.

   The county of Wicklow is below Dublin.

image Can you find Wicklow county on this map where Elizabeth and her husband  Colonel  Henry Smith lived?  It’s kind of southeast.  Clare county (where my Irish came from is directly all the way west of it.

I have a great great grandmother who was all Irish from roots of  Claire County which is west of Wicklow County,  although born in the US, so maybe her parents (or ancestors) came over during the potato famine.  Elizabeth Grant has to deal with  the potato famine also  in the mid 1840’s.  Many of her tenants are selling all they own for a ticket to America as I currently am reading 3/4th  way through this book.   The potato famine was a terrible time, yet the Colonel and his wife did a lot for their tenants although some still had to go to the poor house in a neighboring city- Naas.  There were up to 1,400 people in that particular poorhouse at the height of the famine.

Here are some photos of Wicklow County:

image     image   

image this photo is from this B and B site in Wicklow County


imagewhere I got this photo of a protestant church

This is a protestant church in the town of Wicklow.  There was a town named Wicklow located on the Irish Sea in the county called Wicklow.  Elizabeth Grant was Protestant and she didn’t like the way the priest were extracting money from the poor tenants, besides that there was fear and myths always being told to the poor Irish from the priests.   The priests  were often going against the schools Mrs. Smith (Elizabeth) established as her’s were not the hedge schools (kind of like public school) which were influenced more by Catholic priests as were the National schools that came after the Hedge Schools.      On page 82 she mentions some of the people are talking about getting their own bibles and not listening to the Catholic Priest. 

She and her husband improved the Baliboy estate immensely over  the first 12 years there.  They didn’t get rich, instead they put their money into the farming and  the tenants; rewarding the ones who worked hard and relieving the poor, although they did have food for entertaining, had servants and got to go over to Scotland once a year where her side of the family was.  She makes her rounds throughout the year, going to the tenants farms and describes their condition, each family; that’s the interesting part to see, each family’s progression or  failure.  Poor Judy Ryan.  I felt sorry for her.

Tom and Mary Kelly  are tenants mentioned in the book and I think I came across their descendants online. page of tom and Mary Kelly descendants .   Every year  “the Highland lady” mentions them when she visits all the tenants to see about their needs and how they manage their farm. 

When Mrs Smith was sick she took a Rhubbarb pill and a dose of hydriocate of potash.  Try figuring that out!  Rhubbarb pill for constipation?  and the hydriocate of potash- only thing I can find online is  that it is used for Rheumatism and maybe have some narcotic in it.  Not sure.

I don’t know the roots of St Patricks day, but in the mid 1840’s they had a St Patrick’s Day ball and they danced till midnight, 2 or 4 in the morning.  At one ball, a breakfast tea at 4 am was served.

image Here’s a dress from the 1840s that someone with money would wear and I can’t find any photos of differences of dress from England to Ireland online, although rural Ireland wasn’t fancy! and they were dressed in rags often during the potato famine.  Elizabeth Henry from the book says she’d rather buy 50 cotton dresses (for those in need and herself) than  buy one elaborate expensive dress for just herself to wear, but I’m sure she had something fitting for the St Patricks Day ball and big dinner invites. She was thrifty and modest, always thinking of those in need.  She protected her maids pay from their families that wanted to buy tobacco and whiskey.

image Here’s another dress from the 1830’s ( 10 years before the books time that I read).  This one is a day dress.

image Here are some other day dresses.  These shawls look Irish don’t they?

image I like this one. It’s a ball gown trimmed with lace (from  the 1840’s)   These last 3 photos are from http://www.costumes.org/history/100pages/timelinepages/1840to1850.htm  


(below) Photo courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

image This is what you’d wear in your poor village; a big contrast to the previous photos of dresses.

image 1840’s hat.  In the book, Mrs. Smith calls it a bonnet.http://www.costumes.org/history/100pages/timelinepages/1840to1850.htm

image I like this one!  1847-1657 http://www.costumes.org/history/100pages/19THV&A2.HTM

Guess what I learned?  During the time period of this book, my grandmothers great grandmother was in Ireland and she married a man who was a boot maker  for the wealthy people which put him in the tradesman category.  In this book, Elizabeth Grant describes how the tradesman have their shops on Merchant square in Dublin, although my ancestors were west of Wicklow County, his boot making business could have been at a Merchants Square there. look at this!  a bookmakers shop and other shops of old world Dublin   I can’t put the photos on here because of the copy write  laws, so you have to log on to the site.  In the book Elizabeth mentions when she went to town to get measured for a new pair of shoes.

 Here’s what happened to my grandmothers’  great grandmother:

She and her husband migrated to America with their 8 children, probably during the potato famine or a little after (I don’t have specific dates) and settled in Missouri ( Iowa  too, before or after Missouri)  where the mom died of Typhoid fever (maybe a year or two after coming to America) which she probably caught in Ireland or on the ship in transit.  Before dying of Typhoid fever, she had my great great grandmother- who was her 8th or 9th  child named Isabella Elizabeth.  How about that for a true story!   

After reading this book and finding out the information of my mom’s Irish roots; I realized they were both in the same time frame which makes it so much clearer  to me how they lived back then.    Elizabeth Grant/Mrs. Smith was Protestant verses my ancestors being Catholic.

Much superstition is avoided by not following Catholic practices back  then is what Elizabeth Grant/Smith makes mention of throughout the book.   We all have ancestors that lived in that time period and it’s neat to know where they lived and to know the little we can about them and by understanding their time period and politics of the day sheds light on the decisions they made.

Don’t log off before going on that terrific website of all those old photos of Ireland shops and houses!

page 2 of that terrific website with more photos     This is page 2, my favorite photo is the open hearth for cooking with the huge black kettles.  Guess you need those big black kettles if you have to heat all your water, but how do you lift them big kettles?  You have to be of truck driver strength to lift those filled  with hot water!

Page 1 of photos: did you see the upstairs of the house- bedroom with 2 big beds and the thatched roof?  Wasn’t the gentleman hairdresser and tobbacomist store neat?  The bootmaker shop!  The carpentry shop!  Look at the green long kitchen photo too. 

I obtained this book through the inter loan library and even though it’s 500 and some pages, all those reading times it took to get through it was sheer pleasure!


One response

  1. Deb Whitmore

    I really enjoyed your post- I think I will have to read the book myself!
    Wishing you a most Joyous Christmas.

    Much Love,

    December 23, 2010 at 1:39 pm

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