The Irish According to Fynes Moryson (II)

The Irish are by nature very factious, all of a sept or name living together, and cleaving close one to another in all quarrels and actions whatsoever, in which kind they willingly suffer great men to eat upon them, and take whatsoever they have, proverbially saying ‘Defend me and spend me’; but this defence must be in all causes, just or unjust, for they are not content to be protected from wrong, except they may be borne out to do wrong.

They are by nature extremely given to idleness.  The sea coasts and harbours abound with fish, but the fishermen must be beaten out before they will go to their boats.  Theft is not infamous but rather commendable among them, so as the greatest men affect to have the best thieves to attend upon them; and if any man reprove them, they answer that they do as their fathers did, and it is infamy for gentlemen and swordsmen to live by labour and manual trades.  Yea, they will not be persuaded that theft displeaseth God, because He gives the prey into their hands, and if He be displeased, they say, yet He is merciful and will pardon them for using means to live.  This idleness makes them also slovenly and sluttish in their houses and apparel, so as upon every hill they lie lousing themselves, as formerly in the discourse of the Commonwealth.  I have remembered four verses, of four beasts that plague Ireland, namely, lice upon their bodies, rats in their houses, wolves in their fields, and swarms of Romish priests tyrannising over their consciences.  This idleness also makes them to love liberty above all things, and likewise naturally to delight in music, so as the Irish harpers are excellent, and their solemn music is much liked of strangers; and the women of some parts of Munster, as they wear Turkish heads and are thought to have come first out of these parts, so they have pleasant tunes of Moresco dances.

They are by nature very clamorous, upon every small occasion raising the hobou (that is a doleful outcry), which they take from one another’s mouth till they put the whole town in tumult.  And their complaints to magistrates are commonly strained to the highest points of calamity, sometimes in hyperbolical terms, as many upon small violences offered them have petitioned to the Lord Deputy for justice against men for murdering them, while they stood before him sound and not so much as wounded.

– The Manners and Customs of Ireland, Fynes Moryson.

Curator: Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organised the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Personal queries should be directed to me at eccentricbliss dot com.

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