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The Quarterclift;  or  The Life and Adventures of Hudy McGuigan,  by Hugh Harkin

published in booklet form 1841; published in facsimile 1993 by Ballinascreen Historical Society
(144pp, + brief introduction and notes)
available from Ballinascreen Historical Society, Draperstown, Co Derry

an edited transcript, with notes and a glossary

characters may replace dashes in the original publication,
 eg "Lord Caledon" replaces "Lord C──n"

Hugh Harkin (1791-1854)

Hugh Harkin was by profession a schoolteacher. In both The Northern Whig, 31 October 1833, and the Belfast Commercial Chronicle, 2 November 1833, there is an advertisement for a new school, naming Harkin as a teacher:


The Public are respectfully informed, that the Seminary lately erected in this Town, by the Right Rev. Doctor Crolly, for the purpose of establishing a cheap and extensive system of Education, will be opened, on MONDAY next, the 4th of November, for the instruction of Pupils of every religious denomination, on the following moderate terms:──

Latin and Greek, per Quarter £1  0  0
Mathematics, Geography, and the Use of the Globes 1  0  0
English, Arithmetic, and Bookkeeping,──according
   to the age and advancement of the Pupil

7s. 6d. to 15s.

The Terms for Boarding will be only £12 per annum, to be paid Quarterly, in advance, together with £2 per annum for Washing.  Such Pupils as desire to attend to Classics and Mathematics, will pay only £1 per Quarter for both.

The Rev. Cornelius Denvir, late Professor of Natural Philosophy and Mathematics in the College of Maynooth, will preside over the higher classes, in Latin, Greek, and Mathematics.

The Rev. John Lynch will superintend the other Classes, in the same departments.

Mr. Hugh Harkin will be English and Mercantile Master.

The "New Seminary" was St Malachy's College, Antrim Road, Belfast, the first Roman Catholic diocesan college in Ireland; Dr Crolly was Bishop of Down and Connor (1825-35), and was succeeded as Bishop by Dr Denvir (1835-65).

How did this Belfast teacher come to write about Hudy McGuigan?  Hudy's "letter" from Ballinascreen is addressed to "the editor of the McGuigan papers"; could this be Hugh Harkin's tacit admission that he had somehow come into possession of Henry John O'Hagan's Life of Hudy, the manuscript that John O'Donovan had heard about?  In the same letter, "young Mr. H──" is mentioned as living in Maghera - could this have been one of Hugh Harkin's sons?

There were undoubtedly other sources to stimulate Hugh Harkin's imagination.  It is interesting to compare The Still-Hunt with the following report from the Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent, 21 June 1834:


Attack on a Party of Revenue Police.──On the morning of the 13th instant, as that active Officer, Hamilton Turkington, Esq., Lieutenant of Revenue Police stationed at Ballynascreen, in the county of Tyrone, was returning wth his party from Maytobber, within four miles of Cookstown, where he had detected and destroyed two extensive illicit distilleries, he was assailed by a great body of the country people, armed with guns, pitchforks, &c., who used the most threatening language, and actually fired upon his men from behind the hedges, in order to rescue what he had seized and was bringing with him.  Mr. Turkington's promptitude, however, shewed the misguided people that he was not to be deterred from the discharge of his duty.  He ordered a few of his men to fire over the heads of the mob, whom he assured that he would only surrender the seizure with his life.  This warning, backed by a proper display of his little force, we are happy to say, prevented the mischief that would otherwise have followed, and he was enabled to lodge the goods in the police barracks.

It is easy to see how reading about the above incident could have inspired a story with an outcome less congenial to the Revenue, a story which could include Hudy's involvement.

Hugh Harkin's death was announced in The Belfast Mercury, Friday 6 January 1854:

January 1, at 2, Donegall-square East, Mr. Hugh Harkin, aged sixty-two years.

Further details of his life are laid out in a (slightly inaccurate) obituary in The Nation, 7 January 1854:


With the most genuine sorrow we announce the death of Hugh Harkin, formerly of Belfast, and later of Edinburgh and Leeds.  He died on the 2d inst., at Donegall Square, Belfast, of Bronchitis.

A finer specimen of a generous, pious, genial Irishman it would be hard to name.  He carried into a green old age the frankness and gaiety of boyhood, and a courage and patriotism that never slackened.  He had capacities which, with a wider stage and a more prosperous career would certainly have given him a permanent place in the literature or public service of the country.  Some of our readers will recognise in him the writer of striking poems in the "Spirit of the Nation".  Others will remember with pleasure his novel of the "Quarter Clift", and his sketches from Irish Life in the Belfast Vindicator and the Dublin Penny Journal.  Acquaintances of later years will know him best as the original editor of the Lamp.  The young clergy of Down and Connor will regret their professor in the Diocesan Seminary.  But the mass of the Catholic population of Belfast will have the kindliest memory of all─the recollection of the faithful incorruptible tribune of the people.  He has earned a monument at their hands for the model of a Christian and patriot life which he presented to them, and as a compensation for their want of perfect appreciation of him during his life.  Though they loved him well, they scarcley knew that God had given him a nobler intellect and a greater heart than a legion of those whom they worship because they have been more grasping and successful.  But what wise man would exchange his serene and cordial life, his happy home, lighted by the love and confidence of his children, the memory of years turned to a noble account, and a name without a stain, for anything that fortune can give or take away.  He ended a Christian life with a Christian death.  May he rest in eternal peace, and perpetual light shine with him.

Although The Nation states that Harkin spent time in Leeds, The Vindicator (8 January 1848) reports that on 31 December 1847 the parents and friends of pupils educated at his academy in Edinburgh (whither he had moved in August 1842) held a meeting to record their satisfaction at his teaching, and to wish him well on his move to Manchester.  In the 1851 Census, however, he appears to have been living at 7 Little Blake Street, York, describing himself as an English and Mercantile School Teacher; with him was his wife Margaret (57) and daughter Susan Jane (23).  The Belfast Newsletter records that Margaret, relict of Hugh Harkin of Belfast, died at her residence (Archerfield, Kilkenny) on 12 April 1873 aged 80; and that Susan, 2nd daughter of the late Hugh Harkin of Belfast, died at the residence of her brother, Youghal, on 30 November 1877; neither death appears to have been registered.

Harkin does not appear to have ever been the editor of The Lamp, a Catholic magazine whose first issue was published on 16 March 1851; from the first issue until the 1860s the magazine's editor and proprietor was Thomas Earnshaw Bradley.  Harkin's death does not appear to be recorded in The Lamp, which tells against his having held any position of responsibility; most likely he had been a paid contributor to the magazine, perhaps even writing editorial and leading articles.

This page was last updated 6 Nov 2018