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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"

A Letter from Hudy after Belfast

The following "letter" was published in a Belfast newspaper The Vindicator on Saturday 27 June 1840, in a column headed "Literature".  The last paragraph states clearly that this "letter" is a promotion for a forthcoming book.  The third paragraph refers to an earlier "letter", written to his Ballinascreen friends while he was still in Belfast.



Honoured Sir, ─ Brien Phadie M'Glade, my amanuensis (that's one of Brien Boccagh's jaw-breakers), says that's the proper way to begin a letther; so, takin' his word for it, here goes, becase why, you see, I'm itchin' to let you and all the world know the splores I come through since I left you.  Well, bad luck to the bit but there's many a curious chap in Belfast,──divil a betther for kickin' up a bit of a stramash, anyhow!  Afther all, the lads on the quays are like Billy M'Cay, of Portglenone, the ould nurseryman, and that's just well worth bein' let alone.  But, whew! by the powers, they met their match for once!  They won't forget Black Bess for a month of Sundays, I'll be bound.

Well, sure you know the dogs, poor craythurs, have always a great likin's for me; and just the evenin' after I left you, well becomes one of them, he eyes myself in Mill-street──a capitial tiger bull-dog he was──a beauty──divil a betther!  Whoeep! says I, and the poor fellow wagged his tail.  Whoeep! says I again──and what would you think?──by the powers! he follows me at once, and sticks into my skirts, as if he had known me for twenty years!  Well, thinks I, this is lucky, and you'll be fine company for me in the mornin'.  So I comes to my lodgin's, and I ties my gentleman, and down he lies at my feet quite unconsarned, and looks up in my face, and licks my hand as kindly as a cocker.  Well, faix I thought I had him safe and sound; but when I got up in the mornin', divil a hilt nor hair of him was to be seen!  Some thief o' the world had cut the string while I was sleepin', and stole away my darlin' tiger.  Curse o' Cromwell on the vagabone!  That he may never do a betther action, I pray cruite!  So aff I had to start, and not a sowl in my company, barrin' Black Bess.

Well, that fared well; but the road was lonesome-like, and my heart was down till I got within two miles of Antrim; and whew! up sprung the spirits again, for I was just on the ground where, about five-and-thirty years before, I had the splore in airnest wid two companies of the "Derry militia," and the whole barrelem and skittlem of the "green troop" afther me in women's clothes!──Augh, by the powers! it was myself that played them that day; but you'll put all that down in the book, so I need say no more.

So an I comes to Randalstown, quite paceable, for divil a ragman, tinker, or Peeler did I clap an eye an, do you mind.  But there I met the broth of a boy, my ould friend, Serjeant C────, that sphlorified me, as Brien Phadie says.  "Welcome back, Goodwino," says he; "come in and get your breakfast."  "In thrath an' I will, and thank you, too," says I, "for I'm in need of a rest and some little refreshment, afther a seventeen miles hard thramp this mornin'"  "But how did you get on in Belfast?" says he.  "It's past tellin'," says I; "but there's the newspaper, and it spakes for me."   So I hands him the Vindicator, with the letther to Brian Phadie M'Glade and Denis Dominick O'Crilly, my two best friends, barrin' yourself; and he reads, and he laughs, and he roars even out, till the floor shook and the table thrimbled afore me.  "And now," says he, "upon your honour, Goodwino, did you railly come through all this?"  "Well, upon my honour, and sowl, and conscience, I did," says I, "and three times as much into the bargain!  Do you believe that, eh?"  He raised my blood a little, you parsave, or I wouldn't have cursed as I did; and in thrath it's a bad habit, anyhow.──"Well, you are the best man of your years in all the world," says he, shakin' me by the hand, do you mind.  "By my sowl, I am, and that the street-walkers, and the coal-porthers, and the quay-boys, and the say-captains of Belfast knows right well," says I.

Well, I staid till I was finely rested, and aff I starts and comes to Toom-bridge; and such shaking of hands as I had with Mr. N──── and Miss N────, and all my friends there──the world couldn't bate it!  But when I came to Maghera──augh! ten thousand cead mili faltie's!  And young Mr. H──, I daren't name him, you see.  Well, he's the blood! the good ould stock, do you mind──the divil a betther!  So I stapped there all night, and aff I started the next mornin' for Ballinascreen, but when I came near to the Cross──whew!──the news spread like blazes, and devil a mile I could thravel in seven hours──such runnin' and jumpin' and whuzzain'!──man, woman, and child! and such shakin' of hands.  "Blood-an-oundhers, boys, darlin's," says I, "are yez goin' to devore me?"  "Divil a fears, Hudy, acushla," says they; "augh, your sowl, sure we read all you come through in Belfast!  Well, you are the ould buck that could show them a Ballinascreen touch!  You did let them know the time of day."  But who should come ridin' up, at that blissed moment, but Father M'F────, the curate of the parish, or as Jack Archy O'Hagan used to say, "the coadjutor priest," and for the first time in my life I saw a frown on his manly, beautiful, good-natured countenance!  "By the powers, I'm in for it now," thinks I. "But what the blazes can he mane?"  So, he says to myself, "I wish to spake to you, Hudy."  And over I goes.  "Didn't I warn you not to go to Belfast to be making a fool of yourself in your ould days," says he, as mild as a lady; but, wid all that, by the powers, the calm sough of his voice made me trimble.  "And, didn't I tell you that you would be getting into broils and fights in a strange place, where the people would know nothing and care nothing about you."  "Whew! by the powers! Sogarth, aroon, you're out for once," says I.  "Bad scran to me, but I'm as well-known there as I am in 'the Cross,' and divil a kindlier people in all the world──but nabocklish.  I'll tell your reverence, in private, all they did for me, and that was no trifle."  But he wasn't half plaised wid me afther all, becase why, you see, I didn't take his advice at first, and he could make nothin' of me now.  So aff he goes in a huff, and says he, "Them fools that's about you is dhriving your ould head mad, and I'm sorry to say, it's like the fox's cubs wid you, Hudy, a day oulder and a day worse."  Well, bad luck to the far wrong he was, afther all; and faix I was cut to the heart for vexin' him, for there's not a betther, nor a kindlier, nor a braver man undher the copse, and that's God's thruth.  But away he went, and he was hardly out of sight, when, well becomes the boys, they whips myself up on their shoulders, and carries me into the Cross.──Well, to be sure, that was the night.  But the fair-day comes, and off I starts in the mornin' as brisk as a lark, dressed in my military costume, as Brien Phadie calls it; and divil another man in the fair walked so bouldly, or was half as much admired or followed as myself.──Augh, by the powers, I left the showmen, and the ballad-singers, and the pedlars, and the gamblers as idle as a clove on Sunday.  I wish them luck of what they made while I kept the street!  Wherever I went, do you mind, crowds were at my heels──the strangers starin' me out of countenance──the ould neighbours shakin' the arms aff me, and deavin' me wid questions.  "Augh, Hudy, agrah, where did you get that dhress?"  "Cris-Christie, did you thravel through Belfast in that way?"──"Did you play all the thricks that's tould of you in the papers?"  Bad luck to me, but they were enough to bother seven saints, if they were all sworn counsellors.──Well, by the powers, the ould temper was risin', when farrit comes an overgrown monsther of an ould dragoon, blustherin', and swaggerin', and blowin' like an ould, wind-blown garran afther a sputther.  "Are you the man," says he, "that disturbed the pace of Belfast?"──"The same, at your sarvice," says I, quite at my aize, do you mind.  "Augh, you're a tartherer," says he, mockin' me; "but do you undherstand the broad-sword?"  "Faix, I can't well say; but I think I could show you some of the thricks and the vartues of Black Bess;" and, by the powers, whirl went the ould lady round my finger and thumb──widout biddin', do you mind──as if she knowed my thoughts and undherstud the compliment.  The amadhon was mad becase I took it so quait, you parsave; and he guldhers out, "Then you'll never lave the spot till you take a cut from me."  "I'm proud of your hosphitality," says I, "and I'll be hard put to it if I don't conthrive to give as good as I get."  So to it we went.  Whew! bad luck to the bouchon, he was no man!  Nayther science nor pluck──divil have all.  There was no satisfaction in batin' him.  He missed guard on the first fence.  Black Bess measured the breadth of his temples, and down went dirty Goliath──"Boh──oh──oh!"──roarin' like a fed veal undher the knife.  "Lie you there, you filthy abomination," says I, and I give him another lieuge acrass the fat buttocks that made them quiver and shake like a plate of jelly.──But the neighbours gathered him up and carried him into Surgeon M'N────'s; and sure I had bright revenge by lavin' him in the huckster's hands; for, if the docthers isn't ill belied, you parsave, they can both bleed and blisther, and pickle the pocket into the bargain, and that Brien Boccagh O'Higgins wud kiss claspy on, any day in the three hundred and sixty-five.  But──"Abair begān agus abair go maith é" is a good ould sayin'; so "bi do hocht" is the word.

But the cheers and whuzzas of the people brought the peelers an us; and says the sarjeant, says he, "If you brake the pace, I'll take yez iviry man prisoners."  "Augh! murdher, but that's pure Irish," says I, and I laughed at him; and he turned crass, and my blood begins to boil──"Begone," says I, "you onquiltivated illitherate boldhorum; bad luck to all green-coats and red-saims, as well as the skin they cover.  To the divil I pitch you, you lazy vagabones──you are no good──you would rather brake the pace nor presarve it.  The curse o' Cromwell upon you──ould father Murphy and his powl was worth scores and scores of you.  His bare word in the Cross fair would do more nor you and fifty magistrates at your back; and that's the truth.  Curse upon you! we have no trust in you──lave us to them that cares for us, and that's the clargy, God bless them!"──So aff he slinks, and divil another word was out of his gum, do you mind.

But sure I needn't be tillin' you what an ould fair-day is.  Well, bad scran to me, but I think it's fifty worses in a wee town nor a big one.  It puts me in mind of what the ould sailor tould of a man-of-war──"What kind of a place is it, Sir?" says I; "Harry Hamish, that was seven years on board, says you have lots of splores."  "Splores," says he, "splores! divil such a rope I knows; p'raps you could find it among the Mounseers, or the Yankies; but there's no such rope in a British ship, from a ten-gun clipper up to the best three-decker in the navy──and I've tried them all."  "That's not what I mane," says I, and I couldn't help laughin' at the ould chap's ignorance; "I want to know what kind of a place it is."  "What kind of a place is it?──what kind of a place?  Well, I thinks as how I could hardly tell, and mayhap you wouldn't understand if I did──but were you ever in hell?"  "Cris-Christie," says I, "no I'm not so far thravelled yet."  "Oh, very well, then," says he, "you can't know; but a man-of-war, you see, is────is────is────just hell afloat."  "Well, by the powers," says I, "that bates Banagher."  But between you and me, a wee town on an ould fair-day's not unlike that same hot counthry; becase, you see, there's so many rank divils running here and there and everywhere, and all, do you mind, suffering to the ninety-nines.  But the boys were out in the Cross, and in thrath my own sweet self, ould as I am, was among the middle of them.  And maybe they weren't spreein' it.  Well, just in the very heighth of the fun, up comes a jolly lump of a tinker, wid his budgets an his back, and laidin' a jackass.  So, facin' myself he says, mighty dacent, "Might I make so bould, sir, as to ax your name."  "In thrath," says I, "there's no great harm in that; I don't think it amounts to a sin, anyhow; so M'Guigan's my name, at your sarvice."──"Is it you that's spoken of in the papers?" says he.──"The same," says I, and I made him a low bow, very genteel, do you mind.  "You're the very man I want," says he. "I have thravelled seven days to see you, all the ways from the county Cavan, and my name's Daniel Gallagher."  "Well be brook your name," says I; "it's not overly purty, but it does very well for a tinker."──Well, by the powers! this touched him; he bit his lip, and shifted the budgets; you'd swore he had got a sly prod wid one of his own borin'-irons.  "I have met no match at the cudgel as yet," says he; "and hearin' so much of you, I come all the way to have a thrial wid you."──"I'm behoulden to you," says I, "and I'll do my endaivour to accommodate you."  By this time the crowd was all around us, cheering like blazes, and itchin' all over for the fun.  "Make a pit, boys," says I; "keep the Peelers out, and, honour bright, your sowls, show the stranger fair play."  "You're a manly ould chap," says he.  "I'll be proud to hear your opinion in the coorse of ten minutes," says I. "But you're a clane able young fella."  "Don't begin to cow," says he.  "I beg you won't be onaisy," says I; "I'm seventy-three years of age, and all my life I have been so stupid as not to be able to larn the mainin' of that word yet; but maybe you're come to insthruct me, so we had betther prepare for the first lesson."  "How do you fence?" says he.──"Any way you plaise," says I; "we can ayther take five cuts of the broad-sword, the parry, and thrust of the small-sword; or, if you don't like that, we'll take basket and dagger, and fight in the lion's den."  "By the powers!" says he, a little bothered like, "I don't undherstand you," says he.  "Well, live and larn's a good ould sayin'; so here goes," and widout more ado, I throws my Saint George──aff went the budgets in the twinklin' of a black-thorn, and my customer makes a spring that would do your heart good to see it; and, by-my-sowl, a clane able blade he was!  Farrit he bounces, and smack comes Black Bess against his oak, till both sticks dindled in the hand.  "The budgets and ass," says he, "against your helmet, for the first fall."  "Done," says I, and I measured my jockey from toe to head──bad scran to me, but I thought I had met more nor my match!  He had an eye like a hawk, a shouldher-blade like a horse, and the shinnins of his arm sprung like a bundle of sally-rods.  "Do or die, Goodwino," says I.  "Who are you spaking to?" says he.──"To your masther at the cudgel, and that's myself," says I.  "It's all to be tried," says he, and to close quarthers we went, and there we kept bouncin' about watchin' other like a pair of game cocks, waitin' for the first fair chance.  Well, by the powers! for ten long minutes he baffled me purtily, till the blood began to warm in my ould veins, and divil a word was heard from the crowd the whole time, no more nor if there wasn't a tongue in one of their cheeks.  At long and at last, a smart tig above the elbow lowered the point of his stick, and then all was up wid him, for his guard wanst broken, the farril of Black Bess made a nate little opening acrass the temples that coaxed the tinker to measure the length and breadth of his grave on the stony street.  "The ass has changed masthers," says I.  Augh! such a shout from the crowd!  By the powers! it was enough to split a wather-spout.  "Give him air, boys, darlin's," says I; "stretch him on his back──He's iviry inch a man──divil a betther."  In two minutes he was on his props, and ready for the work again.  "How do you like that hand waftin'?" says I.  "Capitial," says he; "the papers didn't belie you; but one fall nivir satisfied me yet."  So to it he came as fresh as a lark; but he was bothered by the first fall, and down he went again with less throuble; well, bad luck to the bit, but he faced thirteen rounds, and gave me more to do nor any man ivir come acrass me; at last wid wan jerk of Black Bess, I made his staff spin to the elements──so that ended the fight; and divil a mark through all did he lave on my carcage, and that's as clane a wan, do you mind, as ivir wather wet.  Well, we parted good friends, but I would nayther make nor meddle with the ass or the budgets; because, you see, the chap was all thrue game──bad luck to the betther; so there's the last splore I come through, and if it hadn't been for Serjeant C────'s helmet and feathers, I would have missed all that, and I wouldn't have vexed Father M'F────; but come or go what will, I must get his forgiveness; because, you see, I know he's for my good.

But, blood-an-oundhers, man, what delays you wid the prentin' of the book?  As the woman said to the priest when he was goin' to say mass, "If you don't make haste, my bouchal, you'll be too late."  By the powers! you must sthir them up at the office, do you mind; for Tam Leyden, and his son Joe, and Brien Phadie M'Glade, and Denis Dominick O'Crilly, and Denis O'Hagan, and Mr. Nisbit, and the priests, and all the world's blazin' mad to see it; and no wondher, for if you only put down all, divil a such another book ivir was prented as the life and adventures of

Your humble sarvint,

Hudy M'Guigan

This page was last updated 7 Nov 2018