Some remote origin for the most superstitious or romantic popular illusions or vulgar errors may often be discovered. In Ireland, the old churches and churchyards have been usually fixed upon as the scenes of wonders. Now antiquaries tell us, that near the ancient churches in that kingdom caves of various constructions have from time to time been discovered, which were formerly used as granaries or magazines by the ancient inhabitants, and as places to which they retreated in time of danger. There is (p.84 of the R. I. A. Transactions for 1789) a particular account of a number of these artificial caves at the west end of the church of Killossy, in the county of Kildare. Under a rising ground, in a dry sandy soil, these subterraneous dwellings were found: they have pediment roofs, and they communicate with each other by small apertures. In the Brehon laws these are mentioned, and there are fines inflicted by those laws upon persons who steal from the subterraneous granaries. All these things show that there was a real foundation for the stories which were told of the appearance of lights, and of the sounds of voices, near these places. The persons who had property concealed there, very willingly countenanced every wonderful relation that tended to make these places objects of sacred awe or superstitious terror.
GLOSSARY 12. WEED ASHES.
—By ancient usage in Ireland, all the weeds on a farm belonged to the farmer’s wife, or to the wife of the squire who holds the ground in his own hands. The great demand for alkaline salts in bleaching rendered these ashes no inconsiderable perquisite.
GLOSSARY 13. SEALING MONEY.
—Formerly it was the custom in Ireland for tenants to give the squire’s lady from two to fifty guineas as a perquisite upon the sealing of their leases. The Editor not very long since knew of a baronet’s lady accepting fifty guineas as sealing money, upon closing a bargain for a considerable farm.
GLOSSARY 14. SIR MURTAGH GREW MAD
—Sir Murtagh grew angry.
GLOSSARY 15. THE WHOLE KITCHEN WAS OUT ON THE STAIRS
—means that all the inhabitants of the kitchen came out of the kitchen, and stood upon the stairs. These, and similar expressions, show how much the Irish are disposed to metaphor and amplification.
GLOSSARY 16. FINING DOWN THE YEAR’S RENT.
—When an Irish gentleman, like Sir Kit Rackrent, has lived beyond his income, and finds himself distressed for ready money, tenants obligingly offer to take his land at a rent far below the value, and to pay him a small sum of money in hand, which they call fining down the yearly rent. The temptation of this ready cash often blinds the landlord to his future interest.