About the Author
William H. A. Williams completed his PhD from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland in 1971. He has since worked as a lecturer, project director, and educational consultant, and has retired as Professor Emeritus from the Union Institute, College of Undergraduate Studies in Cincinnati, Ohio. His recent publications include 'Tourism, Landscape and the Irish Character: British Traveling Writing in Pre-Famine Ireland, 1750-1850'.
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Creating Irish Tourism
The First Century, 1750-1850
By William H. A. Williams
Wimbledon Publishing CompanyCopyright © 2011 William H. A. Williams
All rights reserved.
GETTING THERE AND GETTING ABOUT
When they embark on a journey, travelers begin a rite of passage, detaching themselves from their home and homeland, initiating a series of adventures and challenges, which, no matter how minimal, prepare them for their unfamiliar status as strangers in a new and different place. The longer and more difficult the trip, the greater their sense of leaving behind the certain and familiar for the strange and foreign. By the time of arrival the journey has already cost time and money, as well as the inevitable wear and tear on body, mind and spirit. Today's tourists must brave the traffic to the airport, negotiate crowds and endure delayed flights and endless security checks at the airport. Once on board the airplane, they must survive cramped seats and bad food. This is tame stuff, however, compared to travel a few centuries ago. Prior to the age of steam, anything beyond a trip to the next village required careful preparation, a good bit of time and much endurance.
Until the 1820s those British tourists intent on visiting Ireland had to first travel by coach or horseback to a western port and then board a sailing ship for a sea journey of uncertain duration and minimal comfort. For much of the eighteenth century, many Ireland-bound travelers went first to Chester, a six-to-seven day horseback ride from London. There they remained until they could take sail from Parkgate, a harbor twelve miles outside of the city. In the 1740s theatrical manager William Rufus Chetwood was lured out of his comfortable hotel in Chester by a Parkgate innkeeper, who had sent word that the ships would soon embark. It was all a ruse. Once ensconced in an uncomfortable but no less expensive establishment by the harbor, Chetwood found himself cooling his heels, awaiting both a ship and favorable winds. He finally gave up and hired a guide to take him on a three-day trip over the mountains of Wales to Carnarvon and then on to Holyhead. From there, with help of a telescope, he could at least see the Wicklow Mountains across the Irish Sea.
The shortest link between Great Britain and Ireland was from Port Patrick in Galloway, Scotland to Donaghadee in County Down, a route convenient only for those with business in Ulster. By the nineteenth century, however, Liverpool and Holyhead had become the preferred embarkation points from Britain, although one could also sail from Bristol to Cork. Anne Plumptre considered the Bristol route in 1814, until she realized that, after paying three guineas for the journey, she would still face the cost and time of the overland trip from Cork up to Dublin. She chose instead to pay just one guinea for the direct Liverpool to Dublin route. Sailing to Cork from Bristol sometimes offered worse than inconvenience and added expense. As John Bush noted, that route took ships nearer to the open sea and possible encounters with the French and Spanish privateers prowling Ireland's south coast. Even Samuel Derrick's ship out of Liverpool in the 1760s was attacked by a Frenchman. Fortunately, Derrick's vessel, itself bearing a letter of marque, was armed and easily drove off the intruder.
Usually nature proved more of a threat than pirates. Depending on the time of year, the waters around Britain and Ireland were frequently churned by storms. Around 1810, for instance, John Melish, an American business man, embarked on the usually short passage between Port Patrick to Donaghadee. Unfortunately, he encountered a gale worse than any experienced on his Atlantic crossing. After battling the storm for about for 27 hours within sight of the Irish coast, his ship returned to Port Patrick. When the wind changed, he crossed in just a few hours. In Chetwood's case, by the time he embarked from Holyhead, a storm arose, tossing the ship about so violently that he feared for his life. The vessel missed its Dublin landfall and had to make for Cork instead. In the 1760s John Bush endured a 40-hour storm-plagued trip from Holyhead to Dublin. Under such circumstances those prone to sea sickness could do nothing but accept the opportunity for what Bush called "a good stomach scouring."
Although less harrowing than storms, the complete absence of wind created its own problems. In 1792 Dr. Edward Daniel Clarke's ship out of Holyhead, after initially fighting headwinds, found itself completely becalmed the next day. Clarke's aesthetic sense suffered as much as his timetable: "There is such a degree of insipidity in its [the sea's] appearance: the water, like one vast mirror, smooth and glassy; the canvass all hanging supine ... the complexion of a storm contains something awful, grand, and interesting; the attention is awakened, and the mind alarmed, but in a calm I know no single feature of beauty; all is dullness and disappointment." An anonymous writer, becalmed in the Irish Sea in 1804, related how his fellow passages fished for gurnard and mackerel while waiting for a favorable wind. On one day in 1788, strollers along the strand at Bray in Wicklow were surprised to see 30 square-rigged ships becalmed off the Irish coast. Whether by storm or by calm, a delayed sea journey could leave travelers hungry, unless they had furnished themselves with ample provisions. Anne Plumptre had been told that her journey would take no more than 36 hours. Progress was slow, however, and, when her ship was becalmed on the second day, she found herself running short of food. She was still better off than Dr. Clarke, who discovered too late that the food hamper purchased from his hotel contained rotten meat.
It is little wonder that Anna Maria and Samuel Carter Hall had few good words for the sailing packets, usually small schooners or sloops, that plied the Irish Sea. The cramped accommodations and the lack of on-board food, not to mention the vagaries of the weather, rendered the Irish crossing "a kind of purgatory. ..." By the 1820s, however, the sea journey from Britain to Ireland had become less uncertain and uncomfortable. As a result of the long wars with France, British ship design had improved, while the introduction of steam in 1819 rendered sea travel less dependent upon fickle winds. Writing in the 1840s, the Halls announced (a bit too optimistically) that steam had essentially transformed England and Ireland into a single island. The sea crossings, they insisted, had become less fatiguing than a land trip from London to York. In addition, the fittings were elegant and the fares moderate. The trip from Bristol to Cork generally took only 24 hours; from Liverpool to Dublin 12 hours and from Holyhead to Dublin only six.
The emergence of Liverpool and Holyhead as the standard ports of embarkation for Ireland made Dublin the most frequent port of entry. As such, Ireland's capital city provided traveler's with their initial experience of the country. Depending on weather and time of day, visitors arriving in Dublin Bay were greeted by what Dr. Edward Clarke called in 1791, "one of most enchanting prospects in Europe." With the looming headland of the Hill of Howth dominating the northern end of the bay, the city fans out to the west. Beyond the suburbs on the south side of the bay rise the Dublin and Wicklow mountains, with the conical quartzite peak of Sugar Loaf providing a dramatic southeastern anchor to the view. Whether it was Sugar Loaf or the Hill of Howth that first gave rise to a comparison with the Bay of Naples and its dramatic view of Mount Vesuvius, the idea, once expressed, became a travel-writer's fixation. Typical is Sir John Carr's description in 1805: "On the right was the rugged hill of Howth, with its rocky bays, wanting only a volcano to afford to the surrounding scenery the strongest resemblance, as I was well informed, to the beautiful bay of Naples. ..." C. T. Bowden seemed pleased enough at the absence of an actual volcano: "Here, you are not terrified with the awful prospect of a Vesuvius, as in the Bay of Naples — but your eye and your heart are at once gratified with the most delightful landscapes. ..." In fact, the Naples conceit became so ingrained in the tradition of Irish travel writing that it was hard for authors to avoid referring to it, even if only to mock it. In 1843 William Makepeace Thackeray, ever eager to puncture any piece of over-inflated tourist rhetoric, claimed that, having arrived in Dublin Bay on a rainy night, he could form no opinions as to its resemblance to Naples: "It is but to take the similarity for granted, and remain in bed till morning." Sir Francis Bond Head, visiting in the 1850s, congratulated himself on having been delivered into a four-poster bed in Dublin "without having bothered oneself with the old-fashioned controversial comparison between the beauty of its bay and that of Naples." Nevertheless, the comparison echoed on in travel writing for well over a century, rating mention in the second edition of Walker's Hand-Book of Ireland, published in 1872.
Whatever the weather or view from the deck, passengers frequently found disembarkation at Dublin anticlimatic, when not actually traumatic. Dublin Bay was heavily silted and lacked a channel deep enough to allow most ocean-going vessels to anchor at the city's quays. No less a personage than Captain William Bligh, formerly of H. M. S. Bounty, conducted the first of several engineering surveys of the Bay in 1800, although it was years before the harbor was dredged. Therefore, travelers often found themselves stranded on board ship, waiting hours for the tide to turn so that they could land at the Pigeon House, a hostelry near Ringsend, several miles from the center of the city. Built around 1790 on the South Wall breakwater, the Pigeon House stood upon a spit of land jutting out into the bay near the mouth of the River Liffey. (The hotel allegedly took its name from John Pigeon, its first caretaker.) Alternatively, visitors could disembark to the mainland via a small boat. Confronted by bad weather or darkness, however, many travelers, such as Anne Plumptre, preferred one more uneasy night on board ship. Not until, 1820, two decades after Bligh's survey, did a new harbor at Kingstown (the once and future Dun Laoghaire) welcome travelers to the south side of the bay. Nonetheless, even that improvement left a rather long coach ride into Dublin, an inconvenience not ameliorated until 1837 with the opening of the Kingstown-Dublin railroad.
Mary Louise Pratt suggests that the arrival scenes described in travel accounts "serve as particularly potent sites for framing relations of contact and setting the terms of its representation." Such scenes complete the traveler's rite of passage. The familiar has been left behind; land, sea or air space has been crossed; and now the traveler is suddenly exposed to the difference of the "Other." As Michael Cronin suggests, "The arrival scene in the foreign city has a well-rehearsed cast of horrors ...," consisting of the weather, aggressive drivers, beggars, bad rooms, and the like. Disembarkation at Dublin had it all. Landing at the Pigeon House, travelers could be excused if they felt they had been thrust suddenly into a very strange and foreign country. In 1805 Sir John Carr compared his initial view of Dublin Bay with what he encountered on shore: "A stranger, in his progress from the Pigeon-house to the capitol, cannot fail of being shocked by a sudden contrast to the beautiful scenes." Leaving the vicinity of the Pigeon House, the visitor entered Ringsend, three miles from the center of Dublin. It was, Carr complained, "one of the most horrible sinks of filth I ever beheld. Every house swarmed with ragged, squalled tenantry, and dung and garbage lay in heaps in the passages, and upon the steps leading to the cellars. ..." Amid the shouts and demands of car drivers and beggars, arriving passengers had to choose from an odd assortment of conveyances into the city. Many, like Anne Plumptre, took the "Long Coach," which held sixteen passengers inside and sixteen outside (on the roof ). Riders on this early version of today's overcrowded airport shuttle bus were at least accompanied by their luggage. Thomas Reid, arriving in 1822, did not like the look of either the Long Coach or the various other cars available to him. He gave a man a shilling to go find a proper coach, which was duly produced an hour and a half later. Before departure, however, the coachman insisted first on going to an inn to treat the messenger, who in turn delayed matters further by insisting upon an additional half crown for his efforts. According to Reid, even onlookers got into the act and demanded money — while he and his luggage sat idle at Ringsend.
Noddies, Jingles and Bians — Inland Transportation
Once settled in Dublin and in need of transportation, visitors had a variety of vehicles to choose from, some of which were as unfamiliar as they were uncomfortable. One was the eighteenth-century Irish form of the chaise, called the "noddy." This light, two-wheeled, one-horse carriage with a collapsible hood was very common around Dublin. As Chetwood described it in the 1740s, the noddy had shafts that hung high on the horse's flanks, "for the Ease of the Horse, not the Rider. The Driver is seated upon a thing like a Stool, with his Back-side near your [the passenger's] Mouth, and a Foot upon each Shaft, and away he drives at a great Rate. ..." According to John Bush, the vehicle's name derived from the fact that the single passenger could see nothing but the "nod — nod — nodding of your charioteer" taking his motions form the horse. By the late eighteenth century, the noddy had become a outlandish object of wonder and ridicule for tourists, who were assured by Rev. Thomas Campbell that the vehicles were patronized by only the lower order of citizens. Thus, the Dublin expression: "Elegance and ease, like a shoe black in a noddy." For the "quality" there were hackneys and even sedan chairs. The latter in 1771 outnumbered licensed carriages in Dublin, to the benefit of the Dublin Lying-In Hospital, which had been granted a duty on the chairs. The use of sedan chairs persisted in the streets of the largest Irish cities into the 1830s.
By the early nineteenth century the "jingle," a four-wheeled carriage carrying six passengers, had replaced the noddy. According to John Carr, the jingle's appointments were minimal. "This carriage resembles as much of a coach as remains after the doors and the upper sides and roof are removed, and is mounted very high upon four large ... wheels. Its motion produces a rattling noise, which furnishes its name: it is drawn by one miserable looking horse. ..." In Dublin the jingles generally ran between Baggot Street and the Pigeon House on Dublin Bay. In summer they also carried revelers to the seaside at Blackrock for about 6d. Similar cars, albeit with roofs and sides, were found in Cork, where Robert Graham appreciated the leather curtains that could be drawn in case of rain. Visitors to Dublin also encountered the "chaise-marine," which John Bush described as an Irish cart with solid wooden wheels and a platform above the axle. Although used primarily for hauling goods, spread with a mat or some straw it could accommodate up to six merry makers, whose legs dangled over the sides a few inches from the ground. Bush found them "the most sociable carriages in use ... the drollest, merriest coracles you ever saw." For those travelers with little enthusiasm for hiring cars and dealing with Irish drivers, Richard Colt Hoare had simple advice. He suggested that the visitor could make himself "independent" by traveling with his own horse and carriage, whereby "all difficulties will then cease. ..." Needless to say, Hoare was a member of a wealthy banking family.
Until around the 1820s visitors facing serious journeys outside of Irish cities had a choice of a stage coach or a post-chaise, both of which pursued a few well-established routes, changes of horses not being generally available off the beaten track. The post-chaise was a privately hired car that held two to four people with a servant riding behind them. Light and fast, it was driven by a "post boy" mounted on one of the horses. In 1817, John Gough traveled from Dublin to Kilkenny in a post-chaise with three other passengers. It took twelve hours to cover the fifty-seven Irish miles, including a stop for breakfast and five changes of horses. The post-chaise was not generally popular among visitors to Ireland. In the 1830s, Jonathan Binns hired one in County Down and found it "a dirty, damp, ill-shapened, rattling vehicle ... the first and the last we have entered." Around the same time William Belton condemned the vehicles as "the most deficient and most discreditable articles connected with Irish travelling." Woefully neglected and dirty, with their upholstery torn and ripped, they were, he complained, especially to be avoided in bad weather. Worse, the post-chaise was expensive. In 1826 it cost two pounds for a horse and a boy at each stage of a journey. The trip from Kilkenny to Cork by way of Fermoy, for example, cost £8. 10s. 6d., plus 14s. for turnpike fees.
Excerpted from Creating Irish Tourism by William H. A. Williams. Copyright © 2011 William H. A. Williams. Excerpted by permission of Wimbledon Publishing Company.
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Table of Contents
Introduction; PART ONE; Chapter One: Getting There and Getting About; Chapter Two: Tours Grand and Petite; Chapter Three: Property, Class and Irish Tourism; PART TWO; Chapter Four: The Sublime and the Picturesque in the Irish Landscape; Chapter Five: Picturesque Tourist Sites in Ireland; Chapter Six: The Tourist Experience; Chapter Seven: Killarney - A Case Study in the Irish Tourist Experience; PART THREE; Chapter Eight: Tourist Semeiotics, Stereotypes and the Search for the Exotic; Chapter Nine: On the Road--In Search of Ireland; Chapter Ten: The Famine and After; Conclusion; Endnotes; Bibliography
What People are Saying About This
'Meticulously researched and elegantly written… It would be difficult to underestimate the work’s importance for any serious student of Irish history and culture or indeed for anyone with an interest in the birth of tourism as a global phenomenon.' —Michael Cronin, Director of the Centre for Translation and Textual Studies, Dublin City University, Ireland
'A survey that brings historical detail, literary analysis and the wider cultural context wonderfully together…an admirably clear, concise and informative read.' —Glenn Hooper, Research Fellow, Open University, UK, and author of 'Travel Writing and Ireland, 1760-1860'
'A splendid account of early Irish tourism… This ground-breaking study shows why places such as Killarney and the Giant’s Causeway, as well as lesser-known Irish sites, should occupy a central place in tourism history.' —Kevin J. James, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada