Passing Through Millstreet in 1804

Extracts from the Journal of a traveller who passed through Millstreet twice in August 1804:

Friday, 24th August 1804. … From Mallow to Millstreet I took a post-chaise; but like all other travellers in a post-chaise, might as well have been at home, as I can give no account of the prospects, or of the manners of the people. The little vile inn of Millstreet was full of the company resorting to Killarney; so that I fared very uncomfortably: but early next morning set off in a chaise, and arrived at Killarney to breakfast

Sunday, 26th August 1804: Next morning, Sunday, we set out on foot for Millstreet, before six o’clock; intending to reach that place in time for church at twelve. But the day being sultry, and the distance greater than we believed, sixteen Irish or twenty-one English miles, frequent restings became necessary; and it was full eight hours before we arrived at the end of our walk: alas! too late for church, of which the service seemed to have been hurried over with its usual rapidity. On the road we met multitudes of Catholics going to matins, neatly dressed, having their beads and crucifixes suspended at their sides. Can these decent people be the sanguinary rebels who delight in massacre, and seek to turn things upside down? With respect to the establishment, or any other denomination of religion, there seems to prevail a melancholy lukewarmness. There is no church on the road or near it, all the way from Killarney to Millstreet. Neither is any difference apparent, except amongst the Catholics, betwixt Saturday and Sunday; some being employed in burning lime, some cutting turf, some thatching their houses, others sewing or knitting at their doors, and all whistling or singing.

At an inn, about half way betwixt the two towns, I got a crust of bread and a jug of goat’s milk, which was taken from the animal at the parlour door. At a little distance from the road, I saw children running about in a state of perfect nakedness.

At Mill-street I had a cheap and delicious breakfast, but was again cheated by the waiter. The street of this village resembled a fair or market, as the Catholic Sunday was over, and the people were assembled in companies, chatting together, decently drest, and behaving with great decorum. The women were drest in neat muslin caps, and cloaks made of cloth: the dress of both men and women was decent; and their general behaviour and relaxation grave, and suited to the day.

The priest, a respectable looking man, who resembled a foreigner, was going from house to house, and chatting with the people, by whom he seemed to be respected and beloved. Some of the shops were open, and an Irish catechism appeared in the window of one of them. These people are either belied as to their atrocity of character, or they must be the deepest of deceivers.
No chaise was to be had, and, as there was to be an inspection of cavalry next day, it was impossible to obtain riding horses. I accordingly engaged a car, which cost me ten shillings and sixpence, and two shillings and eight-pence for the keep of the horse. There being no church service in the afternoon, and the inn being full of merry company, I was once more compelled to violate the evening of the Sabbath, especially as I was anxious to be with my own flock on the next. We drove on to Mallow, as quick as a post-chaise could carry us, that is to say, at the rate of three and a half Irish miles an hour; the fellow running all the way by the side of his cart with prodigious speed and indefatigableness, and never once stopping on the road, except at the whiskey houses, which it is part of an Irishman’s principles not to pass. Under a hill, five miles from Mill-street, was a picturesque group of about one hundred and fifty peasants, who were playing at a game called HURL, which consists in striking a ball high in the air with wooden clubs like flattened spoons. Others were rolling a large stone; a bagpiper was enlivening the scene with his music; and the women, who were spectators, were dealing out porter to the parties. No rudeness of any kind seemed to be going forward.

The sun set on the distant mountains. The darkness advanced, and we had still a great way to go. Serious alarms began to take possession of my mind, as I had been particularly warned never to travel in the dark. The moon rose in great majesty, but our road lay through several dark avenues of trees, which her beams were unable to penetrate. In one of these, a fellow made an attempt to push our driver under the car. I began to be distrustful of the driver himself,, and my state of mind was by no means enviable. At length we reached the environs of Mallow, where we met a cart full of drunken men and women, one of whom made a blow with his shillelagh at our car, but happily missed his aim. We arrived at our inn at ten o’clock; and the landlord dissuaded me from taking a chaise to Fermoy to meet the Cork mail. I remained in Mallow all night, and next morning found the driver gone with the change of the note with which I had entrusted him.

From: Journal of a tour in Ireland, performed in August 1804, with remarks on the character, manners, and customs of the inhabitants. Author unknown. [1] [2]


The hurling he came across about five miles out of Millstreet, was most likely in the Dromagh area.

“post-chaise” is a horse-drawn carriage used for transporting passengers or mail, especially in the 18th and early 19th centuries.


5 thoughts on “Passing Through Millstreet in 1804”

  1. He was a very good writer… fantastic little treasure to have of my hometown…

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

  2. Would love to know who owned the little vile inn of Millstreet and who the writer was.Such dedication to walk 6 hours to get to church.Great piece of local,every day life history.

  3. This was published by the Aubane Historical Society, 2002, in “Millstreet – a considerable town” with a background note which may help:
    “It has been suggested that his account is anonymous because he was afraid of the reaction to what he wrote about the country. He was clearly uncomfortable and nervous among the ‘natives’ even though there is no good reason given why he should have been so – as is clear from the account of his visit to Millstreet. But his head was full of the accepted English notions of the ‘sanguinary’ Irish and that was stronger than the
    reality of his experiences.”
    As regards the Inn the ownership changed a few times. A Cotter family owned it at this time and it should be noted that Daniel O’Connell stayed there often and praised it to the skies as did many others. He also says he had a “had a cheap and delicious breakfast” there so his views are a bit contradictory but clearly he could not overcome his prejudices and a negative tone pervades his account.

  4. I would think the writer was Protestant from his references to Catholics and their manners. I don’t think he was Irish as he says an Irishman can’t pass a bar for a drink of whiskey. Very nice read, I can read between the lines and see how they lived in 1904.

  5. Readers may be interested in the accounts of other visitors to Millstreet and there are about 40 of them on the Millstreet section of the website:

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