March 2, 1902.
I received your letter and was very glad to hear of all of ye to be in good health as the departure of this letter leaves us in at present, thanks be to God. I am getting weaker so my tenure is but short now to live. I got a letter from Sligo telling me that my old sister, Biddy, is dead and buried since last harvest. Abby Hehir is dead and buried since last harvest. She died in Boyle in the workhouse, I believe. Another friend of yours, Peg Finan is dead also. I wrote to them last November but they did not answer till a few days ago. I wanted to know how my old sister was getting on but it was from ye I got the account of her death.
They mentioned in their letter that it was in her daughter’s house she died without getting any sickness. That was at Kesh. She was buried at Gurteen. I was grieved and sorry to that I was not there at her death and funeral. The Lord have mercy on her soul. Margy Drury is expecting a letter from you.
Our teacher, Mr. Egan, must go three nights a week for six weeks, from seven till ten, to Claremorris, where instructors from Dublin are to teach them how to sing and dance and march. Every school must give ten shillings for a drill-book. This drill-book will instruct the teachers how to drill the scholars. They must be drilled like young army recruits. Mr. Egan must have his fiddle in school with him. He must take his scholars out and march them down to the old mill, while he plays the marches and shows them how to change step. Very lucky for Egan that he can play the fiddle and is also a very good dancer. He never thought it would come to the time of day when he would have to bring his fiddle to school and he a dancing master, a singing teacher and drill master. Besides, he is almost out of his mind; he has so much to do. Though their salaries are to be cut, they must be more up-to date now.
Teachers must be in school at seven in the morning and if the inspector gets there ahead of them and finds them late, he can dismiss them. There must be a wide space in the window for flowers and also a grate around the fireplace. Egan knows how long it will take him to go from his own house to the school in the morning. But if he meets a man on the way, the man may ask him about the war or when the property is to be sold.
“’I can’t speak to him for fear the inspector may be before me at the school.” Then the man may say that I am getting so grand that I won’t speak to the people.”
That puts him (Egan) about very much to think that he is of that mind. They have drawings of all sorts of grand things in the schools which scholars must copy. So you now see that school masters have enough to do.
Well, our property has seen sold at last, since the 20th of the last month. (Feb 20, 1902) There is no more about the Burkes and that is little loss. The Congested Board has brought the property for £29,000. The rent is now down to one-half. I was paying the Burkes eleven pounds- now I pay only four. The board is buying up all the big farms. They bought Lord Dillon’s and are now giving it to the tenants. Sure, the best land in Ireland is in the big farms, which was the cause of banishing the Irish people far from home. Those who will live will see great changes for the better in Ireland and I pray it won’t be long.
It is the Congested Board that is handling the land purchase for the government. The government does not wish to appear that they would turn against the Landlords and the Graziers. They are making the balls and the Board is firing them. They know that the irish are not for them. They know that if the war is prolonged, the irish soldiers will be the best that will join for them. As for all the English they are sending to the war, they are no good unless they get enough to eat but the Irish fight better if half starved. So the government will now see to give better homes to the Irish in order that they will be more loyal than at present.
Your mother joins me in sending our Kind Love.
My great grandfather, Jimmy Salmon, was born in 1812- three years before the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. According to my Uncle Jim, (Jimmy’s son) he was:
“...old enough to be thrilled by O’Connell’s speeches, must have been married and have the first of his children during the black years of the famine, must have taken a keen interest in the American civil war, the Franco-Prussian war- not to mention the war nearer home when the Land League agitation was at its height.”
Going by the letter to his daughter below, he took an interest in the Boer War also which was being waged at the time of writing. He was literate- unlike the great majority of the people of his area and indeed most of the rural Irish. Jimmy died shortly after he wrote this letter to his daughter, Bridget, who worked as a housekeeper for a family in Boston.