Writing c.1840 as the incumbent of the Parish of Creggan (Protestant), the Rev Simon Nelson gives a remarkable insight into the ‘customs, manners, popular superstitions and amusements of the inhabitants’.
The present reader ought not to take offence at his reference, for example, to the original inhabitants, forebears of these people who were not of his faith, as ‘aborigines’ (Remark No 8, following History of the Parish of Creggan by Nelson). Most contemporary analyses were far less sympathetic than this one of Nelson!
At the 1831 Census, the parish had 12,589 inhabitants of which 292 were Presbyterian, 743 Protestant and 11,514 Romanists. [The forthcoming Census is likely to show ~13,500 inhabitants]. The inhabitants are generally descendants of the ancient Celtic Gauls and Scythians. The British and Caledonian colonists are of more recent date. These groups have not yet assimilated so as to form one general character which may in great measure be attributed to their difference of religious opinion.
The peasantry are extremely tenacious of their ancient customs and manners, some of which, more especially their weddings, christenings and funerals are conducted with the utmost prodigality and expense that they may be held an efficient cause of our national poverty. The money expended on spirits on such occasions is deplorable. Should the entire property of the persons concerned be sold and debts and funeral expenses (for example) be discharged, the surplus would not amount to double the sum expended on these occasions, money better applied to the support of a young couple beginning the world, or a widow and her family, or the friends and relations of the deceased.
It is difficult to take issue with these remarks, even a century and a half later! More from the Rev Nelson at a later date!
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