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The Six Towns' Parsonage, in which the following pages were prepared for the press, is situated in a secluded mountain corner of the remote rural parish of Ballynascreen, (Diocese of Derry,) far from all those repositories which might afford access to works adapted to furnish proper materials for a publication of this kind. The hare had her form, and the rail her nest, within a very few perches of the writer's place of study, and the heather and bilberry grew almost in the next field; but far away was old Eusebius, and far away Roger Hoveden, and far away John Colgan, and all their company. Far away too was the great centre of postal circulation for this island, (with even the nearest “Receiving House" of which The Sir Towns has no regular system of daily communication;) insomuch that a proof sheet sent from the printer's hand in Dublin on Monday, could not usually reach him again, even by return of post, until Thursday. Moreover, the district curate who occupies the Parsonage aforesaid, having entrusted to his care the whole charge of ministering in the Church adjoining, can hardly ever, under ordinary circumstances, be absent from the place for a single week, so as to enjoy the advantage of study and consulting of books elsewhere: the only convenient opportunities for such absence having in fact been found to occur when the Rev. William Chichester, Prebendary of St. Michael's on the Hill, in Dublin, paid his occasional visit to the neighbouring seat of his father-in-law, the Hon. Judge Torrens, originator and patron of the Church and Parsonage in question-(a most kind patron also, it will be seen, of this publication.) During Mr. Chichester's stay at Derrynoid, the Six Towns' Congregation is sure to enjoy the benefits of his edifying ministrations among them, and their minister is relieved by a full share of that clerical aid which this most obliging clergyman has ever been found ready to supply, where any urgent occasion has appeared to call for the exercise of his friendly services.
Then further, there was the little flock to be looked after, and the little school where their children met for daily instruction to be cared for and attended to; a school too that required not a little attention and care: and although it was certainly a variety and refreshment to turn from studying old records, and translating stiff and cranky Latin, to breathe the mountain air in a six miles walk for the post, or to give a lesson in the “ Parables,” or “ Miracles," or “Second Part," to Lizzy Orr, and Willy Barnett, and Bell Smith, and the rest of them, yet the time unavoidably spent in these and other such occupations, could not but seriously diminish the hours available for such an undertaking as the present; which being regarded as less matter of immediate duty, was in consequence the more likely to be neglected, in order to give place to those employments that were strictly such.
So that in fact, although long in preparation, this is after all a hurried piece of work, and executed under some considerable disadvantages. The principal object aimed at has been to condense matter-of-fact information, and attend to strict accuracy, and some degree of smoothness, in the translating of documents. Beyond this, little care has been taken with the style of the book, and the writer is far from being unconscious of the many deficiencies in this respect, which are likely to offend the judgment of persons of more critical taste in this edition, and to furnish room for improvement hereafter, if occasion require. Such deficiencies he cannot but feel the more, considering the large amount of patronage from high and influential individuals, which this new volume has already received. It is fully hoped, however, that in its matter and tendency nothing will be found to forfeit the favorable opinions of those who from acquaintance with the portion of the work already published, have thus far lent to it their countenance and support.
Some, however, observing the faults of this publication, may possibly be inclined to think that it would have been better it had not appeared at all, as the execution of such a work in an indifferent
manner may have the effect of hindering some writer of more competent information and superior style from entering on the same field of labor. The present case is not however one to which that observation can justly apply. We had been too long waiting for learned men to give us, in any accessible shape, some popular information on this subject; and the prevalent ignorance resulting from the want of such information has been attended with much injury. Nor can it be denied that the “Primer'' has been at all events the means of submitting to general notice in a cheap and convenient form, various interesting matters of historical record, heretofore too much lost sight of. Were any further consideration needed to satisfy the author of this attempt, that he has done well in doing so much, where others, who might have done better, have been doing nothing, a sufficient one would be found in the testimonies received from kind and influential friends in many parts of Ireland, to the usefulness of the volumes of the “ Primer” where they have been circulated, and the interest commonly taken in them by the class for whose instruction they are more especially intended.
Beyond this general apology for the present work, there are a few other matters more in the way of detail, concerning which something remains to be said here. And first, an observation or two on the mode of publication of the present volume will probably interest some readers, and be of use to obviate misunderstanding on the part of others.
The first two volumes had been very favourably received by the public, and were meeting it with a proportionably large demand, when the arrival of the first famine year occasioned a nearly total stoppage of the circulation, accompanied by a deficiency in the returns of sale, amounting to nearly £200; such deficit being sunk for the most part in copies of those two volumes, which were thus rendered almost unsaleable; and which were likely to continue so too, even independently of the famine, as long as they remained imperfect for want of the concluding volume. The publication of the latter (supposed at that time likely to comprehend about 500 pages) would however, it was estimated, require an outlay of some £200 more; and this, at such a time especially,
proved an insuperable impediment to proceeding with the printing any further.
Under these circumstances, it was strongly recommended by friends of the “Primer" in different parts of Ireland, to endeavour to complete it by subscriptions payable in advance; which course however the Compiler, having strong objections to such a mode of procedure, declined for two or three years to adopt : for he could not but sympathise with the general feeling which leads men to wish to see the whole of what they are getting ere it be paid for. And further, although some thousands of the volumes of the different editions of the work had already been put into circulation, yet in no instance had any individual been solicited by the writer to purchase one of them. Such kind of application to friends appeared however inevitable, if the required number of subscriptions, estimated at 2000, were now to be sought for; and this of itself appeared a sufficiently cogent reason for avoiding a course which involved so undesirable a plan of operation.
But then it was said, very few who care about the work will grudge 23, 6d, for such an object, considering the value they are likely to get for it; and a sufficient number will easily be found to co-operate readily in promoting it, without urging the unwilling. Such an exertion is even due to those friends who have purchased the preceding volumes, and are willing to aid in furthering the publication of this one. The course advised seemed in fact inevi. table, and was rendered altogether so, ere the writer had well made up his mind to adopt it, by the kindness of those two worthy ladies, the Misses Montgomery, (sisters of the Rev. Samuel Montgomery, Rector of Ballynascreen,) who for a commencement of the undertaking, handed over to the Compiler on the 6th of May, 1850, fifty-nine subscriptions, including, besides their own, various others that had been received by them from friends in all quarters, for copies of the intended volume.
Thus was the question settled, and the work set a going. A Prospectus was then prepared, and other friends made acquainted with the project, and applied to for their friendly co-operation; from whom in general there came in reply communications full of