A Picnic up the lagan in the SS. Mary
By ONE OF THE PASSENGERS. 1885
ON the 4th September we arrived at the mouth of the River Lagan, and found
the yacht moored to the side, and only waiting our arrival. We soon were on
board, and then commenced arranging the numerous stores which we had brought
with us. This being a marine trip, we made the vessel look as much like a
marine store as possible, by the number and variety of clothes we placed on
deck. Our many occupations and arrangements did not prevent us enjoying the
beautiful scenery through which we passed in the first mile. Many of the reaches on the river, within two or three miles
of Belfast, are certainly very fine, and were much appreciated by the
voyagers. It should have been previously stated that we were at this time a
crew of six people, possessing amongst us twelve soles.
Our passage was very satisfactory and pleasant, not marked by any particular
incident, until we approached Shaw's Bridge. This triumph of engineering
skill exists, primarily, for the benefit of man and beast ; secondly, for
the perplexing and ruining of the pilgrim voyager. Such it proved to us, in
the following manner :-Consisting of a number of arches almost exactly
alike, no one could decide through which lay the deep channel. After a brief
council, an attempt was made, which crowned our efforts with abundant
success : we not only got through the arch, but ran triumphantly upon the
bank on the far side. Each individual then carefully assured his colleagues
that he was perfectly certain, before entering this particular arch, that it
was the wrong one; and by this plan we managed to circulate the blame, and
not burden any one excessively. This course suggested many thoughts to the
writer's mind, and carried him mentally back to the early years of his
parents. They had a little difficulty on one occasion about an apple which
they ate between them, and to avoid, as they thought, any evil consequences,
they alternately blamed each other. How clear a proof of the law of moral
transmissions ! that little apple transaction occurred 6,000 years ago, and
yet in the 19th century of the Christian era exactly the same plan was
pursued. How proud I was of my ancestry, no words can describe.
To return to the bank upon which we were lounging: we observed that
immediately behind us, on our funnel poop bow, there was a heavy lighter,
manned by two men, and drawn by a melancholy apparition of a horse. To allow
this combination to pass us, we sent our crew out in a small boat to fasten
a line (which was attached to the "Mary") to a large tree growing by the
river's bank. By this means we made ourselves doubly secure on the bank, and
awakened a train of thought upon the subject of Bank Securities, and arrived
at the conclusion that, however desirable it might be to be secured on the
Ulster Banking Co., security on the Lagan Bank had its discrepancies.
We then consulted the barge-men in charge of the lighter: they told us we
were fast ; we thanked them and smiled. They then stopped their horse, which
turned and cast upon us a look of profound pity. This animal was in personal
appearance about the middle height, and the shape of an obtuse-angled
triangle. Most of his complexion had been knocked off, but what was left was
brown; he had many points-in fact he was covered with them; but his most
formidable possession was his power of contemptuous smiling. This was simply
ghastly, and made one's blood cold. We suggested that this dreadful creature
should try to drag us out of our difficulties. When his owner approached
him, he reached out his hind leg to count the buttons on the man's waistcoat
; but a blow from a cudgel stopped his arithmetic, and turned his thoughts
to more commonplace subjects. Attaching him to his own boat, we attached it
to ours, and thus achieved an undisputed triumph over our satirical friend;
and although we had made a hole in the bank, we left the balance, and saved
We then proceeded on our way rejoicing, until we came to a lock ; at this
point we were joined by another passenger, who, at this and the following
locks, proved himself the most agreeable lock-smith we ever met.
At Drum Bridge we took on board a further and last contingent of passengers
; there were five in number, all ladies but one, and he wasn't; an
additional supply of provisions, and a load of envy and good wishes from
admiring villagers; thus with a fair wind and smoky complexions we fairly
started upon the perils of the deeps and shallows. About this time we began
to experience inwardly what is, in poetic language, described as
An aching void,
The world can never fill;"
and, to fill it, suggested breakfast. With that
kindness which invariably characterises ladies, they began immediate
preparations for that meal, during which the male portion of the crew were
solaced by the rattling of delph.
Presently we received provisions and coffee (which would have charmed the
hearts of the Children of Israel in the Wilderness to say nothing of
a river), which we despatched with a vigour only
acquired by persistent and consistent practice. Indeed, so severe were our
efforts, that we had to make steam at once for the port of Lisburn to buy
We landed there amidst a downpour of rain, and procured the following
provisions, amongst others :A rag mop, some rifle cartridges, a bottle of
Irish water, and a large supply of bread.
With these in possession, we were equal to any emergency which might arise,
but found, on getting too yards from land, that we had not the bread on
board. A friendly Lisburner ran along the bank with it, and succeeded in
throwing it on board, a feat which incontestably proved him to be a
well-bread young man.
About this time one of our passengers experienced a thirst for blood. He
armed himself with a doublebarrelled gun, and, stationing himself on the
prow of the boat, awaited a victim. His calm and determined figure
irresistibly brought to our mind those lines of Lord (?) Horatius
Macaulay's, which we publish with many apologies:
|Alone stood the brave warrior,
But constant still in mind,
if there's not a single bird in front,
There are ten live folks behind.
But quickly looming before him,
As every one could ken,
Was an iron bridge across the stream,
Beneath it-a water-hen.
He quickly raised his rifle,
And took a deadly aim;
placed his hand on the trigger,
And pulled with might and main.
Two loud reports from the rifle,
Which the echoes made a lot,
And then we heard that the bridge was hit,
And saw that the bird was not.
For she swam away quite gaily,
And laughed and crowed with glee,
At the futile efforts made by one
Whose name begins with D.
We then had the novel experience of going through eight locks ; this
quite satisfied anyone possessed of burglarious intentions, and would have
been interesting to Mr. Chubb, or any other safe man, but we found it rather a
In the afternoon every one desired to be as classical, continentally
speaking, as possible. For the rest of
the day French was the medium of conversation : the French Academy would
certainly have learned something of the resources and flexibility of their
language, had they been present ; the loss, however, was theirs, and not
Our tea was an equally pleasant meal with the others ; in fact, the
arrangements made by the ladies were simply perfection during the whole of
the trip. When we were finishing that meal, we were informed that the boat
had arrived in Lough Neagh ; this was scarcely correct, as we were only in
sight of the Lough, and not actually in it. We suggest to our informant that
he be more accurate in future, following the Scriptural injunction which
requires your Yea to be Yea, and your Nay Neagh.
We decided to land and explore. The only signs of life we discovered were in
a Commissionaire, who was dozing. On rousing him, we found the nearest house
was his own, two miles away ; so, as a company of pilgrims, we started for
that edifice. The nearest hotel and railway station were a mile or two away
from the house; so messengers were despatched to procure means of transit.
They procured two cars, calculated to carry together ten people. On these,
thirteen human beings mounted, and commenced a journey towards civilisation.
Arrived there, the hotel received some, the railway others, and thus ended
|Only a day of pleasure,
Alas ! too quickly fled ;
Only a pleasant meeting,
So soon to be scattered.
|Only a weary writer,
Who has worked to-day for his bread
Only just completed his writing,
He takes himself up to bed.
|Reader, go thou and do likewise.
||W. H. C.