Elizabeth Smith

Life
1797-1885 [née Grant]; b. Rothiemurchus, Scotland; m. Col Henry Smith of Baltiboys, East Co. Wicklow; her dairies kept during 1840-50 incl. such varied matters as the Famine, ‘agrarian crime’, the New Poor Law, Fr. Mathew’s Temperance Campaign, Lord Milltown’s fortune squndered through gambling, and the fate of Judy Ryan who ends in the Work House in 1848 after two marriages with five children; depicts the reactions of various classes to the Famine including landlord’s clearances and false relief claims by strong farmers as well as government ineptitude of various kinds; issued as The Irish Journals of Elizabeth Smith (1980), The Highland Lady in Ireland (1992), and The Wicklow World of Elizabeth Smith (1996).

[ top ]

Works
The Irish Journals of Elizabeth Smith, 1840-1850, ed. with introduction by David Thomson and Moyra McGusty (1980); also The Highland Lady in Ireland, Journals 1840-50, Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus (Canongate ?1992), 580pp.; Dermot James and Séamus Ó Maithú, eds., The Wicklow World of Elizabeth Smith 1840-1850 (Dublin: Woodfield Press 1996).

[ top ]

Criticism
Mathew Stout [on estate of Elizabeth Smith during the Famine] in Chris Morash and Richard Hayes, eds., Fearful Realities: New Perspectives on the Famine (Dublin: IAP 1996) [q.pp.].

[ top ]

Commentary
Brendan Ó Cathaoir, ‘Famine Diary’, Irish Times (20 April 1996), writes that Elizabeth Smith, the Scottish diarist living in Wicklow, records William Smith O’Brien’s insistence that Irish self-government would avoid the mismanagement of the Famine is only laughed at: ‘Legislate for Ireland, a nation of lunatics. Reason with Irishmen! Every one of them stark made from the peer to the peasant’. See Ibid. (1 June, 1996): ‘One of the pleasantest sights of the day was our group of attendants over the fragments [of a picnic on Blackmore Hill] - men who never taste meat twice a year truly enjoying what we had left of our luxuries; the saddest was ... a little ragged, frightened boy, who had collected on a stone the shakings out of the table cloth, and who was piling up crusts of bread with one hand and holding bare bones to his mouth with the other - the impersonation of famine.’

Quotation
Tenants & landlords: ‘What we want to lead [them] to is to consider [us] as their friend, the natural guardian of their rights and their comforts’ (28 Feb. 1843; in D. Thomson & M. Gusty, ed., The Irish Journals of Elizabeth Smith, 1840-1850, Oxford 1990, p.59; further, ‘Sometimes a perfect glow of happiness comes over me when I think of twenty years hence. We have party and sectarian bigotry to get over however before any great advance can be made. We don’t want the rapidity of enthusiasm but the sober conviciton of rational intelligence and lending libraries are to be among our tools.’ (30 May 1842, p.48; both cited in Willa Murphy, ‘A Queen of hearts or an Old Maid?: Maria Edgeworth’s Fictions of Union’, in Dáire Keogh & Kevin Whelan, eds., Acts of Union: The Causes, Contexts and Consequences of the Act of Union, Dublin: Four Courts Press 2001, p.191-97.)

[ top ]