The following extract was published first in the Ulster Times in 1836 and a year later in a bound volume of a tour around Ireland. It was written under the pen name J. K.
The Limerick report was written in Killaloe, October 3, 1836 and read as follows:
On the whole, we have been rather disappointed in Limerick. The main streets are showy, but they have a comfortless look, and there is an air of forced improvement about the city by no means so gratifying as the less imposing but spontaneous prosperity of other towns we have been visiting. This feeling arises, in some degree, from a comparison between the old and the new, or, as they are called, the Irish and the English towns ; and the contrast which the miserable and indigenous poverty of the one, presents to the recent, and evidently exotic, splendour of the other.
There is also an ait of compulsory advancement about Rice-square, at one extremity of the city, which contains a few rows of wretched hovels, still occupying the cities of mansions that are to be, but not one of which is yet built, surrounding a railed-in green, with a column and statue of Mr. Spring Rice in its centre. All these are signs of anticipated improvement, rather than of existing prosperity. The shops are excellent in the main street, and there is an appearance of trade and activity in every quarter ; but there is an awful accumulation of poverty in Limerick, and a greater proportion of desolate ad cheerless abodes of destitution than in any other city in the kingdom.
There are some good hotels, but the Globe, at which we were lodged, we had no particular reason to be pleased, and were especially annoyed by being supplied with nothing but brackish water ; any other being very scarce in the city, though some works have been lately erected for its supply. The Gaol and the Lunatic Asylum are two splendid edifices, and amongst the best conducted in the empire. The new bridge over the Shannon, which has been lately constructed, is, beyond all question, the very finest in Ireland – of great dimensions, and from a most graceful design, by the late Mr. Nimmo. Thomond Bridge, which formerly crossed the Shannon, and was built early in the fifteenth century, has been demolished since the completion of the new one. Limerick has few antiquities, except the ruins of a castle, said to have been built by King John, and its ancient Cathedral, which is neither picturesque nor attractive. In its lofty square tower there is a ring of bells, of such remarkable sweetness, that they have given rise to a tradition which, whether true or false is credibly repeated in Limerick.
Hard by the Cathedral is the Hospital, founded and endowed by one of the best and most deservedly popular men in the empire – Matthew Barrington. It is chiefly to the exertions of this benevolent, and truly public-spirited gentleman, that Limerick is mainly, if not altogether, indebted for all its recent improvements and embellishment. It is he who planned and planted the square to which I have alluded, and who has been chiefly instrumental in providing the new supply of water for the town. It is he who has originated and effected the building of bridges, and the opening new streets – he has lately established a Mont de Piete, to supply the labouring classes with loans of money, at a fair rate of interest, the profits to go ultimately to the poor ; and last, not least, he has founded, endowed and supports, the splendid Hospital on the quay, to which I alluded. With every good work connected with Limerick, the name of Matthew Barrington is closely allied, and the multiplicity of benefits he has conferred upon the city, remind one forcibly of the character of Kyrle, the Herefordshire philanthropist, whom Pope, in his Epistle to Lord Bathurst, has immortalized under the title of “the Man of Ross.” …
The city, the day we left it, was all a ferment, owing to the installation of the new Mayor, and the retirement of the old, who, being rather unpopular, was greeted with anything but “sweet” voices on his resignation of the civic robes.
This extract was published in “Letters to the north, from a traveller in the south, by J.K. Republished from the Ulster Times” Belfast, 1837.