Margaret of the Bridges

Aug 16th, 2014 | By | Category: Of Ancient Times

The Dublin Magazine, Volume 1 – November 1839 – May 1840 One of the most interesting portions of the volume is the description of the Joyce country,  The history of the Joyces has a good deal of romance about it. “They were a troop or band, that came from Wales or the west of England, under the command of Birmigham of Athenry, in the reign of Edward 1,  Their name was Joyes or Jorse, and they were said to be descended from ancient British princes,  Transplantation improved them in stature, for certainly the Welsh are not a tall race.  This people not only settled in these western highlands, so very like those in Wales, but they became important in Galway town, and formed one of the thirteen tribes of that ancient and extraordinary corporation. Of the Joyces many were mayors and bailiffs of the capital of Connaught, and not only the men bustled and battled away against the rough-riding O’Madens and ferocious O’Flaherties, but even the women were sometimes of big note; amongst others, I may mention Margaret, the daughter of John Joyce, who one day went down to wash her household clothes in the broad transparent stream that runs out of Logh Corrib, and as she stood in the current, as did the daughters of Grecian kings in the time of Ulysses, who should come by but Domingo de Rona, a Biscayan merchant of great wealth and note, who had arrived at Galway with a carrack of Benecarlo wine, which was so much in demand for doctoring the claret, the Galway merchants were so famous for concocting. Now as fair Margaret beetled away in the stream, and as with ruddy legs and untrammeled toes (as straight and fair as her fingers, not a corn or bunnion on one of them,) she trampled the linen, the Don was captivated with the maid; he made love as Spaniards do; produced proof of his pedigree and his cash, and in due time they were married, and proceeded to Corunna; but not long after he died (as old cavaliers are apt to do who marry late,) and Dona de Rona came home a sparkling and wealthy widow, and by and by her hand was solicited by Oliver Oge French, one of the heads of that tribe, and in due time they were married; and after the marriage he became mayor, and one of the greatest merchants of the city.  He traded much to foreign parts; and as it was no shame to smuggle in those days, and as the good town of Galway never was allowed to be lighted by night in order that smuggling might go on and prosper, so Oilver Oge was often on the sea, showing a good example of enterprise and free trade, exporting wool and importing brandy and wine. In the meantime the Dona was not idle; she was the greatest improver in the west; she had particularly a passion for building bridges.  One day as she was superintending her masons, an eagle came soaring from the ocean, and balancing itself with poised wing just over the dame, it dropped at her feet a ring formed of a single stone, so strange and outlandish in its make and form, but so beautiful and so precious, that, though most skilful lapidaries admired it, and would have given any price for it, none could say of what kind it was, or of what country or age the workmanship; it has been kept in the family ever since.

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