By Rebecca Corkery
As children many of us have entertained the thought of running away from home, and more of us have told the odd white lie, however the escapades of one young boy made such an impression on the Lady Georgiana Chatterton that she published them in her travelogue: Rambles in the South of Ireland.
Lady Chatterton quotes a passage from a letter she received on the 28th of February 1838, while spending time in Blackrock, County Cork.
The letter tells the story of a young boy by the name of Tom Ryan, who arrived at the door of her correspondent one morning. The boy appeared pale, meek, and half-starved. With him he carried a small bundle of books, a cracked slate and a small bottle of ink. The boy told a sorrowful story, as he said himself he was only ‘a poor scholar, yer honour, wi’dout de father or mother, thrown upon de wide world’. Tom described in great detail how his father had been a Catholic, his mother a Protestant, and how he had been left an orphan after his father passed away from cholera and his mother sometime after. The detail with which Tom relayed this tragic tale drew tears from anyone who heard it.
The community welcomed Tom Ryan with open arms, the schoolmaster declared him the most diligent boy in the school, the neighbours took him in and let him share supper with their own children, doting on him morning, noon and night. Tom began earning his own livelihood as a stonebreaker, and later he progressed on to be a prestigious donkey guide.
One Sunday morning a well-dressed man arrived, wishing to speak with the community who had taken in young Tom. The man informed them that he was Tom Ryan’s brother, and that the ‘orphan boy’ who had arrived in rags had run away from his comfortable home and his parents who were alive and well in Bruff, a year prior! Our author can’t help but admire the ingenuity and spirit of adventure in the young boy, however I can’t imagine his parents were nearly as amused!
If any of our readers have stories about their own childhood adventures we would love to read them in the comments below.
•Chatterton, Lady Georgiana. Rambles In The South Of Ireland During The Year 1838, Vol I, London: Saunders And Otley, 1839. Pg 21-27.