The collection of the Clements family papers of Ashfield, County Cavan (TCD MSS 7258-7360), and those of their descendants, contain valuable material for the social historian. Among the family correspondence, travel journals, personal diaries and business account books, there is a small portion of letters from ‘Graney’ Jane Bell to Selina and Henry Clements, who were in France. We cannot say who she was; she may have been related to the Clements’ steward. The transcription of the letters proved difficult at the outset because they are written phonetically, with frequent quirks of spelling, but by reading them aloud, allowing the author’s accent to be heard, they sound just about right. For example, Mrs Bell refers to the antics of the ‘folls’ [foals] whom she refers to as ‘fine Creatturs’ [Creatures] ‘mears’ [mares], ‘Cineareys’ [Canarys] and ‘feasons’ [pheasants] on the Clements family farm in Ashfield. She also mentions the family members who are away from home in ‘sWizrlan’ [Switzerland] and ‘Inglan’ [England].
Her frequent reference to animals is also interesting in itself; Ireland in the early – 19th century was beginning to be more concerned with animal welfare, previously having a less than positive reputation in this regard. Jane Bell writes carefully and with tenderness of the progress of the animals, knowing that her young correspondents were eager for this news from home.
With other news about the comings and goings of the ‘pipell’ [people] in the locality, these letters enhance the social historical collections in the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library.