Tá Lord George Hill le háireamh ar an mbeagán dá leithéid a d’fhoghlaim Gaeilge. Ba é a scríobh an leabhar conspóideach Facts from Gweedore: with useful hints for Donegal Tourists, 1845. Tá cur síos ann ar an droch-chaoi a bhí ar mhuintir an cheantair roimh an nGorta agus ar na hiarrachtaí a bhí déanta aige féin chun feabhas a chur ar a saol, go háirithe nuair a chuir sé deireadh le córas ‘rundale’ nó na haonseilbhe trína raibh pobail bheaga ina gcomthionóntaí agus an fheirmeoireacht mar chomharfhiontar acu. Bhítí á rá gurbh é an córas seo ba chúis le chuid mhór clampair i measc comharsan. Is é tábhacht an phaimfléid inniu gurb ann atá an cuntas is fearr, deirtear, ar an gcóras rundale. Ba é an mana a bhí aige ar an gclúdach ‘Biadh Éire adh chuimhne do ghnath’.

Bhí muintir Hill ar na húinéirí talaimh ba mó i gContae an Dúin; bhí an teideal Marcas Downshire acu agus is astu atá baile Hillsborough ainmnithe. Ba é George Augusta an cúigiú leanbh ag Arthur Hill, an 2ú Marcas Downshire, agus Mary, Baroness Sandys agus rugadh é i Sasana an 9 Nollaig 1801 tar éis dá athair bás a fháil, rud a d’fhág nár tháinig aon chuid de mhaoin an athar le hoidhreacht chuige.

Chaith sé tamall dá shaol ina oifigeach airm. Bhí sé tamall ina bhall parlaiminte thar ceann Charraig Fhearghais agus in 1834 phós sé Cassandra Jane Knight ó Kent. In 1838 cheannaigh sé 23,000 acra i gceantar Ghaoth Dobhair. Fuair a chéad bhean bás in 1842 agus phós sé a deirfiúr Louisa in 1847. I Ráth Mealtain a bhí a dteach cónaithe. Thóg sé óstán i nGaoth Dobhair in 1841. D’éag sé 6 Aibreán 1879 agus cuireadh é i Leitir Ceanainn.

Ta an dá thuairim ann ina thaobh. In The West of Ireland, 1862 scríobh Coulter: ‘Lord George, by great personal labour, unwearied perseverance, and a large expenditure of capital, has done a vast amount of good. He commenced by abolishing the old system of rundale, and in lieu giving to each tenant a separate, clearly defined, and equivalent farm, which he states “has had the effect of more than doubling the quantity of land previously under cultivation; chiefly by inducing the tenantry to bestow an amount of care and labour on their own share, which they naturally, under the ancient system, never thought it worth their while to exert on the precarious scraps of a field held in common by a dozen or two of neighbours”. The result is stated to be, that both rents and county cess are more punctually paid than either formerly were; that regularity on the part of the landlord, his agent and overseers has had its effects upon the tenants of the estate; that all promises and agreements having been faithfully adhered to, and impartial justice rendered to all, a greater amount of confidence has sprung up; and that tricks, subterfuges, and craft, are less resorted to by the inhabitants. Those who knew Gweedore before it came into the hands of Lord George, would scarcely recognise it as the same place, so great are the improvements that have been effected in the land, and so successful have his efforts proved in ameliorating the condition of the people.’

Tá cuntas le Breandán Mac Cnáimhsí ar rundale agus ar bheartas Hill in Donegal Annual, Vol IX, No. 2, 1970 (‘North-West Donegal after the Great Famine’). Tugann Proinnsias Ó Gallchobhair cuntas in The History of Landlordism in Donegal, 1962. Dar leis-sean gur ar mhaithe lena phóca féin an obair a bhí ar siúl ag Hill, agus nár chun leasa na dtionóntaí a chaitheadh sé airgead ar an eastát; gur thóg sé teampall Protastúnach agus, nuair nach bhfreastalódh Caitlicigh ar na seirbhísí, gur rinneadh beairic le haghaidh na constáblachta de; gur ar mhaithe lena bháillí agus a ghníomhairí a chuir sé scoil á tógáil; gur chuir a ollshiopa deireadh le siopaí beaga. Cé gur beag creidiúint atá an Gallchobhaireach sásta a thabhairt do Hill, deir sé: ‘For the purpose of conducting his affairs more efficiently as a landlord, Lord Arthur Hill acquired a thorough knowledge of the Irish language and became a fine Irish scholar. He even employed an Irish speaking tutor to educate his family in that language. Over his store and school at Bunbeg he placed beautiful specimens of Irish inscriptions.’

In Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann tá lámhscríbhinn, ‘Foras Feasa ar Éirinn’, a bhí ina sheilbh agus a bhfuil scríofa ann: ‘Given to me by Aeneas MacDonnell Esqre. London 1831’, agus cóip de ‘Agallamh Oisín agus Pádraig’ a rinne Dáibhí Ó Murchadha dó in 1832. Deir Nessa Ní Shéaghdha in ‘Collectors of Irish manuscripts’ (Celtica XVII): ‘And amongst “the collection of antiquities and other objects illustrative of Irish history in the Museum Belfast, on the occasion of the twenty-second meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1852)” were “nine volumes of Irish manuscripts from Lord George Hill, Gweedore, Co. Donegal”. The sale-catalogue of the contents of his library, auctioned in Dublin in 1902, listed 21 manuscripts, several of them now in learned institutions here and in England.’ Tá cuntas ar a lámhscríbhinní agus ar a chaidreamh le scríobhaithe agus scoláirí mar Owen Connellan sa réamhrá le List of Irish MSS in Cambridge Library, 1986 le Pádraig de Brún agus Máire Herbert.

Bhí a dheartháir, Arthur Blundell Hill, an 3ú Marcas Downshire (rugadh 8 Deireadh Fómhair 1788; d’éag 12 Aibreán 1845), ina uachtarán ar Chuideacht Gaedhilge Uladh. Is léir ar a bhfuil i gcló dá litreacha ag Breandán Ó Buachalla in I mBéal Feirste Cois Cuain, 1968, go raibh spéis mhór aige sa teanga agus sna lámhscríbhinní.

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Diarmuid Breathnach

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