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Advertiser , 21 April 1900), those who argued
for the singular splendour of Irish sea- and land-
scapes resorted to an international vocabulary
of tourist places to produce images of Ireland.
This resulted in an array of monikers, which fea-
tured prominently in tourist promotional
material. Portrush, Co. Antrim was described as
the 'Scarborough of the North', and Newcastle,
Co. Down its 'Brighton' ( Irish Tourist 6 [May
1899], p. 7), while one writer labelled Crolly, Co.
Donegal 'The Angler's Brighton of Ireland' ( How
to See the Far-famed Lakes of Killarney , 1901,
n.p.). Glengarriff, Co. Cork, Achill, Co. Mayo and
Valentia, Co. Kerry were described in various
places as the 'Madeiras' of Ireland ( Views of
Glengarriff , n.d., n.p.; Curtis, 1909, p. 353; Art
Journal , 1907, p. 297; Tours in the Emerald Isle ,
1895, p. 45). Rostrevor, Co. Down, called Ire-
land's 'Montpellier', also competed with Bun-
crana in Co. Donegal to be its 'Mentone' ( The
Traveller's Gazette , November 1914, p. 8; Irish
Tourist 2 [1897], p. 10; Irish Tourist 5 ['Special
Horse Show Number', August 1898], p. 106).
The irony may have been apparent to
many readers of the Irish Tourist : it lamented
that although Buncrana's climate was similar to
that of Switzerland, English visitors persisted in
going to 'Continental water-places more preten-
tious in name', when they could comfortably
avail themselves of 'Mentone in Ireland' ( Irish
Tourist 5 ['Special Horse Show Number', August
1898], p. 106). Such comparisons featured in
place-promotions of Europe, Australia and
North America. Indeed little 'Brightons' could
be found throughout the Old and New Worlds.
But some continental comparators were sys-
tematically employed not only in place-naming,
but also in wider expositions of the Irish land-
scape and tourist sector. Confl ations of the
Blackwater and the Rhine, for instance, were
widespread in promotional material, though
some commentators heaped scorn on the result-
ing image that was promoted to the tourist
the Rhine and Saxon Switzerland?', he used the
image of a Europe teeming with tourists on
well-trodden paths to narrate how Ireland was
comparatively - and unjustly - overlooked:
Within fi ve miles round the pretty inn of
Glengariff, there is a country of the magnifi -
cence of which no pen can give an idea. Were
such a bay lying upon English shores, it would
be a world's wonder. Perhaps, if it were on the
Mediterranean, or the Baltic, English visitors
would fl ock to it by hundreds. Why not come
and see it in Ireland?
( Irish Tourist 1 [July 1894], p. 49).
Thackeray's authority was invoked in the
last quarter of the 19th century by tourist-
development advocates and guidebooks, which
produced images of the Blackwater as the 'Irish
Rhine'. But the appropriateness of the title was
also contested. The Irish Tourist , for instance,
published a mock conversation between 'An
Englishman' and 'An Irishman', in which the for-
mer sceptically inquired as to whether the Irish
Rhine was 'worthy of that appellation' and in
return received a barrage of comments extol-
ling the river ( Irish Tourist 1 [August 1894],
pp. 70-71). The guidebook ' Irish Times' Tours
in Ireland (1888, p. 177) disputed putative sim-
ilarities between the two - 'Both, to begin with,
are rivers, and both have banks - and there are
castles, some of them ruined, and some of them
not - standing upon their craigs or amidst their
slopes'; but it contended that 'here the resem-
blance commences and ends'. The Rhine was
portrayed as a 'broad, sweeping stream' on
whose banks the sound of industry resounded,
where 'Ancient history and modern progress are
mingled and confounded together'. In contrast,
the Blackwater at its broadest was 'little more
than a mile across', and it lacked the Rhine's
historic fortifi cations. In Ireland, such sites had
'crumbled to dust', its castles and lower banks
descending from 'stately splendour into mould-
ering decay'.
This vivid evocation of the Irish river's
decline was allied to an assessment of the
Blackwater's historic splendour - indeed, it
boasted a history so storied and singular, the
guidebook pointedly asked, 'what is the use of
comparison? What does it gain in dignity by
wearing a borrowed name?' Here a theme
common to criticisms of comparison found
'Why Not Come and See it in
Ireland?' Constructing and
Contesting the 'Irish Rhine'
When William Makepeace Thackeray posed the
question: 'What sends picturesque tourists to
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