“I left Ferniherst, and went to my ostes house, where I found many guests of dyvers factions, some Filipino dating free outlaws of England, some of Scotland, some neighbours thereabout, at cards; some for ale, some for placks and hardhedds [a small coin]; and after I had diligently learned and enquired that there was none of any surname that had me in deadly fude, nor none that knew me, I sat down and plaid for hardhedds among them, where I heard vox populi that the Lord Regent would not, for his owne honour, nor for the honour of his country, deliver the Earls, if he had them bothe, unless it were to have their Quene delivered to him; and if he wold agree to make that change, the borderers would start up in his contrary, and reave both the Quene and the Lords from him, for the like shame was never don in Scotland; and that he durst better eate his own lugs than come agen to seke Farneherst; if he did, he should be fought with ere he came over Sowtray edge. “
The counterpart to this picture was to be found in Spain about the same period; and as the intercourse between the two countries was frequent, and the favorite game in both was “One-and-Thirty,” it is not unlikely that the Irish obtained their knowledge of cards from the Spaniards
This meeting was held in 1576 near the head of the river Reed, on the English side of the Carter fell; and appears to have been attended, like a fair, by people from both sides of the Border.
In the old ballad entitled ‘The Battle of the Reed Swire,’ giving an account of a fray at a Warden meeting, which ended in a general fight, we find cards mentioned
About the same period the game of cards was a common amusement in the south of Ireland. Spenser, in his ‘View of the State of Ireland,’ written about 1590, speaks of an idle and dissolute class of people called “Carrows,” who, he says, “wander up and down to gentlemen’s houses, living only upon cards and dice; the which, though they have but little or nothing of their own, yet will they play for much money; which, if they win, they waste most lightly; and if they lose, they pay as slenderly, but make recompense with one stealth or another; whose only hurt is not that they themselves are idle lossels, but that through gaming they draw others to lewdness and idleness.”
In Cervantes’ ‘Comical History of Rinconete and Cortadillo,’ a young Spanish vagabond gives the following account of his skill at cards: “I took along with me what I thought most necessary, and amongst the rest this pack of cards, (and now I called to mind the old saying, ‘He carries his All on his back,’) for with these I have gained my living at all the publick houses and inns between Madrid and this place, playing at One-and-Thirty; and though they are dirty and torn, they are of wonderful service to those who understand them, for they shall never cut without leaving an ace at bottom, which is one good point towards eleven, with which advantage, thirty-one being the game, he sweeps all the money into his pocket: besides this, I know some slight tricks at Cards and Hazard; so that though you are very dexterous and a thorough master of the art of cutting buskins, I am every bit as expert in the science of cheating people, and therefore I am in no fear of starving; for though I come but to a small cottage, there are always some who have a mind to pass away time by playing a little; and of this we may now try the experiment ourselves: Let us spread the nets, and see if none of these birds, the carriers, [Pg 116] will fall into them; which is as much as to say that you and I will play together at One-and-Thirty, as if it was in earnest; perhaps somebody may make the third, and he shall be sure to be the first to leave his money behind him.”