Birr

BirrA Miserable Protestant Lodging-houseRich Distiller's Family ruined by IntemperanceA Wealthy EccentricLord Rosse's Telescope, and Lord RosseA Baptist MinisterCourtesy of the Children of the Irish PeasantryAnother Unfortunate Letter of IntroductionWalk from Ballinasloe to LoughreaMiserable Condition of the PoorA returned EmigrantFellow TravellersAn Interesting TrioReading the BibleA Scripture DiscussionA Connaught Catholic's Experience of Church-goingMarket-day in LoughreaA Shebeen HouseA Pig's HonestyRemorseless StaringMore Bible ReadingScarcity of Female Beauty in GalwayStaring in Galway beyond DescriptionAncient Burial-groundVisit to a Presbyterian Minister who had just married a Rich WifeLaborers standing in the Market-placeMiserable LodgingsWalk to OranmoreThe name of "American Stranger" a Key to the People's HeartsA Connemara Girl

My walk of five miles was not tedious; the air was wholesome, the lark was singing, the road smooth, and the scenery pleasant. The town of Birr was the residence of Lord Rosse and his telescope, and here I had hoped to have a feast of some other worlds of light but this, on which I had so long figured to so little advantage. It rained as I entered the town, and turning into a neat little cottage, found a kind welcome by the cleanly master and mistress, who are Roman Catholics, and was invited to eat, and then they directed me to a Protestant lodging-house. I say Protestant, because the Catholics knowing me to be one, generally selected this sort, supposing I should be better pleased. They told me the people were kind and respectable; this was true, but the rooms were dark and without floors, and two enormous hogs which were snoring in an adjoining closet were called out to take their supper in the kitchen, which made the sum total a sad picture.[1] I was kindly urged to take supper, and sat down with them, took an apple, and passed a solitary evening. Not that I was sorry for my undertaking, but the lack of all social comfort, where comfort should be expected. When I went into my bed-room I felt like bursting into tears; everything looked so forbidding, and so unlike cleanliness about the bed. Clean sheets were begged, and clean sheets were granted; yet it was a doleful night, and in the morning, after taking some potatoes, and asking for my bill, four pence was the answer. Cheap indeed! I paid her more.

Ireland’s Welome to the Stranger is one of the best accounts of Irish social conditions, customs, quirks and habits that you could wish for. The author, Mrs Asenath Nicholson, was an American widow who travelled extensively in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine and meticulously observed the Irish peasantry at work and play, as well as noting their living conditions and diet. The book is also available from Kindle.