Connaught Laborers

We next saw a caravan of Connaught laborers, on their way to England to get work. One horse was drawing nine of these men, with a woman sitting among this score of legs, on the bottom of the cart; and the coachman assured us that the "owner of her" was the one between whose feet she was sitting. He further informed me, that the practice of these people is to go out to gather the English harvest, which arrives before the Irish, and at the same time wife and children go out to beg. The cabin-door is fastened, and they agree to meet there on a certain time, bringing home the avails of the labor, and they go in together at the unfastening of the cabin.

Stopping at a village, a woman presented a basket of oranges, and a troop of beggars fell upon me as suddenly as though dropped from the clouds, demanding the pennies I had received in change for the orange. And so clamorous were they, that I felt myself in danger, and distributed all I had, which did not supply the whole. One was so rude in pulling me, that I should certainly have called for the police, if the coachman had not relieved me by applying his whip, and leaving her behind.

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.