A tolerant Catholic

Returning to the kind woman, she went in pursuit of lodgings, and inquiring at five, the sixth took me in for sixpence a night. The woman was poor, her house was tidy, and I stopped with her, found she managed discreetly with her little all, and was extremely anxious about her young children, that they might be well educated. "I send them," said she, "to a Protestant school, because it is the best one. God be praised, my parents never larnt me to read, and my children shall not be bred in such ignorance." Darkness was over her mind, but it was darkness that was felt. I read to her a tract, and some of the most touching passages of Christ's life, which filled her with admiration; thinking me a Catholic, she added, "You know none can be saved out of our church, but yet I have lived with so many good Protestants that I could not see why they are not as good Christians as we, and why can they not be saved if they do right?" Telling her all that fear God and work righteousness will be saved, and that I had determined to take Christ for example, and his word for a guide, and obey neither priest nor minister no further than they obeyed God, "Ye are right, ye are right," was the answer. She was in her own way truly religious, and watchful over her temper, and a better pattern than many who are much in advance in a knowledge of the world and books. Her husband is a drunkard, had gone to Dublin in pursuit of work, spent his money, and was torturing her with entreaties for more. Father Mathew has much to do yet to redeem Ireland from the curse of whiskey, for in high life it retains a deadly grasp.

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.