An Irish Peasant's Cabin at Drogheda

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume II, Chapter I-6 | Start of chapter

In the neighbourhood of this town we entered a genuine Irish cabin. Overtaken in a ramble by a shower of rain,—none of your gentle poetic sprinklings, but a downright unmistakeable Irish shower, that at once let you perceive it meant wetting you to the skin,—we were glad to seek the nearest shelter that offered, which happened to be a poor-looking hovel. Its inmates were a young woman, apparently under thirty years of age,—yet she was the mother of six fine, rosy-cheeked, curly-headed, potatoe-fed children, five of whom were shouting and scrambling about the earthen floor, unencumbered by much needless apparel. An inhospitable puff of smoke and a shaggy wire-haired cur, rushing from the "dim profound," assailed us on the threshold, and seemed determined to oppose the invasion of the stranger. We, however, forced our way through these obstacles. The woman rose to receive us on our entrance, and though her clothing was mean and scanty, there was a gentleness and modesty in her deportment that gave an indescribable interest to her appearance. A turf fire was smouldering on the hearth, and a few stones placed in front prevented it encroaching too far upon the floor. Suspended from an iron crane, a pot of potatoes hung over the fire, boiling for her husband's dinner, who was abroad engaged in some field-work. A deal table, a couple of chairs, and a dresser, on which a few plates and simple culinary utensils were displayed, comprised the entire furniture of the apartment, with the exception of a wicker cradle, in which a chubby little fellow lay sleeping soundly, covered by his mother's cloak. In an inner apartment we got a glimpse of a straw bed, with a rug coverlet; and beside it stood a large deal chest, which we fear was kept rather for ornament than use.

Everything around betokened penury and privation; yet the whole family, including the pig, who had sagaciously returned from a country ramble during our visit, seemed perfectly contented and happy; and if these poor people possess fewer of the comforts of life, they at least enjoy those that have fallen to their share with a keen relish and grateful hearts. Nor has the Irish cabin, uninviting as it may appear, been uncelebrated in song. One of the most beautiful women in the country once sang for us with an expression of humour perfectly delightful, the following amusing caricature description; and though it is of modern date, and rather Scoto-Irish in its dialect, it is still clever enough to merit being preserved.

Oh weep for the day we were forced from our cot,

From our praties and milk and our stirabout pot,

When Judy kept everything piping and hot,

So snug with the cat in the corner.

The pigs and the dogs and childre, agrah!

Lay down on the floor, so dacent in straw,

While the cocks and the hens they were perch'd up ava,

Just over the cat in the corner.

Our house was so tidily covered with thatch,

It looked like a harlequin's coat, patch for patch;

And the door opened nately by rising the latch

With a fong that hung down in the corner.

A scythe was stuck here, and a raping-hook there,

And Paddy's shillelagh, the pride of the fair,

Was placed in the chimney, to sayson with care,

Just over the cat in the corner.

Our window so clane by an unlucky stroke,

Had three of the purtiest panes in it broke:

We fastened up two with the tail of a cloak,

And the smoke went through one in the corner.

Our dresser was decked out in elegant style

The trenchers and noggins your heart would beguile;

And the goose she was hatching her eggs all the while,

Right under them all in the corner.

Och! Paddy's the boy, with a stick in his fist,

With a spur in his head, and a bone in his wrist,

And a straw round his hat—you must call it gold twist,

Or he'll murdher you all in the corner.