An Irish peasant's Cabin at Ross

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume II, Chapter XII-5 | Start of chapter

"Although the weather was oppressively warm on the road, yet the sharp breeze from the Atlantic rendered our cloaks very acceptable. Whilst the remainder of the party amused themselves in taking sketches of the bridges, or wandering amongst the rocks in search of crystals, I was glad to take shelter in a fisherman's hut. The poor woman received me with a courtesy of manner which cultivation may improve, but nature alone can impart. The interior of this dwelling soon presented the most complete picture of an Irish cabin I had ever seen. Seated on the only chair in the house, in a short time I found myself surrounded by all the women and children belonging to the few contiguous huts, most of whom seated themselves on the floor. A numerous family of domestic animals, consisting of cocks, hens, cats, and a dog, quite at their ease, were interspersed amongst us; but at my particular request a large pig was not allowed to join the company, although extremely anxious for admission.

From the fisherman's wife, whose propriety of manner as well as that of her neighbours quite struck me, I learned many interesting particulars respecting the localities of the place, she being the only one present who could speak English, and acted as my interpreter. It appears they have a very good landlord, and that the tenants were tolerably well off: the poorest hut was not without a feather-bed, and many of them had two, which bespeaks a degree of comfort seldom to be met with in an Irish cabin. In this one I observed a new style of 'waggon-roof' bedstead with timber curtains (if I may use the expression): the back, roof, and foot were covered with nice white deal-boards nailed on, as well as the side next the wall: the tout ensemble, however, looked most comfortable. She likewise informed me that her husband was a pilot, and then out in the bay; that they paid two pounds per acre, with liberty to cut as much turf as they chose. That they availed themselves of this privilege was pretty evident, from the fine fire that blazed on the hearth.

Here also the women toil in the field, and draw sea-weed, for manure, on their backs. A remark made in Irish by a sweet little boy, and interpreted by his mother, amused me. His sister was giving him a drink of water rather awkwardly out of a large wooden noggin, and looking innocently up in her face, he said, 'Don't spill it, agra ( my dear), for 'tis very good.' How easily are the wants of nature satisfied! Finding that the women did not know how to make fishing-nets for their husbands, and for which they had to pay, and being furnished by them with a rude netting-needle and twine, I set to work to instruct them, at which they seemed much gratified. After pleasantly spending more than an hour with this interesting group, when about to take my leave, my new acquaintance asked if, when I got home, I should ever think of the people of Ross. I replied, there were too many agreeable circumstances connected with my visit to allow me soon to forget them. Being joined by my party, attended by a numerous escort, we reached our vehicle, and with mutual expressions of kind feelings, we bade each other farewell."