Ancient Burial-ground

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter IX (21) | Start of Chapter

Overlooking the harbor is the oldest burying-ground in Galway, and it is literally crammed with the dead. Throughout Ireland, in every large town, there seems to be some pre-eminent burying-place, which has peculiar virtues, on account of some holy man or men having honored it by their bones; and there, while living, the eye is directed as the most desirable bed in which to sleep when dead. The opening through a tumbling wall was free, and thither I repaired, with the Connaughtman and dog in pursuit.

"What walls can guard me, or what shades can hide?"

I was really afflicted; I had chosen this early hour, before seven, that I might unmolested enjoy in that harbor and churchyard a little reflection, where staring eyes would not settle on my face, or smoke of tobacco penetrate my nose. And like the poor afflicted man in the church, I "ran here, and I ran there," and dodged behind the tomb-stones, but could not escape; he was there, bending over the top, in full gaze upon me; and could I have spoken Irish, and told who I was, and what was my errand, as I had often done, there might have been some hope in my case. I left the spot in vexation and despair, and he left it too.

I would not join in all the ridicule and censure which the world has ever been ready to heap on suffering Connaught. There is good sense, there is wit, there is benevolence, and there is intelligence too. Even in many a smoky hut have I sat down, and been profited as well as amused, by the knowledge they had acquired, and their manner of communicating it. They are an inquisitive people. They desire to come at the whys and the wherefores; and if defeated in one way, they will resort to another. I was the strangest anomaly that had ever visited them, and as I could not speak Irish, what could not be gained by talking must be made out in gaping. Let this serve as an apology, though it did not lessen my indescribable vexation. I was in torment "for a' that."

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.