Arrival at the miserable town of Bantry

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XV (9) | Start of Chapter

My company was not the most intelligent, but civil; even declining smoking for my accommodation, which was a mortal sacrifice to an Irishman; and had I not been an American, fear I should have been puffed most thoroughly. A talkative old man said he was about sailing for America with four sons, who were determined to go, and he should take the old woman along with them, though she was "ould;" but he would not have her fretting herself after him, and "so, lady, we will go together." He offered to find me a "dacent lodging," but left me when we reached Bantry, to make it out at my leisure. I went into the miserable coach-office, and saw poverty and desolation portrayed in every part of the dwelling where the family resided. The children were interesting, could read, and giving them some little books, I begged the good mother to direct me into some comfortable place, as the night was dark, and I was a stranger. She sent an intelligent boy, who soon found a genteel house, kept by three sisters and a brother, as a shop and lodging-house. The nicely fitted parlor and bed-room were inviting retreats, and here may I date the commencement of all that was marvellous—all that was romantic—all that was painfully exciting, and all that was wholly indescribable in my tour through Ireland, and I would say—

"If you have tears, prepare to shed them now."

Come, sit down with me, and weep over the sad desolations of your stricken country; and while you weep, reflect, when a righteous God shall make inquisition for blood, if you have said, "be ye warmed and be ye filled," while the garment was in your wardrobe, the bread upon your table, and the word of life upon your shelf—what shall shelter your head from the avenger of the poor?

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.