A Blind Fiddler

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter V (3) | Start of Chapter

An old grey-haired blind fiddler now entered the boat. This gave a new and interesting turn to the scene. All eyes were intent, and all ready to sit closer, and huddle away baggage, to make a "dacent sate" for the fiddler. The old woman resumed her position at my side, and the blind man took the fiddle from his green bag, and played a melancholy air of true ancient Irish. He was a good performer, and though he played some lively airs, yet to me he seemed not to be at home, but gave them because he must. That meek subdued look, which always sits on the face of the blind, was emphatically his; old, and trembling with age, he commanded veneration, while his blindness awoke both the pity and benevolence of the passengers. They gladly responded to the call of a youth, who said, "If you plase, old man, hand out your plate; 'tis time for a collection." The fiddler drew from his thread-bare vest pocket a little tin plate, which the young man passed about, and a few shillings were put into the hands of the thankful musician, who was then set on shore to make his way to an appointment for the evening. These blind fiddlers are somewhat numerous, especially in the south of Ireland, and are treated with great humanity by all classes.

The Liverpool girl, who seemed a little composed while the fiddler was performing, now reminded us that the predominant wish had not yet died, for she remarked, "The sixpences were so plenty here for the fiddler, I should think you might give me back mine that the captain took from me."

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.