Clontarf Castle

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter II (3) | Start of Chapter

Clontarf Castle was now in sight; at its gate was a surly porter rudely abusing a poor woman for entering its enclosure. The reader may be reminded that a faded dress, tattered shoes, and weather-beaten bonnet, have no right through the gate of any gentleman's estate; and looking about upon my own, at the same time using my pass-word, I hoped a more ready entrance would be granted.

"I am sorry, ma'am, I cannot let you in, as you are an American; but none can enter without a pass."

"Your master, sir, has a splendid estate, but I should prefer being a little poorer than the steward of all this."

"Not I: if the rich can't be happy, I don't know who can. Why, this man has his coach-and-four, his horses for hunting, his good dinners and wine, and what has he but comfort?"

"But, sir, a good conscience is better than all this."

"What have we to do with that? We're all born, but we ain't all buried; and what's behind there is nothing to us."

The associations about the castle were such, that my disappointment was considerable, that I would not be admitted. Colman's graphic description of a battle fought there in the year 1014, which was more than awful, had left upon me such an impression, that I wished much to see the spot. A little girl, filthy and ragged, carrying a dirty cloth containing a few raw potatoes, approached with a courtesy, saying, "Lady, I am very hungry; I hav'n't had one mouthful to eat since yesterday morning."

"Do you tell me the truth?"

"I do, lady."

Her voice faltered, and a gush of tears relieved her.

"I have no father or mother, and live with a grandmother by the bridge. The good folks, ma'am, have certainly gone out of this world. They hunt me from their doors, and hav'n't given me one morsel to-day."

"And have you had no breakfast to-day?"

"Not so much as would fill a bird's eye, lady; I tell ye the truth."

She kept close to me, and continued chattering in the most simple manner, and wondering what ailed the world, and what would become of her, saying, "O, I'm so hungry!"

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.