Danger of becoming a Public Character

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XIV (4) | Start of Chapter

When the cheering and welcomes had subsided, Father Mathew, in a low voice, said, "You must speak to this people, you can do them good; get up without delay, and tell them what you came for." My eyes affected my heart; I had never before seen such a respectable-looking company of the poor assembled in Ireland, and, accompanied, too, with the rich and the noble, taking their tea together. I briefly stated my motives in visiting Ireland, congratulated them on the progress of the temperance cause, and sat down.

An old grey-haired priest arose, and said, "I have read of prophets, I have read of apostles, I have read of martyrs, but among them all, I never read nor heard that ever a woman left her country alone, to search out a poor people—to suffer privation with them—to learn their true condition. What shall we do for her, and how shall we express our gratitude?"

This was reciprocated through the room, and when the meeting ended, not one of that great multitude would leave the house till each had given the hand to say, "welcome, welcome to our country."

The next day, this old priest called at my lodgings. I was out, but he left a pressing invitation that I should visit his parish—said he was a poor man, and could give me nothing; but would show me his people and the country, and that he would happily do. He found me at Father Mathew's, and redoubled his invitations. The same evening a temperance meeting was held at the Rock. The promise was made that I should not be invited to speak; that supper and music would occupy the time, and no speech-making. Not so; Father Mathew again said, "Do what you can for this people. Say what you feel, and say it as you please."

The notices made of me in their papers, brought me before the public so prominently, that I begged them to desist. I had wished to go through Ireland as unobservedly as possible, asking no honorary attentions.

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.