Delightful time passed in Dr. Power's Family

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XIV (14) | Start of Chapter

The ferriage was a penny, which was given on entering the boat. Stepping ashore, I was accosted with, "Four pence, ma'am; four pence is the ferriage you must pay me." "You did not know, sir, a yankee knows full well when the fare is paid." "You're a thief," said a countryman, "let the woman pass on," and the crowd gave way to allow me to go through. This was taking the advantage of the lone stranger, and quite the other side of the glowing picture presented by the little girls.

A half mile took me to the desired haven of Doctor Power's, and I felt as if I were by an American fireside where peace and good order prevailed. Here I passed a week, where everything was done for my comfort. The children were a source of diversion and interest, being talented, intelligent, and kind-hearted. Under the superintendence of a judicious mother, a kind father, a sensible experienced grandmother, and good governess, they must improve. A dancing, drawing, and music master weekly attended, dancing in Ireland being considered a necessary part of education, even by many of the church. None of the higher class ever omit it, and the lower so manage, that at an early age the peasantry spend much time in dancing to the bagpipe, or the discordant vocal performance of some rustic. "It's all the sport the like of us have," said one who invited me to a field dance. Old and young, priest and people, participate, approve, or disapprove as the case may be.

My stay in this family was protracted, from a reluctance to leave a society which had become doubly endearing from what I had and must again encounter in my tour through Ireland. For, though I had been treated very kindly in good families, yet I had found few where the household management had been so home-like; where a genteel lady would go into her kitchen, and prepare with her own hands the nice dish for her guests; where laborer and animal shared in that kindness, which, though easy to bestow, yet is seldom manifested where wealth and fashion predominate.

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.