A Door of Access

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XVIII (20) | Start of Chapter

The next day was devoted by the citizens of Killarney to St. Patrick. At twelve the temperance band awakened me, by playing very sweetly the air of St. Patrick's Day, reminding me of New York, when the Irish emigrants there celebrate the day, rekindle old associations of their beloved Emerald Isle, sing the songs of their native land, and live over again the bye-gone days of the country so dear to them. Early the chapel bells called to mass, and from every mountain and glen the people poured in, with the green shamrock in their hats, the children with some kind of ribbon upon the left arm, which they called the "crass." Sabbath was called Palm Sunday, when a sprig of palm was carried to the chapel to be blessed, and worn home in the hat; this was changed by some on Monday for the shamrock. The multitude huddled to mass three times a day, and passed the afternoon and evening looking upon each other, but not in quarrelling or drinking. To avoid the staring without, and the thronged house within, I again visited the park, and under a shady oak should have enjoyed a sweet sleep, with my muff for a pillow, had not the gate-woman found and invited me in. Another treat of reading she enjoyed, but declined taking any books, lest the bishop should punish her. Reading to these people what they can understand, and what they should practise, is the best mode of access, and the surest way to do good. Having few or no books of their own, and many not being able to read at all, a story of practical piety, a clear and pungent explanation of the most essential doctrines connected with the life and atonement of Christ, are listened to with the deepest interest. And not unfrequently will the sower find, if he watch the growth, that the seed has sprung up, promising a fruitful harvest.

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.