Dry Bones

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XVIII (11) | Start of Chapter

A youth tending cattle upon the hill showed me into the burying-ground and old church, said to be 1,150 years old. An old tower, and the Bishop's chair, being no more than the remains of an old tower, in shape in its ruins like a large chair, stand at a distance. But the sight of sights is the pile of dry bones in one corner of the church-yard, and scattered all through it, as well as around it. Skulls with open jaws and teeth, and all the bones of the body, are here in thick profusion under the open sky. It is said that the burying-ground is as old as the church, and the peasantry of Ireland retain a strong propensity to bury their dead with their ancestors, consequently this is the spot where Killarney dead must lie, though the bones of kings and nobles are rooted out, and scattered to bleach in the winds and sun of heaven, to make room for them. While standing with the mountain herder, a man whose cabin "joined hard" to the burying-ground, accosted us. I asked if it was not unpleasant to live near so many dead bodies and dried bones. "Not at all; it's the livin', ma'am, that do the hurt," adding a story, which requires both Irish cleverness and Irish brogue to be well understood.

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.