Extraordinary Spectacle on the Road

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter II (14) | Start of Chapter

"Look! look!" said the coachman, "if you'd see a sight." The sight should not be recorded, for the credit of human nature; but how can the evils and deformities of Ireland be known, if they are not exposed? and how can eyes that have always been looking out upon these things, dimmed as they must be by constant use and the fogs of national pride and national self-complacency, see these discrepancies with so clear a vision as the less accustomed and the less interested can see them? But to the sight. At our left was an old ragged woman, bending beneath a huge pack, and fastened upon that was a boy of thirteen (as the coachman and a passenger averred, for they both knew him) with legs entirely naked, not only hanging at full length, but dexterously applied to the old woman his mother, when he wished her to hasten her speed, while he held his cap in hand towards the coach for pennies. This was allowed by the mother to excite compassion, as well as to indulge the lad, for the passenger observed that he would not walk. He had once seen the mother put him down, when he leaped upon a stile, and thence to her back, giving her a kick, saying, "There now, go on, Miss Lucy Longford."

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.