Hearty Welcome in Banagher

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter X (7) | Start of Chapter

This lodging-house in Banagher has associations which will live in grateful remembrance while memory lasts. Did they say, when I entered wet and weary, (for I had walked for hours in a heavy rain) did they say, "Who is this strange woman, at this late hour asking for lodgings; she must he mad?" but "Come in, come in, ye're wet and wairy. How far have ye walked in the stawrm? Come into the kitchen and dry yer clothes, and ye must be a stranger, and we'll get ye the cup of tay; ye must he hungry." All this was said and more, before I had told them who I was, and what brought me there. When this was known, if possible the kindness was redoubled. I told them I had but sixpence-halfpenny in my purse, and could only get a night's lodging and two or three potatoes. "And that you will get; and a week's lodgin' in welcome. Not a hap'orth of them two crippled feet shall go out of my house till they're healed," answered the man. The servant was called to fetch water to bathe my feet, "and we'll do what we can for ye, the cratur!" And faithfully did they perform their promise; they were kind to a fault. They were Catholics, but they listened to the Word of Life with the most profound attention, and without any opposition. They told their neighbors they fully believed I was inspired of God to come to Ireland, and do them good. What was this good? Certainly not money, and this they well knew.

They gathered about me in the evening in crowds; and when I had read two hours, such a breathless silence was in the room, that I looked about to ascertain whether all who were behind me had not left it, when I saw the place was filled to crowding, sitting upon the floor; and so quietly had they entered that I knew it not. Till one o'clock I read, a peasant woman, sitting at my feet, holding a candle; and when I said, "you must be tired," "And that I ain't, the long night wouldn't tire me, to be listenin' to ye."

"Ain't she a Protestant? an old man whispered. "She's a Christian sent here to discoorse us, and do ye think the like of her would crass the ocean to see the poor, and discoorse 'em as she does, if God hadn't sent her?" The old man seemed satisfied, and the point was settled by "Aw! there's no use in talkin'. The like of her couldn't be found in all Ireland." This last was said audibly, while I was turning the leaves of my book for a new chapter.

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.