Kerry Dancing and Kerry Kindness

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XX (14) | Start of Chapter

She hitched her basket over her shoulder, and in company with one older than herself, skipped upon the sand made wet with rain, and turning suddenly about, gave me a pretty specimen of Kerry dancing, as practiced by the peasantry. "The sand is too wet, ma'am, to dance right well on," and again shouldering her basket, with a "God speed ye on ye'r journey," leaped away.

I looked after them among the rocks, more with admiration for the moment than with pity; for what hearts, amid splendor and ease, lighter than these? And what heads and stomachs, faring sumptuously every day, freer from aches than theirs, with the potatoe and sup of milk? This woman, who danced before me, was more than fifty, and I do not believe that the daughter of Herodias herself, was more graceful in her movements, more beautiful in complexion or symmetry, than was this "dark-haired" matron of the mountains of Kerry.

Wandering among the cabins, I found nothing new, but the same questions of "What brought ye the long way?" and the same gush of kindness from a poor cabin woman, who followed me out with such warm wishes, that it was affecting—"What can I give the lone stranger, who has come the long way to see us?

I've not a hap'orth; and could ye eat the egg? Maybe ye hav'n't had the breakfast? I wished I had a penny to give ye." Assuring her that I needed no breakfast, and that it was but few pennies that I required, thanking her again and again, from my inmost soul, I left her door, and heard in the distance, "Aw, she's light on the fut, the cratur."

On my return to my room, I found a work called "Rambles in the South of Ireland," by an English lady, prettily and candidly written; free from that sarcasm on Irish character and Irish manners so calculated to throw contempt on the nation, which such works are, and which is quite too prevalent among writers who visit the country to write a book. Some hap'hazard expression, made to give the sentence a lively turn or happy ending, may fix a libel on a people, which will be read and believed by many generations.

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.