Lady Harburton's School

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter IV (9) | Start of Chapter

On the Monday after my return to Dublin, I visited the schools originally established and supported by Lady Harburton, a lady of great fortune and benevolence. These schools do much honor to the teachers, as well as to the founder. The infant school numbers about one hundred and forty, and was conducted like those I had been accustomed to see at home. Here was a school of little boys, instructed in the Scriptures and the first rudiments of geography; a privilege which, though they were the children of the poor, was not denied them, as in Lady Wicklow's school. The school of young girls was as good in arrangement as I had ever seen; order, cleanliness, and attention were strikingly manifested. The superintendent was quite intelligent, and thorough to the last degree in all her investigations. The reading, examination in the Scriptures, in ancient and modern geography, arithmetic and grammar, showed honorable faithfulness in both teacher and pupil. But I regretted sincerely the severity of the superintendent. A little more tenderness mixed with her rebukes, I could not but think would have accomplished as much good, and left a more favorable impression on the hearts of the pupils. Goldsmith's country schoolmaster did not more richly deserve the character of a petty despot, than did this otherwise excellent teacher, for if of him it might be said,

"Full well the boding tremblers learned to trace

The day's disaster in his morning face;"

of her it might be added,

"Full well the busy whisper circling round,

Convey'd the dismal tidings when she frown'd;"

for her frowns were the preludes to heavy blows.

The children of Catholics composed a respectable part of the school; and if this were a fair specimen of schools in Ireland, the children of the country would have no claim to pity on the subject of education.

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.