A Motley Audience

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XVI (10) | Start of Chapter

I stepped back into the room, and for a few moments gave the gaping multitude full scope for curiosity. They stood before me, they sat down by my side, they minutely examined my dress, they asked all sorts of questions concerning America,—"an' may be ye didn't know Mick Flanagan, or Pat Dogherty. An', by dad, she's a dacent body, and she never come the long way without a good bit in her purse," &c. When the wonder began to flag, I put my luggage into the care of the hostess, and went out to wander in the glen, and by chance came upon an old bridge, quite decayed, which is said to have been constructed by Cromwell to march his army over when he wasted Ireland. The arches are still standing, and a footpath is over them, which has been crossed by every tourist in the glen for a century or more. The name of Cromwell by every peasant of Ireland is of hated memory, and scarcely a decayed castle, bridge, or abbey, but what the stranger is told, "this is the doin' of the blackguard Cromwell." Finding a cabin, which from its size and appendages bore some signs of comfort, I ventured in, hoping something a little tolerable might meet my eyes. But "four-footed beasts," if not "creeping things," were here stalled and fed, and the people were of the same kin with the house I had left. I made my way upon the top of the rocks overlooking Bantry Bay, with a troop of ragged urchins in pursuit, and a young spruce dandy, who told me all he knew of the marvellous till the dusk of evening warned me back to my luggage and lodging. I recoiled at going in.

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.