Nancy Brown's Parlor

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XXII (10) | Start of Chapter

The bay and mountains about Dingle are objects of considerable interest. Connor Hill, upon which a road is made through a rock which hangs frightfully over the head of the traveller, and the steep descent to a lake, are grand objects. The government has certainly given incontestible proof that rocks, mountains, and water are no effectual impediments to making good roads in Ireland. Why can it not surmount the rocky difficulties of the people, cut them through, give them a tolerable place among the children of men, and enable them to walk forth over these roads, not as beasts of burden, clothed in rags, but like men made in God's image, enjoying the blessings which are made for all, and should be possessed by all?

We attempted to ascend Connor Hill by a circular route, but the higher we ascended the more the distance seemed to increase, and we sat down under a passing cloud, which so enveloped us, that, though in the morning, it appeared quite like gathering evening, and the cold was very severe. I was glad to get away, for a pressure upon the chest made me feel a difficulty in breathing. We returned home, and passed an immense pile of stones, which had been gathered by passing travellers, who always added one to the heap, in commemoration of a young man who died on that spot when going out for America. Silly as was the superstition, I added one to the mountain.

We visited "Nancy Brown's Parlor." This is a rock projecting into the sea, with a seat upon it like a settee; a romantic spot. At the left is a deep dark cavern of water, running under the precipice, which fills the mind with wonder and sublimity. The morning was propitious, and below us upon the strand might be seen women, some with jugs, and some with sea-weed, children picking shells, and not the least interesting were the busy sea-gulls, hopping from rock to rock, or alighting upon the water, in pairs. One couple, who had stood upon a craggy rock talking in the most affable manner, amused us by a piece of gallantry, as we supposed of the gentleman, which would do honor to any man in like circumstances. They had sat talking for some time, when a surging wave dashed over them and concealed them from our sight; they appeared again as the wave retired, in the same position, when the adventurous Miss gracefully sailed away, and seated herself upon a rock in the water at a distance, looking back to the mate she had left, who for a time sat unmoved as if saying, "you have rudely left me, and I will not follow you." But in a little time he was at her side, and they commenced a close chat, and then they both gracefully sailed back to the rock they had left. We could not tell whether he was gently chiding her for leaving him, to venture further into the deep, or whether he was congratulating her on her dexterity in keeping her footing, when the foaming wave dashed so furiously over her white wing. It was a pretty sight.

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.