Picturesque Scenery of the County of Sligo

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XXVI (21) | Start of Chapter

I regretted leaving Sligo so soon. Such ready access to all classes was not usual, and I should have been much gratified by availing myself profitably of it. The beautiful and novel Bay of Sligo made me forget all else. Nothing but the Blackwater could equal it, and that could not boast such picturesque mountains. Here are mountains of rock, standing out in circular shape, with the appearance of pillars, as if hewn by an architect; others, like a box, with a cover shut over it, and the edges of this cover plaited. This singular appearance of rock and mountain continued for several miles; while the little islands in the river, the green meadows, and tasteful demesnes upon the border, made an indescribable treat as the sun was setting.

We reached the termination of the route at nine o'clock, and found an expensive lodging house, as it was crowded on account of the assizes. My next day's ride on the top of a coach was eighty-one miles to Dublin, some part of it romantic. The sea-coast was rocky and wild, and presented little that was inviting for the abode of man. The road took us through a part of Leitrim, Westmeath, and Longford. At the latter place, while waiting for a change of horses, the beggars seemed to have rallied all their forces, followed by the rags and tatters of the town, who surrounded the coach to hear from America. I answered the beggars, that I had nothing but books to give. A truce for a moment succeeded, when a clamor for books was set up, similar to the one on the island of Omey. Giving them some tracts, all commenced reading, when one cried out that they said nothing of the Blessed Virgin, and immediately one was torn in small pieces, and thrown upon my lap. The crowd had become quite numerous, and the clamor boisterous. Two or three more tracts were torn, and thrown into the air or upon the coach. Asking if they thought the Virgin was looking upon them, "Yes, yes," was echoed and re-echoed. "How do you think she is pleased with the disrespect you have paid her Son? Those books, which you have torn, are his words, and you have despised them, and torn them in pieces." All for a minute were silent; every laugh was changed into a look of sorrow. "In truth," said one. "we have done wrong; we did not know it; and ye are right, ma'am, and we are sorry." A few words were said on their lost condition if out of Christ, and they listened with most respectful silence, and walked quietly away.

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.