Plan for the Relief of the Destitute

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter II (4) | Start of Chapter

In the evening, I sat down "to gather up the fragments" of the day. I had seen painful things, I had seen pleasant things, and though all were common events, yet out of the varied materials I had put up this little parcel as worthy a second reviewal. "What ought to be done can be done." This ignorance, this hunger, this patient double-distilled misery sit with a bad grace on a benevolent Christian city like Dublin. But you answer, "It was always so, and always will."

Suppose fifty ladies in this city, who have leisure, should go out at ten in the morning, and mingle promiscuously with the poor upon the street, take their number, ascertain who is worthy, and who is unworthy; who need instruction, and who will receive it; who are idle from necessity, and who from choice; who can do one kind of work, and who another, and who can do nothing at all; who are old, and who are sickly; who can go to a place of worship, and who cannot, &c. By four o'clock in the afternoon each lady could ascertain the true condition of twenty persons at least, making in all a thousand, who might be truly deserving, and who, with a little assistance of work and necessaries, would soon be placed beyond want. But be careful that the payment be a full equivalent. Nothing gives the industrious honest poor man more encouragement than this; it makes him hope; he sees something tangible before him; he sees he may yet have a decent garment and a comfortable meal, independent of his rent; and he feels that he may sleep without the dreadful torment of a debtor's pillow. Let this going out into the "high-ways and hedges" be continued, and how many disconsolate hearts could be lifted up; how many tears would be wiped from the cheek of the orphan, and how many blessings from the lips of those who are ready to perish would be poured forth. This has been done, and can be done again. Dublin stands nobly prominent in her charitable institutions; there are none, save the poor sailor, but have a place in her kind provisions for the destitute; still there is much land to be possessed.

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.