Puzzling Voyage of Discovery

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XI (12) | Start of Chapter

I visited many of the public places in Dublin; and in my perambulations alone about the city, noticed quite a difference in the kindness and civility of the lower class, especially about the docks, to that of the same class in the interior. An inquiry concerning a street would always be answered with civility, but if any misunderstanding or confusion be manifested, a second inquiry is often followed by rudeness. This is generally the character of all seaports, in every country.

The sixth of December, at eight in the morning, I took a piece of bread, and went out upon the circular road that surrounds the city. Soon finding myself in a labyrinth, where water, bridges, mud, and cabmen were in a confused mass, and not knowing how to get out, I inquired the way. A wag called out, "Follow your nose, woman." This answer would not have been given by a Connaughtman, or a mountain peasant; but knowing he was an Irishman, I received it in good part, and answered that I had followed it till it had brought me into the ditch, and I found it was not a good guide, and I now wished some instruction from more experienced ones. With one consent, every man left his cab, eager to direct me the shortest way, each having the best knowledge; till in the confusion and the kindness, I was directed all points of the compass but the right one, and I hardly knew whether to stand still, move forward, or go back. I went from them, and inquired of two laboring men, who told me I was wrong; a third insisted, "she is right;" following the direction of the two first, a woman of whom I inquired told me I was certainly wrong, and led me on about docks and walls, till, tired with the chase, I told her this could not be the way. In anger she turned away, declaring she would say no more. Another met me, said I had been led astray, pitied me much, took me about a circuitous wall, showed me the ships and houses as a kind of land-marks, adding, "You must go to the quay, cross the river, and you will be on the circular road." By this time I was so crazed, that all roads were alike, and in despair took the track around the wall again, and stumbled upon the woman who had left me in anger. "Here comes this woman again," she said angrily to another. "Yes," I answered, "here she comes again, and is half crazed." "I knew that afore." By this time I was quite a penitent, and begged her to tell me once more, and I would follow her direction. She did so. It was a long way, but it led me to the ferry. I crossed, and reached the spot on the circular road from which I started at two o'clock, having taken the whole circuit, a distance of twelve, to me, weary miles, and so confused that I cannot now remember one perch of the way.

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.