Asenath Nicholson
Chapter III (10) | Start of Chapter

A ride on a pleasant day, through a pleasant country, in pleasant company, with a good horse, an easy carriage, and buoyant health, induces the fortunate traveller to note pleasant things in his journal of the country and people, especially if the tea be prepared to his liking, and sent in at precisely the right time. Such was my happy lot when my hostess, her daughter, grand-daughter, and a young man, took a seat on a car, and accompanied me through the enchanting Vale of Avoca to Rathdrum. At Newbridge we met a rustic funeral procession, in all kinds of habiliments, and on all kinds of vehicles appropriate to that class; while the black pall, with knots of white ribbon a few inches apart, from the head to the foot of the coffin, borne on the shoulders of four men, as a substitute for the "sable hearse and nodding plume," told us that the body enclosed there had withered in the morning of life. We had scarcely passed, when a gladsome wedding party, on their return from the church, where the vows had been performed, burst suddenly into view, at a short turning of the road, and their every look and action said,

"All men think all men mortal but themselves."

A gentle shower sprinkled us, but gave additional interest to the scenery, as we rode through the shady grounds of the tasteful domains. The grand Castle of Howard was looking out upon our right, as if hanging upon the top of a wooded precipice; the domain of Mr. Parnell, cousin to the Earl of Wicklow, lay in our path. He had visited the United States, and from the city of Washington he had selected a plant of no mean growth, and fixed it in this laughing Eden, which, while the raindrops were glistening in the sun, now looking out upon the broad-spreading tree and verdant lawn, said, if happiness dwell not here, we must seek the fugitive in other skies where purer spirits dwell.

On alighting from the car, we were received by a most unassuming young woman, a relative of the good lady who introduced me thither, and in the few hours we stopped, we had one of the happiest specimens of conscientious devotedness in a mother to the welfare of her children I had ever seen. She had three, and "how," she asked, "how shall I train them for usefulness in time and a happy immortality?" She was a mother of prayer. "You must have a church near by," said I, "and a good pastor, I hope, who helps you to guide your little flock." "We have," she answered emphatically, "and it is through his kindness, his faithfulness, and his untiring watchfulness, that I have been most deeply made to feel my responsibility. The church you see here was built by himself, and he labors in it without pay, employing curates as he sees fit, and all the parish are visited by him, the poor as well as the rich. He watches over the children, and they look to him as their father." Happy pastor! good shepherd, that cares for the sheep, and looks well to the lambs of the flock. The memory of such will never perish. It can be said of him, as of Goldsmith's village preacher,

"Even children followed with endearing wile,

And pluck'd his gown to share the good man's smile."

The little town of Rathdrum contains about two hundred families, and is fitted up with considerable taste. A poor-house well filled adorned the outskirts. But the ride home—

"Now came still evening on, and twilight grey

Had in her sober livery all things clad."

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.