Reception from Father Mathew

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XIV

Reception from Father MathewThe Aged NunTemperance Tea PartyDanger of becoming a Public CharacterOne Source of the Reverence paid to the PriestUrsuline Convent and its EleganciesSail to CoveBeautiful BaySearch for Dr. PowerThe Begging WhineTrip to BlarneyRacy Old Priest"The Blackguard Salt Herring"Wonders of BlarneyDr. Barter's Hydropathic EstablishmentOur Jolly Priest is no TetotallerWalk to CovePleasant Little MaidensDelightful time passed in Dr. Power's Family

Saturday, Feb. 1st.—Called at Father Mathew's. His house is quite plain; the hall-door is fastened open from six in the morning, till the same time in the evening, saying to the citizen and stranger, "ye are welcome." The carpet of the hall is loose straw, and a woman sits at the entrance to receive and point the visitor to the room on the right, where the "rich and poor meet together," to take the pledge, or spend a leisure half hour, to watch the movements, and listen to the salutary cautions and words of kindness from the lips of this devoted man. My letter of introduction had been given him some months before, in a crowd, when he had only opportunity to say, "I will see you in Cork."

"Why did you not come to me when you first came to the country; you knew I would have taken care of you?" was the greeting he gave, when I entered.

The room is entirely devoid of ornaments, except the papers pasted upon the wall, as cautions to the intemperate. Benches are arranged about the room for those in waiting, on one of which, in an obscure corner, I took my seat, and saw the lame and deformed, the clean and the filthy, the well-clad and the tattered, kneel and take the pledge, and enter their names in a book, which the clerk who registered them said counted five millions and four thousand. To the meanest beggar he speaks as kindly as the titled gentleman, and to the suffering I often saw him slip a little change, bidding them depart, and not disgrace him by breaking the pledge.

He invited me to dinner at five o'clock, and his dining-room wore the same unassuming appearance, as does everything about him—no carpet, no sofa, and not an appendage but what was absolutely necessary. His table is arranged in the most finished order, and the cooking, which is done by a man, is of the best kind. He seldom dines alone.

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.