Return to Dublin

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter IV (8) | Start of Chapter

When leaving New York, a friend said to me, "Give us all the information of the country you can; but don't touch politics. That is miserable work for a woman." But I soon found in Ireland, it was a great misfortune that I had not acquainted myself more with at least the technicals of the different parties; many egregious blunders might have been saved, and not a word need have been spoken. "You had better take the Radical to Dublin," said a man, "it is not so crowded as the Conservative coach." I nodded assent, without knowing the coach virtues of either term, as applicable to anything in my case, or indeed the case of Ireland, as I have since known it. I took the Radical, was well seated, well used, and found my journey back quite the reverse of the sad and savage one down. These were O'Connell-days, and this Radical was a repeal coach. "What do you think of repeal?" said a well-dressed gentleman; "as I never had the pleasure of seeing an American lady before in Ireland, I should like to know her opinion." "A woman, sir, I am told, should not meddle with politics, but this I will venture to say, that Ireland ought to be redeemed from her bondage, and whether it be done by repeal or some other instrument, let it be done." This man was a Roman Catholic priest; his parish including the fishermen of Arklow, who were all tetotalers, not one having broken his pledge. He was well skilled in the doctrines of his church, but complaisant and patient under contradiction; and report says he has done much to improve the morals and the condition of his people. When I alighted, I was determined to remember the Radical coach, not forgetting the kindness of the driver.

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.