A returned Emigrant

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter IX (10) | Start of Chapter

I had left the cabin when the mother called after me, "Will ye call, lady, upon Mrs. L——. She lives on the hill; she is rich, and could do anything for ye that ye might be wantin'. She's a good and a kind lady to the poor." Assuring her I had not come to visit the rich, and that I had enjoyed a good dinner in her cabin, she then pointed me to a family who had spent some years in America, and returned with a handsome fortune. I went to the house; the mistress was gone, but going to the barn, I found the man busied at work, who appeared quite Americanised. He told me much of New York, for he had left it since I had. He was whole and tidy, and made quite a contrast to the tattered one working with him. "You must go in, and take some dinner with us," he said. "I have had some potatoes, sir, and do not need any."

"Potatoes!" he answered, disdainfully. "You can't eat potatoes. I know what you have in America, and how you all live." For a half hour I felt transported to New York, forgetting that I had ten miles to walk, with a basket on my arm, in Ireland, alone. This man ten years before went to New York, with his newly married wife, not worth a pound; both went out to service, and both laid by money, and have now returned with a pretty fortune, "to lay their bones," as he said, "on the old soil."

"This goin' to America," said the laboring man, "makes the Irish, when they come home, quite altered entirely."

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.