Scarcity of Female Beauty in Galway

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter IX (19) | Start of Chapter

Friday.—Early I prepared for a walk of eighteen miles to Galway. The road was muddy, and there was quite an appearance of rain. The kind people did all they could do for my comfort, and asked me two-pence a night for my lodging. This was the stated price to all. I was soon joined by a man and his wife, with a car, riding alternately, which made the journey slow, and they kindly relieved me of my basket; and I walked nine miles with tolerable ease. I was resting upon a stone when the post-car arrived, and offered to take me to Galway for a shilling. I paid it, light as was my purse, and reached the town at two o'clock, with half-a-crown.

This ancient sea-port is celebrated in history for many a wonderful tale. It is not an inviting city for a stranger, on a muddy day; the suburbs are wretched in the extreme, and not in all Ireland, Bantry excepted, can there be found more that is forbidding to the eyes of strangers. The fishwomen, which are abundant there, are coarse and ugly in their looks, and none in all Connaught could exceed them in staring; and follow me they would, from street to street, from shop to shop.

I found a comfortable lodging-house in some respects, and in some it was uncomfortable; but knowing that slender purses must not put on airs, I went to the post-office to ascertain whether a letter were in waiting, but found none. Sixpence a night for lodging was the price, and find my own potatoes. I had five sixpences, and with these I must make my way back to Kilkenny. I had no fear, for I knew all would be right, and so I perambulated the town, and saw what I could see, enjoyed what I could enjoy, and then went home for the night.

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.