Town without Bread

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XXIII (4) | Start of Chapter

Sabbath. Mr. Murphy preached a most solemn sermon on the judgment, and pointedly applied it to all classes, especially the rich, who bring up their children for this world. The building had once the finest gothic aisles that ever adorned a church in Ireland. Went again in the evening, and heard a second sermon from the same man, and wandered about the town till darkness warned me to return. But the lodging!

I had not slept a moment in Ennis, and I inquired if my room was the same? "Where you slept last night," was the answer. Determining that my bed should be changed, even if it were for the worse, I went out, and from house to house made diligent search. The army was going through the town, and lodging-places were taken up. A woman interested herself, and after many fruitless applications she hit upon an expedient. "Good luck to ye, I have it! a genteel woman lodgin' with me will give ye a part of her bed, and she's a lady that wouldn't disgrace any body in the kingdom. Here, miss, I've brought a fine lady from America, who wants a lodgin', and sure ye wouldn't refuse her half of yer bed. She's alone, a stranger, and ye know it isn't for the money I would take her." The miss gave a sideways-glance. "And 'tisn't every stranger I'd be takin' into my bed; and how came ye without a lodgin' so late at night?" This was all sterling sense, and telling her how I come in this plight, she changed her tune and bade me welcome. But I made only a sorry change with regard to comfort, though not so many chums in my room. Paid three pence for my lodging, and took the car for Gort, and reached it at ten o'clock.

Here I went from street to street, and almost from door to door, to find a roll of bread and a cup of cocoa. There seemed to be nothing to eat, and twice when I asked for bread, the answer was "The people of Gort don't eat, ma'am; we have no bread." I knew not what to say, or what to do; at last I found a few small loaves, and took a penny's worth, and left the town to walk to Oranmore, a distance of fourteen miles. Gort is a neat little town, pleasantly situated, but the answer to the question, "How are you getting along in Gort?" was,"The same as everywhere. Badly entirely, ma'am; Gort is a poor little town: the poor gets no labor, thank God."

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.