A Tremendous Coach-load

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter III

Visit to the County of WicklowA Tremendous Coach-loadHorrors of the JourneySafe Arrival and kind ReceptionA Happy FamilyShelton AbbeyArklowBeautiful SceneryArklow FishermenDomestic TurmoilRathdrumVale of AvocaWicklow Gold MinesA Hungry ManAn Old War HorseA Scriptural AnswerVisit to a Rectory

On Wednesday morning, with my good friend at Dorset-street, I found myself at the coach at half-past five. She left me, and an hour too soon prepared me a little for the day's strange movements which were before me. The hideous loads of trunks, chests, hampers, sacks, and baskets, which for an hour were in ominous fixings and re-fixings, gave fearful note of preparation. "Where shall I sit?—My trunk must be here—My band-box will be all jammed up—And wont you please make a little room for my legs?" began half an hour before the horses were brought, while I at a respectable distance stood with basket in hand, waiting a clearance of the ladder, that I might ascend. Seeing an opening I improved it, and fixed myself in mid air with one foot on terra firma, the other seeking rest and finding none. And now the full tide of battle set in. I had been seated by the coachman in a few inches of space, just left by an old fat man in breeches who had moved to have a trunk put up; and when he turned about for his seat, and found it filled, "You have got my place, ma'am." "Sit still," jogged another fat Irishman, "make sure of what you've got; and here, sir, you can take it quite easy on the top." Behind us was a kind of scaffolding erected, of sufficient width to seat two. Here, after much grumbling, the old man with his bundle was adjusted, his footstool the necks of each of us, who in turn handed or whirled his heels to the next, while the poor man ever and anon was heard to say, in a subdued tone, "That woman's got my sate." "Be aisy," said my fat neighbor at the left, when I gave signs of pity for the old man. "He's doing quite well." And now the storm was working into a tornado. A modest-looking young girl, who had waited patiently to be seated (for all this time we had not stirred an inch from the door) asked what she should do. "What shall you do?" said the boor of a coachman. "Sit where you promised, or don't sit at all, on the top of the luggage." There was no alternative; what with hoisting from below, and the old man pulling from above, she was seated upon her perilous throne, while we had a second pair of heels to dispose of, to the no small annoyance of the poor man on my left, who did not like to make the same rude arrangement of them as he made of the old gentleman's.

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.