Trip to Blarney

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XIV (9) | Start of Chapter

Saturday, February 8th.—The kind Mrs. Danker called in her carriage, accompanied by a young lady and the only son of Mrs. D., a boy of seven, with a basket of eatables, and I joined them on the promised tour to the far-famed Blarney. Our first depôt, after seven miles' ride, was to the door of Father ——, his name quite out of mind by looking at the man himself—a genuine Irish priest of the olden coin. He met us at the door with a three-cornered hat upon the top of his crown at a respectable distance from his ears, and so pliable at the corners, that it seemed bending to hear whatever the divine might wish to communicate. He carried a red full face, jolly countenance, with bone and muscle aspiring to the weight of two hundred. He gave us a true Irish welcome, and ushered us into the kitchen till a fire would be made in his bed-room, which served, too, for drawing-room and parlor. "I'm allowed no wife and brats to privilege me with the comforts of a separate parlor; and a poor parish priest must take his herring as he can get it. But this forty days Lent! My heart is scalt and my tongue parched with this blackguard salt herring, and not a divil of a fresh bit of beef are we allowed; and so you see I can set you no dinner but a bit of bread and cheese, and a fish." Assuring him we had plenty in our basket, he presented a bottle of wine with a volley of anathemas on tobacco, declaring that "no man that used it was fit for the divil."

The old priest was a great antiquarian, could tell us all that had transpired in Ireland since the year 1, in natural or political history, the nature of all sorts of minerals and vegetables, and assured us that no man living knew these things so well. And besides, he had the best disciplined parish in all Ireland—the best fed and the most honest people in all the world. I was informed by others that this was all true.

"If ye'll take no dinner, though I hate Blarney, yet, for the sake of this American, I'll go and show ye, and walk with her while the ladies ride." For a mile my wondering ears were crammed with tales of ancient chieftains in Ireland's days of glory, till my ohs and ahs of wonder growing fainter, he ordered me into the coach, to leave him to take a shorter route across the meadow; and soon the fat priest, triangular hat, and dog, were lessening in the distance. But when we overtook him, and he found that his company were not allowed to take their carriage through the gate, his indignation was roused, that menials dependent on him should dare to use him thus.

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.