True Delivery of my one-armed Charioteer

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XXIII (6) | Start of Chapter

Passing on, I reached the hospitable house of Oranmore, where I stopped in November, and was received with the kindest greetings, and kept without expense. The Connemara girl had long been gone, but no other changes had taken place.

A night's rest refreshed all but my feet, and I attempted to walk to Galway, as I had sent on my carpet bag, and felt a little uneasy. The distance was but four and a half miles, but my feet soon became so painful, that it seemed quite impossible to proceed. An old woman saluted me, "An' ye'll be kilt with walkin', an' wouldn't ye ride for sixpence? I know a poor man who keeps a little ass, that would gladly take ye for that." She took me to a hovel, and called out, "Here, John, wouldn't ye take a lady to Galway for sixpence?" "And that I would," said John, jumping out of bed. It was eight o'clock; the children were preparing for school, and though ragged they were not dirty. There were five of them, all with black hair and eyes, and the mother was a comely well-bred woman. The man had but one arm, and no means of support but by his cart and ass. In a few moments all was ready. I insisted that he should stop and eat his potatoe, though I saw none preparing. I found afterwards he had none, and no prospect of any till the sixpence should be earned. It was a touching case of uncomplaining want. When we were going away, the woman said, "Maybe the lady hasn't got the change now." Taking the hint that she wanted the sixpence, I said "Yes." But the poor man's sensitiveness was awakened, and he hurried me away with "Never mind—never mind," which made me anxious to hear his history. He had been a herder, with twenty-five pounds a year, and brought a swelling on his arm by lifting, which after twelve months of suffering ended in amputation. He lost his employment, and could do nothing but drive about that little ass and cart. "A kind gentlewoman, ma'am, was all my hope for many a year, who called on me to go on an errand to fetch a bucket of water, and never gave me less than a shillin'; and many a sorry day since I knew not where to get the potatoe. But God is good."

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.