The Two Convicts

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter II (16) | Start of Chapter

Upon the back seat of the coach were two convicts sentenced to transportation, chained together, with three policemen as a guard. The eldest was a hardened veteran, singing merrily as we proceeded, with roses stuck in his cap. The younger, a youth of about eighteen, was sad, looking as if he was on the verge of bursting into tears. The sight was affecting. Poor boy! he might be fatherless, but have a mother whose heart has doated on him, and who still yearns over him; while, in some unguarded hour, the fatal deed has been done, which severs him not only from her, but from his country for ever; which makes him a disgraced exile, and drives him further into the thick meshes of sin and temptation.

When we arrived at Dublin, in Barrack-street, where the convicts were to exchange carriages, the host of beggars that surrounded us could only be equalled by the throng at Tullamore; and it is a matter of wonder how, at a moment's warning, such a herd of vagrants can be collected. They are like Pharaoh's frogs; they compass the whole length and breadth of the land, and are almost as much to be dreaded as his whole ten plagues; they leave you no room for escape on any hand; dodge where you will, they are on the spot, and the ill-fated stranger needs a fathomless bag, who ventures on a tour among these hunger-armed assailants.

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.