Unsuccessful Application to Bianconi

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VII (12) | Start of Chapter

I was advised to avail myself of Bianconi's offer to all foreigners, to travel upon his cars free. This Italian, who some twenty years before came into Ireland and went about with a box selling trinkets, had by dint of industry and good management become rich. When he commenced his cars, he travelled for weeks without a passenger; but perseverance conquered, and he now owns thirteen hundred horses, and cars in proportion, and is at the head of Ireland in this department. He was at this time mayor of the town of Clonmel. I felt a delicacy in making my appeal, but yielded to the urgent entreaty of the friend who gave so many assurances of success from this best of men. My sensitiveness on the subject of great and good men had become so acute, that if left to myself I should have preferred staying upon the lower step. The request was made through the clerk of the mayor, my letter of introduction to a friend of Bianconi's being unsealed; the result was a failure, Bianconi refused; and the clerk told me frankly, that if I had come to see the poor of Ireland, I had come on a very foolish errand. He had left me waiting till the car had left, and I had not money to take me to Urlingford unless I went that night.

Unhesitatingly I turned to the gentleman who urged me to this step, and threw myself upon his protection until the next car should start. My stay was continued three days, till I had seen outwardly the most interesting part of Clonmel. Passing one evening through the churchyard, I saw the door of the church open, and was attracted by the voice of a child above; following the sound, it led me to a large upper chamber, where sat a man reading to a tidy looking woman, amusing herself with a child. This man was sexton of the church, and though a Protestant, did not seem so well suited with all the arrangements of that body as most of them were. The weekly meetings were kept up, he said, but often only three attended.

"And how do your Catholic brethren and you agree?" "Very well," said the woman; "we find them quite obligin', and I must acknowledge they are a more humble people than the Protestants."

This acknowledgment, though a merited one so far as I had seen, I did not expect from that source. I had seen rich Catholics and rich Protestants, and seen them both similarly circumstanced, but acting quite differently when any manifestations of either pride or benevolence were concerned.

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.