Visit to the Schools at the Colony

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XXVI (6) | Start of Chapter

Meeting the good Dr. Adams near his own door, I inquired if they had no better accommodations in the colony than those which had been served up to me the preceding night; that I regretted that they had no more self-respect than to send a stranger there, even if they had no Bible knowledge of the claims of a stranger. I then asked if I could buy a piece of bread in the place, and was answered "Not any." To do justice to the doctor, he said to the friend at whose house I dined the preceding day, that a comfortable place should have been provided for me to lodge; and I should not have been shocked at his Christian benevolence had he given me a breakfast at his own table. A third, who was standing by, said, "Mrs. Barrett has occasionally sold it;" and the other then kindly invited me to his house for a breakfast; but as there was a little probability of getting bread at Mrs. Barrett's, and the kind man had given me a dinner the day before, I declined, went to Mrs. Barrett's, and not only bought a roll and got a breakfast at two o'clock, but was offered a decent bed in a snug little room without charges, and their kindness never abated while I was in Achill. After breakfast I visited the infant-school. The children, who were orphans, were tolerable in appearance, though the dresses of some needed a little repairing; and their inattention to their lessons was in agreement with the management of the teacher, who certainly did not take her diploma in the University at Glengariff, where the schooldame said, "I teaches sewing, ma'am, and they gets along finely," for there she would have been instructed to offer strangers a seat, and to treat them with a little civility. I next visited the female-school, taught by a young lady from Dublin; the room was cleanly, the scholars the same, and the writing, which was all I saw, commendably done, and the teacher somewhat civil. I then entered the school for boys; they were reading a chapter in Acts, and the teacher requested me to examine them. I did so; they answered well, and evinced good training, and the teacher showed that he was not afraid to be decently courteous. I now felt myself rising a little in the scale of respectability by these three steps of regular advance, and returned quite satisfied with my afternoon's visit. Mr. Barrett requested me to give him any letters of introduction I might have, as he wished to show them to Mr. Nangle. I had one from a Protestant clergyman in New York to a gentleman of respectabilty in England, a friend of Mr. Nangle's. I had a second from good authority, who was an Editor of a Christian paper, and a small religious manuscript, which I thought of getting printed: these I sent, accompanied by a note, that I would call when I returned from an excursion to the other side of the island in a day or two.

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.