Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XII (10) | Start of Chapter

January 14th.—Arose early to depart, and felt a regret at leaving so kind a home and so interesting a woman. In search of knowledge she was hungering and thirsting, at times insensible to anything else; dropping her Douay gospels when a customer entered, with her handkerchief wrapped about it, and catching it up the moment her shop was vacated. I left a small Bible on the counter one morning, to go out and spend the day, and the next morning I heard her telling the story of Joseph to a servant with the most minute correctness. "Pray," said she, "that I may not lose my soul," as she grasped my hand for the last time. I had a three miles' walk before I could reach the coach in anticipation, with a boy to carry my bag, and should have mentioned that the hostess would take nothing for my food, and but little for my lodging. I reached the stopping place of the coach in good time to give a temperance lecture to a company of travellers, who were taking their punch; at first they made light of it, but soon became sobered when I cited them to the judgment, where we must all appear. And here allow me to say to Bible readers, that never in all my tour did I fail of a patient hearing among the most incorrigible or trifling, whenever I solemnly cited them to a day of final retribution. They seem to have a most solemn awe of a judgment to come, and the obligation they are under to a Saviour for his death and sufferings. I had a great and attentive audience, with a multitude of "God bless and speed ye on your way; for sure ye're a wonderful body, and the like of ye never was seen." A good seat on the coach, and a pleasant ride through Rathdrum, Arklow, Gorey, and Enniscorthy to Wexford, made me forget I was a passing stranger in a strange land. At Gorey, an intelligent Irishman got upon the coach; he was full of talk and pleasantness, gave me much information of the places we passed, offered to find me a good lodging house, and show me the town of Wexford the next day.

It was dark when the coachman blew his horn at the town, and my talkative companion, after repeated efforts to procure private lodgings, sent me with the coachman to the office, with the promise to send a man and find a lodging, which was done by placing me in a hotel. This was unpleasant; for a solitary female feels herself more in a crowd, and cannot mingle with the inmates at all, to get or give information; but here I was kindly treated, had a parlor and bed-room entirely to myself, a kind servant to do all, stayed twenty-four hours, had two meals of potatoes, milk, and salt, and the whole for a shilling. It was a well ordered house, conducted by two young sisters, orphans, who were left in charge of this by their father; and to the stranger I would say, call at the Farmer's Hotel at Wexford, for comfort and respectability.

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.