Wonderful Natural Caves

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XV (2) | Start of Chapter

Monday.—I visited the great rock, from which the place receives its name, and which contains a valuable marble quarry. The laborers, some years since, had, in excavating the rock, found caves of immense extent, which are objects of peculiar interest. One into which I was shown had a narrow entrance, widening as you advance, and in somewhat a ziz-zag direction, until it brings you into rooms ornamented as if done by a chisel, these ornaments many of them hanging from the ceiling. Here are seats like small benches; an altar which had been much defaced by the ruthless hands of visitors carrying away pieces of the candlestick, &c. These chambers of imagery had been explored to the distance, some said, of a quarter of a mile, by the aid of a lantern, and no end yet found. The cave, from continued rain, was covered with three feet of transparent water, which had percolated through the stones, and I could only set my foot upon the rough side, and put in my head, and sing, which produced a long and sonorous echo, so that it could be heard at a great distance. These caves altogether are a wonderful and beautiful curiosity, and have given rise to a multitude of legends by the superstitious, and are still considered as sacred, because they have been the habitation of chieftains and fugitives from justice, or saints to do penance. The top and sides of the cave, in many places, appeared as if icicles had been formed and congealed upon the rock, lying in parallel lines, and shining like polished ivory. Nature certainly must have been sitting alone and undisturbed for centuries, to have cut and carved such a spacious hall.

But caves, Rock View, and the kind-hearted Fitzgeralds must be left; and I returned to the house to prepare for a departure. But rain prevented, and another pleasant evening was passed with this hospitable family. Early in the morning my breakfast was prepared, a respectable carriage made ready, and I was sent to the steamer, with my passage paid to Cove. This excursion was not a lost one. The two families where I stopped were stereotyped editions of every family I had then, or have since seen, in like conditions throughout the country; and so marked are these characteristics, that an observer need seldom mistake, without once inquiring the pedigree.

I must again leave; the constant adieus had become quite painful, and I knew when I should leave the family of Dr. Power, that privations and fatigues must attend me. My stay here had been the rest which was needed. No bustle of parties, but a quiet calm sitting down in the midst of a well-regulated family, where peace, comfort, and intelligence resided; where walking, reading, thinking, talking, eating, and sleeping, had their appropriate places. The kindness of the people of Cork will be had in everlasting remembrance; it will not wear out, but grow brighter by use. I said "good morning," and went out for ever from the beautiful Cove of Cork; leaving behind many a grateful remembrance, which none but a stranger can fully understand.

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.