Appreciation of Teachers

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XIII (4) | Start of Chapter

I was detained another week by the packet, and visited the scattered cabins in the neighborhood, and heard an unanimous chorus of prayers and blessings bestowed on their kind benefactors, particularly the good Lady Nevin. The little adopted favorite led me one morning to his school; over hedges and ditches, through bog and field, we made our way, to shorten the route, and reached at last the spot where the

"Village Master taught his little school."

He was a Catholic, and under a thread-bare coat, he carried a warm heart, and his head was not void of good common sense, clear discernment, and close thinking. "I despise the principle," said he, "of censuring a man because he does not attend the same church or chapel with myself. Let me see him love his country, and do by his neighbor as a Christian, let me see him love mercy and practise justice, and it is enough."

The little boy of my friends was the only Protestant child in his school, and when I invited the teacher to call upon us, his answer was not only indicative of high and noble sentiment, but a stinging rebuke on American practices in this country. "I thank you, madam, for your politeness, but I never put it in the power of aristocracy to treat me with contempt. Should I visit your friends, my dinner would be laid in the kitchen with the servants, and my society be the gardener and groom." I was not prepared to believe him, and on my return mentioned it to the mistress, who replied, "It would be so; my husband would not allow me to act otherwise, and I have never invited him to the house for the same reasons. I am much pleased with the instruction he has given our son, and should be gratified in showing him respect, but the laws of society in which we move forbid it."

I begged her, as an American, to show her husband a "more excellent way," if possible. I pointed her to the country she so much loved, where teachers are ranked in the highest grades of society, and to whom the child is ever pointed as a stimulus to exertion, knowing that as the teacher is prized, so will be the instructions he gives, for it is an established law, that the stream never rises above the fountain, and this accounts in part why the common people of Ireland are so content without education, and why so few among them, who are in a way of instruction, arise to eminence. A teacher whose salary compels him to wear a ragged coat, is a sorry profession hung out for the child to acquire, and a daily spectacle of indifference if not disrespect. A twenty-pound salary, coarse boots, rusty hat, and a potatoe eaten from hand in the kitchen!

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.