Battle of the Sticks

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XIX (15) | Start of Chapter

Sticks were flourishing in the air, and to appearance they were fighting each other instead of the persons. One old woman rushed into the crowd to rescue her Paddy, and she was dragged along regardless of age or sex, her cloak was torn from her, her cap set awry (bonnet she had none), and while one pulled one way, another seized the other side, till the sight from the ludicrous became painful, lest she should be "pulled in pieces." The priest was called, but they heeded not the threats and denunciations from the altar, which he assured them they should have on the morrow. Sacrifices were more to them than altars or peace-offerings, and he was obliged to leave them as he found them, to rattle their sticks, as they did till midnight, though it was next day reported that no dead or wounded were carried from the field that night.

In the evening a tidy well-dressed young woman came in, whose dialect and manner were so much like the Americans, that I asked if she had not been there. She answered that she had resided in New York ten years, and returned to take charge of a sickly mother. I had noticed throughout all Ireland when a servant girl returns from America that a great change is evident in dress, manner, and language. She ceases to become a beast of burden, and the basket on her back, which she then throws off, she will never lift again. She confines her services more to the inside of the cabin, and this undergoes a manifest change for the better.

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.