Departure of an Emigrant

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter V (12) | Start of Chapter

A sister of Anne's was about setting off for New York to look for service. Two brothers and two sisters had previously gone there, and succeeded well. She was to go with three others at ten o'clock in the evening, for Dublin. The time arrived, and the whole parish, young men and maidens, aged men and children, had assembled. For an hour previous all was silent. The hour drew near, the girl arose, flung herself upon the neck of a young companion, and gave a most piteous howl. It was reciprocated by the other, who cried, "Aw, Kitty, will ye crass the wide ocean, and will we never again dance in the field? O my darlin, my comrade, and why will ye go? O ho! and what will we do?" Kisses and sobs suppressed further utterance. The aged mother then approached. "O mavourneen, and why do ye break the heart of her who raired ye? Was there no turf in the bog—no pratees in the pit—that ye leave the hairth of yer poor ould mother? O my darlin', my only vourneen, and it's nine of ye I've raired, and as soon as yer heels are out of the ashes, ye run away from me, my darlin'. And what will ye do in the wilds of America?" She clapped her hands, and cried, "My darlin', my fair hair'd darlin', and was it for this I raired ye?" The howling now became louder; one after another arose, and united in the lamentation. Then a man from the midst cried out, "And be gone from the house, and stop your bawlin'; ye go to sarve yourselves, and why do ye bawl about the thing that's yer own choosin'?" He elevated a stick he had in his hand, and made a signal towards the door. All rushed forth, following the girls to the car, and the burst was more violent—the welkin resounded with howlings, while the mother sat down in the corner upon a bench, clapping her hands, rocking her body, and muttering, "O, aw, my fair hair'd little girl, and why did I say ye might go? Ah, fool that I was, and these ould eyes will never see ye again. Ye'r gone, my girl, mavourneen, my darlin'."

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.