A Good Methodist

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VI (6) | Start of Chapter

My letter of introduction was to Mr. Scanlin, a local Methodist preacher, who acted as agent among the miners, and also as a kind of missionary. His good wife sent a little daughter to show me to his office. He received me kindly, explained the machinery, etc., and introduced me to the miners, who welcomed me heartily.

This agent was in appearance all that a Christian should be; unassuming, and full of that benevolence which does not exhaust itself by words and tears, but makes sacrifices of individual ease to promote the good of others. He possessed talents which would adorn a higher station than that of weighing coal and inspecting mines; but for a small salary he is spending his time, and truly "condescending to men of low estate," to do what must be done, and what few possessing his abilities would be willing to do. "Tell your mother," he said to his daughter, "that she must not let Mrs. N. leave us to-night." His wife willingly seconded the hospitable invitation, and my stay was protracted to two nights.

This mother acted as school-teacher to her children, who were seven in number, and appeared to be tractable pupils; they were instructed to fear God and keep his commandments, as the whole duty of man. I regretted leaving this family, who had made my stay so pleasant; and leaving them, too, buried in coal-pits, and deprived of the privilege of educating their children, or enjoying life more congenial to minds of their stamp.

I visited the house and pleasure-grounds of an estated gentleman near the mines. The gardener kindly showed me the grounds of his master, presented me with such fruits and vegetables as he thought I liked, and introduced me to the dairy-maids, who showed me the Irish manner of making a kind of cream-cheese. This is done by putting the thick sour cream into a cloth, hanging it up till the thinner part has dropped from it, and then putting it into a hoop like a sieve, and pressing it down tightly. The house was elegant, the ottomans and stools covered with needle-work wrought by the hands of the mother and daughters. The servants spoke kindly of the master and mistress. It is quite pleasing to find, here and there, a landlord who sheds comparative comfort on his domestics and poor tenants, and gives them cause to bless rather than curse him in their hearts. "Here is a dispensary," said the housekeeper, "which the mistress keeps for the poor, and when any of the tenantry are sick, they are supplied with medicine gratis. The master keeps a hundred men and women in his employ, including miners, and pays them punctually the eight-pence a day, beside granting them many extras, which greatly lighten the burdens of the poor.

I found but one thing to regret in the good family of the Methodist; two gentlemen called, and the kind woman, according to the usage of the country, presented her whiskey, not because she wished to do so, but because they wanted it. I begged her to renounce this wicked custom, and all who heard me acquiesced in the correctness of my principle, but thought that when taken in moderation the strong drink could do no possible hurt. One of the party was a Roman Catholic. He invited me to his house, and introduced me to his wife, who made me feel quite at home, and her four talented little sons wanted nothing but a little of Solomon's rod to make them an ornament to society. Here I was entertained with Irish legends and tales, which lost none of their interest by the manner in which they were related.

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.