Grand Poorhouse standing unoccupied

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XVI (3) | Start of Chapter

A lofty well-finished poorhouse was back of these abodes of misery, and the old lady leaving her potatoes showed me up the slippery path-way to the gate. She had said there was no fire but in the kitchen and the school-mistress' room; I replied that this was not the case in any other poorhouse I had visited, and I should like to see it for myself. When we reached the gate it was closed, and no admittance; the keeper was not there, and not a person in it, and never had been, though all things had been ready for a year; the farmers stood out, and would not pay the taxes. The old lady was right respecting the farmers and their taxes, but was quite confused about the fires and fire-places. The poorhouse was certainly the most respectable looking of any building in Bantry; and it is much to be regretted, that the money laid out to build and pay a keeper for sitting alone in the mansion, had not been expended in giving work to the starving poor, who might then have had no occasion for any house but a comfortable cottage.

I waded about the town an hour more to find, if possible, something more tolerable; but disheartened I returned to my lodgings, which were the only oasis in this woe-begone place. The next day found matters no better, and after again wading through a few streets,

I returned disgusted at the nausea, which was sickening in the extreme. I left an Irish Testament where the man of the family could read Irish well, and where no Bible had ever been. The peasants in this part of the country are not so afraid of the Scriptures if they speak Irish, because they attach a kind of sanctity to this language.

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.