Guests to the Fair

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XIX (13) | Start of Chapter

On Saturday a fair was to be held; my feet had improved a little, and I should have left, but rain came on, and I stayed in doors. Friday night the gathering from the country commenced, and seven new lodgers required some little change, and I was removed into the gang-way at the head of the stairs, where all must pass on the way to bed. When each had gone to his lair, I went to mine, and when each had risen and clattered through, I did the same, and there was no nook in which I could ensconce myself but the kitchen. Here had gathered the whole fraternity, besides many of the sisterhood from without, some sitting on stools, some on chairs, others standing in waiting posture, some squatting near me, and looking me sharply in the face. The question, impious as it was, did certainly arise, whether these creatures had immortal souls, and could be made society for angels? Yes, through the blood of the Lamb they could, but if nothing unclean can enter heaven, they must not yet be quite ready.

They were waiting for breakfast, and as all could not afford "bread and tay," the great pot of potatoes was in constant requisition, one "squad" waiting on their haunches for the first to be served. One of a little more energy than the rest was hurrying the boiling by thrusting in his cane, with which he had walked through the mud, and from the bottom turning up a prize, squeezing it, and if not fit for mastication putting it back. No sooner was one batch done, than another supplied its place over the fire until the whole were served.

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.