New Birmingham Colliery

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VI (4) | Start of Chapter

My next visit was to the Colliery at New Birmingham. At an early hour, the vehicle was to set off on which I was to have a seat. This was a baker's cart, and I was perched on the top of the box, with no resting place for my feet but the back of the horse, which required some exertion for me to reach, as well as strength of nerve to keep them there. A brother of like occupation with my companion accompanied us, and as the carts passed the cabin, the inmates poured out, not only to see the "American stranger," but to admire the throne on which she was elevated. The merry driver did his duty in pointing out every object of curiosity on the road, as well as procuring me a welcome to Ireland from every man, woman, and child that we met, and an invitation to call on them on my return. One old man crossed a field to see me and invite me to his house, saying, "I have heard of ye, and I give ye a hearty welcome to our country." Promising all as I passed that I would call on my return, we moved slowly through the settlement. Reaching the foot of a hill, at the corner of a wall lay a female wrapped in a cloak. Approaching her, I uncovered her face; she looked slily upon me, and drew the cloak over her head, when the driver called out, "she will not speak to ye; she is a silly cratur, who sleeps out of doors, going where she pleases; and when the storm is strong, somebody gets her and locks her in; but she bawls so loud they can't keep her; she's innocent, and has lived so for years."

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.