The spirit of Caste injurious in Ireland

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VII

The spirit of Caste injurious in IrelandJourney to YoughalThe Blessed Well of St. DaganCabin HospitalityUncourteous Reception by Sir Richard MusgraveRebuff from a "great, good man"Rejoicings at Lismore for O'Connell's LiberationA DisasterBrutality of an Inn-keeper's SonDungarvanTwo silent QuakeressesThoughts on Irish HospitalityUnsuccessful Application to BianconiStrong National Peculiarities of the IrishUnpopularity of StepmothersSt. Patrick's WellA Poor Old WomanA Baptist MinisterHappy Molly

Of all the miseries entailed upon poor Ireland, that of "caste" is not the least, and in some circumstances you may as well be a beggar at once, if not a drop of high blood can be found in your veins, or if some title be not appended to your name.

Report had said that England was taking the liberty to break the seals of letters going from Ireland to America, and to retain such as did not suit her views of matters relative to the country. I had been in Ireland more than three months, had paid postage on a package of letters, but had received no answer, and was in much perplexity on account of it. When about leaving Cappoquin, I was advised by the good man of the house where I lodged, to call on Sir Richard Musgrave, who lived on his estate a mile and a half distant, and would give me information respecting the transmission of letters; adding, "He is condescending in manner, peculiarly kind of heart, a true friend of Ireland and O'Connell, and delights in doing good to Catholics, though himself a Protestant." All these qualifications were certainly something, and I reluctantly consented to call at his house. I found that he was not at his country residence, but was spending a few weeks on the sea-shore, at Whiting-Bay, eighteen miles distant. A steamer was about to start for Youghal, down the Blackwater, and would take me fifteen miles on my way. The morning was a little dull, but the sun at ten o'clock broke through the clouds, and lighted up such a landscape as is impossible for me to describe, for Blackwater scenery is Blackwater scenery, and nothing else. It was not a cloudless state of mind that caused this bright vision of things, for I was going against my own inclination; but the reality so broke upon me at every new winding, that, in spite of myself, I must admire if not enjoy. A preceding rain had given a lively tint to tree and meadow, and nature appeared as in the freshness of a May morning, though September was well advanced, and the yellow hue, contrasted with the more sombre foliage of tree and hawthorn with which meadow and water were fringed, heightened the beauty of the scene. The cows and sheep were grazing upon hill and dale, and the song of the happy bird lent its notes of harmony. If for a moment the prospect was confined by a short turn in the river, the next a broad vista opened which displayed extended towns, rising cultivated hills, a stately mansion perched upon some shelving rock, and now and then a mutilated castle or abbey. Five ruined castles meet the eye in sailing fifteen miles upon this river, and though they speak loudly of the uncertainty of all human greatness and human hopes, yet they are a kind of pleasing proud memento to the heart of every Irishman, that his now oppressed country had once her men of cultivated tastes as well as of warlike feats. When passing through the vale of Ovoca, I thought that nature could do no more than she had there done; but on the banks of the Blackwater she showed me that a bolder stroke of her pencil had been reserved for this outline. Let the traveller gaze upon the picture, and tell us, if he can, what is wanting.

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.