Village of Grange

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VI (5) | Start of Chapter

A few little neat houses now opened upon us in a village called Grange, and the police (who are met all over this country, giving quite a relief to the eye), came out from the barracks, and gave me a hearty welcome. "And did you come from America to see us—from that fine country? and when do you return? I want to go to that land. I wish I could go with ye." I asked, "Have you business enough to give you exercise?" "No indeed! Father Mathew has so changed every thing, that our profession is entirely needless in some parts of the country." "I wish I was in America, and so do we all," said another.

A company of laborers repairing the road now stopped as I approached. "And how much do you have for this work?" I inquired. "But a little entirely; scarcely enough to give us bread; and when do ye go back? I wish I was there." "And how much do you get a day?" "Eight pence, ma'am; and it's but a little of the time we get that." "And what do you eat?" "Eat! ma'am, we eat potatoes when we can get 'em, and right glad too we are to have 'em." "And have you no bread?" "Bread! ma'am. Faith! that we don't; if we can get a sup of milk once a day, or a little salt, it's all we look for."

"And how can you live on such scanty fare?" "We can't die, plase God! and so we must live." "Are ye all tetotalers?" "Indeed we are; and have ye any in America? and are you one, ma'am?" On my answering in the affirmative, and bidding them good morning, they all said, "God speed ye! God bless ye! and I wish I could go with ye."

These poor creatures, wherever I go, are truly objects of great compassion. They are subjected to a virtual slavery, which is but a step in advance of the condition of the American negro.

I could not escape a house or cabin without being accosted, and I walked the distance of three miles up and down a hill with all sorts of company; some coming to meet me, and invite me in to rest, offering me a potato, or some milk; till at length a man was called in from the field by his daughter, to show me the colliers at the mines. The machinery was in operation, and the mines were eighty yards under ground, for the distance of three-quarters of a mile.

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.