Visit to a Poor Cabin

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XII (3) | Start of Chapter

The next morning, though it rained and the wind was violent, I walked upon the sea-shore, and seeing a miserable hut, made my way to it—a dark, cheerless abode. A man and sickly old wife were sitting by a pot of potatoes, which was kept boiling by means of dry fern, which the man was constantly applying to keep up the blaze. Three children of their own, and a nurse child, were in the room; the latter hiding herself because she was nearly naked. "She is ashamed, ma'am," said an elder girl; "she's not a hap'orth to cover her, and we can do nothing but give her the potatoe." The father said he had earned but half-a-crown in three months, had nothing to do from morning to night but sit, as I saw him. His wife was evidently in a decline, and when I spoke to her of another and better world, where the inhabitants should no more say, "I am sick," she turned aside with a look of disapprobation; and the husband, by way of apology, told the daughters to bring their premium Bibles they had got in Sabbath school. "We are Protestants, ma'am, and the children go to Sunday school; but it's many a day since the wife and I could get a dacent suit for the Sabbath." "Your pastor visits you?" I said. "Not a hap'orth do his feet ever crass the threshold of a poor man's cabin like mine, ma'am." I could only pity, and left them as hopeless as when I found them.

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.