Walk to Oranmore

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter IX (25) | Start of Chapter

Monday, at two o'clock, finding my letters had not arrived, and that three nights had made quite an inroad into my half-crown, I saw that a walk to Urlingford was the only alternative. The kind woman urged me to stay another night, and when I told her my money was nearly spent, she invited me to stop free from charge; I did not, and the mud and clay made me almost regret that I had refused.

A young student from Dublin, who was lodging in the same house, accompanied me two miles out of the dreadful suburbs of that city, which for filth and wretchedness exceeded all I had seen. I could do no more than look in, for an attempt to wade through would be next to perilous. When the young man returned me my basket, he said, "You will reach Oranmore by dark, if you hasten (a distance of two miles and a half), and possibly I may see you in Dublin." I had no alternative but to nerve myself for what was before me. Oranmore I had never seen; I might not reach it till dark; and then a lodging! this was the most to be dreaded of all. On I went, sometimes leaving a shoe in the clay, and never finding a dry spot for my feet, till at sunset the little town was reached. Two applications for lodgings were refused, both full; the third one receiv-ed me. But when I asked, "Will you give me a clean bed?"

"I had rather have two men than one woman," was the answer; "two men will sleep together, and make no fuss; but women are always finding fault."

"True," I said, "we always find it so in New York."

"New York! have you lived in New York? I too was there six years, and wish I was back again; but my husband was homesick, and would not stay."

Everything was now reversed; she thanked God for bringing me, telling me I might stay in welcome as long as I would. She took me into a snug room, and said, "See! I keep my beds as they do in New York; make them up nicely, and leave off the sheets till a lodger comes, and then give him coarse or fine, flannel or linen, as he may choose, and you may have which you like." This was turning the picture indeed. Pat came in, and made me as welcome; and we talked of New York to our heart's content. "I was a fool," said Pat, "that I came away."

She lived with a clergyman's family, though she was married before leaving Ireland, and Pat was employed elsewhere. They had not been idle or improvident, but saved considerable, and returned to spend it in their own country. They kept a shop and lodgers, and had many little comforts which are not common in Ireland. This was truly a pleasant evening to me, and the next day rain kept me there, much apparently to the gratification of the kind creature. I told her what a fearful purse I carried; "and I'd not empty it of a farthing, if you had a million."

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.