Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XIII (8) | Start of Chapter

My stay in Waterford was short. A walk through and over the town gave me a view of its buildings, and an entrance into the cabins a sight of its misery. One poor Englishwoman told me she was a Protestant, but appeared to know no more the meaning of the word, or the way of life and salvation, than did the seat on which she was sitting. And lamentable as it is, the lower class of Protestants, wherever I have met them in Ireland, are more ignorant of their religion than the same class among the Catholics. Their teachers do not pay the attention to the poor of the flock, as the ever-watchful Catholics do; and the prayer-book, mumbled over at church, is the only pilot many among them think necessary to take them safely into port.

I saw nothing here of particular note, but the quay, which is convenient and handsome, and an old round tower for the transient confinement of unruly persons, bearing date 1003 marked upon its dingy front. The house where I lodged could boast little else but filth, and the people who resorted to it vulgarity, and at three in the afternoon again took a car for Clonmel. I had now again reached the depôt of Bianconi's monopoly, and found sound and lame horses, double and single cars, with aprons "tattered and torn," and dilapidated seats, defaced by long friction, still adding to his purse, while his coachmen, thrown upon the public with tenpence and a shilling a day, if not asking for rent, are "looking daggers" at every passenger who ventures to leave without a shilling; yet Bianconi is a "noble man." "All men will speak well of thee, when thou doest well for thyself."

I was tremendously crowded, but said not a word, for I had found that silence in all troublesome cases was the best defence and only remedy. A stopping place packed another talkative, would-be-learned Irishman at my right; and as the stars looked out upon us, he turned to a neighbor, and talked scientifically of the planet Jupiter, and his moons, ventured a little upon the ring of Saturn, and ended with an ardent wish to see Lord Rosse's telescope. So sorry was I when the lecture ended, that had it not been presuming for a woman to know that the moon is not a pot of curds and cream, I should have proposed a question or two, to have kept alive the conversation.

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.