White-robed Procession

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XVIII (9) | Start of Chapter

Friday early, I heard the tolling of a bell, and was told it was the convent bell, tolling the funeral of a nun, the matron of the institution. I passed by the crowded gate, and though the keeper was preventing the entrance of the crowd, finding that I was an American stranger, the porter said, "Welcome, welcome in," and opened the gate. This was a favorable moment; the crowd, without preface or apology, rushed in, and pressed me by force into the convent yard. The procession was conducted by priests in white robes, followed by twelve girls in white; then the nuns in white robes, with black veils, and all bearing lighted candles; the priests reading prayers in Latin, intelligible to all but the listeners. They entered the high walled enclosure where the nuns were interred, and chanted a plaintive funeral song, while the corpse was being buried.

A gentleman approached, asking, "Have you seen the interment?" adding, "had I seen you before, you should have been admitted, as you are a stranger."

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.