A Family Party

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER I (22) start of chapter

Peter was anxious that I should pay a visit of courtesy to a friend of his in Pictou, but appeared to be somewhat doubtful as to my compliance with his wishes. 'To tell you the truth,' said Peter, with an air of no little mystery, as we were again crossing the harbour, 'he is an Orangeman, or something of that kind, anyhow; but he's from your own part, and I know he'd be glad to see you—indeed he let me learn as much from himself. 'Tis true, he's not one of ourselves, but he's a mighty decent honest man still.' Much relieved by the genuine readiness I expressed to meet 'the Orangeman, but a mighty decent honest man,' our return trip was rendered additionally pleasant to Peter, who enjoyed the appearance of the church on the hill-side with more than usual satisfaction. I paid the promised visit to the sturdy Protestant from Bandon; and not even from Peter himself could I receive a more cordial welcome than from the former inhabitant of that famous borough. The whole family, parents and children—the latter intelligent and nicely reared—were glad to see one from the old country. This 'Orangeman, but mighty decent honest man,' brought with him but his industry and skill as a boot-maker; but being steady, sober, and honest, he was doing an excellent business, and employing several hands. His neat drawing-room, with its piano and pile of music, bore the most pleasing testimony to the comfort and taste of the family.

One other visit I made under the auspices of my friend Peter. That was to the Poor-house, which offered a remarkable contrast to similar institutions at home. It contained four inmates! who formed quite a cosy family party, and seemed to take the world and all its troubles, including the vexed question of Confederation, with philosophical indifference, or, as Peter expressed it, 'mighty easy.' A fair percentage of such poor-houses would constitute an agreeable variety in Ireland. The snug family party of four spoke well for the material condition of this part of Nova Scotia; and if it did not prove the existence of great commercial activity, it at least indicated the absence of real poverty.

At a late hour at night I went on board the steamer for Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and the last hand I clasped ere I bade adieu to Pictou, was that of Peter C——, who, if allowed to have his own way, would have placed his 'particular friend' in charge of everybody in the ship, from the captain to the captain's 'boy.' Indeed, so considerate was Peter, that, had I only consented to the process, I believe he would have had me labelled as well as my baggage. In the last moment I voluntarily renewed my promise, that I would not disclose to mortal man the slightest information as to the 'bits of ground' upon which Peter had reposed his speculative eye.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America