Story 7 – So far from home

Many people wanted to know more about Ann Jackson. So while I was in Ireland, I tried to find proof if she was my great great great grandmother (mother of Rebecca). Unfortunately I still don’t have proof, but for my major assignment in Writing my Family History, I used information I had gathered from various repositories and books. Hope you like the story even though it is still very factual.

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“Excuse me, can I have some water please, a drop will do? Just to wet my lips.”

As I lie on the wooden boards that have been set upon the ground as hospital beds, I look at the other people nearby, moving around and moaning. Has it only been a week since our ship Superior arrived in the river near this quarantine station? We had to wait in line with about 15 other Irish ships, for doctors to come aboard and check passengers for signs of contagious diseases.

Eighteen Irishmen, women and children had died while on our  51 day voyage from Londonderry. Not that it was a rough voyage. Many of us were thin and starving before boarding the ship. This was due to potato blight and our English landlords selling all the corn and other vegetables we had grown. There was nothing left for us, the tenant farmers, to eat. We had to provide our own supplies for part of the voyage but we had so little. Food and water supplied by the captain didn’t last long. Some passengers ate too much too quickly. Very soon the hold where we all slept held a foul smelling stench.

The ship wasn’t large enough for all of us to live comfortably. Diseases were passed between the steerage passengers as we were sharing bunks with three other adults. Many of my fellow passengers ended up with dysentery. My children and I slept in our clothes even though they were wet and smelly from fluids dripping down from bunks above us. We tried to keep warm by huddling together on the same bunk.

“Thank you. Can you check this man lying next to me? He hasn’t moved over the last few hours.”

I am worried what might happen to my children, Mary Ann and Robert, once I am dead. I hear the doctors talking about typhus and the thousands of Irish immigrants who have died from it this year on Grosse Ile.

Luckily my children kept going up on deck in the fresh air so they haven’t been afflicted. Until the doctor checked me out, I thought I was also well. But when I mentioned I had a headache and often felt cold, he decided to send me to the hospital area on the island. Because the children had shared my bunk, but weren’t showing signs of contagion, they were sent to the emigrant shed instead. Maybe they will survive but I worry what will happen to them in this new land without a mother to guide them.

Since getting off the ship, I noticed I have a rash over my body and it is feeling itchy. Listening to the doctors, I know this means I have, at most, a couple of weeks to live as the rash will keep spreading, then I will go into a delirium, maybe a coma and die.

Two men have just taken away the man who was lying next to me. I think he succumbed to the typhus during the night. His body had been thrashing around and he had been talking about ridiculous things. I have seen the same two men digging huge trenches about 200 yards away from where I am lying. Every couple of hours I see them putting bodies into the trench. That will be me soon.

“Is there any gruel or bread that I could have, please?”

Perhaps we would have been better off if we stayed in Ireland.  But ever since the patriarch of the family William senior and his daughter, Rebecca, and son William junior had been sentenced to transportation, I have been harassed and threatened.  The remainder of the Jackson families in my townland didn’t think it was right that I had reported William and his gang to the constable but I hadn’t been punished. You see, I had also been part of the group stealing from houses around Carrigans in Donegal.

Since the trial, I have been terrified for both myself and my children. After begging the magistrate, Mr McClintock to do something, he wrote a letter to someone in Dublin asking if we could be sent to one of the colonies at Government expense. We were told we could go to Quebec and there would be five pounds for us to use when we got there. Just to ask the Emigration Agent. I thought we would be able to start a new, safe life here but …

“Nurse, nurse. Can you find my children Mary Ann and Robert? I need to hug them once more before I depart this earth.”

Have I done the right thing in bringing Mary Ann and Robert to this new country so far from their homeland in Ireland? What will be their future? Have they been infected like me or will they end up in an orphanage? Maybe they will find a nice family who will look after them, feed them well and allow them to develop into a strong woman and man within this colony. Perhaps they will find their way back to Mother Ireland and visit the haunts of their childhood around Carrigans.

I need to sleep. I’ll just close my eyes for a while till the children come.

“Bob, Jim, can you please move this body to the grave area?”

 

Bibliography

Irish Genealogy Toolkit, Coffin Ships, http://www.irish-genealogy-toolkit.com/coffin-ships.html

National Archives of Ireland, Donegal Outrage Papers 1847, relating to Ann Jackson, digital copies held by author http://suewyatt.edublogs.org/2015/05/30/donegal-outrage-papers/

O Laighin, Padraic, The Irish in Canada: The Untold Story, excerpt online http://gail25.tripod.com/grosse.htm

UPDATE  UPDATE

Just thought I would mention I received 80/100 for this assignment. Feedback included great research showed throughout the narrative, emotion and tragedy of the piece shine through. Improvements could be integrate sources more smoothly eg 18 Irishmen etc and some dialogue is outside the narrator’s voice.

Overall I am very pleased with this piece of work as I know I am not a very good narrative writer, more a factual researcher.

Story 6 – Pride in Growth

What a difference ten years could make? Standing proudly at the horticultural fete, William remembered back to his youth in the old country. There he was in Enfield, a basic gardener learning the skills of weeding, pruning, growing seedlings and preparing the earth for growth of future plants and trees.

“First prize for a magnificent collection of pears goes to William Chandler.”

But by the early 1850s, he could see the demise of the market gardens where he worked and the build-up of residential housing. All because of the new railway making it so easy to get into London.

“First prize for a dish of Standwick nectarines goes to William Chandler.”

When he had the chance to come to Van Diemen’s Land in 1855, he took it very quickly. A chance for a new life in a new colony. No pollution, lots of new plants to study and maybe, just maybe, a chance for his own garden.

“William Chandler takes out three prizes for a dish of grapes.”

The past few years had seen a lot of changes in his life including marriage to his darling Caroline. They were so lucky to have her mother with them now that their family was growing.

“Second prize for collection of greenhouse plants goes to William Chandler.”

So here he was in Autumn of 1868, standing with his fellow Hobartian gardeners winning awards for those fruits and vegetables he had been growing with his own hands. Maybe not his own garden yet; that was going to be his future.

“Silver medal for collection of vegetables goes to William Chandler, gardener to his Excellency.”

Source:

1868 ‘AUTUMN, HORTICULTURAL FETE.’, The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), 1 April, p. 2. , viewed 24 Jan 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8851383

Story 5 – Murder at the lodging house

“Murder!” One of my children knocked frantically on our bedroom door. “Ma, someone’s being murdered in the back room.”

Dashing out of bed in my nightgown, I lit a candle and moved quickly down the hallway following the child.  At the doorway to the back room, I called out nervously, “What’s the matter?”

Someone inside the room replied. “Get a light missus, one of the men is being murdered.”

On entering the room, I saw a man, later identified as Richard Furlong, kneeling at his bed and stooping over it, holding his hands to his stomach. He had been stabbed but he was not yet dead. The woman he called his wife was sitting up in bed. This couple and another man had arrived at the lodging house about three hours earlier. All three were rather drunk when they arrived but they stayed up, sitting in the kitchen. About 9.30pm the man and his wife went to bed.

The other three beds in the back room were also occupied but I only knew the name of the woman Eliza Kelly or Higgins. She was now standing in the kitchen, screaming. Richard’s mate, dashed out the front door and ran to get the doctor.

I went to check the other bedroom where six more men were sleeping but one bed was empty. Where was that man? Had he committed the murder and then run away?

I remembered hearing Richard’s wife talking to the absent man earlier that evening. “Hello, what fetched you here?” He replied, “I only came here today.”

Source:  

1861 ‘THE LATE STABBING CASE AT EVANDALE.’, Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 – 1899), 23 February, p. 4. (MORNING.), viewed 17 Jan 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38757954
Background: The woman Isabella Colgrave nee Watkins is my great great great grandmother.

Story 4 – Garshooey townland

An ancestor of mine Anne Jackson (I think this is her married surname) lived in an area called Garshooey. This townland in Donegal, Ireland is just over one and half square kilometres in area. In the 1911 census there were only 64 people living there of which 23 were 16 and younger. Ten years earlier, out of the 86 inhabitants, 40 were 16 years or younger. Even in 2011, there are still only 66 inhabitants in 24 households.

So why were there so few people living in Garshooey townland? Looking at the historical maps of 1840s, there was a Presbyterian Meeting House and National School House west of the little town of Garshooey, a corn kiln to the north in Garshooey Upper and a flax mill to the south in Garshooey Lower.  There were lots of trees to climb, planted along the sides of the lanes in the townland. There was also a couple of mill ponds, maybe a chance for swimming or paddling on hot days. Through the centre of the townland was the main road between Londonderry (now called Derry) and Newtowncunningham.

By the 1850s, less flax and corn was being grown so there would be less cottage industry work for the women of the townland. There would also be less farm work for the men.
This may be a reason why the Jackson family resorted to theft during the 1840s, that finally resulted in transportation.

Story 3 – A New Adventure

Is this going to be my life for the next few years? Living in a couple of rooms, walking to my job as a gardener in Enfield or do I want some adventure?

Reading the local London newspapers, I see advertisements for emigrants to Van Diemen’s Land. That is a new British colony thousands of miles across the seas on the other side of the world. This might be my chance to eventually develop my own business rather than work for someone else.

After visiting the bounty immigrant office mentioned on the advertisements, I have now been assigned to Mr John Leake who lives in the Midlands in VDL. The immigrant agent told me Mr Leake was very important in VDL; he was a member of the Legislative Council and had the ear of the governor.

Surely a person of this stature would have need of a gardener and if I worked extremely well, maybe he could give me good references for future gardening jobs.

Travelling on the ship Fortitude with about 140 other immigrants, I arrived in Hobart Town early in 1855. Disembarking quickly, six of us were met by a servant of John Leake. George Jobson, who arrived with his wife Harriet and two young sons, was a coachman while both James Axton and I were gardeners.

It took two days by horse and cart to travel on the well worn road from Hobart to Campbell Town, a total of 82 miles. What was this property we were going to work at like?

My new adventure was about to begin.

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This was my first story written in first person rather than third person. Two students commented mentioning the tense changed from past to present a couple of times. They also said I needed to get more of his feelings and thoughts rather than all the factual info. Maybe I am trying to include too much in a short story.

This is about my great great grandfather, William Chandler, who began the Chandler’s Nursery in Hobart. Read more about it here http://www.chandlersnursery.com.au/our-history.html

Readers: Where else could I improve this writing? As it is only going to be published on this blog, feel free to re-write whole paragraphs if you want.

Story 2 – Notorious Jackson Gang

It is a cold, dark night in April 1846. Members of the Jackson family are inside the Monglass home occupied by Caldwell Motherwell.

“Da, hurry up,” whispers Rebecca. She listens intently for any sound coming from the bedrooms above.

“Don’t you be worrying, me girl,” William replies, “We still have plenty to get from here.”

“But, da, we all have a coat or cloak to wear. We don’t want to wake up Mr Motherwell with any sudden noise.”

Rebecca slowly edges to the doorway with her younger brother William, who was wearing a macintosh, and her friend Mary Jane Gallagher, who was wearing a cloak.

William the elder, Anne Jackson and Jane Steele, who were also members of the notorious Jackson gang, picked up the last of their stolen goods and followed the children out the doorway.

Quickly and silently they headed over the fields that should have been filled with potatoes, towards their home in Garshooey, about a mile away. But with the potato famine happening all over Ireland, there was little in the way of food to eat. Pawning the pieces of clothing meant food in their stomachs for another week or so.

Eight months later, Anne reports the thefts to the local sub-constable James Lowe. William, his son and daughter and Jane Steele are convicted of theft and sentenced to transportation. Thus begins a new life in Van Diemen’s Land for my great great grandmother Rebecca Jackson.

Source:

Report of court trial at Lifford Quarter Sessions, Donegal,  1 January 1847. Found in the Court of Petty Sessions records for Newtowncunningham held at Donegal archives, Lifford.

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Two students replied to this story mentioning a bit of confusion with the two William – father and son. Also to maybe set the scene more with lots more description.

Readers: Where else could I improve this writing? As it is only going to be published on this blog, feel free to re-write whole paragraphs if you want.

Story 1 – whale chase

“Thar she blows.”

Captain William Smith was at the wheel of the whaling barque, Marie Laure. Below him, on the deck, he could see his brother-in-law, Domingo Jose Evorall, readying the small rowboat. William knew the danger involved in chasing and harpooning a sperm whale.

“Lines in the boats.”

William remembered a time many years previously when he and his fellow shipmates were putting the lines carefully in place, fixing the pins and adding the harpoons. Boats were lowered, swinging dangerously close to the side of the rolling barque. Near the waves, the boats were quickly unhooked, sailors got oars ready to push against the sides if they got too close to the barque. It was then that the dangerous work began.

William, as mate, had been in charge of the chase and kept watch for the whale. The oarsmen pulled steadily. No time to look over their shoulders. The green hands, on their first chase, were they frightened or excited? Spouts were seen close by.

“Heave to.”

The iron was thrown; the flukes suddenly hit the water and sprayed the sailors.

“Stern for your lives.”

Boatsteerer making sure the boat doesn’t overturn; harpooner ready with a knife to cut the slack line if needed; the whale sounding or diving deep.  A drogue was now attached to the line to slow the speed of the diving whale. The line going slack but where is the big cetacean? Suddenly, great jaw open, he breaks the surface just in front of us.

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Much of the language for this was taken from a PDF document of an actual whale chase that William took part in in 1862. I had four students leave comments mainly about not knowing where and when the present time and the thoughts of William changed from one to the other. They said they got very involved with the story and could feel the excitement of the chase.

Readers: Where else could I improve this writing? As it is only going to be published on this blog, feel free to re-write whole paragraphs if you want.

Letter S challenge

I know what you’re going to say – where is the letter R challenge? I will write that one when the results of my DNA testing come in.

Stories

Writing your family history unit at UTAS involves writing short 250 word stories about an event or person in your family history. I am finding this unit very difficult. I don’t mind writing factual reports or timelines of a person’s life and including the referencing as I go. That is what I think a family historian should do so others can check the sources to verify facts mentioned.

Personally I feel once I start putting words into the mouth of my ancestor or writing about what their life was like or could have been like, then I am no longer writing family history but am writing fiction or narratives that can’t necessarily be proven.

But I did mention to the Facebook group I am a member of that I would include my short stories here, so they could leave comments about where I could improve. Click on the link for each story as each is a new post.

Story 1 about a whale hunt that relates to my great great grandfather William Smith

Story 2 about my great great grandmother Rebecca Jackson

Story 3 about my great great grandfather William Chandler

Story 4 about the townland Garshooey in Donegal Ireland

Story 5 about a murder story from Trove

Story 6 another about William Chandler

As I complete each story I will add the link.

Readers: How are you finding this unit? Can you recommend anything for me to read that might help me improve my storytelling skills?