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.