In Brigid’s Irish American history class, the students had 10 minutes to imagine themselves immigrating to the the US during the Famine and write a letter back home to their families. Brigid was truly impressed with some of the student’s creativity and they expressiveness. Brendan, Caitlin, and Rocky’s were her favorites. She wanted to share their letters with you. Enjoy!
Today, I heard the Paperboys yelling that the Irish famine continued to ravage the country. I found it amazing somehow, that even here in America people were struck by the plight of our brothers and sisters. How long, I wondered, until Skibbereen became a household name here as it had in Ireland. Yet, how more would it take for the English Parliament to care?
Many of my fellow Irish who came to New York when the blight struck have written misleading facts about just how great things are in America. I however, shall be brief on the subject. I am glad to have simply survived the journey, as many did not. People speak of the great opportunity in America, and they are right. However, the landlords here are not much more forgiving than their Anglo-Irish counter parts. -Brendan’s Letter
I write to you now as I sit among our family, gathered in a one-roomed tenement in New York City. We miss you all greatly. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to write sooner, but honestly, this whole journey has been one exhausting blur. I’m sure you understand. I know us Coynes don’t like to complain, but being the oldest, I must stay positive for all of the young ones. However, I need to let out my grievances somewhere. Hopefully, you don’t mind.
The boat ride was horrible. No privacy, hardly any sleep; I spent most of the time working on my knitting, which they confiscated at Ellis Island. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to come to America, though I must say the conditions here aren’t much better. I’ve been working very hard on my English, but these people refuse to hear me.
I finally got a job as a seamstress, but the pay is not great. I am trying to be glad, but I find it nearly impossible. My heart aches everyday for my dear family and country that I left behind. I must go now, as one of the children is ill. I will write as soon as I can. Sending you love.
Dear My Beloved Family,
I write to you today expressing my thoughts on this new life we have made for ourselves here in America. The wife and I are thankfully able to care for the baby. Yet, the work is still in the dregs of the docks and stockyards, but is still better than the Crown’s workcamps. We hear there is more freedom out in the West with opportunities of friendly fortune and no discrimination, unlike the discrimination we face here in the city.
New York is just as dirty as the streets of Dublin and is a forest of towering buildings I have been overwhelmed by ever since stepping off our shanty of a ship that seemed to be beaten by the waves like a rock on the shore.
May God protect you, and we’ll keep you I our prayers, as I know you do for us in this land of Protestants similar to that of the King. -Rocky’s Letter