New Light on Emigration

Published in the Carloviana. January 1947. Vol 1. No. 1. p. 25

Contributed by Miss T. Kelly.

The present small collection of letters from America. written during the second half of the nineteenth century, makes an interesting contribution to the history of Irish emigration. The letters furnish first-hand information about the difficulties facing the Irish men and women who were compelled by the bitter hardships of the famine years to seek a new home in America.

We have here some account of conditions aboard the emigrant ships of the dangers besetting the unwary on arrival in New York, of the type of work in which the emigrants were engaged and of their subsequent history.

The writers of these letters cast back a wistful and tender glance to the land of their birth, but have no desire to return to it. In their new home they had opportunities for advancement hitherto undreamt of.

Letters one and two were composed shortly after the writer's arrival in America; the third letter describes the progress made by the persons mentioned in the earlier letters twenty years later.

The manuscripts of these letters are in the possession of Mrs. Kelly, Pollerton Little, Carlow, by whose kind permission they are reproduced here.

To (Widow) Catherine Nolan,
Pollerton Co. Carlow,

Carlow Post.

Albany. - March 12th. 1851.

My Dear Aunt-I take this favourable opportunity of writing to you, hoping to find you and your family, in good health as this leaves us in at present-I thank God for it. I am now going to let you know the course of our voyage. When we came to Dublin we paid £20 for our passage from there to New York, got on board of the “Princess '' and came on to Liverpool. We got no delay in Liverpool but removed ' from the “Princess” to the ship “Albert Galattin,” - sailed out on the following day, the 17th of November, and remained on the river until the 20th and then went to sea and landed in New York on the 5th January. The Captain behaved very well to all his passengers but we had very stormy weather all through. There were 800 passengers on board. Out of them there did eight children die. None of us got any sickness but Denis and Margaret. They were sea-sick for 10 days.

When we came to New York the river was frozen. Then we had to come to Albany by railroad which cost us of £6 5 shillings. We took a room by the month at 2½ dollars. Ann and Eleanor and Margaret got situations in short after coming here. Ann and Eleanor are in the city and Margaret is two miles out in the country. Denis is working with Thos. Redmond making boots. 1 got nothing to do until the 12th of February. I am working since then in a foundry at £1 British per week. I have very easy work and Thos. Young is clerk over the furnace. It was he got me in. My father and Patrick and Mary remain at home. I would have written sooner but I was waiting for a letter from Lewis Doyle. I received his letter and good encouragement to go there, we intend to go there in short.

This is a good place for smart young boys and girls that wish to go in situations.

Dear Aunt, I am not going to encourage you to come to this country, but neither will I discourage you. But l if you are coming to this country you will be aware not to bring silver as your shilling would be worth but 20 cents and your sovereigns is worth 4 dollars and 84 cents. A dollar is 8 shillings American coin and but 4 shillings and 2pence British. People may think that if they get safe through Liverpool they are all right, but I can 1 assure you that there is greater robberies done in New York on emigrants than there is in Liverpool, because they dont know, when they are getting change of a sovereign, whether they are getting their right or not. I thank God that we were cheated out of nothing. People should be aware not to take Dollar Bills in New York as there is a great deal of them bad. If you get silver they may cheat you, but the silver is good.

The rates of provisions here are nearly the same as Ireland. Cashmeres and cloth, shawls and featherbeds and delph are very dear here. If you are coming here bring a Catholic Abridgement of the Christian Doctrine. Religion is carried on as well here as ever I saw in Ireland. My father and the children join with me in sending their love to you all. People agreeing for a second cabin passage are often taken in unless they agree for a poop cabin.

If you come to Albany you will get tidings of me by application to Thos. Redmond of Canal Street, No. 117, Albany State, New York, or if you write to his care I will be sure to get it.

Remember me to the Miss Keegans and Hugh Kelly and William Franwlin (and) to all enquiring friends.

I now conclude as I am writing by the light of a lamp going to 11 o'clock at night.~~

Yours Truly,

Michael Hogan

Source: Carloviana. January 1947. Vol 1. No. 1. p. 25

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