Leaving Ireland 1840.
"Ireland Its Scenery and Character &c",
the work, complete with
illustrated sketches, by the famous "travel writers" Samuel Carter
Hall and his Dublin born wife Anna Maria Hall (nee Fielding), here
they describe the scene in Cork where they witnessed people taking
leave of Ireland in 1840”.
Their travels through Ireland during this
period included a stay at Browne's Hill House in Carlow, where they
were guests of William Browne.
They wrote of Carlow and included sketches
of local scenes. We will transcribe their account of Carlow later.
A complete set of their publications are
preserved in the PPP.
Cork is the great ‘outlet’ for emigrants
from the south of Ireland, and the Australian Emigration Society
have an agent there. Their plans appear to be conducted very
judiciously; and although it can never be aught but a melancholy
sight to see the most useful and valuable of its home produce
exported to enrich distant lands, when there are so many thousand
acres, unproductive, in all directions around them, the evil is
greatly lessened by prudent and sensible arrangements, in
transmitting them to the scene of their future labours.
We are not, at present, about to consider
the anomalies and contradictions of Ireland ‘her natural advantages
and destitute population ‘her land wanting labour, and her people
wanting employment’ or, as it was epigrammatically expressed by ‘a
patriot’ at Bannow, ‘lands wanting hands, and hands wanting lands;’
but there is no disputing the fact, that, under existing
circumstances, emigration to some extent is a necessary evil.
We stood, in the month of June, on the quay
of Cork to see some emigrants embark in one of the steamers for
Falmouth, on their way to Australia. The band of exiles amounted to
two hundred, and an immense crowd had assembled to bid them a long
and last adieu. The scene was very touching; it was impossible to
witness it without heart-pain and tears.
Mothers hung upon the necks of their
athletic sons; young girls clung to elder sisters; fathers ‘ old
white headed men ‘ fell upon their knees, with arms uplifted to
heaven, imploring the protecting care of the Almighty on their
departing children. ‘Och,’ exclaimed one aged woman, ‘all’s gone
from me in the wide world when you’re gone! Sure you was all I had
left! ‘of seven sons‘ but you! Oh Dennis, Dennis, never forget you
mother ‘your mother!‘ don’t, avourneen ‘your poor ould mother,
And Dennis, a young man ‘though the sun was
shining on his grey hair‘ supported ‘his mother’ in his arms until
she fainted; and then he lifted her into a small car that had
conveyed his baggage to the vessel, and kissing a weeping young
woman who leaned against the horse, he said, ‘I’ll send home for you
both, Peggy, in the rise of next year; and ye’ll be a child to my
mother from this out, till then, and then, avourneen, you’ll be my
When we looked again the young man was gone,
and ‘Peggy’ had wound her arms round the old woman, while another
girl held a broken cup of water to her lips. Amid the din, the
noise, the turmoil, the people pressing and rolling in vast masses
towards the place of embarkation, like the waves of the troubled
sea, there were many such sad episodes.
Men, old men too, embracing each other and
crying like children. Several passed bearing most carefully little
relics of their homes’ the branch of a favourite hawthorn tree,
whose sweet blossoms and green leaves were already withered, or a
bunch of meadow-sweet.
Many had a long switch of the ‘witch hazel,’
‘to encircle the ground whereon they were to sleep in a foreign
land, so as, according to the universal superstition, to prevent the
approach of any venomous reptile or poisonous insects. One girl we
saw with a gay little goldfinch in a cage’ she had her sister were
town-bred, and told us they had learned ‘lace-work’ from the good
ladies at the convent, ‘that look’d so beautiful on the banks of the
Cork river;’ and then they burst out weeping again, and clung
together as if to assure each other that, sad as it was to leave
their country, they would be together in exile.
On the deck of the steamer there was less
confusion than might have been expected. The hour of departure was
at hand ‘the police had torn asunder several who at the last would
not be separated’ and as many as could find room were leaning over
the side speechless, yet eloquent in gesture, expressing their
adieus to their friends and relatives on shore.
In the midst of the agitation, a
fair-haired boy and girl were sitting tranquilly, yet sadly,
watching over a very fine white Angora cat that was carefully packed
in a basket. ‘We are going out to papa and mamma with nurse,’ they
said, in an unmitigated brogue; ‘but we are very sorry to leave dear
Ireland for all that.’
Their father had, we imagine, been a
prosperous settler. ‘Oh, Ireland,
mavourneen’ oh, my own dear country ‘and is it myself that’s for
laving you after giving ye the sweat of my brow and love of my heart
for forty years!’ said a strong man, whose features were convulsed
with emotion, while he grasped his children tightly to his bosom.
‘And remember your promise, Mogue, remember your promise; not to let
my bones rest in the strange country, Mogue,’ said his wife; ‘but to
send me home when I’m dead to my own people in Kilcrea ‘that’s my
It is impossible to describe the final
parting. Shrieks and prayers, blessings and lamentations, mingled in
‘one great cry’ from those on the quay and those on shipboard, until
a band stationed in the forecastle struck up ‘Patrick’s day’ ‘Bate
the brains out of the big drum, or ye’ll not stifle the women’s
cries,’ said one of the sailors to the drummer’.
We left the vessel and her crowd of clean,
well-dressed, and perfectly sober emigrants with deep regret, that,
while there are in Ireland so many miles of unreclaimed land, such a
freight should be conveyed from her shores. The communicating plank
was withdrawn; the steamer moved forward majestically on its way.
Some, overcome with emotion, fell down on their decks; others waved
hats, handkerchiefs, and hands to their friends; the band played
louder; and the crowds on shore rushed forward simultaneously,
determined to see the last of those they loved.
We heard a feeble voice exclaim, ‘Dennis,
Dennis, don’t forget your mother’ your poor ould mother!’
- Document Transcribed by Selina Lawlor by kind permission of
Michael Purcell - Oct 2012.
- The information contained in these
pages is provided solely for the purpose of sharing with
others researching their ancestors in Ireland.
- © 2001 Ireland Genealogy Projects,
IGP TM By
Pre-emptive Copyright - All rights reserved
Back to the top