Come over the sea, ye suffering ones,
To the land which with plenty teems;
Come with your daughters and stalwart sons,
Where the sunshine of hope still beams.
Come over the waves-we want you here,
Nor deem this a stranger land;
The terror of ocean ye need not fear,
With the horrors of Famine at hand.
Carolan was born in
Thomas was a farmer
with a small plot of land in
Thomas Carolan, his
wife, and four children were among the first of the great famine migration
during which, between 1847 and 1854, more 2 million people left
The blight this time spread to every area in so short of time that a kind of wailing lament rose throughout the country wherever neighbors gathered. Those with tin cans of holy water flicked it into their faces, wet their fingers and made the sign of the cross, prayed and genuflected as though before an alter. Keeners at a wake could not have sent up more varieties of anguish and despair than did these Irish families at the sight of their whole year’s food supply being destroyed.
The men, pale and gaunt, their eyes wild and hollow, and their gait feeble, tottered about as though barely able to support the threadbare garments hanging from their bodies. The garments themselves, coarse frieze coats as decrepit as their owners, gave the appearance of having been worn without interruption in the street and at home, in bed and at work, from the day they were purchased. Nor was there the slightest sign that any attempt had been made to replace a button or mend a frayed pocket or lapel. Where sewn-in patches should have been, bare elbows poked through the threads that scarcely held the whole together. In some cases the coasts were so worn that they looked more like a net handing from the shoulders than a tailored cloth covering the body; the edges of some lapels were so raveled that they formed a fringe, and often a man whose sleeves had fallen off appeared to be wearing a fragmented cape rather than a coat.
“The extremity of raggedness,” wrote Thomas Carlyle after his Irish journey. “The whole country figures in my mind like a ragged coat, one huge gabardine, not patched, or patchable any longer.”
During the winter of 1846-47 alone, while more than 400,000 people were dying of famine or famine-related disisease, the British government, instead of prohibiting the removal of Irish food from Ireland, allowed 17 million pounds sterling worth of grain, cattle, pigs, flour, eggs, and poultry to be shipped to England—enough food to feed, at least during these crucial winter months, twice the almost six million men, women, and children who composed the tenant-farmer and farm-laborer population. Irishmen with starving families were expected by the British to watch and be resigned to the shipments made. On top of it all, no relief food was allowed to be shipped to Irish ports, from whatever country, except in British ships.
The rush to escape
At least 106,000 emigrants sailed for
The first step to
The Carolans likely loaded their belongings, if they took any, onto a cart and walked to the port city. Many of the inland population would remain in the Port cities, including Cork, Limerick, and Dublin, either by design, or because of limited resources, or simply because disease took its toll too quickly.
The nine-year-gap between the births of the Carolans’ daughters, Elizabeth (1834) and Catherine (1843), likely means that between two and four other children were born in the interval, and died of disease before the family was able to board the Patrick Henry.
were perhaps financially a little better off than many because they were able
to sail to
It became well-known that in
On the journey to
All the ports in the
By the mid-nineteenth century, Liverpool was the second largest city in
In 1806, the last year before the abolition of slavery in the
In 1999 Liverpool is the grandest British city second to
It seemed logical for most Irish emigrants to aim for Liverpool to embark
c) Passage to
Another reason why Liverpool became
the first port of departure for Irish emigrants was the improvement in communications
and the establishment of a fully developed shipping trade between
Therefore, emigrants could reach
The majority of those who fled to
50,000 of them were on business,
130,000 emigrated to the
The crossing was a traumatic experience for passengers. There was little cabin
accommodation. Moreover most ships were
carrying animals below deck and they were usually taken better care of. Indeed,
William Watson, managing director of the
- If you have both cattle and passengers you give the cattle preference?
- We can not have them both in the same places.
- But the cattle would be sheltered, and deck passengers would not be sheltered?
Few ships had steerage accommodation so most passengers had no shelter. They were exposed to the weather and often arrived exhausted, scarcely able to walk. Some of them even died on the way. But the fact that they stayed on deck throughout the voyage was not the only reason why they usually arrived in such a poor physical state. Most of the time steamers were overcrowded.
John Besnard, the general weigh-master of
John Duross, a constable of the Cork Constabulary, also said that he had known as many as 800 statute adults travel on a steamer, the average tonnage which was between 500 and 700. According to the Passenger Acts, two children counted as one statute adult so he said that there might have been as many as 1,200 people on board a steamer of 800 tons.
The public became more aware of the
frightful conditions on board the cross-channel vessels when papers like the Times
and the Liverpool Mercury reported on a series of tragedies. The
ship Londonderry sailed from Sligo to
In order to
try to stop the business of runners, before the renewal of their licenses, the government agent for
the effect that they would not give any fee, commission, or reward whatever, directly or indirectly, to
any person or persons for procuring
passengers in Liverpool for ships sailing to
as July 1850, the Morning Chronicle commented on the fact that this attempt would not stop the
system of paying runners to get passengers:
"Such, nevertheless, is the competition among the passenger-brokers, even of the highest
respectability, that it is in vain to expect that the system of paying commission for procuring
passengers can be entirely stopped. If commission be not paid as percentage to the old race of mancatchers,
it will be paid in salaries, or by some other means, to the accredited ‘runners’ of each
establishment, so that the system, somewhat modified and improved, will still continue…"
However brokers must not be seen as victims as the majority of them were dishonest and
took advantage of the emigrants. When they were in a rush to fill the steerages, brokers were known
to book emigrants for
assuring them that these places were only hours apart.
Some runners did even more than take emigrants to brokers. They appointed themselves
sub-brokers, sold passages for up to £5, bought real tickets to brokers at the usual £3 10s and kept
the difference. Illiterate emigrants were also sold half-fare children’s tickets or worthless out-ofdate
tickets. A few shipmates also acted as runners or connived with them.
It was in the interest of the emigrants and of the brokers that the system of plunder by
runners should be stopped. There were suggestions that runners should be licensed, made to wear
badges, and give money guarantees for good conduct. The system was tried but never worked.
The lucky had a place to sleep and prepaid passages in hand. However long they stayed, and many stayed for a week or more when the ships’ departure was delayed in order to sell more passages or secure more cargo, they found themselves in a world of crowded housing, unsanitary streets, and ethnic tension.
At the same time, the Carolans
likely marveled at
seen more beggars in one week in
Luck again was with
the Carolan family as many who made it to Liverpool were to die there of cholera,
typhus, or starvation before they could embark to
The trials the Carolans faced in
Liverpool were only precursors for the voyage across the Atlantic and the chaos
of landing in
A slowly evolving set of laws regulated the amount of sleeping space, food and water allocated to each passenger and the circumstances when a surgeon was required on board. Most of the most important regulation came, of course, after the heaviest migration.
On arrival at Liverpool, the Carolans once more had to find lodgings
while arranging for passage to
Like most, the Carolans had no way of knowing how to chose a suitable vessel. Many had no knowledge of the sea, nor had the ever been upon it. Most just wanted cheap passage, and to leave as soon as possible. But there were few good ships and many bad ships, masters were more likely to treat the Irish emigrant as human cargo, callously and oftentimes inhumanely, rather than in any kind manner, though by all accounts, the Carolans’s master, Joseph C. Delano was remembered as one of the best captains of the era.
Many of the vessels coming into the passenger trade for the first time and offering cheap passages were more unsuitable for carrying passengers than the timber or cotton ships. They were commanded by men who were said to be "ignorant of the trade, and of the means to be adopted to preserve the health of their passengers. When fever once broke out they became alarmed for their own safety, and would not go down into the hold, which from neglect of cleanliness soon became one vast reeking pest-house; the vitiated and contaminated air of which soon enfeebled those who were of necessity obliged to breathe it, even when not struck down with fever, and rendered them indifferent to all exertion, even to the preservation of life itself, that first law of nature.,,26
Not all masters were like this. Capt. Christian of the Sisters, for example, was able to remove the dead from belowdecks only by carrying them up himself since none of the crew or the passengers would help him. He caught the fever and died. Also dead of typhus: Capt. Sampson of the John Bolton and Capt. Fittock of the Ninian.
Dr. Douglas and most other medical men of the era claimed that three measures vital for the prevention of the spread of the fever were “separation, ventilation and cleanliness,” the first two were impractical in a crowded emigrant ship, the third very difficult to achieve because of seasickness and depression among the passengers.
Moses Perley claimed that many of the
timber ships frequenting
The commissioners responsible for emigration circulated in March 1847 a list of regulations that were to be followed on all emigrant ships. They were to be posted in at least three conspicuous places between decks and were to be enforced by the master assisted by “four or five of the most steady and respectable of the male passengers (married men to be preferred) to be called “overseers.” The fact that these regulations could not be enforced shows how ignorant the commissioners were of actual conditions on board a crowded emigrant ship.
It is very likely that they were posted on the Patrick Henry by Master Delano, as by all accounts, he was an upstanding and legitimate captain.
Emigrants were to be out of bed by 7 A.M., and all children were to be washed and dressed. Breakfast was to be at 8 A.M., dinner at 1 P.M., and tea at 6 P.M. Everyone was to be in bed by 10 P.M. Fires were to be lit on deck by 7 A.M. and out by 7 P.M. After dressing, all beds were to be rolled up and, weather permitting, taken on deck. They were to be well shaken and aired twice a week. The bottom boards of the berths were to be removed if possible and dry-scrubbed and taken on deck once or twice a week. The decks were to be swept before breakfast and after each meal. In the morning sweep, the area under the berths was also to be swept. The deck was to be "honey stoned" or scraped each morning, and washing days were to be set up, weather permitting. These were among the many regulations that were impractical or impossible to enforce, especially on vessels where there were overcrowding, sickness, and depression.
As the number of Irish wanting to
emigrate increased, conditions on the vessels tended to deteriorate, and this
led to demands from colonial officials for changes to the Passenger Act. The
increased demand to emigrate usually came at times when large numbers of
emigrants were suffering from disease, which only added to the problems of overcrowding
and insufficient food and water in many vessels. This was true in 1826, 1839,
and again in 1846 and 1847. The British government, however, was reluctant to
act, fearing that any regulations that would restrict the free flow of
emigrants would have disastrous consequences for
The fact remained that the Carolans had a far better chance on the
vessel they chose, for every death on board an American ship, there were three
on board a British; for every diseased person arriving in
Before the emigrant has been at sea he is an altered man. How can it be otherwise? Hundreds of people, men, women and children, of all ages from the drivelling idiot of 90 to the babe just born; huddled together, without light, without air, wallowing in filth, and breathing a fetid atmosphere, sick in body, dispirited in heart; the fevered patients lying between the sound, in sleeping places so narrow as to almost deny them the power of indulging, by a change of position. [T]he natural restlessness of the disease; . . . living without food or medicine except as administered by the hand of casual charity; dying without the voice of spiritual consolation, and buried in the deep without the rites of the church.
Gallagher, Thomas. Paddy's Lament:
Gallagher, Thomas Michael. Paddy's Lament :
 Gallager, 41.
 Rushton’s letter to Home Secretary of 21 April 1849, between the
of January and the thirteenth of December 1847, 296,231 people landed from
of them were on business, 130,000 emigrated to the
consisted of paupers.
 Cowan, Helen I. British Emigration to
 Report of Dr. Douglas. 27 December 1847. British Parliamentary Papers, vol. 17, p. 538,
 Ibid. 539.
 Perley to Saunders. 24 June 1846. Colonial Records
Office, Public Records Office,
 Grey to Colbrooke. 17 October 1846. Colonial Records
Office, Public Records Office,
Records Office, Public Records Office,
 Spray, William A. “Irish Famine Emigrants and the
Passage Trade to
 Gallagher, 212.
 Stephen E. De Vere to F. Elliott. British Parliamentary Papers, vol. 17, p. 393-4, 30 November 1847.