Word Count 495
By Nan Ressue
I’m doubting that this wretched letter will ever find its way into your fine hands but the writing
of it helps me to both think of you, my dear brother, and to pass the time. I struggle to blot out
the vision of our fields filled with brown vines and rotting potatoes and wonder how you will
be spending your day. I have always dreamed of going to sea but surely not trapped in the
stinking hold of this nightmare ship with the hopes of a new life fading fast.
I’m remembering that I promised you that I would help you escape the starving Irish potato
farmer’s lot back home but little did I know that you first have to survive this journey across the
sea. So many poor souls have come aboard as walking skeletons coughing their way to below
decks. This trip will surely not cure any ills that came along with them.
I’m hearing that many of the ships they jam us poor immigrants onto were once used as the
slavers , now refitted for another bleak chapter in their lives. The ticket cost me nearly every
penny I had.
There has been some reconfiguring of the hold with the family groups given space amid ships.
Single men and women are strictly divided into separate groups in the bow and the stern with
the women guarded by matrons to insure their virtue. The single men have a space on the floor
18 inches wide unless your neighbor dies and his space can be added to yours until the overseer
notices. The very air in the hold is foul to the extent that it seems brown and thick with germs
and misery. We do have our turn in the fresh air once or twice a day which is counted as a
blessing. But alas, it brings to light the skin diseases and the fresh bites to the flesh suffered
from rodents during the night. The odors of sea sick vomit and the stench of shit as it
accumulates is hard to bear. I see a poor women on deck ready to deliver her babe any day. It
sets me to wondering if the new child would be Irish or American?
Meal time is such a mixture of emotion…We are starving and so consume the slop served up.
Revulsion versus hunger. Self-preservation is the winner.
Three thousand miles and three weeks underway unless we are becalmed. Waiting for the
wind also brings thirst as the drinking water supply dwindles. The desperate path that joins the
blighted potato fields in Ireland to the new life in America seems beyond realization most days
but the time continues to pass. I’m taking the best of two hard choices; stay behind and starve
or perhaps survive this sea voyage which is surely half way to Hell. Say some prayers for me.
Your loving brother,