Irish Immigrants referat





Irish Immigrants


Mary O’Donnell finished cooking the Sunday night dinner. She had spent the entire Sunday afternoon peeling the potatoes, washing the vegetables and preparing the meat. The Sunday night dinner special because it was the only meal the O’Donnells spent together. The children, Jonathan, James, and Catherine, returned late from St. James Parochial School and Mr O’Donnell, Shamus, worked in his office until late at night. Only Mrs O’Donnell stayed at home and painted oil paintings.

“Dinner is ready!” Mrs O’Donnell shouted.

“Coming, Mom!” chanted three voices from the top floor. Soon afterward the family was seated at the old table in the candle lit dining room waiting for Shamus O’Donnell to say grace.




“Bless us, O Lord, for these gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ Our Lord, Amen.” After everyone had eaten and conversation started to build up, Shamus O’Donnell suddenly interrupted: “Catherine, Jonathan, James, listen up. Your mother and I have something important to tell you. Do you remember Uncle Edward and his wife, Anne?”

“Yes, sure, Dad. I still remember going to their house sometimes during the weekend,” said James.

“Well, they are coming to New York this fall. Conditions in the part of Galway where we come from have become worse. They have decided that they cannot live there anymore and since we, their relatives, live in New York, the choice was easy.”

“That’s great, Dad. I would love to see them again. When exactly will they come ?” asked Catherine.

“I don’t know for sure, but they are scheduled to arrive in New York Harbor in about two weeks, and I suspect the immigration at Ellis Island will take another day or two.” her dad replied.

“Great, I am really looking forward to speaking to somebody from the old country again,” remarked Jonathan.

“Yes, I am, too. Well, it will be a long day for me tomorrow, and I think it is bedtime for you too, children.“

“Yeah, Goodnight, Mum; goodnight, Dad.”

After the children had been put to bed, Shamus O’Donnell and his wife cleaned up the dishes. “I hope Edward and Anne know what awaits them here in New York. The children seem to have forgotten all the hardships we went through until we made it this far,” remarked Mary.

“Well, Mary no reason to be miserable. If we could make it, they can make it, too. Besides, they have a great advantage we did not have,” said Shamus.

Mary looked at him with a surprised look on her face: “What would that be ?”

“Us, their relatives and friends. We did not have anyone to help us out, and we still made it. Just be a little bit more optimistic.”

Two weeks went by, and the O’Donnells had not heard from their relatives yet. Another three days passed and in the afternoon the doorbell rang. Mary thought the children had come home early from school and would open the door with their key. The doorbell rang again and again and again. Suddenly it dawned on Mrs O’Donnell that it might not be the children who were trying to get her to open the door. She rushed out of the kitchen and swung the door open. There was a tired looking couple standing in the door with dirt on their faces and their belongings in two suitcases.

“Anne, Edward, is that you?”

“Mary, it is so good to see you. We – We .”

“Come in, come in. Set your suitcases in the hall. Here have a seat!” Suddenly Anne broke out into tears and soon afterwards Mary joined in. Edward seemed helpless, somewhat lost in his armchair, as he stared at the ladies crying.

“Now, now,” said Mary, “You have made it. Welcome to the new world. There will be no need to cry, now. I promise you that from now on your lives are just going to get better.” She knew that she had just told a lie, but the truth would have hurt even more.



They sat in the living room for a while talking about Ireland in general and Galway in particular. The children came home, welcoming their aunt and their uncle with many questions. While Mary, Catherine and Anne went into the kitchen to prepare a feast to celebrate the arrival, the boys started telling Edward everything about America, everything that was important in their opinion. Shamus came home a little bit later than usual and was overwhelmed with emotions as he saw his brother again after a long, long time.

Having had a very delicious meal, the children were sent to bed and Shamus took Edward to the Shamrock Irish pub in their part of Brooklyn, while Mary and Anne stayed at home. Edward was glad to have a moment of peace again after the long journey over the ocean and the hassles of Ellis Island. The patrons of the Shamrock seemed somehow familiar to Edward. They all spoke with the same accents about the same topics, and they even looked a little bit alike. It was the perfect place for Edward to relax. The men sat down at a table in the corner and ordered two Guinness Draught. Soon Edward became curious about the immigrant experience the O’Donnells had gone through. Shamus took a deep breath and started to tell his family’s story.

“As you know, we left Galway in the fall of 1848 because the potato crops had been taken by a fungus again. I lost my job as an overseer of a large potato crop and just could not get another job. Even Jonathan tried to work, but there was simply not enough money to employ any more helpers. We lived on my savings for a while, but we knew it could not go on like that. Mary was the first one to bring the subject of emigrating up, and we discussed it over and over again. Making the decision was the hardest part. Having decided to leave our country, I took all our savings out of the bank and left for Dublin. Reluctant to leave Ireland, Mary and I decided to stay in Dublin and try to find work there, but we soon realized that it would not work out. Days later, I bought tickets for a steamer leaving for New York. The journey was a long one and although we had a decent cabin for ourselves, it was a stressful journey.”

“Our journey was surely not as pleasant as yours. We had nearly lost all our savings back in Ireland, trying to survive. The decision to leave Ireland was made too late. We could not afford a decent passage. Steerage was where we spent our time crossing the ocean. Believe me, a steerage cabin is not a pleasant sight after six people have been living in it for about four weeks. Living down there was especially hard for Anne, as you can imagine. I am really sorry she had to go through all of this.”

“Well, brother, everything will be pleasant from now on. This is the land of opportunities.”

“I wondered how you managed to get a house in such a decent neighborhood, a steady job and the best education for your children. I mean, most of the new immigrants will have to go on living in the slums, working in low paying jobs and so on.”

“Yes, that is true. The terrible end of the long journey. Let me tell you my story. Having crossed the Atlantic, we arrived in New York Harbor and were transferred to Ellis Island. Unfortunately, James had caught a cold which delayed the process of immigration for about a week until he got better. You were lucky that you only had to spend two days on that terrible island. I will never forget the amount of human suffering I saw there, the expressions on the faces of those that had to go back with even less money. I think I can say that this was the worst week in my entire life. Anyway, after we left Ellis Island we wandered around in this marvelous city, impressed by the height of the buildings and the number of people who lived there. We asked where we could get a cheap place to live, and someone directed us to Mulberry Street, where we rented a small tenement. Mulberry street is the first stop for many immigrants. Germans, Irish, Italians, Greeks, Slovaks, Polish; immigrants from every nation I can think of. Naturally, it is not very a very good place to live. There is a lot of crime because the area is controlled by the big crime syndicates. I did not want my children to grow up in an area like that, but what other choices were there? Soon afterwards, I found a job in a textile factory in Brooklyn. It was definitely not the best job I ever had, but our savings were decreasing by the hour, and the rent had to be paid, and the family had to be fed. After a month we realized that my job alone wouldn’t be enough to keep us alive. Mary set out and got a job dying shirts in the same factory. Mary’s job improved our situation dramatically. Still we could not afford to live anywhere else but Mulberry Street and the education of our children suffered. We knew we had to make even more progress.“



Shamus had finished his Guinness and had begun to light his pipe. Memories came to his mind: The voyage, Ellis Island, their life on Mulberry street. He still had vivid memories of all those episodes. He wondered how his brother and his wife would go through their immigrant experience. He cleared is throat and continued his story.

“You’ve got to understand that the party runs most of New York. The Democratic party has enormous power and influence. Party members hold almost all of the offices and most of the important jobs in factories, plants and even offices are hold by members, too. Since I agree with most of the policies promoted by the party, it was an easy choice for me to become a party member. An important step in becoming a party member, is citizenship. I advise you to become a citizen as soon as possible. Citizenship will help you in many ways. I will take you to fill out what they call “a declaration of intentions,” the first step to becoming a U.S. citizen. Then I will introduce you to the party. After I became a member, our lives just became better and better. I was promoted to foremen, received a wage increase and got a very cheap mortgage on the house we are living in right now. “

“Sounds great, Shamus, really, really great. But”

“Yes, yes, I know what you mean. There is a little problem. Wherever there is power, there is also corruption and crime. Many shady people linger around Tammany Hall, the assembly hall. William Marcy “Boss” Tweed has been involved in backroom politics as well as in crime. But if you are careful, nothing will happen to you. Trust me! Well, Ed, I have told you our story. However, yours will be different I can guarantee you that.”

“Yeah, I guess it will be. Two more Guinness, please. Let me tell you something about Galway”

The two Irishmen sat there in the warm little safe haven in the cold large city laughing and joking about Ireland and how terrible everything had been. It might be even worse













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