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Never Forget Ireland
by Grainne Rowland

Maire was terrified! The soldiers were dragging her mother out of the small thatched cottage. Mother was trying to stay in the cottage, and Father was trying to help Mother. One well-muscled soldier shoved a gun into Father's face.

"Get out of this house now," the soldier yelled. "You have not paid the rent. Your landlord needs this house for those who can pay."

"Then he'll wait a long time," said Father, "for no one can pay rent with this famine going on. We are all starving!"

"Where will we go?" wailed Mother. "Where will we take the children?"

"Ask the landlord," replied one soldier. "I hear some are paying the fare for their tenants to go to America."

Maire, her younger brother, and her parents were all outside the house. A small pile of their belongings was beside them. Maire felt tears falling down her thin face as the soldiers hammered boards over the doors and windows.

"There'll be no squatters in this place now," smirked one soldier. And off they marched.

Maire remained quiet as her family sat on a low rock wall. Finally Mother wrapped her threadbare shawl tighter around her shoulders. She unwrapped the thin towel from their last loaf of brown bread. Maire helped Mother pass out the bits of bread.

"Well," said Mother sadly, "that's the last of the bread. What will we do now?"

Father had been thinking. "I will go to the landlord and ask for passage to America for all of us. I don't know what else we can do!"

"You mean leave Ireland! How can we leave our own dear country?" asked Mother.

"If we stay here, without a home and no money, we will freeze or starve. I have heard that in America you can get rich. I think we must try," replied Father in a sad voice.

An hour later, Father returned. He had a small smile on his face.

"In three days, we leave for America. We must walk as quickly as we can to Cobh. Our ship leaves from there."


Three days later, Maire stood at the ship's railing. She felt her heart tighten as the ship sailed away from the dock. I will miss Ireland, she thought. What will America be like? Will it really be better there?


Cobh Harbor

Maire looked up at her parents. Her mother's shawl fluttered in the breeze. Mother was crying softly into her apron. Father's mouth was set in a tight line and his eyes were wet. Her small brother was too young to understand.

The voyage was long and hard. A huge storm buffeted the ship. Wavescrashed over the decks. People slipped on the wet decks as they hurried below deck. Maire looked around at her family's ledge. The planks were wide enough to sleep on if the family crunched up together. Maire wrinkled up her nose at the awful stench. She looked at the disgusting bucket that stood in the corner. They could at least cover it, she thought. The water barrel had dirt and bugs floating on top of it. The water tasted stale. The food the sailors brought was already moldy and sometimes had maggots wriggling in it.

One day Maire heard a commotion on deck. She hurried up and heard people cheeering. Some men threw their hats into the air. Children were running excitedly and hanging from the rails. Women were crying happily. Maire looked over the rails. She saw a dark smudge far away.

"What is it, Father?" she asked.

"What is it, child? Why, that's America! We'll be there tomorrow," he said joyfully.

Late the next day, Maire's family walked down the gangplank onto America's shore. Maire kept close to her mother. Her mother put her arm around Maire's shoulders.

"Look around and remember this, Maire," Mother said. "This is the beginning of a new and better life for us. We will have to work hard, but we will succeed. And we will never forget Ireland."

No, thought Maire, I will never forget Ireland. And she smiled a big smile and took a long look around at America.



Index of All Children's Stories

 

Fri, Nov 24, 2017


Christmas Crackers

No Christmas dinner in Ireland would be complete without the fun of finding a Christmas Cracker by your plate. And, no, it's not something you eat! These crackers are tubes covered with brightly coloured foil. Each tube is usually filled with a paper hat, a silly toy, a joke and a strip of paper which will make a pop when the cracker is pulled. Each end of the tube is twisted so the treats inside won't fall out. The fun begins when each cracker is pulled by two people and the cracker splits. In many homes, the crackers are pulled before dinner begins so that families can wear the funny paper hats throughout the meal. In other homes, the crackers are pulled after dinner. No matter when they're pulled, crackers always make the Christmas feast more fun.
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