The first mass migration of Irish people to the United States was caused by the famine. The failure in 1850 of Ireland’s potato crop, wiped out by a devastating fungus, spurred a mass migration to the New World. The Irish famine, and disease, resulted in some one million people losing their lives, between 1845 and 1850.
On looking through old newspapers, one often discovers poems about this period. They speak of the sadness of leaving Ireland and the heartbreak of saying goodbye to loved ones.
Here’s a poem from 1857, called The Emigrant Ship. It was written by a person referred to as, J.A.B, and appeared in the Ballymena Observer, on Saturday 26 September 1857
THE EMIGRANT SHIP
The was clear and the wind fair,
While on the flowing tide,
A gallant ship, with sails unfurled.
Proudly was seen to ride;
Many upon her noble deck,
For friends and country sighed.
Fate drove them from the dear old homes,
From where they loved to dwell;
It tore them from their native land –
The land they loved so well.
To kindred, friends, the emigrants
Were forced to bid farewell!
“Adieu,” they cried, “to Fatherland.
To all In life most dear!”
And when they caught the shore’s last glimpse,
They shed a parting tear.
Parting tears shed for home and friends,
What bitter tears they were.