The rain beat down heavily on the roof of Ellis Island, New York, the day we arrived, it was worse than any rain I'd ever experienced in Ireland- a country infamous for its rainy days.
We had waited in the gangway for six and half hours, qeues were terribly long as there were so many immigrants arriving from all over the world, all waiting for their turn to be called.
We had waited in the gangway for six and half hours, qeues were terribly long as there were so many immigrants arriving from all over the world, all waiting for their turn to be called. Ours eventually came, after what seemed like a lifetime.
I've never forgotten even the smallest little piece of that moment where I walked through those doors. The smells, the colors, the atmosphere, I remember all of it as if I'm there right now.
It was a grand and amazing building for its day, oh very much so. It had awning outside, a beautiful neatly cut lawn surrounding it and a magnificent chandileer hanging in the hall. It was stunning. It took us a further couple of hours to get to the top of the indoor queue, but I didn't mind. My clothes had began to dry and we were indoors now. Plus, this was the first day of our new lives, I felt wonderful.
We checked in through immigration, our details were taken, all the requirements, you know. It wasn't an easy process. It had filled my Mother and all the other adults with dread all through the boat journey- they feared getting to this point and something going wrong- we were so near yet so far- but, thankfully, we made it through.
Elated, but not quite out of the woods yet, we were sent on to the next step of the process... This one filled people with even more dread than the first.
I was terrified... ...For this was the medical examination- some unfortunate souls were sent back to their home countries if they failed this test. We hoped and we prayed that that wouldn't be us. It couldn't be us.
And it wasn't us. After some questioning and eye checks we were free to go, we were wished prosperity in America and sent out of the room swiftly so the next person could now get their dreaded test.
I prayed a silent prayer for the next immigrants who would come through here, as my Mother told me to do. As we left the room we were greeted by an Ellis Island employee, we assumed it was just procedure and that we'd be wished goodbye by him and be on our way.
We were wrong. He looked straight at me and he said ''why don't you go wait by that window over there little lady, have a little look around while I talk to your Mother here".
My Mother looked worried. "I am sorry to have to do this to you, Ma'am" he said to her, "regretfully your husband hasn't shown up to collect you and your child, and as women and children are not allowed to leave Ellis Island alone, for their own safety, we have no choice but to detain you both here until he does appear" I peered through the window at the Statue of Liberty as they talked, below I saw more immigrants arriving and I felt a little ache in my heart for them. Their long process through immigration was just beginning, but ours, ours was over. And for that I was glad.
Except just then I turned around to notice my Mother was holding her head in her hands, she looked upset. I approached her to ask what was wrong when I heard the employee say something that ran chills down my spine:
"Yes. I'm sorry. If he doesn't show up, that will be the outcome. If he doesn't show up, you will have to go back home to Ireland" My Mother pleaded with him.
"Please" she reasoned, "you can't do this. We come from a small town where there is no electric, our roof leaks, some of our neighbours don't even own a pair of shoes. Sir, I'm begging you. We may look rich, but that's only because we saved up our coins for an entire year to buy ourselves nice outfits so we wouldn't look out of place once we arrived here in New York. We just wanted to fit in. We just want a chance! We, we...sir, don't do this, please"
Sadly it wasn't that mans choice. "Oh my goodness, Grammy. They sent you back again? They really sent you back to Ireland again?" Rosie shouts in disbelief.
"Well, I'm sitting here right now, aren't I dear?" Violet laughs, "so no, clearly I didn't go back"
"Then what happened, Grammy? Did your Dad show up?"
"No, Rosie. No, he never did. He abandoned us right when we needed him most, we were so betrayed, but that's another story. Someone else pulled through for us. A woman named Mrs Alice McKittrick, a kind Scottish lady, but I'll tell you about her next time you visit, right now you have to go home.....we've sat here chatting for almost two hours...."
I hope you enjoyed part 2, thanks for reading. More to come soon. :)
Part 2. The Irish in America...
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