Stay or Begin

Posted: January 21, 2015 in Friday Fictioneers
Tags: , , , ,

In 1851, 15-year-old Margaret Conway boarded the Jeanie Johnston in Tralee Ireland with her 12-year-old brother. The combination of the ship’s captain-James Attridge and the doctor – Doctor Blennerhassett somehow guaranteed the survival of all passengers. Although other emigrant ships of the time were stricken with diseases such as cholera and typhus the Jeanie Johnston never had an epidemic, never lost a passenger.

This is my 100-word submission to Friday Fictioneers.

PHOTO PROMPT - Copyright - Georgia Koch

On the dock in Tralee, Margaret balanced along the fine line
between Stay and Begin.
One hand held two boarding passes for the Jeanie Johnston.
One clutched her little brother.

The noise! Shouts of men. Clank of chains. Rippling canvas.
Back at Muckross House, where her mother worked,
all would be peaceful. Rhododendrons in bloom. Swans on Muckross Lake.
The British owners getting richer;
the Irish dying from famine.

15 years old. How could Margaret be expected to board this coffin ship?
What if her brother died? Would her father meet them?

With a wish and a prayer, she stepped across the line.

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Comments
  1. Leaving — what a hardship and often a step of no return… (bte it should be Irish — not Iris I think)
    I can feel the hesitation as she stands there ready to board.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading and correcting Bjorn. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many times you read something your eyes see what your brain want them to. I appreciate your edit and for reading.

      Like

  2. Wow, what a story. Such emotion and suspense, even with the background at the beginning. Very well done 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Rachel. My husband and I toured a replica of the Jeanie Johnston while in Dublin. They had wax figures of some of the actual passengers. It was cramped and dismal but when they explained that the captain made them get out EVERY day for fresh air and keep themselves and their clothes clean it made the whole ship seem much more cheery.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sandra says:

    You captured the bleakness of the time beautifully.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Really interesting. Thanks for including the intro.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. wolfsrosebud says:

    a wish and a prayer… i’d take the prayer

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You’ve created such a vivid picture here, the boarding passes in one hand and her brother’s in the other. I can just imagine her staring up from the docks at this huge ship, completely terrified.

    Like

  7. Brave young lady. I could feel the tense feeling of trying to make that big decision.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Very thought provoking. I can’t imagine being in her shoes, well at least i couldn’t until i read your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love the way you and Rochelle give us these historical gems, with so many of your stories. I’ve often thought of how scary and overwhelming it must be to have taken these journeys. Your story– a ballad almost, really captures that, Alicia. Another strong post.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Big decisions, brave steps. Love the atmosphere on the quay.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Totally conveys the sense of what it must have been like back in those days and the incredible bravery it took to undertake such voyages. I get upset if I get carsick on a day trip. Facscinating background story too, I’m going to check it out..

    Like

    • Thanks, Perry. Please do check it out. Also check the Muckross House, the Famine Houses and there’s a really cool (if not totally depressing) group of ssculptures in Dublin of men, women, children, even a dog, during the Potato Famine. I think you can Google it. It makes a HUGE impression, too. (That’s if for your week’s assignment) Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Like

  12. So many tragedies could have been avoided with just a little more common sense. Lovely lines and as always, I am grateful for the history lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t that the way of it! Thanks for stopping by. Glad I could impart a little bit of history. My great-great-grandmother came from County Tiperary in Ireland. It was interesting to see her homeland. (She was a stowaway who came to Canada and changed her name or changed her name before she left Ireland so I never found records of her.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Isn’t it exciting to explore our history? I am working on my family tree and it is very hard, cause there is no one to fill the blanks. Another lesson how you should never postpone things.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I, too, am the historian in the family. I got as much history about my parents lives as I could – from them. They are still alive (hooray!!!). Dad is 93 today and Mom is 90. They also gave me some of the history of their parents, that’s as far as I’ve gotten. All their siblings have passed so no help there. Keep trying, it’s fun.

        Like

  13. rgayer55 says:

    Beautifully written, Alicia. I felt as if I were standing right there with her weighing the pros & cons of boarding. I often wonder what that voyage was like for my ancestors in 1805. You gave me a glimpse of the anxiety they must have felt standing on the dock.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. dmmacilroy says:

    Dear Alicia,

    Very simple, yet in a way, epic in scope and subject. I think this is one of your best stories ever. With that said, I will now hush and let others confirm what I have said. Well done.

    Aloha,

    Doug

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Doug. I had a copy of the book we bought about the Jeanie Johnston while I wrote. The book contains pictures of the replica, the wax figures on the boat, the captain, the doctor … It was very inspiring. Cheers!

      Like

  15. Dear Alicia,

    You’ve done a good job of capturing both apprehension and excitement. Nicely done.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Sally says:

    What a decision she had to make. The hard times suffered by the poor and the decision to leave everything familiar for, hopefully, a better life, if not for them then the next generation.

    Like

  17. Bastet says:

    What an interesting, indeed terrifying story … I read up just now and it was a pure miracle that this ship carried so many people without losing a passenger or crew member! Your poem filled me with dread … as I imagine the young woman must have felt … thanks for sharing this piece of history in such a convincing way! Ciao, Georgia

    Like

  18. My grandfather came across at 15 also, alone, from Poland, and the brother who was supposed to meet him never showed. Kids weren’t kids back then, were they? Well drawn vignette. Enjoyed it very much.

    Like

  19. plaridel says:

    a feel good story. well done.

    Like

  20. draliman says:

    A very scary choice to make, especially with her brother in tow. The safe and quiet life, though potentially one of hunger, against the beginnings of a new one – if they make it across the sea. Plus her fear that their father may not be there to meet them.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Margaret says:

    What a dilemma. Your story gives so much interesting background, as well as portraying the feelings of your young traveller. Wonderful descriptions too.

    Like

  22. Sarah Ann says:

    The contrast between the noise on the quay and the calm of the garden is so well drawn. With all those questions racing through her mind, Margaret was a brave girl to cross that line. Thought provoking and evocative.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Sarah Ann. When we visited Muckross the grounds and lake were very peaceful. It was appalling to know that people lived in such comfort while the “regular” folk died of hunger.

      Like

  23. afairymind says:

    Wonderful snapshot of the time and the emotions of the people involved. Well done. 🙂

    Like

  24. You portrayed so much – of the time and the different emotional pulls of to leave of stay. Loved it

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Amy Reese says:

    Wow, with so much at stake, you have described such an intense scene, and it’s brilliantly executed. The details, the depth, I’m at a loss for words. This is amazing, Alicia!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. hafong says:

    I love the way you wrote this, Alicia! It’s like an epic poem, except it’s short. 🙂 I get that torn feeling. I’ve been there many times.

    Lily

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Nan Falkner says:

    Dear Alicia, great story/poem and makes you realize the horrors our ancestors had to go through. Thank God for the adventurous at heart! Nan 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  28. AnnIsikArts says:

    History, politics, tragedy, the excitement of a new journey, poetry, all in one hundred words. That’s what I call balance. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Ellespeth says:

    When I think of the life changing decisions some people must make in their lives my own seem small. A very brave big sister.
    Ellespeth

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Great story, Alicia. This was experienced by many. I had great grandparents who came to the U.S from Ireland. that way. It must have been rough. One great-great grandmother came when she was a widow with three small children. Things were hard in Ireland at the time and they were hoping for a better life. Well done. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

  31. “the line between stay and begin” That first step is always the hardest and you conveyed that brilliantly.
    Tracey

    Liked by 1 person

  32. You write about her bravery well!

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Sandra says:

    I enjoyed this all over again.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. rgayer55 says:

    I loved this as much today as the first time I read it. The opening sentence is a masterpiece in itself.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. brainsnorts says:

    “The British owners getting richer
    while the Irish died from famine.”

    consider changing “died” to “dying” because it was happening then and to remain parallel with “getting.”

    well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. mjlstories says:

    A vivid read – I was right there with her.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. michael1148humphris says:

    Ireland is beautiful, like your story

    Liked by 1 person

  38. gahlearner says:

    A brave girl, and a great little piece of historical fiction. You do that so well.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. ‘Margaret balanced along the fine line
    between Stay and Begin.’
    A great line 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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