The days preceding the departure must have been laden with sadness but incredibly busy as neighbours, friends and relatives called to say good-bye to the departing emigrant. The trunk would have been packed and letters written by John and Mary for the other siblings in Chicago. On the last night the emigrant would take a final stroll around the farm knowing that from now on Kilmacow would live on only in their memories.
On the morning of departure the final goodbyes would be said. Any of the Burkes that I've located on the transatlantic passenger registers left from the port of Cobh in Cork. Cobh has long been associated with the age of ocean steamliners and the Irish emigration of the late 19th and early 20th century. In 1850 it was renamed "Queenstown" to commemorate a visit by Queen Victoria. From 1848 - 1950 over 6 million adults and children emigrated from Ireland with over 2.5 million departing from Cobh, making it the single most important port of emigration. To get to Cobh the Burkes would probably have taken a pony and trap (carriage) to Croom railway station, a short disstance away. Here, they would have taken a train to Cork city passing through Rosstemple, Bruree, Charleville and then on to Cork. There was a branch line from Cork to Cobh. Maybe one of their siblings accompanied them or maybe they travelled with a neighbour or relative who was emigrating also. In Cobh, they boarded tenders to take them out to the ships from a pier known as "Heartbreak Pier" for obvious reasons. The pier, though in poor repair, still stands. Having boarded the liner and sailed for the US the last bit of Irish land seen by emigrants would have been the Fastnet Rock which was referred to as the Teardrop of Ireland.
Once they arrived in New York all immigrants were processed in Ellis Island which opened in 1892. In fact the first person through the gates of Ellis Island was an Irish girl, 15-year-old Annie Moore, who stepped off the gangplank just ahead of her younger brothers on January 1, 1892, and was greeted with much fanfare and a $10 gold coin. Here, in the Registry Room arrivals were asked 29 questions including name, occupation, and the amount of money carried. It was important to the American government that the new arrivals could support themselves and have money to get started. The average the government wanted the immigrants to have was between 18 and 25 dollars. Just outside the Registry Room is a wooden column called the Kissing Post, where new arrivals were greeted by their relatives and friends. Maybe the Burkes were met by a relative or neighbour from home living in New York. They would have then taken a train to Chicago where they would be met by their siblngs who were already there. It must have been incredibly exciting, the Burkes in Chicago seeing their siblings for the first time in years and hearing all the news and for the newly-arrived immigrant, seeing Chicago for the first time.
Living the lives we lead now it is sobering to reflect on the sacrifices made by these men and women to better themselves.
|Fastnet Rock - the "Teardrop of Ireland" and the last piece of Irish land seen by departing emigrants|