|Title:||George Ritchie, NY, to "My Dear Father & Mother", Londonderry.|
|Collection||Irish Emigration Database|
|Source||T3292/2: Presented by Mr W.J.Lyons|
|Archive||The Public Record Office, Belfast.|
|Log||Document added by LT, 10:06:1994.|
|Transcript|| New York, January 11th, 1851.|
My Dear Father and Mother,
You will expect to have heard from me before this time. I did
not arrive here untill [until?] the 23 of December last. I posted
you a paper containing the arrival of the Hudson with the names of
the Cabin passengers. I have seen Brother John. He is doing better
and looks better than when I left here.
I have not as yet got into any business. Indeed I have not got
much to write you, except about the passage, which was a long and
On my arrival in Glasgow I found only two Ships in Port for New
York. They were both very small inferior ships, but The "Hudson"
was rather the best of the two. Mr. Fisher in order to get
passengers had bills printed stating that they were fine ships of 1,
000 tons burthen. Now The Hudson the largest of the two is a ship
of only 360 tons. The Hudson was laden with pigiron which is the
most dangerous kind of a load. And from her great depth in the
water, I could see that she was laden very heavily. - The riging
[rigging?] of the ship was bad viz. [vide licet?] the ropes, sails,
and spars looked old and frail. And from her great depth in the
water I could easily see that she must sail very slow and
consequently make a long passage. Indeed I dreaded the idea of
going out on a long voyage right in the beginning of winter in such
a ship as the "Hudson". I would have went [gone?] by Liverpool, but
after buying some little articles of clothing I found that I had not
change enough left to pay for a passage in a first rate Liverpool
Ship except I had gone first to London and sold my U.S. stock.
Fortunately I did not sell it in England. It is now worth a great
deal more here than I could have got for it there. The passage in a
good Liverpool ship would be from 14 to 17 pounds and then the
probability of waiting at Liverpool perhaps three or four days for a
ship - The winter was fast approaching .- I had a long journey
before me; and I felt anxious to get started.- I could get a
passage in the "Hudson" for œ11. She was to sail the next day. And
finding that I could do no better in Glasgow I paid my passage and
went on board. I sent some letters to you by Mr. Withrow. We left
Glasgow on the 16th October, there were two other Cabin passengers
besides myself, our names you will see in the paper I sent you.
There were on leaving Glasgow 111 steerage passengers. We stopped
at Greenock to be examined by the health officer, where it was
ascertained that a bad fever had broke [broken?] out amongst the
steerage passengers. This was truly discouraging with all the
prospects of a long and severe passage before us. Seven of the
passengers were taken ashore. We then left Greenock on Saturday
the 19th of October; on Sunday the 20th we got clear of the channel
and got round the Nor. [North?] West coast of Ireland. The day was
fine and in the afternoon as I saw the last blue line of my native
land fade away like a cloud in the horizon, It seemed to me that I
was then gazing for the last time upon those hills which pointed out
the land of my forefathers. I felt a degree of loneliness that I
never before experience [experienced?]
Many a deep sigh have I wafted across the deep water to that Dear
spot where a kind father and a fond mother first gladened
[gladdened?] the happy period of my boyhood. But I will not dwell
upon the subject. It causes painful remembrances as those happy
times can never come again.-
Who can tell, when he sets forth to wander whither he may be
driven by the uncertain currants of destiny? or when he may return?
or whither he may ever again behold the scenes of his childhood.
The vast space of waters that separates the hemisphere, is like a
blank page in existence.
From the moment you loose [lose?] sight of the land you have left,
all is vacancy, untill [until?] you step upon the opposite shore,
and are launched at once into the noise and bustle of another world.
In traveling [travelling?] by land there is a continuity of scene,
and a continued succession of incidence that carry on the story of
life, and lessen the effects of absence and separation. But a wide
sea voyage severs us at once. It makes us feel conscious of being
cast loose from the vicinity of a settled life; and sent adrift upon
a doubtful world.
It interposes a gulf not only immaginary [imaginary?] but real
between us and our home. A gulf subject to tempest, fear, and
I was so completely prostrated with sea sickness that I was not
able to keep a logbook of the passage. But of this much I am
certain that we had some of the most terrible weather.
After those passengers were taken on shore at Greenock, we
fortunately had no more fever on board.
There was one birth, and two deaths on the passage. One was a boy
of seven years, and the other was our cook, who was swept overboard,
when we were about a week at sea. It was on the night of the 25th
October, as we sat by the dull light of the cabin lamp, while the
ship was plunging through the foaming element, the seas continually
breaking over her, we were alarmed by the cry of "a man overboard"
we rushed to the door of the cabin. It was our cook. He was washed
overboard. We could hear his cries.
The next blast swept us out of all hearing. The sailors knew him
to be an excellent swimmer, but the storm was too great to run the
risk of putting about the ship in search of him. Poor fellow!
His last cry was unheeded. He was left alone to struggle with
the contending elements.
His last struggle was soon over. He sunk amidst the roar of the
His bones are now whitening in the watery regions of the deep.
But we had worse storms than this to encounter. Yes we
experienced some of the most severe weather; many a long dark
heart-sickening night have I spent during those ten weeks we were
tossed upon the merciless waves of the vast Atlantic. Yes to a
person pining under sickness and lashed upon the waves of a stormy
sea, one of those dark December nights, seems of an immense length.
It would seem as if the sun had forgot its course, and as if the law
of nature itself had been subverted.
On the 22nd November was the most severe storm I ever witnessed.
As night approached the storm increased. The sea was lashed into
tremendous confusion. There was a fearful rushing of the waves, and
broken surges. - Deep called into deep -
At times the black volume of cloud overhead could be rent by the
flashes of lightening which quivered along the foaming billows, and
made the succeeding darkness still more terrible.
As I looked upon the ship staggering and plunging among those
roaring caverns, it seemed miraculous to me how she regained her
balance or preserved her boyancy. [buoyancy?]. She would plunge and
roll so deep into the water that her "yards" would sometimes touch
the water; while the seas were continually breaking over her decks.
This was a trying time for a ship heavy laden with pigiron. As I
said before it is then a most dangerous kind of a load, when the
ship comes to labour hard in the heavy seas. The great weight of
the iron being, all concentrated in one place is very apt to strain
the bottom of the ship and render her leaky. She did get so leaky
for half the voyage she had to be pumped out once in every four
hours night and day to keep her from sinking.
A ship laden with any other kind of freight is not only safer but
she pulls over the wave with a slow easy motion not causing near so
much sea sickness.- If ever you have any friends going to sea never
let them go in a vessel laden with pigiron. For besides being
dangerous the ship will have a quick, uneasy, sickening motion.
When the ship gets thrown upon her side by a wave, the great
concentrated weight of the iron in the bottom of the ship causes her
to start up again with a sudden jerk which is very straining on a
ship in the heavy seas.
On the 22nd December the thrilling cry of "land" was given from
the mast head.
None but those who have experienced it can form an idea of the
sensations you feel when you first come in sight of land after a
long and dangerous voyage.
We soon got into the harbour, and on the 23 we got towed by a
steamer up to the dock. It was just ten weeks from I left home
untill [until?] I arrived here.
As we approached the dock it was thronged with people. - There
were some idlers. - Others, eagerly expecting to meet with friends
and relatives. There were repeated cheerings, and salutations,
interchanged between the shore and the ship; as friends happened to
recognise each other.
The ship soon got close to the pier. All now seemed to be hurry;
bustle and confusion. A great many of the Passengers meeting with
their friends and acquaintances.- I stood and looked quietly on. -
I alone was solitary and idle.
My wandering eye ran along the crowd, but I could see no friend to
meet. No eye to recognise me. I looked upon the loneliness of my
I stepped again upon the land; but I felt that I was a stranger in
I believe your patience will be worn out reading such a long
letter. I will therefore conclude and leave room for John to write
a few lines. My health is very good since I arrived here.
Please remember me to Jane. Tell her I felt sorry that I did not
get time to go and see her before I left. I hope that brothers
David and William are getting on as successfully as ever. When you
write let me know how Mary Anne is. When you write let James write
me a few lines before you seal your letter. Please remember me to
all enquiring friends. I have not room to mention all their names.
Remember me to Mr. James Anderson, tell him I intend to write to
him after I get established in business.
Address me at 110 Broadway.
Farewell my dear parents. May God bless you all is the prayer of
your affectionate son