|Mary Cumming, [New York?] to Margaret [Craig?], [Lisburn?].
|Irish Emigration Database
|Cumming (n. Craig), Mary
|middle class housewife
|New York, USA
|Lisburn, Co. Antrim, N.Ireland
|T 1475/2 pp.27-31: Copied by Permission of Miss A. McKisack, 9, Mount Pleasant, Belfast.
|The Public Record Office, Northern Ireland.
|Document added by JM 01:09:1993.
|Thank God, my dearest Margaret, I have the happiness of
telling you that we got safe to New York yesterday about three
o'clock. It would be impossible almost to conceive the delight
I felt when again I set my foot on land. I never in all my life
felt so truly grateful to Providence. Oh, my dearest friends,
I never imagined when I last wrote to you what a voyage across
the Atlantic was! But let me endeavour to give you some
account of our passage.
This day six weeks we left Liverpool, and I may say I
never had one day's good health since that time. We did not
sail till Saturday morning as the wind was not fair. I was
confined to my bed for three weeks - the longest ones I have ever
spent. The sickness was most dreadful, it was with difficulty
I could rise for a short time in the evening to get my bed made.
There I lay, not able to lift my head from the pillow. My dear
Mr. Cumming attended and nursed me during all my illness with
the greatest care and attention, in fact he did everything
for me that it is possible for one to do for another. For a
long time he had to feed me like a child, indeed I was quite
as helpless as an infant. As long as I live I shall never
forget his attention and kindness. I was so weak at last that
nothing would remain on my stomach, and for some days I lived
almost on port wine and water. Our passage (except for a few
days) was very rough, indeed it blew a constant gale, alias a
storm, for the most part of the time. When we got near to the
Banks the weather became warm and pleasant for a few days.
I then got better and was able to be on deck for the most
part of the day. I then enjoyed myself very much, the weather
was very warm, unpleasantly so for a short time, but I shall
never be a good sailor, I suffered more the last Sunday we
were at sea than any day before. But I have dwelt long
enough on the miseries of a sea voyage, let me think if it
has any pleasure to make amends for them. That question
would require some consideration.
I was very much delighted looking at the sun
setting, which is a glorious object at sea. I believe I only
saw it set three times during our voyage. I remember one
night in particular watching him sink into the ocean, the
scene was delightful. For a great length of way waves appeared
fringed with burnished gold, the sky was so clear and the
air so pure and reviving that it wanted nothing but a little
bit of terra firma in view to complete the scenery. Fine as
the scene was I thought as I stood admiring it "It would be
a far more delightful sight to see him set behind an Irish
mountain." When shall I see that again?
Our accommodations were very good, we had plenty of most
excellent provisions, and what was our greater comfort, there
was a very good cow on board, so that we had plenty of good
milk, which is the greatest luxury at sea you can imagine. Our
party was very pleasant. There were two ladies on board, one
the captain's wife, the other a very pleasant woman who lives
in Augusta. Mrs. Brown is just as bad a sailor as myself,
for some days we would not be able to go from one room to
the other, but I will not think any more of our troubles.
Mr. Cumming was not once sick, which was a great blessing. I
think he looks fatter and better than when he left England.
I have often amused myself thinking when at sea if the author of the
miseries of human life had ever crossed the Atlantic. If he
had I think it would have afforded him a few more. For instance
when you are lying in bed in a rough gale of wind
trying to get a little sleep, the ship to roll in such a
manner that you have to hold yourself in bed in order to
prevent being heaved on the floor, or when you would attempt
to stand to come smack against the side of your bed so that
your legs would retain the impression for a fortnight after.
All this happened to your humble servant. There was one night
I thought we were all gone, and I bawled out stoutly, as you
may imagine. But I almost forgot to tell you I have had the
felicity of seeing the sea in a storm. I went on deck one
evening for the purpose, but I was very glad to get down to
my room again. You cannot imagine a more grand and awful sight.
The ship was lying quite on her side, the waves now and then
dashing over her, sometimes she would get between two of these
great mountains of water that you would be almost sure would
swallow her, then rise to the top and plunge down in a sea of
foam. I never wish to witness so frightful a scene. Our
Captain said he never had so rough weather even in the middle
of winter. We passed several ships on the way, and had the
satisfation of getting before them all. The "Lydia" is a
very fast ship, we have often made ten miles in an hour, which
is going pretty quick. Last Monday morning I hear the enchanting
news that the land was in sight. This is the most
delightful hearing that can be imagined. The pilot came on
board soon after, and we were all sure we would get up that
night, but the wind got into a very bad humour and left entirely,
so that we were obliged to spend another night at sea,
in sight of the smoke of New York, which was very provoking
to be sure. During the night we got within ten miles of the
shore, and the next morning the wind took it into its head
that we should go no further that day, but we did not agree
with Mr. Boreas, for we thought we had been quite long
enough in his power, so we got a boat and here we are all safe
landed in the great city of New York. In my life I never was
so enchanted with the view of the shore and the harbour coming
up. I can give you no idea of the beauty of the American
woods at this season of the year. I have often admired the
colouring of the trees in Autumn, but never could have conceived
that the colour could be so much richer here than with
us. The green is so very bright, and I can compare some of
the woods to nothing but groves of gold; and the nice little
white wooden houses peeping from among the trees render the
scene altogether the most capitivating that I ever looked at.
Then we had a fine view of the fortification and spires of
New York. Oh, how I wish you had been with me, I am sure you
would have been as much pleased as I was.
We dined yesterday at an inn, Mr. Robert Dicky came to see
us as soon as we arrived, and insisted that we should all come
to his house and stay with them, so we got here yesterday evening.
Mrs. Dicky is a cousin of Mr. Cumming and Mr. Brown, she
is daughter of Dr. Brown of Baltimore. I believe Mr. Dicky
is a very rich man, I never saw so elegant a house as this
is, everything in it is superb. I am writing in a splendid
drawing room, there are so many fine things to look at that I
can hardly write for admiring them. I have just been in the
parlour. There is to be a party of gentlemen here to-day, the
dinner table is laid out in great style, indeed I wish it was
ready for I begin to feel my land appetite again. Mrs. Dicky
is a very pleasing and accomplished woman, I like her very
much. Her mother is with her at present, I believe she will
go on to Baltimore with us. I think we shall stay a few days
here, I have not seen much of it yet, but what I have seen I
like very much. The trees along the streets have a good effect,
they consist chiefly of poplars that look beautiful just now.
I have been almost all morning writing this sad scrawl, but I
know my dear Margaret will excuse it, for indeed I am not
myself yet. You would laugh to see me walk, I feel as if I was
still on shipboard.
Oh, my beloved friends, how anxious I am to hear from
you again! I think I shall get a letter from you on my arrival
at Petersburg, I will write immediately after I get there. We
think of staying a day or two at Philadelphia, and three or
four at Baltimore. Mr. Cumming wrote to Armagh to-day. I hope
Mary Cumming is with you now. When you write tell me all the
news you can think of. The weather is rather cold here at
present. I must reluctantly bid you farewell as my head begins
to ache. Write, my dearest Margaret, whenever you receive this.
Do not disappoint me for I am anxious to hear how you
all are. Give my kindest love to my dearest Father and James
and Rachel. I suppose James has gone to Dublin. I hope my
Father will write to me sometimes. You will not have to
complain of my neglect, for it is the greatest pleasure in the
world for me to write home. Give my kindest love to Miss McCully
and my dear Meg [Margaret?], I hope they are both well. How often
I thought of you all when I was ill. You never in your life
saw me so thin as I am at present, but I expect to get fat
directly, I must go and dress for dinner.
Farewell, my dearest Margaret! Write soon to
Your Ever Affectionate