Thinking Back

by Thomas John Mulvey, PhD

shamrock Childhood reflections of rural, 1870s Ireland and Celtic history. shamrock
Edited by Eric C. Biemiller and William L. Mulvey
Grandsons of Thomas John Mulvey, PhD

Copyright© William L. Mulvey, all rights reserved

The Celtic

The Steamship Celtic

Chapter Twelve

At last the day arrived of our departure. My uncle Ramdal Slack, my mother's elder brother, came over from Drumhubrid with his horse and cart to drive us to Carrick-on-Shannon where we were to take the train for Dublin. We said good-bye to grandfather and grandmother Mulvey and piled into the cart with our two trunks all tagged and labeled with our destination and the name of the steamer, the Celtic of the White Star Line, plainly marked on them.

I can recall but few incidents of that trip from Carrick-on-Shannon across Ireland to Dublin. One thing I do recall: it was the impression I received of the train at Carrick-on-Shannon. It was, of course, the first train I had ever seen. As it approached the station, and I caught my first glimpse of its headlights in the gray of the morning (for we had made an early start from home), it struck me as being some how puny compared with the picture I had formed in my mind of such a monster, as described by my mother and grandfather. I was distinctly disappointed, as one generally is when the reality fails to measure up to the imagined.

From Dublin we went by packet steamer across the Irish Sea to Liverpool. Of that crossing I remember nothing and very little of our landing, for we went in some kind of a conveyance directly to a lodging-house recommended by my father in his most recent letter. We had to remain over in Liverpool for two or three days before we went on board the Celtic.

My mother and her little brood of six children received a great deal of attention from the landlady. We were accompanied by the daughter of an acquaintance of ours in Aughagrania, a young woman by the name of Katie Farrel, who was a great help to my mother in looking after my younger sisters.

I was allowed to go out on the street, with repeated cautions from my mother not to stray away and so get lost. It was all very new to me: the rows of houses, the shops, with here and there one selling "sweets," and, strangest of all, a shop which sold fruits of various kinds, among them the first oranges I had ever seen. I reported the discovery to my mother and craved a few pence to buy some, for she told me what oranges were like. So I bought me some sticks of candy for the rest of the children with a few oranges for all of us. They all exclaimed over the windfall. My mother made a hole for a stick of candy in an orange for each of the larger children and showed us how to suck the juice out of them.

I was fascinated by the sight of the great, big, heavy draught horses drawing wagons, carts, and trucks, as we called them in New York, and the like of which I had never seen before. They were powerful looking animals well furnished with fetlocks, or heavy tufts of hair above the hoofs, which, to my child's mind, made them plod along with ponderous dignity. I thought I found their counterpart in the brewery horses which I later knew on the streets of New York, and which from my reading I thought of as Percherons, that magnificent breed of draft horses coming originally from Le Perche in Normandy, France; though perhaps mistakenly.

Finally there came the day for gathering our belongings together, taking leave of our landlady, and with many other emigrants, mostly from the British Isles, going on board ship.

In the confusion of transferring from lodging-house to shipboard, my mother let her two trunks be taken on board and placed in the hold of the Celtic and so beyond her reach during the voyage. This was a calamity of the first order, for one of the trunks contained all our Sunday clothes including her own in which we were to appear on meeting our father on the dock, or as it turned out, on being greeted by him on board the ship.

The recollection of the events of that day, and indeed of the countless - or so they seemed to me - the countless days which followed; that recollection is very hazy. I have tried to piece together the occurrences of that everlasting voyage and find the same few events rising up like mountain peaks piercing through the fog of a very blurred memory.

I have no recollection of our weighing anchor and setting sail; but I have stowed away somewhere in my memory, the thought that the good ship Celtic used both sail and steam in crossing the Atlantic in 1880.

The employment of steamships in crossing the Atlantic was comparatively new in the middle of the nineteenth century. It was not until 1818 that steam was used at all on ships engaged in transatlantic voyages, and even then only to a very limited extent. The "Savannah," one of the earliest ships equipped with steam, used it for only eighty hours during her entire voyage, depending on sail for the rest of her trip. The "Curacao," built at Dover in 1826 and making her first voyage in 1872, used paddles propelled by steam. She was a small ship in terms of today with a registry of only 438 tons. In fact most of the ships of that day were of very small tonnage compared with the ships of this twentieth century, as the "Normandie," rechristened the "Lafayette," the "Leviathan," and the "Queen Mary" to mention but a few.

In 1840 Samuel Cunard founded the Line which still bears his name. He built his so-called "Sister Ships" all with names ending in ia, as the Britannia, Persia, and Abyssinia. They were wooden vessels built on the Clyde and averaging 1150 tons, an over-all length from stem to stern of 207 feet. They were twin cylinder, side-lever paddle ships of a mere nine knots an hour, and were often beaten by sailing vessels when the latter had a favorable wind during the trip across the ocean. In 1847 ships were built of 185 tons and equipped with paddle engines that must have fared rather badly in the severe storms of the North Atlantic. When they had to resort to sail, which they did rather frequently, to hold their headway……….. [Note from the editors: At this point Thomas John Mulvey had a stoke that prevented him from continuing. He died August 26, 1952.]


Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven My Father Leaves
For America
Chapter Nine Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
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