Slainte: Flash Fiction– “Queenstown”

Moira clutched her mother’s hand as they weaved through ropes and piles of steamer trunks on the dock, wrinkling her nose at the scent of fish and brackish water. Men and women stood in groups, while porters pushed urgently through the crowd with luggage and bags, and seagulls wheeled and cried overhead. A young paperboy, about her size, called out his wares, a pile of fresh newsprint over his arm. Steam hissed at irregular intervals, and acrid coal-fired engines thrummed a steady beat Moira could feel deep in her chest.

“Will they have green grass in America then, Mum?”

Her mother glanced down at her but answered in that voice that said she wasn’t really listening. “Of a certainty, Moira. They have everything that’s green ‘n’ good in America. Not to mention yer Dad’s there waitin’ for us.”

Moira nodded, but a stab in her tummy that wasn’t breakfast porridge sent tears to her eyes. She squeezed Mum’s hand tighter.

“There it is,” said Mum.

Moira looked through the crowd, and her heart fell into her new high button shoes when she saw the ugly little boat. “Is that what is taking us to America?”

Her mother laughed, a clear trill that caused the men nearest them to look over at her. “Lord no, little Moira. That’s only the tender. Our ship is too great to moor here in Queenstown, so they’re sending us out on this boat called the America. Y’see?”

Moira nodded, but she didn’t really see at all why they’d had to leave Cork and Grandmum and Auntie Dierdre and her Cousins Louisa and Molly. She bit her lip, knowing Mum wouldn’t like it if she cried.

After a very long time indeed, Mum and Moira went aboard the ugly boat and it pulled away from the pier, but Moira eyes were droopy and the chuff-chuff of the tender’s steam engine soon lulled her to sleep.

“Wake up, sleepy girl. We’re comin’ up on the ship.” Mum picked her up and pointed into the distance. “There she is, sweetest! That’s our ship! That’s the ship that will take us to New York City and yer Dad.”

It truly was the most enormous ship Moira had ever seen, making all the others in in Cork Harbor seem like toys from her cousins’ toy box. For the first time since Mum had told her they were going to America, excitement bubbled up in Moira’s chest. She hugged her Mum close. As they passed by the stern, Moira read out loud the letters picked out in white on the black hull: T-I-T-A-N-I-C.

* * *

113 passengers embarked on the Titanic at Queenstown (now called Cobh), Ireland on 11 April 1912, many of them Irish immigrants with Third Class tickets. The Titanic itself had been built in Belfast, and its designer Thomas Andrews was an Irishman. Two thirds of the steerage passengers perished after the Titanic struck an iceberg on 14 April. In all only 712 of the 2,225 passengers and crew survived.

A picture of Cobh, County Cork, Ireland looking from the Cathedral out into Cork Harbor.

Irish immigration facts: Between 1846 and 1900 approximately 2,873,000 Irish came to America. Almost as many Irish women as men immigrated. Unlike other national groups, many women of Ireland came by themselves to live here.

For more information on the Irish on the Titanic, see The Irish on the Titanic post by Edward T. O’Donnell.

For pictures of the Titanic on its maiden (and only!) voyage, see TitanicPhotographs.

Did any of your relatives make the boat trip to America? Another what if of history…if the Titanic had had only 500 more feet of warning, it could have missed the iceberg entirely.

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14 thoughts on “Slainte: Flash Fiction– “Queenstown”

  1. tedstrutz says:

    Kecia… This story was excellent. So descriptive, I felt I was there. I also knew, from the first paragraph, that Moira was going to be sailing to America on the ‘Titanic’. I was not surprise when I reached the last paragraph… please tell me Moira was one of the 712. The photo was perfect.

    My son-in-law immigrated from Dublin in 1988, with only a bag of tools. He felt he had no future in Ireland. He is now a successful building contractor on San Juan Island.

    • Kecia Adams says:

      Thanks, Ted and welcome! You know, I haven’t written more on Moira’s story yet. I guess we will both have to stay tuned to see if she makes it! 🙂 thanks for the good words.

  2. tedstrutz says:

    You seem to have a lot of Irish Flavored Posts… you might get a kick out of this… http://tedstrutz.com/2012/03/15/俳句-haiku-bombers-2-st-paddys-tacos/

  3. Emma Burcart says:

    Fun story! You have definitely piqued my interest in Ireland, even though it doesn’t look sunny. I think I’ll add it to my list of places to visit in the summer. 🙂

    • Kecia Adams says:

      Cobh seems like a charming little town. And they have a Titanic memorial commemorating some of the fallen, Moira Sullivan and her five children. I imagine it’s as sunny as most of the rest of Ireland, right? Which is to say not very sunny at all! 🙂

  4. susielindau says:

    Beautiful story! My relatives came from County Trim and my dad still has the heart wrenching letters from his great-grandfather who was left behind.

  5. Kecia Adams says:

    Ooh there’s a story in there I’m sure. 🙂 Thanks, Susie!

  6. I hope this Moira makes it, Kecia. “Queenstown” is evocative and poignant.

  7. Reetta Raitanen says:

    A powerful story with a high concept idea. Timely too with Titanic the movie being re-released 🙂 I loved the Irish feel.

  8. tfinnman says:

    Kecia – my cousin (who, of course, I never met) was one of these 113 passengers who boarded at Queenstown…and she survived. I am right now putting together a small, picture book for my family of the story. May I use these pictures you have of Queenstown? I am wondering about copyright. I presume you feel it’s ok as you have them here on your blog.

    all the best, Tom Finn

    • Kecia Adams says:

      Tom! Wow that is an amazing story. The picture of the young girl with the letters and momentos and the modern picture of Cobh I bought through subscription from depositphotos.com. The old picture of the Queenstown docks on the Titanic departure day I
      obtained from titanicphotos.com That website is a
      online album of The Father Browne photographic
      collection. You can get more information by going to that site and at the email Info@davisonphoto.com. The use page on the site says the photos are for private use only, but to contact the email for licensing. Hope that helps in your gathering of memorabilia for your family. Such a great story! Thanks for reading!

      • tfinnman says:

        Kecia – thanks so much for your kind, quick reply. I’ll check your leads. I am finding out more about Bridget, our cousin, this very evening.

        Tom

  9. Kecia Adams says:

    Let me know how it works out, Tom. I would love to do a follow up on my blog. 🙂 Good luck in your research.

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