Famine Letter In Our Hands

We really have no idea of the abundance in our world.   I am constantly amazed at the storage units, buildings and pods that are more and more ‘necessary’ because we have so much crap stuff we need to rent places to hold it all.  Our world is getting ridiculous in what it thinks is important.  We ‘need’ so much we forget what it is that we really need.

In the quest to find more family information I enjoy the study of where my family comes from.   Mostly the chasing of our ancestors has led us to Ireland.  I have the great fortune to have family members along the way who found value in saving and protecting artifacts from family.  We have letters, dried flowers from a great grandparents funeral nearly a hundred years ago.  A tie worn by a great grandparent.  We have pictures. We have stories.  We have history.  We have much.   Some things we are rediscovering, so to speak.

Last night we read a letter written in 1848.


From Ireland to the United States of America.  From nephew to uncle.  The uncle being one of my great great great grandparents.   Aside from being giddy with excitement that my great great great grandfather would have held it in his hands, doesn’t it make sense to consider it has been, then, in the hands of a great great grandfather, great grandfather, grandmother, uncle.  My hands.  It has been treasured for whatever their reasons.  Likely the same as mine.  It came from “home” at a time when communication by letter was the only way to communicate.  It would have been read and reread.  Trying to get more information from home, about home, with every new reading.  I can’t help but take note of the beautiful handwriting.  Back when letter writing was important, valued.  His letter is on a long piece of paper, it opens up to reveal a second page, a third page, and the fourth page is the front of the mailed letter.  It was written, the letter  folded into to make it’s  own envelope and mailed from the northern part of Ireland and received in Midwest America.

Additionally, it paints a very grim picture.  It brings the history of a horrific time for all of Ireland to my hands, my eyes.  History I have read about and purposely paid respect to.  But this letter brings it right in to our world. Today, I hold this letter, it sits beside me as I type this.   From one man’s hand, sitting in what I imagine to be a stone cottage, writing to and received by a man that I know lived in a log home.   A letter  written  in a struggling world, reaching out to his uncle in what they envisioned to be a prospering and better than his world-world.   It has passed from hand, to hand, to hand.  Did “Dear Uncle” who received the letter read it with the horror that I did?  Did he picture his family left behind and wonder their fate.  Did he wonder, if at that moment, was his family in Ireland starving as he sat in his home on his farm where the crops were grown and the animals were in the barn.  In America.

Nephew says to Uncle in part:

Ireland is done, this year has finished it as the potatoes are away from us again and the high rents must be paid.”

Later he says:

“…for I believe there is nothing for poor Ireland but misery forever…”

The letter is very long.  It is very sad.  There is reference to family gone, reference to family struggling in Ireland.  And questions, though masked in restraint, of what hope there is in America, and would that hope include them.

I keep rereading the letter as if it was sent directly to me from 1848.

Okay, yes, in my head it was sent to me from 1848.

Of course we know there is more for Ireland than misery.  It may be a while out from 1848, but it’s coming.    I just wish I could write him back and tell him that.