Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sepia Saturday #198: 'A ship of dreams, on a journey toward the future'

The Carinthia: the ship on which my mother and brother immigrated to Canada.

Last year, in a post entitled 'Toward a brilliant dream': an immigration story, I wrote about the emigration away from Ireland of my father Michael, my mother Mary, and Michael, my elder brother. The choice to leave Ireland was a difficult one for my parents, a choice that brought with it the possibility of never again living in the land of their birth, and never again seeing the family members and friends they were leaving behind. Still in all, my father and my mother believed the decision they made to immigrate to Canada was the right one for their future, and for the future of their only child Michael, as well as any other children who might come along.

The plans my parents set in place for their emigration away from Ireland entailed that my father Michael would leave first. He would settle into the new job which awaited him — new immigrants had to have definite job arrangements before they would be allowed in — and acquire a home for his little family. All would be in place when my mother and brother arrived. Setting out for Montreal, Quebec, Canada on 10 April, 1956, my father was only 27 years old. Dad's mother and father were dead, and he did not know if he would ever again see his beloved brothers and sisters whom he was leaving behind. Nevertheless, he was excited about the prospect of Canada and the bright future awaiting him.

My mam and brother followed my dad to Canada in October of that year. Mam's favourite brother Patrick had moved away from Ireland before her, and was living in Liverpool, England. Along with my grandfather Patrick Ball, and Mam's siblings Kate and Gerry, my mother and brother flew to Liverpool, so that Mam could say goodbye to her beloved brother. They spent a few days in Liverpool with Patrick. It was Patrick's first time seeing his little nephew Michael, and possibly his last, so my mother felt the time they spent together was so very important.

In Liverpool, England on 31 October, 1956, my mother and brother boarded a ship, The Carinthia, that would take them to my father, and to their new life in Canada. Mam quickly scurried to the deck with Michael so that they could wave goodbye. Immediately she spotted her father Patrick, with Kate and Gerry in the large crowd below. He had doffed his fedora, and his shock of white hair stood out in the sea of grey overcoats on the dock. He seemed so very small and fragile. Mam said she felt her heart break a little when she saw her dad. In that moment she wanted to rush off the ship and embrace her father just one more time, but of course, she could not. She would never see him again.

Throughout her life my mother spoke only occasionally about their immigration to Canada. At those times talk usually turned to her visit in Liverpool with her brother Patrick, and to those last moments as the ship moved away from the dock, and the sight of her father faded away. Although there was much sadness about this time, Mam also delighted in telling me about the six day journey she and brother made on the ship to Canada. My mother had left so very much behind, but it seems travelling on the Carinthia with my brother was a bit of an adventure for both of them.

When she boarded the ship that day for their journey, my mother Mary was only 25 years old. Although she had travelled with family members on holiday to Kent, England, my mother had never before been outside of Ireland by herself. Onboard the Carinthia, she was responsible not only for herself but for her only child too. My mam found a friend in the ship's stewardess who had been assigned to their cabin, and who allowed her to have a peek at some of the first class amenities, as well as the restaurant, cinema, and other areas set out for the 'tourist cabin class'. Mam loved being onboard the ship and wandered around with my brother, taking it all in. The only time she recalled feeling a little unsafe was when she was enjoying a film in the cinema with my brother and felt the pronounced sway of the ship upon the sea.

'Immigrant - Landed', the visa stamp
in Mom's passport.
A few months before she died, I talked to my mam about their emigration from Ireland. She said that despite her initial uncertainty, she had absolutely no regrets about the choice they made to come to Canada. Mam reminded me of the fact that she felt so very proud to be a Canadian, and talked about the year she and my dad and brother became citizens. 

Despite finding happiness in Canada, both my mam and dad felt very glad to have been able to return to Ireland and England to visit with family and friends as often as they had. Mam's one unqualified regret about leaving Ireland was that it meant leaving behind her beloved father, and thus never seeing him again. Sadly, neither an adventure onboard a great ship, nor life in a land of dreams with the husband and family she loved, would make up for that profound loss.

Be sure to stop by the Sepia Saturday blog to see how others have been inspired on this day. Perhaps you'll be inspired too.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Travel Tuesday: Marsh's Library: A Treasury of the European Mind

In Dublin right next door to the cemetery grounds of St. Patrick's Cathedral, and tucked away just beyond a small gateway, is Marsh's Library. Founded in 1701 by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh, in a building designed by the Surveyor General of Ireland, Sir William Robinson, Marsh's Library was the very first public library in Ireland.

Today, the library is one of a very few 18th century buildings left in Dublin that is still being used for its original purpose. In fact, many of the books in the library are still kept on the same shelves chosen for them by Archbishop Marsh and by the library's first librarian, Huguenot refugee, Dr. Elias Bouhéreau.

The library holds some 25, 000 books and manuscripts dating from the 15th to the 18th century and covering such a wide variety of subjects — classical literature, mathematics, science, politics, music, medicine and law — that it has been fittingly referred to as a treasury of the European mind. There are bibles printed in almost every language, along with books in Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, and Russian, and a significant collection of Latin Judaica.

The library is principally comprised of works from the collections of four individuals. The most significant of these is that of Edward Stillingfleet, the Bishop of Worcester, whose collection of over 10, 000 books was considered to be the finest private library in Europe in the period. It was purchased by Marsh in 1705 at the cost of £2,500.

John Sterne, the Bishop of Clogher, bequeathed his private collection to the Marsh library in 1745. Among those treasures is Cicero's Letters to his Friends. Printed in 1472, it is the oldest book in the library. The library's oldest manuscript also comes from Sterne's library; it is The Lives of Saints, which is written in Latin and dates to around 1400. The private collection of Narcissus Marsh, and that of the first librarian, Dr. Bouhéreau, complete the library.

Within the library, horizontal curios line one side of the central aisle, displaying all manner of fascinating materials. Also there are small cage-like enclosures in which the scholars of the day were required to sit when they were conducting research. A scholar could not simply peruse the shelves and choose the volume he required. Instead the librarian would retrieve the desired books and deliver them to the caged pupil for study.
Interior looking out, and the final staircase to the library.
The red hall is dominated by a portrait of Narcissus March.
Visitors to the library are not allowed to take photographs inside the library itself — thus all the outside views — however, I did manage to snag a shot just over a patron's shoulder before the door was closed to me. The last image on this page is the listing of librarians which hangs above the door into the library. Perhaps the name of one of your ancestors is among them.

You can get a glimpse of some of the treasures held by Marsh's library, and have a look at a 'study cage', by visiting the Pinterest or Facebook pages of the library.

Did any of your ancestors serve as a librarian at Marsh's Library?

Click on images to view larger versions.
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