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 mom and brother followed my dad to Canada in October of that year. Mom's favourite brother Patrick had moved away from Ireland before her, and was living in Liverpool, England. Along with my grandfather Patrick Ball, and Mom's siblings Kate and Gerry, my mother and brother flew to Liverpool, so that Mom 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. Mom 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. Mom 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, Mom 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 mom 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'. Mom 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 mom 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. Mom 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 mom 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. Mom'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.

Copyright©irisheyesjg2013.

23 comments:

  1. Loved reading this! My parents came in 1957 from Ireland and my Dad came first also. We all flew though, first landing in Gander and then Montreal.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Jackie. I am glad the post reminded you of your own family's experience. Hope it evoked lots of happy memories!

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  2. A lovely touching tribute to your mother. Your poster of the Carinthia was very striking and impressive, surrounded by the coats of rms.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Scot Sue. I hope my mom liked the post too. The image of the ship is a recent find and reminded me of some of the memorabilia of the ship that my mom bought onboard. She had a key chain with a mini Carinthia floating inside and a ring bearing the ship's image. Unfortunately those items were lost through time, but I do wish I had them today.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  3. I have several relatives who made the same journey from Liverpool to a new life in Canada. This week we have seen a number of emigration ships featured in our posts, I must admit that the Carinthia looks a good deal more comfortable than the earlier versions.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Alan. I have to catch up on my blog reading and have a look at all the posts.

      The Carinthia does look quite comfortable. It was a new ship, launched by Princess Margaret in December of 1955, and after its test runs, 1956 was its first travel season, so my mom and brother were very fortunate to have been able to travel on it.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  4. Every time I read someone's blog detailing a major move from England to Australia or Ireland to Canada, I get a sick feeling as if it were me or my family leaving forever. At 25 and 27, your parents were younger than my own daughters now. I can't imagine how it would feel if they were boarding a ship or plane to move across the world never to see them again.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Wendy. I know exactly how you feel. I can't imagine how my mom truly felt on that day. She adored her father. Mom was only five years old when her mother died, so she was always very close to her dad. I've always thought she was quite brave to make the journey to Canada.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  5. I can hardly sleep without my husband by my side, I can't imagine sending him on ahead to a new job would be difficult. The fortitude of immigrant families often impresses me deeply.

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    1. Thanks for your comments 'whowerethey'. I feel the same as you when I think about immigrant families. Brave steps into a brave new world.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  6. Leaving the country of your birth must have been a wrench, at least my parents only went over the Irish sea so were able to visit frequently.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Bill. I feel the same as you too. You're family was lucky to have family so close at hand.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  7. Seeing the postcard of the ship and reading your mother's story really brought immigration to life for me. What a great adventure for your mother. I'm so sorry she wasn't able to see her father again, though.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Nancy. I am glad the post 'spoke' to you. Friends of ours used to say my mom was 'up for anything' and I guess her spirit of adventure began with this first move away from home.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  8. That is a colorful card of the ship. I am curious about how the jobs were obtained ahead of time.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Postcardy. Good thought about the jobs issue too.

      In the period in which my parents and brother immigrated to Canada, immigrants had to have a sponsor in Canada. Dad's sponsor was a friend of his who had emigrated from Ireland years before. Dad asked for his sponsorship and after he agreed he sought out companies to which my father could apply. Letters of recommendation had to be sent from my father's employer in Ireland to the companies in question and from there he was hired on a probationary basis. Thankfully all worked out for my dad, because if an immigrant did not succeed in their job they could be sent back to their country of origin.

      When we were going through my mom's effects after she passed away I found one of those letters of recommendation sent to my dad's employer on my dad's behalf. Apparently they gave it back to him when he moved on to another job. It's a great thing to have since it speaks so highly about my dad.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  9. Such a heartbreaking thought - never to see her father again. Thanks for letting us know how long the voyage was...I didn't really have any idea of how long it might take.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Alex. It is a heartbreaking thought that my mom never saw her dad again. My parents had planned a trip home to Ireland in the summer of the year in which my grandad died, but unfortunately he passed away in February of the year.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  10. We tend to forget that there were emigrants to Canada so you have given us a timely reminder, tinged with a bit of sadness.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Bob. I'm glad the post 'spoke' to you.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  11. You write with lovely sentiment - gives a real feel of the emotion of the departure. I guess it was the same for many of my ancestors who came to Australia 100 years earlier, and my husband's parents who came separately from Holland, his mother with two little boys.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Jackie. I'm glad you could relate to the post and see the experience of some of your own family members — and your husband's — in the story.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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