This letter was written on 22nd September 1850 by Margaret McCarthy to her family and would have served as an emigrant's guide.

She was 22 years of age, the daughter of Alexander (Sandy) McCarthy, carpenter to the Crown estate, native of Boherboy, and Nell, his wife. Margaret sailed from Liverpool on 7th September 1849 on the Columbus and arrived in New York on 22nd October. She settled in New York

My Dear Father and Mother, Brothers and Sisters,

I write these few lines to you hoping That these few lines may find you all in as good State of health as I am in at present thank God. I received your welcome letter to me Dated 22nd of May which was A Credit to me for the Style and Elegance of its Fluent Language but I must Say Rather Flattering. My Dear Father, I must only say that this is a good place and A good Country for if one place does not Suit A man he can go to Another and can very easy please himself.

But there is one thing that’s Ruining this place Especially the Frontier towns and Cities where the Flow of Emigration is most, the Immigrants has not money Enough to Take them to the Interior of the Country which obliges them to Remain here in York and the like places for which Reason Causes the less demand for Labour and also the great Reduction in wages.

For this Reason I would advise anyone to come to America that would not have Some Money after landing here that (would) Enable them to go west in case they would get no work to do here but any man or woman without a family are fools that would not venture and Come to this plentiful Country where no man or woman ever Hungered or ever will and where you will not be Seen Naked, but I can assure you there are Dangers upon Dangers Attending coming here but my Friends nothing Venture nothing have.

Fortune will favour the brave, have Courage and prepare yourself for the next time that worthy man Mr. Boyan is Sending out the next lot, and Come you all Together Courageously and bid adieu to that lovely place the land of our Birth, that place where the young and old joined Together in one Common Union, both night and day Engaged in Innocent Amusement. But alas. I am now Told its Gulf of Misery oppression Degradation and Ruin of every Description which I am Sorry to hear of so Doleful a History to Be told of our Dr. Country. This my Dr. Father Induces me to Remit to you in this Letter 20 Dollars that is four Pounds thinking it might be Some Acquisition to you until you might Be Clearing away from that place all together and the Sooner the Better for Believe me I could not Express how great would be my joy at our seeing you all here Together where you would never want or be at a loss for a good Breakfast and Dinner. So prepare as soon as possible for this will be my last Remittance until I see you all here.

Bring with you as much Tools as you can as it will cost you nothing to Bring them And as for you Clothing you need not care much But that I would like that yourself would Bring one good Shoot of Cloth that you would spare until you come here. And as for Mary She need not mind much as I will have for her A Silk Dress A Bonnet and Veil according and Ellen I need not mention what I will have for her I can fit her well. You are to Bring Enough Flannels and do not form it at home as the way they wear Flannel at home and here is quite different For which reason I would Rather that you would not form any of it until you Come, with the Exception of whatever Quantity of Drawers you may have you can make them at home But make them Roomy Enough But Make No Jackets.

My Dr. Father I am Still in the Same place but do not Intend to Stop there for the winter. I mean to Come in to New York and there Spend the winter. Thade Houlehan wrote to me Saying that if I wished to go up the Country that he would send me money but I declined so doing until you Come and then after you Coming, if you think it may be Better for us to Remain here or go west, it will be for you to judge but until then I will Remain here.

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Dan Keliher Tells me that you knew more of the House Carpentry than he did himself and he can earn from twelve to fourteen Shillings a day that is seven shilling British and he also Tells me that Florence will do very well and that Michl can get a place Right off as you will not be In the Second day when you can Bind him to any Trade you wish.

As for John he will Be Very Shortly able to Be Bound too So that I have Every Reason to Believe that we will all do well Together So as that I am sure its not for Slavery I want you to Come to here, no it's for affording My Brothers and Sisters And I, an opportunity of Showing our Kindness and Gratitude and Comeing on your Seniour days that we would be placed in that position that you my Dr. Father and Mother could walk about Leisurely and Independently without Requiring your Labour, an object which I am Sure will not fail even by Myself if I was obliged to do it without the assistance of Brother or Sister for my Dr. Father and Mother. I am proud and happy to Be away from where the County Charges man or the poor Rates man or any other rates man would have the Satisfaction of once Impounding my cow or any other article of mine.

Oh how happy I feel and am sure to have luck as The Lord had not it destined for (hole in paper probably obliterating “me”) to get married to Some Loammun or another at home that after a few months he and I may be an Encumbrance upon you or perhaps in the poor house by this. So my Dr. Father according as I had Stated to you I hope that whilst you are at home I hope that you will give my Sister Mary that privilege of Enjoying herself Innocently, on any occasion that She pleases so far as I have said Innocently and as for my Dearr. Ellen I am in Raptures of joy when I think of one day Seeing her and you all at the dock in New York and if I do not have a good Bottle of Brandy for you Awaiting your arrival it’s a Caution.

Well I have only to tell My Dr. Mother to Bring all her Bed-Close and also to bring the Kettle and an oven and have handles to them and do not forget the Smoothing Irons and Beware when you are on Board to Bring some good flour and Engage with the Captain Cook and he will do it better for you for very little and also Bring some whiskey and give them to the Cook and Some Sailors that you may think would do you any good to give them a Glass once in a time and it may be no harm.

And Dr. Father when you are Coming here if you Possibly can Bring My Uncle Con. I would be Glad that you would and I am sure he would be of the greatest acquisition to you on board and also Tell Mary Keeffe that if her Child died that I will Pay her passage very Shortly and when you are Coming do not be frightened. Take Courage and be Determined and bold in your Undertaking as the first two or three days will be the worst for you and mind whatever happens on board keep your own temper do not speak angry to any or hasty; the Mildest Man has the best Chance on board so you make your way with everyone and further you are to speak to Mr. Boyan and he I am sure will get one Request for you; Mr. Boyan will do it for me. When you are to Come ask Mr. Boyan to give you a few lines to the Agent or Berth Master of the Ship that will Secure to you the Second Cabin which I am sure Mr. Boyan will do and as soon as you Receive this letter write to me and let me know about everything when you are to come and what time and state Particulars of everything to me Direct as before. And if you are to come Shortly when you come to Liverpool write to me also and let me know when you are to sail and the name of the Ship you sail in as I will be uneasy until I get an answer.

No more at present But that you will give Mr. And Mrs. Boyan my best love and respect And let me know how they and family are as they would or will not Be ever Better than I would wish them to be; also Mrs Milton and Charles, Mr. And Mrs Roche and family, Mr. And Mrs. Day and family, Mr. Walsh and as for his family I sure (hope) are all well, Mr. And Mrs Sullivan and family, Mrs. O’Brien, Con Sheehan, wife and family, all the Herlihys and families, Tim Leahy and family, Own Sullivan of Cardigans and family, Darby Guinee and family, John and family, Timothy Callaghan and family, Timothy Sheehan and Mother.

So no more at present from your Ever Dear and Loving Child

Margaret McCarthy

* Originally published in 2017. Updated in May 2024. 

H/T: Mayo Library.