From John O’Rourke’s 1907 The Great Famine
What with shipwrecks, what with deaths from famine, from fever, from overcrowding; what with wholesale robbery, committed upon them at almost every step of their journey, it is matter for great surprise indeed, that even a remnant of the Famine emigrants survived to locate themselves in that far West, to which they fled in terror and dismay, from their humble but loved and cherished homes, in the land of their fathers.
The Irish race get but little credit for industry or perseverance; but in this they are most unjustly maligned, as many testimonies already cited from friend and foe, clearly demonstrate. If one more be wanting, I would point to a fact in the history of the wornout remnant of our Famine emigrants who had tenacity of life enough to survive their endless hardships and journeyings. That fact is, the large sums of money which, year after year, they sent to their friends every penny of which they earned by the sweat of their brow by their industry and perseverance.
Thus write the Commissioners of Emigration, in their thirty first General Report: “In 1870, as in former years, the amount sent home was large, being £727,408 from North America, and £12,804 from Australia and New Zealand. Of this sum there was remitted in prepaid passages to Liverpool, Glasgow, and Londonderry, £332,638; more than was sufficient to pay the passage money for all who emigrated that year! Imperfect as our accounts are,” continue the Commissioners, “they show that, in the twenty three years from 1848 to 1870 inclusive, there has been sent home from North America, through banks and commercial houses, upwards of £16,334,000. Of what has been sent home through private channels we have no account.”
A public writer, reviewing the Commissioners’ Report, says: “Even this vast sum does not represent more than the one half of the total sent home. Much was brought over by captains of ships, by relatives, friends, or by returning emigrants.” No doubt, a great deal of money came through private channels, but it is hardly credible, that another sixteen or seventeen millions reached Ireland in that way. It is only guess work, to be sure, but if we add one fourth to the sum named in the Report, as the amount transmitted by private hand, it will probably bring us much nearer the truth. This addition gives us, in all, £20,417,500.
There, then, is the one more testimony, that the Irish race lack neither industry nor perseverance. For the lengthened period of three and twenty years, something like £1,000,000 a year have been transmitted to their relatives and friends by the Irish in America. In three and twenty years, they have sent home over TWENTY MILLIONS OF MONEY. Examine it; weigh it; study it; in whatever way we look at this astounding fact whether we regard the magnitude of the sum, or the intense, undying, all pervading affection which it represents it STANDS ALONE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.