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Tracing the Evolution of the Atlantic Voyage in the Nineteenth Century

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review: No. 19, 2003


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by Christine McIvor

‘It Would Be Easy Enough If There Was No Ocean’

"The above quotation comes from a letter written by Don Corcoran, Toronto, to his cousins Mary Kate and Eddie Taggart, Omagh in 1952. The Corcorans had emigrated in 1929 and not returned to Ireland since. In the letter he expressed a wish to come back for a visit some day, but considered the expense prohibitive.

In contemplative mood he wrote: ‘It would be easy enough if there was no ocean; I’ve driven my car 12,000 miles now which is about the same distance as ‘over ’ome’ and back’. How much easier might it have been to travel without having to contemplate the sea journey!

The Atlantic crossing of course, was an unavoidable reality for Corcoran, as it had been for the millions of Irish emigrants who had preceded him.

This article examines continuity and change in the Atlantic journey from the point of departure to arrival, in three parts: the journey from home to the port; the time spent in port; the voyage and conditions on board ship from embarkation to arrival, comparing three time periods, the decades of the 1820s, 1840s and 1860s, focusing on the port of Derry."

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