A Recap of The Irish Immigrant Assembly

Ben Gaffney, Staff Writer

On January 26, Oratory had an assembly about how Irish Immigrants came to America and the hardships they faced living here. Rachel McClinton, who ran the assembly, started off with context on why Irish people started immigrating, including how 1.5 million people left Ireland to pursue happiness in America. Most were impoverished farmers that couldn’t make money because of a disease that destroyed Ireland’s potato crops. 

Then, McClinton switched to something different–a one women play about a young Irish girl who went to America, where she would talk to audio recordings as the other characters of the play. This girl was a very poor girl in Ireland who owned a farm. She was living with her dad and her brother, and because they needed money, they sent her to America to somehow make some. The young girl, however, was underage, so she could not legally immigrate till she was a year older.  However, her dad lied to get her on the boat, and she was  let on. The girl portrayed in the play felt a mix between nervousness and being ecstatic to come to America. She was nervous because she was leaving her home country of Ireland, but she was happy because she thought her cousin’s house, which she was going to stay at, was a mansion in New York. On this American boat, there were three different classes of people– the first class, who got luxurious rooms and tasty dinners on the boat, the second class, who got decent rooms on the boat, and the third class, who had awful rooms shared with plenty of other third class people. People would often get sick in these third-class rooms, like the one the character was in. This girl did not know anyone on this boat. It would’ve been a rough three months of traveling if she knew no one, but she met one girl her age who was coming to America to get married. 

Once the boat landed at Ellis Island, everyone would have to wait in line to pass the health tests. The two friends made it threw the line. After that, the two girls said goodbye because they weren’t going to see each other for a while. Our character’s cousin picked her up and was going to his house. Our character thought this was a mansion until she found out that it was a hot, stinky, small New York apartment. The girl was utterly annoyed. She would work all day and not get paid and ended up leaving with nowhere to go. However, she found housing for Irish girls. She got a room there and saw the girl who she was on the boat with. They were both excited. But our character also got a job at a factory. When she got there, she found that she was being discriminated against because the other girls working there were Italian. She had no friends. One day at work, a fire started in the factory and the girls could not get out because the owners of the factories locked the doors. Our character survived but she witnessed the other girls die by jumping out the window, or staying in there. 

Unfortunately, we ran out of time after this part, but McClinton answered some questions at the end. Although several sophomores were mad because they missed Physical Education for this, it ended up being an informative assembly.