Megan Kathleen OMally
Ages Twelve to Seventeen
Years 1760 to 1765
First, I am going to introduce myself. My name is Megan Kathleen OMally. I am twelve years of age.
Today Fiona, my older sister, at an age of sixteen, gave me this journal. She was very firm that I keep a record of the days events and write every day. "Your penmanship is dreadful, Megan," she told me. "You ought to keep a journal. Its terrible that youve never written about your life before." And so thats why Im writing now.
In truth, Mum often does tell me how atrocious my writing looks. She told me that Fiona had raised a good issue, and that I should be writing more often. Which is why I sit at Fathers wooden desk writing on these pages.
This morning, Colin, two years my senior (fourteen years), went off to be an apprentice to a shopekeeper in Williamsburg, Virginia. I asked Father what was wrong with apprenticing a shopekeeper right here in Connecticut, and he explained that Colin needed to experience the outside world. Colin will be gone for one whole year, such a dreadfully long time! Tis going to be hard without Colin. I will miss him very much.
Father is a wealthy jeweler, and he wants us children to have the highest education possible. However, Colin is the first he has sent away. My sister, Maureen, three years my junior (nine years), Fiona, Brenna, one year my senior (thirteen years) and myself all take lessons in stiching, music and housekeeping from Mistress Welsh. My brothers, Owen, one year my junior (eleven years), Sean, one year my senior (Brennas twin), and Colin are all taught by Master Avion, who travels to our house. That is, until Colin left today. Now he will shadow a shopekeeper.
Mum is leaning over my shoulder correcting my spelling errors. She tells me tis not spelled stiching, but rather stitching, and shopkeeper is actually the correct spelling of the word Ive spelt shopekeeper. Terribly sorry, Diary. My spelling is, well, not quite as accurate as it might be.
Rosa, our female slave, has just rung the dinner bell, so we shall have to part for now. I will write more later. The same day,
As I promised, I have resumed my writing. Rosa cooked a positively delicious dinner. We had fresh strawberry tarts and Sheppards pie.
Maureen was sent to bed right after dinner, for she has a dreadful cough. Mum seems worried, although I dont understand why. Maureen is only suffering from a common cough, but I heard Mum and Father even talk of sending for a doctor. I myself recently had a cough, and Mum wasnt worried then. I wont think about it now. Maureen will be well soon, anyway.
Grandmother and Grandfather are coming to Hartford tomorrow to visit us. They originally traveled from Ireland when Mum was not yet born. My fathers parents also came from Ireland, only much, much sooner. Mums parents came fifty years ago. They always tell me stories of when they still lived in Ireland, and how rough the voyage over to America was. I am looking forward to their visit very much, and I am hoping that they will tell me more about life in Ireland.
I promise to write more tomorrow, Diary.
September 8, 1760
Late at night
Grandmother (Bridget) and Grandfather (Seamus) arrived early this morning. They greeted each of us with a hug and kiss, except Maureen who is still ill in bed. We all sat in the parlor as Grandmother presented all of us girls with a handmade handkerchief (I care not for handkerchiefs, but I acted as though I were grateful, for I did not wish to hurt dear Grandmothers feelings) and the boys with new shirts. Our handkerchiefs were all embroidered with our names and flowers. Mine read: Megan Kathleen and had violets around the borders.
Mum soon drifted off into the kitchen to help Rosa prepare tea, and Father checked up on Maureen, so I was left alone with my grandparents. I sat on Grandfathers knee as they told me about their life in Ireland.
Bridget McKeanty married Seamus OReilly in 1705, when she was sixteen and he was eighteen. Seamus was a young farmer, the son of poor parents. Bridget also came from a poor family, and though her parents had hopes of her marrying into a wealthy family, Bridget fell in love with Seamus instead. Her parents were very angry and cut her out of the family. Seamus family heartily approved of the couple and arranged a small wedding for the two.
For four years, they lived happily and Bridget even became pregnant with child. But the conditions were getting worse, and they were having trouble getting enough food into the house. Seamus and Bridget were very worried, for she was going to have a child, and the baby needed nourishment to grow healthily.
Their fears grew as they tried to accumulate money. Finally, they decided that they could not handle it any more, and had to find a way out. The only way out was to leave Ireland.
Seamus arranged for them to leave for America. The only voyage they could pay for would leave one month later, most likely after the baby was born. And so for one month, they scrimped and saved every penny, only spending money on the cost of food and drink.
Bridget gave birth to a baby girl on April 29, 1709. Surprisingly (considering the conditions), she was born healthy. They named her Colleen. This brought encouragement to the young couple and they continued to count down the days until the voyage.
In some ways, they were excited to leave Ireland. They had heard of how wonderful America was, and how the streets were paved in gold, and they were looking forward to more job opportunities and better living conditions. But they were also sad to leave their friends and family. It would be hard to leave.
Grandfather and Grandmother stopped their story, for they were getting awfully tired, and I told them to tell me of the voyage the following day. I was intrigued by the story, and I did indeed wish to hear about the voyage. I guess Ill look forward to hearing about it tomorrow.
I think, Diary, that I really ought to be going to sleep now. I had to stay up late to tell you about my exciting day, but Mum will most likely be angry, and my candles almost burnt out anyway.
I promise to write tomorrow.
(Also, I just remembered: I have decided to call you Rose. Grandmother told me about a dear friend she had in Ireland named Rose, and I truly think that it is a beautiful name.)
September 9, 1760
Grandmother and Grandfather told me more of their history today. I thought you might like to hear it.
Bridget and Seamus packed a few belongings; they knew that it would be difficult to journey with a large load. They left furniture and dishes, and only brought clothing and a few mementos from home.
On May seventeenth, 1709, they left their home, friends and family to head for America. They were dressed in rags and had no food with them, but they were excited to be heading for the land of opportunity.
They were at first content being third-class passengers on the ship, but they soon found how difficult and dirty it was, not just for third class, but for everyone. Bridget became ill just four days into the six-week voyage. Seamus soon took ill after eight days.
Food was scarce, even at the start of the trip, but after a week or so, all the meat had rotted, forcing the passengers to either starve or come down with sickness due to bad meat. It was a very difficult situation.
Both Bridget and Seamus remained seasick for several weeks. Most every other passenger was also ill at some point in the trip. Several did not survive. Including Colleen.
Colleen was still a tiny infant at the time of her death. It wasnt surprising that she did not make it; it was, after all, a difficult voyage for the adult passengers. Colleen became ill soon after Bridget, although her illness was much more severe. Colleen OReilly died on June 2, 1709 at just one month and four days.
Bridget was doing better by this time, and became terribly depressed when her little daughters life ended. For days she cried and cried, until no more tears were left in her body. Seamus was saddened by the death, too, but was still in an ill state and did not discuss his feelings of grief.
On June 20, whispers began to spread around the ship. Soon
soon, people were saying. They would arrive soon. And so they began to pack up the few belongings they had, and prayed that the rumors were true.
It was true. Five days later, on June 25, 1709, they arrived in Boston harbor. America at last!
Bridget and Seamus departed from the ship and began to search for jobs. Bridget searched for a job as a maid, while Seamus looked in hopes of finding land to farm on. They were met with many disappointments.
Bridget knocked on doors, asking if anyone needed a maid for no pay, just room and meals. Discriminating and cruel English families greeted her. They dismissed her at first sight simply for the fact that she was Irish. It was quite easy to distinguish her as an Irish woman; she had a head of brilliant red hair, right down to her shoulders, and was spotted with dozens of freckles.
Seamus had similar troubles. No one wanted to rent land to an Irish; what about their reputation? And so the couple continued to search.
Bridget finally found a family that would take her in. Their surname was Smith, and they were full English. However, they did not care that she was Irish; in fact, they were quite intrigued about her history. She was allowed a room for her and Seamus and they received two meals a day.
Seamus, however, was still in search of land. Though the couple had a place to stay, and food to eat, they were still desperately in need of money, especially because Bridget had become pregnant again and was in her sixth month.
Finally, Seamus rented land from another Irishman. He planted many crops, in hopes that he would be able to sell them the following spring.
Soon after they found land to rent, Bridget gave birth to a baby boy on March second, 1710, whom they named Darcy. Darcy spent two happy days with his proud parents, but then died when he was just two days old.
The following spring brought good news. Seamus crops were flourishing nicely, and they had broad hopes of selling them. Seamus brought a cart of fruits and vegetables to a local shop and received a large sum of money for them.
At last, it seemed that the couple was getting by. Seamus continued to sell the vegetables to the same merchant, until it almost seemed that they had a considerable amount of money.
Grandmother sighed and closed her eyes for a minute. "It seemed almost too good to be true," she told me. "The only thing that dimmed our shining light was that we had no surviving children yet."
Just so you know, Rose (after all, I dont want my dear diary sad), they had four more children: Bretta, Doreen, Colleen (Mum-the second Colleen) and Patsy, who died at the age of five.
Grandfather was feeling terribly tired, and so he retired to the guest room. However, Grandmother stayed with me, for she was feeling quite awake. And, Rose, would you ever! Dear Grandmother reached into her handbag and brought out some old looking papers tied with a red ribbon. And what do you know? They were the remains of the diary she kept in Ireland and on the ship! But that wasnt all! Grandmother handed them-to me! I was so excited, I was ready to burst! Of course, I didnt want to be greedy, and Im sure Grandmother wanted to remember, so I told her I only wanted one page. "Megan," said she. "I dont want to remember that voyage, ever, ever, ever!"
"But Grandmother!" said I. "Of course you do! You want to remember Ireland!" And so I took one page, but I did pick a wonderfully interesting page, and of course Im going to put it in my very own diary!
As another thing you might wish to know, Rose, little Maureen continues to become terribly ill. I am so dreadfully worried about her! I do hope she becomes well soon!
Something truly, truly terrible happened today. Something so horrible I cannot even begin to express myself.
Today, Maureen, little, sweet, beautiful Maureen died.
This morning, Mum came to my bedroom and told me the tragic news. It seems that Maureen had influenza, and it became serious. I had no idea how horribly sick Maureen was until just today
Mum says tis not proper to write on a day we should be mourning, but I simply had to tell my dear diary about this terrible event. I hope you can understand when I tell you that I may not ever be able to write again, Rose.
From my heart and soul,
Megan Kathleen OMally
My Dearest Rose,
I can absolutely not believe that three years have past since Ive written in my diary. It seems almost impossible. Do forgive me, darling Rose.
I seemed to have buried you somewhere in our creaking attic, and I suppose I simply forgot all about you. We were searching for a trunk Mum packed her wedding attire in, for Fiona will be wed next month, and I stumbled upon you.
I flipped through these pages to see what Id written before I carelessly hid you upstairs, and I was shocked to realize how little Id written. In fact, I wrote practically nothing at all, just introducing myself and writing of my family history. I have also noticed how dreadfully unreadable my handwriting was, and I do hope youve noticed my great improvement.
Perhaps you are interested in what has happened in these past three years, so I am going to tell you.
Father was very content that we not participate in the French-Indian war. He says our family should be peaceful and never fight. I was not unhappy about this at all, for this has very little to do with myself or the rest of my family.
Colin returned from Williamsburg not in the least interested in being a shopkeeper. He says tis all rubbish and shopkeepers are not needed anywhere. Instead, Colin wishes to go to war. He believes that we need to help defeat the Indians, because they, in Colins words, "are good for nothing and havent got one ounce of kindness in their blood." Father was shocked that Colin wanted to go to war, and told him that there will absolutely be no more talk of this nonsense in the household. Colin is still awfully angry with him, and I believe he is making plans with Sean to run off and enlist. Colin made me swear on the holy bible that I would never, never, never tell Father, although I am ambivalent about Colin running off to go to war.
Brenna also wants to participate. She says that we should help France win the war any way possible. I know that the sole reason she wishes to be involved in the war at all is because I happen to know that her beau Marcus house was raided by Indians and the whole family was kidnapped. For several days, Brenna cried her eyes dry. We still have no information concerning them.
Fiona, as Ive mentioned previously, is marrying an Englishman. She is, of course, by now nearly nineteen years, an age Mum says is a proper age to marry. His name is Charles Philips, and he is a blacksmith. Fiona met him at the town fair, and they have been visiting each other ever since. Charles is twenty-three years of age, just four years older than my sister. I have not yet determined whether or not I like him; I am going to have to get to know him as time passes.
Fiona says tis ridiculous how Colin and Brenna are so concerned with the war. "You ought to be ashamed of yourselves!" she scolded them. "Father forbade you to have anything to do with this horrible war! Honor thy father and thy mother!" Fiona is getting terribly bossy. I also happen to know that the fancy expressions she pretends are created by just her are really straight out of the bible. Honor thy father is the fifth commandment from Gods own lips.
I havent any opinion of the war. I think tis truly horrible what the Indians do, especially that scalping aspect, but I want to obey Father. I just dont wish to be involved in this war at all. Brenna says I ought to be loyal to the British crown, and while I am loyal to Britain, I do wish they wouldnt involve themselves in so much fighting.
Rose, I know tis difficult for you to forgive me for shunning you so awfully these past years, but I do hope that you can accept your dear friend Megan into your heart again.
How wonderful Fionas wedding was! Twas a truly splendid celebration. Charles house was decorated with beautiful flowers, and the food
oh, the food! Several cherry tarts surrounded a huge layered cake on a beautiful silver platter, and biscuits and crumpets on a second platter.
The food, of course, came after the procession. Fiona wore her best dress, a lovely white party dress with lace and ribbon. A minister said the blessings and then proceeded to move on to the celebration.
Brenna was awfully angry that I caught the bouquet Fiona threw. She kept pouting and saying over and over that she was going to end up being an old maid. I dont actually believe that I will be married next, but I was pleased to catch it. It was so funny seeing Brenna upset over such a minor and silly event. I do not know who received the garter.
I just wanted to let you know, Rose, as Ive not written for a month or so. I would certainly not want you to worry!
Colin and Sean went off early this morning, before Father and Mum had arisen. Brenna and I saw them go. They gave us notes to give to Father and Mum. I was so terribly sad to watch them go! I have little hope that they might even survive the journey there, never mind actually fighting! I didnt say this to Brenna, though. Brenna was so excited, she was nearly jumping up and down. She told them, "Tis wonderful what you are doing, boys. If I cannot help myself, I am pleased that my own kin will. Good luck."
Father is terribly angry with us. He was raging like a mad bull when we came down to morning meal. "Why didnt you wake us?" he demanded. "Why did you not try to stop them?"
I was about to tell him that I did not want to part with them, either, and that I had the feeling that they would not pay heed to my words, but Brenna was too quick. "We did not tell you," she retorted fiercely, "because we wanted them to go! We wanted to help save ourselves from these ill-natured creatures! And if you arent allowing us to defend ourselves, we must run off!"
And that brings me to the next point I am going to discuss: I am locked in my room until Brenna apologizes. I do not find it fair in the least that it was Brenna who uttered such defying words, and I am also to be punished.
Owen is also angry. He believes it to be cruel of Colin and Sean not to include him when they ran off. Though he is but fourteen years, he feels that he ought to be included in any adventure the other boys take. Now Father is also angry with him for wanting to fight. Dear God! What a frightfully angry and cruel family I do indeed live with!
Im so dreadfully sorry that Ive left such a gap of space between this entry and my last. Tis just that Ive been so terribly busy.
Fiona is with child. She is beginning to look awfully huge. Perhaps tis twins! I do hope that she gives birth to at least one baby girl. I cannot wait to be the aunt of the child!
Brenna is to be married to another Irishman called Alan McCaully. Brenna is pleased about the marriage, for I do believe she is quite fond of him, and has not ceased gloating about how the bridal bouquet was clearly meant for her, seeing how she will be the next married. However grand and pleased she is, I am suspicious that it is only the prospect of marrying that has caused her such pleasure.
The war has ended, but we have not heard from Colin or Sean. I do hope theyre all right! It would be perfectly dreadful if they were harmed!
Father tells us that Britain is acting like an awfully childish mother country. He is terribly angry, and attends meetings with other colonists who feel the same way about the British. Father has even said that he may fight the British.
"But, Father!" I protested. "Youve said tis wrong to fight! You said no when Collin wanted to go off to war!"
Father nodded and said in a grave tone, "Aye. Tis true what you say, Megan. But the British are simply unbearable, and I am going to do all within my power to stop them."
Mums face turned to a very pale shade, and she whispered, "No, Desmond! You shant! I should be so terribly worried about you!"
Father shook his head and left the room.
Oh, Rose! It would be so unbearable if Father should go off to fight! Britain has a much stronger army than the colonies, and he would most surely die! Dear Rose, I pray every night to God in our heavens that Father will put that foolish idea out of his mind.
Brenna has new wedding plans. This time she is to wed an Irishman called Baird OConnall. She is happy again, and I do hope that this marriage does work, unlike the last. It is simply splendid for Brenna to be in a positive mood for once!
Yesterday a messenger came and delivered a letter-to me! Tis from Colin. Finally! I have attached it right here:
Dear Megan (and Brenna, although I suspect shes off and married),
I suppose you must be wondering what has happened to me and Sean. I just wrote to you to tell you that I am fine, so that you wont worry.
We did fight against the Indians. Sean, I am heartbroken to say, was killed. Tell Mum, Father, Brenna and Owen that his last words were that he loved you all, and he hopes Mum and Father have forgiven him for running off.
I am currently living in Lexington. What do you think of these British? Tis horrible what theyre doing! I plan to fight them if it comes that far (Dont tell Father that. Im sure he has forbade you to speak ill of the British).
All my love,
Your brother, Colin
Poor Colin! It must have been hard fighting the Indians, especially since he did not have Sean with him. Why is he participating in yet another fighting opportunity? Colin will die in battle some day, Im sure of it.
Rose, no matter what Colin or Father say, I do not find it to be my position to participate in any way in the war. Britain or the colonies can win, as far as my cares go. I just want it all to end! War is such a nasty business!
Oh, dear me! Ive just realized that Ive come to the end of this diary! How short it seemed!
Well, goodbye, my dear Rose. It seems that our adventures together have ended. I must get a new diary soon, and I shant have anymore space left in you, my friend.
So we shall have to part now, Rose. Youll always have a special place in my heart, though, Rose, for you were my first diary, and you served as my place to show my true feelings.
Love straight from my heart and soul,
Megan Kathleen OMally, your friend from the ages of twelve to seventeen
Laura Berlinksy-Schine is in the eighth grade. She attends the Lincoln School in Providence, Rhode Island. Writing and listening to music are two of her favorite activities.
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