Shipwrecked Sailors' Burial

An ancient abbey was near, said to be a thousand years old; and so closely had the Catholics buried their dead there that it appeared at a little distance, like one vast pile of stones tumbled together. The Protestants and Romanists do not choose to place their dead in contact; and these two were distinct; but they, also, had their "respectable monuments," for we saw, on a nearer approach, that this grave-yard had elevated cemented tombstones; the ground was high, and no walls, but the roaring old sea upon one side—which sometimes boldly reaches out and snatches a sleeper from his bed. The scattered bones that lay about, told that it must long have been the "place of skulls." The last year had made great accessions to the pile, which could easily be known by their freshness, and ropes of straw and undried grass brought here by relatives, to put over the uncoffined bodies of their friends. Here were deposited five or six sailors, belonging to a vessel from Greenock, which was wrecked on this coast the preceding spring. The bodies washed ashore, and a brother of the lady with me dug a pit and put them in, spreading over their faces the skirt of one of their overcoats, "to screen," as he said, "the cruel clay from their eyes." These poor sailors, unknown and unwept, were buried by the hand of a stranger, on a foreign shore; but somewhere they might have had mothers who waited and asked in vain for the absent ship.

As these sailors have no monument to tell their parentage, let it be recorded here, that in the spring of 1847, a vessel was wrecked on the desolate coast of Erris, and every soul on board was lost. The vessel sailed from Greenock, in Scotland. While sitting in the cottage, in the evening, the lady who accompanied me brought a lid of a box, which was taken from among the wreck of that lost ship, and on it was written:—

"Soda Biscuit, by ——, Corner of Beekman and Cliff Street, New York."

The name was so defaced it could not be made out. This added new interest to the shipwreck, when meeting an inscription from the street where I had lived, and the shop in which I had traded, and was told that the vessel was freighted with provisions for the starving of Ireland. This was a mistake.

Read "Annals of the Famine in Ireland" at your leisure

Annals of the Famine in Ireland

Read Annals of the Famine in Ireland at your leisure and help support this free Irish library.

This book still has the power to shock and sadden even though the events described are ever-receding further into the past. When you read, for example, of the poor widowed mother who was caught trying to salvage a few potatoes from her landlord's field, and what the magistrate discovered in the pot in her cabin, you cannot help but be apalled and distressed.

The text of this new edition has professionally been reset and an index added to the paperback.


Library Ireland Facebook