The Atlantic Ocean has been a sea of heartache for countless thousands of Irish people who were forced to emigrate in search of a better life than was available in their homeland, writes Eugene Doyle

Long before the great famine stalked the land, the majority of the Irish people did not exist as far as the law was concerned and many chose to face the hazardous journey across the Atlantic to America rather than live as second-class citizens at home.

There are few records from the eighteenth century to tell us of the hardships endured on these long sea crossings, but we do know what happened on one ship named the ‘George and Anne’ which set sail from Ireland on 9th May, 1729, headed for Philadelphia.

Charles Clinton, a native of Co. Longford, chartered the ‘George and Anne’, a ship of about ninety tons, in 1729 to take him and his family, along with relatives and friends, to America. Among the passengers were George Lille, Robert Frazer, William Hamilton, Thomas Dunlop and others.

These were not paupers. They were people of some standing who were dissatisfied with conditions in Ireland and decided to make a new life in America. They must have realised that their journey would not be easy, but they could scarcely have imagined the terrible suffering they would have to endure before reaching their destination.

The story of that terrible voyage was recorded in a journal kept by Charles Clinton. The journey took 139 days during which the vessel was lashed by storms of frightening ferocity. By the time the ship reached port, there was practically no food left and ninety-six passengers had died. The dead included Charles Clinton’s son, James, and daughter, Mary.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own