Thursday, April 19, 2012

Quarantine

my A to Z - every day of the challenge I will find a word by flinging my finger into my American Heritage Dictionary and then riff on it. The posts may be essays or poems or stories or memories. Who knows what will happen when we give Serendipity her wanton way?

Quarantine - n. 1. a. A period of time during which a vehicle, a person, or material suspected of carrying a contagious disease is detained at a port of entry under enforced isolation to prevent disease from entering a country.

We were put on the island see. It's called Grosse Isle and it is in the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence. Oh there was lots of us there. Sure and most were sick. We were travelling in coffins  - that's what we soon called the ships - Coffin Ships -and we started out with nothing on our bones. It was terrible. We were starving weren't we? We'd left Ireland because of the famine and they just threw us on this island and said 'there then - stay there til we fetches ya' and what could we do? It was the typhus mainly. And sure three thousand died on the island but many thousand more were dead when they arrived. They'd flag the boats if they were too full of sick folk. It was saying something to get off the boat alive and then to just get off the island. Three thousand - probably more - they didn't give places to the small children - just buried them in their mother's arms. What a sin.
I made it off the place. I was a small lad and I guess I was lucky. I found bits and pieces to eat and I wasn't like most who got sea sick too. I don't blame the country here. What could they do? Our own country thought it was fine enough to turn us out to starve. They didn't feed us on the boats and if you could get something down - sure enough it would come back up soon. The ship would be pitching and hawing and everything sliding about and all of us packed in like those little silver fishes in a rusty tin.
My little sister didn't make it, nor did my Da. Just me and Liam and my mother. She was a tough thing. Lived to be eighty-nine and loved her grub every day until she died. You couldn't mention the isle around her. No. Oh well, different days.

2 comments:

Clarissa Draper said...

A very sad story and yet it was a very common occurrence.

colonialist said...

Horrifying reflection of how quarantine was handled in days past - in fact, in certain areas, still has the same reaction. The infected cease to be human beings and are merely seen as a threat to be got rid of.