Saturday, January 13, 2007

Letter to Daniel O'Connor from his mother

I posted this in the comments section of the Daniel article but decided it merited its own entry. So here is the beautiful 1824 letter of Daniel's mother Joanna Ronan O'Connor, when she had not heard from him in a awhile and did not know whether or not he was alive or dead.
-- Elena Maria Vidal

Dear Daniel:

I received your letter on the 20 Dec. last which found us all in good health-Thanks be to God- as we are at present- only Michael's wife died on the 24th June 1823.

Patrick and John moved to town in the harvest after you left them and follow the sawing (?sewing?) business, where they have good employment and I remain with Michael, and Owen remains where you left him. I generally hear good accounts of that place you are in, and if you encourage John, he is desirous to go, as he was prepared to go last may were it not for the want of money as no one would be carried less than 4 pounds and he required you send him an account of the wages he could earn, and also what kind of clothing and utensils would be most useful for him to carry, and though they would have continued business, their earnings is no more than 4 shillings a day without meat and drink.

The time you lest us, everything relative to disturbances ceased and no injury befall any of our neighbors but what you were aware of. The approaching summer after you left us was very scarce having a failure in potatoes the harvest before wheat did not exceed 20 shillings per bag. Still for want of employment the Irish in general would perish, were it not for the kindness of England who upon application being made they remitted 160 thousand pounds both by government and private subscription to be lain out in public improvement, which was laid out in roads to give employment to people and many subscriptions by the Irish gentlemen from our town and County is much improved by it. We had a plentiful harvest following. We have had plenty since. Out present harvest is very favorable and the corn nearly ripe at present and all sorts of people employed, but their wages low, and no prospect of any prices, as it is strongly reported our wheat will not exceed 15 shillings per bag, and oats in proportion. Therefore we cannot expect a demand for man's labor.

I intended letting you know I sent an answer to your letter soon as it arrived and received no answer. Therefore I take this opportunity of sending this by Dan Donovan who is now going to sail to Quebec to put it in the office there. Charles is bound to Dan to be a tailor and Timothy is bound to Michael Sullivan, Dunmanway.

Nothing is giving me more trouble than your absence and the few accounts I receive from you. Therefore soon as this arrives send me an account of the place and our friends in general.

I remain,

Your dutiful mother,

Joanna O'Connor Share


elena maria vidal said...

The Michael, Owen, John, Timothy, Patrick and Charles mentioned in the letter are Daniel's brothers. He also had two sisters Norah and Margaret but their mother does not mention them.

Anonymous said...

It was amazing that she even knew how to write and express herself so well, considering what the penal laws were at the time.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, wordsmith, it is amazing since Joanna would have grown up in the times when it was illegal to educate an Irish Catholic child. There were many people who undertook to teach Catholic children, however, such as the Presentation Nuns in Cork City. The Presentation Nuns were founded in 1775 by Mother Honora "Nano" Nagle(1718-1784).

Joanna was a Ronan, and the Ronans were an old merchant family from Cork. During the penal times, while it was illegal for Irish Catholics to engage in trade, the Ronans made their living by smuggling. Joanna in her letter displays a practicality about the cost of things and about life in general, and one can guess that she came from a family accustomed to doing business.

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks for an interesting bit of family history. I was reminded of the "Irish Need Not Apply" signs in shops and other places in Boston, MA during the 19th century.

Maryland founder George Calvert, Lord Baltimore, had to deal with penal laws after his conversion to Catholicism in 17th century England.

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks, Elisa, yes, there has been more anti-Catholicism in North America than most people are aware of....