Possibly the swiftest route to your roots.

Robert Whyte's 'The Journey Of An Irish Coffin Ship, 1847', Chapter 4

"I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets ...
And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets R prepared themselves to sound ...
And the seventh angel sounded ...
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them and they were judged every man ..."

-- Revelations

Saturday, 19 June

A shark followed us all the day and the mate said it was a certain forerunner of death. The cabin was like an apothecary's shop and the mistress a perfect slave. I endeavoured to render her every assistance in my power. The mate also was indefatigable in his exertions to alleviate the miserable lot of our helpless human cargo. Not having seen the stowaway on deck for some time, upon inquiring after him, I learned that he was amongst the sick and was very bad but he was kindly attended by the young man from the County Clare who devoted himself to attending the afflicted, some of whom the members of their own families neglected to take care of.

Sunday, 20 June

Having hinted to the captain the propriety of having divine service read upon the Sabbath, he said that it could not be done. Indeed the sailors seldom had a spare moment and as to the mate, I often wondered how he got through so much work. This day, therefore, had no mark to istinguish it from any other. The poor emigrants were in their usual squalid attire, neither did the crew rig themselves out as on former Sundays. All were dispirited and a cloud of melancholy hung over us. The poor mistress deplored that she could not get an opportunity of reading her Bible. I pitied her from my heart knowing how much she felt the distress that surrounded us and her anxiety to lighten the affliction of the passengers.

Monday, 21 June

I was surprised at the large allowance of food served out to the sailors. They had each 1-21bs of beef or pork daily, besides coffee and as much biscuit as they pleased, but it being a temperance vessel, they had no grog, in lieu of which they got lime-juice. However, there was a little cask of brandy in a corner of the cabin but the captain was afraid to broach it, knowing the mate's propensity. I noticed the latter often casting a wistful glance at it as he rose from dinner and he did not fail to tell me that it was the best possible preventive against the fever.

Tuesday, 22 June

One of the sailors was unable for duty and the mate fear ed he had the fever. The reports from the hold were growing even more alarming and some of the patients who were mending, had relapsed. One of the women was every moment expected to breathe her last and her friends - an aunt and cousins were inconsolable about her as they had persuaded her to leave her father and mother and come with them. The mate said that her feet were swollen to double their natural size and covered with black putrid spots. I spent a considerable part of the day watching a shark that followed in our wake with great constancy.

Wednesday, 23 June

At breakfast, I inquired of the mate after the young woman who was so ill yesterday, when he told me that she was dead and when I remarked that I feared her burial could cause great consternation, I learned that the sad ordeal was over, her remains having been consigned to the dee within an hour after she expired. When I went on deck heard the moans of her poor aunt who continued to gaze upon the ocean as if she could mark the spot where the waters opened for their prey. The majority of the wretched passengers who were not themselves ill were absorbed in grief for their relatives, but some of them, it astonished me to perceive, had no feeling whatever, either for their fellow creatures' woe or in the contemplation of being themselves overtaken by the dreadful disease. There was further addition to the sick list which now amounted to twenty.

Thursday 24 June

Being the festival of St John and a Catholic holiday, som young men and women got up a dance in the evening regardless of the moans and cries of those who were torture by the fiery fever. When the mate spoke to them of the im propriety of such conduct, they desisted and retired to th bow where they sat down and spent the remainder of th evening singing. The monotonous howling they kept up wa quite in unison with the scene of desolation within and th dreary expanse of ocean without.

Friday 25 June

This morning there was a further accession to the names upon the sick roll. It was awful how suddenly some wer stricken. A little child who was playing with its companions, suddenly fell down and for some time was sunk in a death like torpor from which, when she awoke, she commenced to scream violently and writhed in convulsive agony. A poor woman, who was warming a drink at the fire for her husband, also dropped down quite senseless and was borne to her berth. I found it very difficult to acquire precise information respecting the progressive symptoms of the disease, the different parties of whom I inquired disagreeing in some particulars, but I inferred that the first symptom was generally a reeling in the head, followed by swelling pain, as if the head were going to burst. Next came excruciating pains in the bones and then swelling of the limbs commencing with the feet, in some cases ascending the body and again descending before it reached the head, stopping at the throat. The period of each stage varied in different patients, some of whom were covered with yellow, watery pimples and others with red and purple spots that turned into putrid sores.

Saturday, 26 June

Some of those who the other day appeared to bid defiance to the fever, were seized in its relentless grasp and a few who were on the recovery, relapsed. It seemed miraculous to me that such subjects could struggle with so violent a disease without any effective aid.

Sunday, 27 June
The moaning and raving of the patients kept me awake nearly all the night and I could hear the mistress stirring about until a late hour. It made my heart bleed to listen to the cries for 'Water, for God's sake some water'. Oh! it was horrifying, yet strange to say I had no fear of taking the fever, which, perhaps, under the merciful providence of the Almighty was a preventive cause. The mate, who spent much of his time among the patients, described to me some revolting scenes he witnessed in the hold but they were to i disgusting to be repeated. He became very much frightene and often looked quite bewildered.

Monday 28 June

The number of patients upon the list now amounted to thirty and the effluvium of the hold was shocking. The passengers suffered much for want of pure watl and the mate tried the quality of all the casks. Fortunately he discovered a few which were better an the circumstance was rather cheering.

Tuesday 29 June

The wind kept us to the south but though occasionally becalmed, we were slowly gaining longitude. I could not keep my mind fixed upon a book so I wa obliged to give over reading and spent the day watching th rolling of the dolphin, the aerial darts of the flying-fish wit the gambols of numbers of porpoises that danced in th waters around the prow. It being the mate's watch, I remai ed upon deck until midnight, listening to his yarns. Some them were rather incredible and, upon expressing such to E my opinion, he was inclined to take offence. Being the he of some of his stories himself, I could not doubt the veraci of them, though they were not the least marvellous. A though a well informed and intelligent man, he was ve superstitious. But it is not uncommon for sailors to be so.
Wednesday 30 June

Passing the main hatch, I got a glimpse of one of the most awful sights I ever beheld. A poor female patient was lying in one of the upper berths - dying. Her head and face were swollen to almost unnatural size, the latter being hideously deformed. I recollected remarking the clearness of her complexion when I saw her in health, shortly after we sailed. She then was a picture of good humour and contentment, now how sadly altered! Her cheeks retained their ruddy hue but the rest of her distorted countenance was of a leprous whiteness- She had been nearly three weeks ill and suffered exceedingly until the swelling set in, commencing in her feet and creeping up her body to her head. Her afflicted husband stood by her holding a 'blessed candle' in his hand and awaiting the departure of her spirit. Death put a period to her existence shortly after I saw her. And as the sun was setting, the bereaved husband muttered a prayer over her enshrouded corpse which, as he said Amen, was lowered into the ocean.

Thursday 1 July

The wind was still unfavourable but we gained a little by constantly tacking and were approaching the banks of Newfoundland. Some new cases were announced making thirty-seven now lying. A convalescent was assisted on deck and seemed revived by the fresh air. He was a miserable object. His face, being yellow and withered, was rendered ghastly by the black streak that encircled his sunken eyes.  
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