Life in Mayo on the west coast of Ireland was hard, very hard. Caught between virtual servitude and the whims of the Atlantic weather, Edward’s toiling barely put food on the table. When confronted with a likely termination of his tenancy, he made a decision to leave Ireland for good; to follow thousands before him in taking his family to America. After an arduous walk to Dublin, the family takes a paddle steamer to Liverpool, with the full intention of boarding a ship from there bound for New York. Alas, it was not to be. Cruelly robbed of many of their possessions,and most of their money, Edward and Austin, his eldest son, were forced to find work until the family’s fortunes improved.

They were never to leave Liverpool.

Although already on way to becoming one of the richest cities in the world, Liverpool offered little to the immigrant Irish. Work seemed plentiful, but first they had to negotiate their way through the dockers gangs and become accepted. Even then wages were poor, just enough to eat and obtain the most basic of accommodation. And times were to get worse. The effects of the Famine soon rippled across the Irish Sea, with tens of thousands of wretched and starving Irish pouring into Liverpool. Wages fell further, as even the labour demands of a rapidly expanding city could not absorb the influx of new residents.

This is the story of the survival of a family in mid-nineteenth century Liverpool. The births, marriages and deaths, the struggle to find work, and the scarce moments of joy, as each family member yearned for the day when things might get better.


a novel by Ged Melia

Expected spring 2023

Expected spring 2023