65 / Emigration

Cobh (pron.‘Cove’), a tourist port situated in Cork harbour, has at least two compelling claims to international renown. One is that it was the final port of call for RMS Titanic when she set out on her ill-fated maiden voyage across the Atlantic. The second is commemorated on the waterfront by a bronze statue of Annie Moore with her two younger brothers. In December 1891 the three children emigrated from Ireland joining the other 145 steerage passengers on the steamship SS Nevada, bound for New York, USA.  Annie was 17, Anthony 15, Philip 11. The voyage took 12 days. On their arrival the Irish emigrants were taken to Ellis Island. Annie Moore found herself near the head of the queue.  “Ladies first!”, shouted a longshoreman.  Annie was jostled forward and stepped straight into the history books. She was the first person to pass through federal immigrant inspection at the Ellis Island station. Annie was duly registered and presented with a $10 gold piece by the island’s superintendent.

Annie Moore’s parents had emigrated some 10 years earlier and now lived in Manhattan’s Fourth Ward, an impoverished neighbourhood on the Lower Eastside. The children had come to join them.  The story goes that Annie’s father pawned the $10 gold piece immediately to fund an alcohol-boosted family reunion.

Annie Moore’s voyage across the Atlantic was replicated by around 2.5 million of the 6 million Irish people who emigrated to North America between 1848 and 1950.

I wish I could round off this  brief biography by telling you an uplifting and edifying tale of how Annie made good in this new land of hope and opportunity.  The truth is that she never left the Irish slums of Manhattan. Annie married the son of German Catholic immigrants, a salesman at Manhattan’s Fulton Fish Market. She bore 11 children, 5 children dying before the age of 3. Annie herself died of heart failure aged 50. Her grave was unmarked.

One account describes how by the end of her life Annie Moore had become so obese that firemen had to remove her body through an upstairs window. A sad end for the svelte teenager; the image that the world chooses to remember her by.

© Benóg Brady Bates


  1. I happened upon your blog by way of a comment by your daughter on another blog! Oh the times we live in.
    I love this post. I don't know anything about Annie Moore but her story is really fascinating, however sad it ended. I'll be looking her up and learning more.
    I'm wishing you all the best with your health. You've got a nice blog. I'll be back! Take care and blessings to you!


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