Not Such A Wise Move

MS10248-87_1_WEB (2)

A portion of the Campbell family correspondence, TCD MS 10248, contains letters from William Blair and his wife Mary Ann who emigrated to America in 1836; it was not entirely a successful venture for the family. One of their daughters fell overboard on one part of their outward journey, though she survived; the ship carrying merchandise for William’s planned hardware business venture sank in 1838, and they subsequently discovered that they did not have full insurance cover; the children were often unwell, and their residence went on fire. In 1841, he writes:

‘…we got our dwelling House furniture & Beds amounting to about Twenty five hundred Dollars burnt to ashes in about half an hour. None of the family injured it occurred at dinnertime had it been in the night we must all have perished…’

One of their children also died. In the same letter he writes:

‘…we have lost a fine little Daughter

They eventually settled in Mississippi in the Spring of 1843, but tragedy struck the family again when William died of ‘congestive fever’, i.e. malaria, shortly afterwards, leaving Mary Ann practically destitute with six children. The remainder of the letters are from Mary Ann, mainly to her cousin William informing him of her misfortune, and looking for money.

‘…William I hope you will do all you possibly can with your Father in assisting me so that I may give the Children some schooling …’

A family member in trouble, however distant, was not ignored, and Mary was provided with some financial means to support her family. Clearly Mary Ann was overwhelmed by her difficulties, as there is evidence to suggest that she developed a dependency on alcohol.

Aisling Lockhart

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