Following, the letter of Mr. Michael Byrne to The Southern Cross, telling some of his impressions his visit to the Hotel de Inmigrantes at the moment when the Irish and English from the SS Dresden where there.
Buenos Aires, February 18th, 1889.
To the Editor of the Southern Cross.
In company with a friend, I visited the “Asilo” on Sunday morning and a more appalling sight I never before saw. I hope I shall never again behold such wretchedness. Long before I reached the Home, I was stopped by groups of half-starved creatures, whose blanched faces told the hardships the poor people were forced to endure. My friend proposed to take the women and children to a “café”, where they all got tea, bread and butter, he paying the bill. On leaving that group pretty satisfied with the “God-sent” breakfast, we crossed to the station , where we met group after group of starving people, who all complained of hunger. After saying a few encouraging words to the poor people, we passed into the Home, where after pushing our way through a motley crowd of Italians, we came in contact with the Irish.
The sight I shall never forget. Never, in this world shall that wretched scene of human misery fade from my mind. Numbers of half-starved men, women, and sickly children lay about in all directions, all crying loudly for something to eat, something to satisfy the intense pangs of maddening hunger.
Owing to the great number of Italian immigrants who were located in the Home, prior to the women and children were lowed the miserable satisfaction of passing the night in the dining-room, the dirt of which would be hard to describe. However, it was better than those who had to remain under the inclemency of the skies, without a single thing to cover them or a dry place to lie upon.
Quite a number of women remained walking about all night, their husbands refusing to let them go into the dirty dining-room, which, they told me, was infested with vermin of all descriptions.
On approaching one respectable looking old man with a sickly child in his arms he said: “Musha, Sor, could we get a sup of milk anywhere? Shure, it is not for myself I ax it, but for this poor child that is dying in my arms. Katie, the “creature”, God help her, is sick also, and poor Mary”, he added, pointing to his wife, who sat nursing another ragged child, “is lost entirely with two c ilder”. And with a look full of tenderness on the emaciated form of his wife, he went on “sure, if anything happened her, we were all lost complately”.
Such scenes were witnessed by all who visited the Immigrant’s Home, therefore it is useless to describe them. On moving a little farther I met Mr. John Drysdale went to the cookhouse and ordered that the breakfast be given at once. About 10 a.m. on Sunday morning the poor people got bread and meat for the first time that they had anything, since they left the steamship Dresden. A number of Irish and English ladies and gentlemen put in an appearance, and after a while a good number of the immigrants were taken away. Amongst others I noticed the following who did what they could to alleviate the sufferings of the unfortunate people; Mr. John Drysdale, Mr. E. Casey, Mr. Thomas Duggan, Mr. Michael Dinneen, Mr. J. F. Gahan, Mr. T. A. Gahan , Navarro; Mr. T. Gahan, Suipacha; Mr. W. Ham, Mr. and Mrs. John Cunningham, Father Constantine, Father Gaughren, and Father Adrian, Mr. N. C. Fitzgerald, Mr. James Ham, Mrs. Quiroga, Miss McGuire, Mr. J. Finnigan, and many others too numerous to mention.
Before evening many young girls were removed and the women and children began to stir about giving vent to their disappointed hopes, and repeating the false promises held out to them by the immigrant agents in Ireland. Oh! Mr. Editor, could these worthies behold their unfortunate dupes reeking in misery and want, it would prevent them sending another consignment of our countrymen to endure the perils of a wild goose chase to South America.
I don’t for a moment question these distinguished gentlemen’s right to earn good living, but I think, Sir, that they ought to earn it honestly. Fancy immigrants being told that when they arrived here, houses would be ready for them, lands given them, implements, seed, money, etc., etc; that Father Fahy was still living, and had a bank for supplying money to immigrants . Such gross falsehood may do for a time but must finally fall through. It is the duty of this present batch of immigrants to write home a true account of their hardship to their people, and not till them, will they prevent their countrymen from being so easily duped.
I remain, dear Sir, yours respectfully,