Los descendientes del Dresden: Letters from Rev. F. Matthew Gaughren - OMI Google+

Monday 19 May 2014

Letters from Rev. F. Matthew Gaughren - OMI

Feb. 20th 1889 - The Standard
The Irish Immigrants - To the Editor of the Standard :
Sir, Allow me, as an eye-witness to give your readers some idea of the treatment wich the newly-arrived immigrants have received at the Hotel de Inmigrantes. Anything more scandalous could not be imagined. The 1800 passengers from the Dresden were allowed to land on Saturday when the authorities well knew that there was no accommodation for them. Many hundreds of these poor people had not received orders for the Hotel before leaving the ship, and weary hours were spent in the struggle to get the table where these orders were issued.
Then the orders obtained, strong men could fight their way through the throng of Italians into the dining-hall, but the weak, the women and children were left supperless. It was soon evident that unless some special arrangements were made even the shelter of a roof could not be obtained. At the instance of Mr. Johnston, the Director promised to clear out the dining hall after suffer to allow the women and children to sleep there for the night. The promise was not kept. Men, women and children, hungry and exhausted after the fatigues of the day, had to sleep as best they might on the flags of the court-yard . To say that they were treated like cattle it could not be true, for the owner of the cattle would at least provide them with food and drink; but this poor people were left to live or die unaided by the officials who are paid to look after them, and with out the slightest sign of sympathy form these officials. I am told that as a result, a child died during the night of exhaustation.  In England those responsible would be persecuted for manslaughter but in this land of liberty no one minds.
On Sunday things were nearly as bad and were it not for the generosity of Mr Duggan, Mr. Johnston and other charitable gentlemen, who themselves provided food and helped to served it out other deaths night have had to be no corded. No one who witnessed these scenes of helpless, hopeless, despairing misery can forget them until his dying day; and all must pray that, until de arrangements which humanitary and decency would prompt have been made, no more immigrants from the British Isle may arrive in Buenos Ayres.
As many of these poor people are badly clad and in want of bed-clothes, the Superiores of the Irish Convent, Calle Tucuman 1905, kindly consents to receive clothes, blankets, etc. for the immigrants.
I remaind Sir,
Your obedient servant,
M. Gaughren, OMI
Buenos Ayres 18th February, 1889


Feb. 26th 1889 - Buenos Aires Herald

To the Editor of the Herald :
Sir, I may be pardoned for replying to the letter of “An Irishman” in your issue of Saturday last. He controverts the statements which I made in a letter to the Standard a few days ago. Allow me to ask him a few questions.
1st. Is it, or is it not, a fact that when the English and Irish immigrants came ashore on Saturday last the Hotel de Inmigrantes was already over-crowded with people of other nationalities? I have learned from official sources that the hotel was built to accommodate 2000 persons, and that on Saturday night last there were about 5000 within the enclosure.
2nd. Is it, or is it not, a fact that the vast majority of the passengers by the Dresden were obliged to sleep on the flags of the court-yard of the Hotel or to walk about all night?
I saw with my own eyes many hundreds of men, women and children huddled together on the pavement sleeping their sleep of exhaustion after the fatigues of the day.
3rd. Is it, or is it not, a fact that the great mass of the newly arrived English-speaking immigrants, and especially the women and children, were unable to fight their way to the dining hall on that night and were in consequence left supperless?
I appeal to Mr. J. Gahan, who, seeing them hungry, charitably distributed a quantity of bread among them, for a confirmation of my statement .
4th. Is it, or is it not, a fact that hundreds of these poor immigrants for no food on the following morning and would have been left without food all day were it not for the charity of a number of gentlemen, like Mr T Duggan, Mr Johnston, Mr. Methven and others, who not only paid for food for them but served it out with their own hands?
If these things are facts, -and there are numbers of witnesses besides the Immigrants who can vouch for them- what excuse can the Argentine Government offer for meting out such treatment to those whom they brought out here under promise of good care and high wages.
I have yet learn that Ennis is in England or that the savagery and lawlessness of Balfour justifies brutality in the Argentine Republic.
Yours truly, M. Gaughren, O.M.I.


March 15th 1889, Buenos Aires Herald

Colonia Irlandesa, Naposta, March 5th, 1889
To the editor of the Southern Cross.
Dear Sir,
Both you and your readers will, no doubt, feel some curiosity to know how the poor exiles of Erin, to whom you bade God-speed at The Plaza Constitutian on Tuesday evening last, have fared since then. Most of them, within a few hours from their leaving Buenos Aires, found in “Nature’s sweet restorer, balmy sleep”, a temporary reprieve from their miseries. The railway arrangements as regards space were fairly good, and there was nothing that could be called overcrowding. When day dawned, however, and seven hundred hungry mouths craved for breakfast, the first untoward incident of the journey occurred. It was found that the meat supplied by the Government had gone bad during the night, and the bread fell very far, short of the quantity required. Mr. Gartland considerately endeavored to eke out the scanty Government supply by the help of the resources of a wayside station. Tea, coffee, and bread were obtained for the women and children until the refreshment rooms could provide no more. Later on a quantity of bread was got which helped to fill that vacuum which nature is said to abhor, until towards evening we arrived within the hospitable boundary of Mr. Casey’s estate, when, through his generous forethought, a supply of bread, meat and milk awaited us, which gave the poor travelers a satisfying supper. Through unpardonable mismanagement somewhere we did not reach our journey’s end till after seven o´clock. As we alighted from the train darkness was just closing in, and the scene of confusion which ensued in consequence can well be imagined. The wagons had to be unloaded without delay, and there were no lights in the train to guide the workers. Men, women and children were landed on unknown ground, over which they had to grope their way. It was too dark to permit of the tents which had come with us being pitched, and all had to resign themselves to the prospect of passing the night in the open air. I must confess that my heart sank within me when I beheld the number of helpless women and children, enfeebled by the long voyage and by the miseries of their stay in Buenos Aires, thus condemned to fresh wretchedness without a possibility of relief and the more so as some lightning flashes in the horizons seemed to threaten a storm. Fortunately, the beds and tent-canvases formed some protection against the dampness of the ground and the dews of the night. But of what use would they have been had a thunder-storm come on? A large quantity of roast beef was again distributed among the immigrants, thus forestalling the pangs of hunger. Then all settled down for the night as best they could, to that of repose which even their misfortunes and sufferings could not rob them.
Morning dawned bright and cheerful, and the gloomy foreshadowings of the previous night melted away with the rising sun. Divine Providence had taken pity on the poor and removed the storm far from them. The buoyant and Celtic temperament asserted itself, and soon the miseries of the past were forgotten and hopes rose high at the prospect of the future. And if the future of the immigrants at all resembles the landscape which the first rays of that morning’s sun unfolded to our view, there is reason to leave sorrow behind. The country is really beautiful. It consists of a series of undulations in the land, not high enough to be called hills, but which in England would have the name of downs. It reminds me very much of the counties of Kent or Sussex. There is no part of Ireland that I know of like it. In the far distance rise up the peaks of the mountains of Curumalan. If the land is only equal in quality to the landscape, and if the seasons prove favourable the lot of these poor immigrants will have been cast in pleasant places. Of the quality of the land I am not a competent judge, but if I might form an opinion from the result obtained from the Vine-Culture Company after five months working, I would say that much of it is very fertile.
Early on the morning after their arrival the colonists moved of to the spot selected for their encampment. Waggons provided by Mr. Gartland conveyed the luggage, stores, tents, etc. An unfortunate accident, by which some women sitting on the luggage in a bullock cart were thrown off resulted in the death of a child whom one of them held in her arms. Before night all the tents ere pitched, and order began to prevail where chaos had hitherto reigned. Friday and Saturday were spent in completing arrangements, in securing a proper distribution of food, and building a temporary chapel.
On Sunday I had the happiness of celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the poor people, under the shelter provided on the hillside, and hearts and bands were raised towards heaven as fervently as if the sacred rites were solemnized within the precincts of some glorious cathedral. May the prayers of these poor, simple but faithful people bring down upon them abundant blessings, temporal and spiritual!
On Wednesday work began. Some were told off to build houses, some to sink wells, some to construct corrals for the cattle, and those who had previous experience in tilling to plough the ground. As soon as their houses will be completed the farms will be distributed by lot and each family will be left to shift for itself, provisions, however, being supplied until the crops come in.
Many of the poor people have not yet recovered from the effects of the hardships which they have gone through, and illness, especially diarrhea, prevails to a great extent among the children. Three deaths have already resulted from it, and some more are sure to follow. In several cases mothers are too debilitated to suckle their infants. Although Mr. Gartland has provided fourteen milk-cows the supply of milk is not equal to the demand, and children who have been accustomed to it have to go without. Of course, after a little time, each family will have its own cow, but meanwhile the want is felt, as our people have, rightly or wrongly –wrongly say the natives here- an idea that milk is the most beneficial food for their children.
The Government supplies have been supplemented by a liberal allowance of flesh-meat; rations of biscuit, tea, sugar, salt, etc., are being dealt out, and if the commissariat is not ideally perfect, it is such, at all events, as to obviate any danger of starvation.
Notwithstanding the efforts made by so many charitable friends to supply their wants, many of these poor people are still sadly in need of clothing of all kinds, and as the nights are getting quite cold, blankets will be required for a considerable number amongst them. Donations of these necessary articles will be much more useful than money.
I remain, dear Sir, Yours very truly,
M. Gaughren, O.M.I.


Nov. 1st 1889, The Southern Cross

Naposta Oct. 25, 1889
To the Editor of the Southern Cross.
Dear Sir,
The life of a quiet agricultural colony does not help much to the making of history, and, in consequence, I have but few items to give you in reference to local events. But these few are of a cheering character.
In the first place, Monday the 14th instant witnessed the inauguration of the school for the children of the colony, which owes its inception to the generosity of Mrs. Edward Morgan of Giles. Ninety one names were entered on the register the first day. That number has since been raised to over a hundred. Considering the distances which some of the children have to walk –in many instances more than three, and in some cases more than four miles- that is about as large a number as can be expected to attend. Parents are delighted to have the opportunity of education offered to their little ones, and the children themselves are, mostly, just as pleased to renew their acquaintance with the school-work so long interrupted. The class hours are from ten to three o’clock, with half an hour allowed for luncheon; but, long before the hour of opening, the youthful pupils gather in, eager to begin the work of the day.
The better to secure the durability of the work, and to give the colonists a greater interest in it, a School Committee has been formed, which will exercise a general supervision over the school, look after cases of parental neglect and, later on, provide a fuller staff and more complete educational apparatus.
I have had the pleasure, too, …nding a temperance society  -a branch of the League of the Cross under the invocation of St. Patrick, which counts already more than one hundred members. All the best men in the colony have associated themselves with the society, it will, I trust, draw to itself increasing numbers, whose good example will exert a beneficent influence upon those who have get the courage to join it. The …ers which you and a few other friends have sent form the …leus of supply for a reading room, to be, I hope, supplemented later on by a lending library of good books. The pulperia will have fat wetractions for men who have learned to occupy themselves with useful or interesting reading.
The second wagon-load of clothing, sent through the agency of the British Immigration Society, reached me on Thursday. The local committee immediately took steps to assort and divide the articles sent, and yesterday a general distribution took place according to the wants of the different families and the means of supplying them. Every family in the colony received something, I believe for all were more or less in need. The great mass of the people are exceedingly grateful of the charitable donors. “Where else than in Buenos Aires”, many have remarked to me, “could we meet with such generosity from those to whom we are total strangers?” And, when yesterday, in our temporary chapel, I asked the prayers of the crowded congregation for their benefactors, mentioning the names of the two good ladies who have done so much for them –Mrs.Thos. Duggan and Mrs. Morgan- many a low murmured but fervent “God bless them” went up to the throne of the Giver of all good gifts.
We have had two deaths in the colony during the past week. In one case a good old woman, who had accompanied her son out to this country, but who has been ill since her landing, was called away. The other case is that of a boy who has been ailing for a considerable time. Otherwise the health of the colony is remarkably good.
Notwithstanding the difficulties arising from the want of suitable cattle, the work of tillage goes on apace. I confess I am amazed at the amount of excellent work done under the circumstances. Were the colonists supplied with horses fit for the plough, very many of them would have had their entire farms broken up long since.
I am strongly of opinion that many of the despised Naposta colonists could give lessons in both industry and agriculture to some of those who talk slightingly about them but who know little of their struggles and their labours. Perhaps even the eloquent gentlemen who discoursed so learnedly before the Literary Society, and who illustrated his lecture by pointing to the colonists of Naposta as beings whose zoological knowledge did not enable them to discriminate between a horse and a goat (vide report in the “Standard”) might, did he deign to visit the people of whom he talks so glibly without knowing them, carry back to Scotland useful hints as to how difficulties in a strage country are to be overcome.
Divine Providence has favored the colonists with the finest of weather for farming operations. Of late, rain and sunshine have alternated and blended in such a way as to remind one of the Emerald Isle, where “Shining through sorrow’s stream, Sadddening in pleasure’s beam, her suns, with doubtful gleam, weep while they rise.
The result so far has been most beneficial. The wheat-crop is making a rapid growth and the land is in excellent condition for ploughing.
I remain, dear Sir, Yours very truly,
M. Gaughren, O.M.I.

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