Queenstown Harbor, Cork, Ireland, 1847
“Take your fill of it, lad. Remember it all.”
Ten-year-old Kieran Donnelly clutched the icy metal of the ship’s railing, his gaze locked on the wild, rocky coast as the Sally Malone moved slowly out of the harbor.
The long voyage to America had begun.
He heard Gran’s keening wail, filled with grief as she lamented the loss of their homeland. Da’s hand rested on her shoulder, his silent grief palpable. His brother’s spirit, full of anger and despair, reached out to him.
None of it touched his heart.
His eager gaze sought the mist-shrouded green hills, distant, dotted with tiny white cottages. Empty cottages, no sign of the ever-present gray turf smoke rising from their rich, dark thatched roofs. The fields were black with the stinking slime of the blight, but hawthorn and gorse and wild strawberries still dotted the landscape with bright splotches of white, yellow, and scarlet.
The water bucked and spat white-capped waves, gray-green with angry sorrow under the cloud-smudged sky. A single bright ray of sunlight broke through the clouds, as if to bid the desperate refugees a fond farewell. A patch of sky, so pure a blue it made his throat ache, brought a rush of tears to Kieran’s eyes.
Oh, to capture the image that would forever be in his mind on paper before the ship sailed! The colors, the hues, the light and shadow. The crowds of skeletal people scurrying about, weeping as they waved good-bye, the lone fiddler playing them away with a desolate lament of parting and grief.
One day. He struggled against the harsh sob that clawed at his throat. One day I’ll paint this scene and the whole world will know the sorrow that gripped Ireland in its cruel fist.
I’ll call it The Parting.