Vol. 14


“Sir, May I Carry Your Bag?”

c. 1847; Galway, Ireland; and New York, New York, USA

The farmland on the other side of the stone wall looked dark and rich, but the few shriveled potatoes lying on the soil said otherwise. About a million Irish people left everything they knew for a better life in America during the time of the Great Potato Famine.1 One of them was my ten-year-old great-great-great-grandfather Luke O’Reilly, along with his older sister Nina. Their family was dirt-poor and had only enough money to purchase a ticket for Nina — Luke would be left to sneak onto the ship and into the country.

When Luke and Nina arrived at the port, the longshoremen were struggling to load a heavy crate onto the vessel. Luke lurked in the shadows. When everyone’s attention was focused on the crate, Luke raced aboard the large, steam-driven ocean liner. After boarding, Luke reunited with Nina.

Weeks later, the New York skyline was visible in the distance, with towering structures sending shadows over the bay. Once the ship docked, Luke walked beside his sister as they moved to the immigration lines. Suddenly he remembered that he had no documents, which meant no entry to America.

Luke let go of his sister’s soft, comforting hand and hid behind a pile of musty leather suitcases. A man who seemed to be the head of the immigration delegation was carrying a large briefcase as he walked the ramp connecting the ship to the dock. Luke thought of an idea and darted through the crowd towards the official.

The heavyset man smelled of beer and brats as his dark, watchful eyes scanned the throng of people on the ship’s deck. When the man’s eyes landed on Luke, my great-great-great-grandfather said, “Welcome aboard, sir! Can I help you with your bag?” Before the man could answer, Luke took the bag and stepped aside to let the official board the ship.

For what felt like eternity, Luke held his breath as he waited to see if his ruse would work. His body tensed as one of the official porters eyed him suspiciously. Luke could feel his heart pounding in his chest as the porter walked towards him. Abruptly, a first-class passenger demanded the porter’s help.

Luke breathed a sigh of relief as the immigration official kept on walking towards the ship’s captain standing on the bow of the ship. Twenty long minutes later, the immigration officer was satisfied with the ship’s papers and headed back to shore. When they reached the immigration office, Luke returned the bag to the official and walked off into the city bustling with pedestrians.

Luke O’Reilly used quick thinking and confidence in order to accomplish his goal. Despite not having a ticket, Luke was clever enough to board the ship. When Luke posed as a porter, he again displayed his ability to analyze a situation and come up with a quick-witted solution. When faced with adversity, use your God-given gifts and abilities to overcome obstacles.

Caidan Brophy; Missouri, USA


1. The Great Potato Famine was a severe food shortage that occurred between 1845 and 1849. It was caused by a disease that affected potatoes, reducing the supply of one of Ireland’s main foods and leading to the death of about a million people in Ireland.



This copyrighted story may be copied and/or printed for limited classroom or personal use. To reprint this story in an article about The Grannie Annie, please contact The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration for permission.


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