A story submitted for the January Monthly Mini Competition

It’s time for the Monthly Mini Competition brought to us by Elizabeth Frattaroli.  December’s winner, Tom F, has set the writing prompt for January as, ‘If Things Had Been Different‘.  As such, we are invited to submit either a piece of flash fiction of under 500 words or a poem on the theme.  Post directly in the comments of the link above or post a link to your page.  Last entry date for this month is 24th of January and then people have between then and the end of the month to vote for their favourite.  The next competition will start at the beginning of February in the usual way, with the winner of this month setting the next writing prompt.  Here is my entry for January .

Voyage from Famine to Adventure

If things had been different thought Colleen, she wouldn’t be leaving her home for America.  She’d be helping her ma lay out the tea and bread while her brother came in from the fields for the midday meal.  If things had been different, the crops would not have failed and her ma and her brother would have lived.


Like many of her shipmates, a steerage berth was all she could afford.  It was 1847 and the merchant ship, the Dunbrody had been converted for passenger transport including bunks for steerage.

Dunbrody Famine Ship Steerage

Dunbrody Famine Ship Steerage

Two years previously, the crops, mainly potatoes, began to fail all over Ireland.  People were starving and Colleen buried her ma last year.  Her brother would have been immigrating with her; however Padraig came down with pneumonia and died last month.  All alone in the world, having exhausted all other options, Colleen purchased her ticket and boarded the Dunbrody destined for America.

The Dunbrody Famine Ship

The Dunbrody Famine Ship

It was early in the morning and Colleen stood on deck for the hour she was allotted daily.   With no cap to control her wild red hair, the wind blew it to and fro.

“I have to toss away these melancholy thoughts,” announced Colleen to the open sea.  “I can do nothing about the past.  I must look to the future.  It’s an adventure.”

Startled by a deep male voice coming from the direction of the stairs, Colleen couldn’t see the owner of the voice due to the early morning shadows.

“It’s an adventure now,” chuckled the man as he came into view.  He had wavy black hair longer than was fashionable and he was taller than Colleen’s brother had been.  Now that she could see him, she remembered seeing him at the port on the day she boarded the ship.  She had not seen him since and from the quality of his coat, he was not in steerage.

by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, pencil and white chalk on paper, 1847

by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, pencil and white chalk on paper, 1847

“It’s so early, I thought I’d be the only sole up on the deck,” said the man.  “I am Thomas Graves.  Who do I have the pleasure of meeting this fine morning?”

“Pleased to meet you Mr. Graves.  I’m not sure you should be addressing me since we haven’t been formally introduced,” answered Colleen.

“It’s an adventure and in this adventurous future I say out with the old and in with the new,” parried Thomas.

“In that case and without a chaperone to introduce us, I am Colleen O’Neil.”

“Well Colleen, would you care to take a stroll around the deck and talk about our adventure?”

Colleen placed her hand upon Thomas’ arm and began to walk with him.  It was a delightful morning and Colleen turned her face towards the refreshing sea breezes.  Thomas listened as she told her sad story and Thomas told her that he had been in Liverpool on business and was now accompanying the ship to Canada.  His family owned the Dunbrody and other ships and one day, his father would place him in charge.  Colleen began to believe the voyage would truly be an adventure.

10 responses

  1. elizfrat says:

    Hi Maryann and thank you once again for taking part. I have just posted your entry on my blog and I love the illustrations you find! They help bring your writing to life even more and are a wonderful slice of history.
    Kind regards,


  2. Brilliant story and marvellous illustrations, Very impressed.


  3. Reblogged this on IF I ONLY HAD A TIME MACHINE and commented:

    It’s time to vote in the January Monthly Mini Competition. Here is my story again. Please read all the wonderful submissions and vote http://elizabethfrattaroli.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/the-first-vote-of-2014-is-now-open/


  4. Tom Frattaroli says:

    A poignant piece of history, well related ,and illustrations gave it even more life . Nice work ! Tom F.