According to one Irish newspaper in 1729, emigrants travelling to America faced ‘all the Tryles, Hardships, and Dangers of the Seas by storms, shipwrecks, Turks and Pyrates, to be Starved, or cast away by the Villainy of Ship Masters’.29 Little is known about the voyages of 1718, other than that the ships in which the immigrants travelled were small and not built for transporting people. Ten years later, overcrowding was becoming a problem on many ships and provisions were sometimes inadequate. One ship in 1729 took five months to reach America and lost 100 passengers and crew.30
However, one story that has survived from a 1718 voyage is the legend of ‘Ocean Born Mary’. According to one version of the legend, Mary was born to Elizabeth and James Fulton of Londonderry, as they voyaged to Boston in 1718. En route pirates attacked their ship. Hearing a newborn baby’s cries, the pirate captain offered to spare the passengers’ lives if the Fultons agreed to name her after his mother. This they agreed to and the pirate gave the family a bolt of green brocaded silk for Mary’s wedding dress. James Fulton died soon after the family arrived in Boston, but Mary and her mother settled in Londonderry, New Hampshire. According to the legend, she wore a gown of silk brocade when she married James Wallace in 1742. Real-life stories of pirates attacking ships carrying Scots-Irish migrants in the following years had less happy endings. In 1720, for instance, a ship called the Essex was attacked and its female passengers ‘abused’.
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29 Dublin Weekly Journal, 7 June 1729, qu. in Dickson (1988), p. 220.
30 Charles Browning (ed.), ‘Extracts from the Journal of Charles Clinton, kept During the Voyage from Ireland to Pennsylvania, 1729’, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 26 (1902), 112-14, qu. Griffin (2001), p. 94.