What next?

March 15th, 2014
bwalsh

Not long after August Gale was published, many asked, “What next?” For the past year, I’ve looked for a compelling story, one that would capture my passion and curiosity.
A few months ago, I learned about the RMS Bohemian, and the more I heard, the more I wanted to know. After a rough crossing from Liverpool, the ship wrecked off Maine’s coast in 1864 after the captain reported seeing ‘a peculiar haze.’
On a February evening, 42 passengers, most of them poor Irish emigrants from County Galway, drowned. Some died when a lifeboat tipped into the sea; others panicked and jumped from the sinking ship. Some 150 years later, 18 of the unclaimed bodies remain in an unmarked grave in South Portland.
Among the tragedies, there were stories of courage. One mother tied her infant to her chest and jumped overboard, swimming to a departing lifeboat. Sixty-one year-old Mary Connors was tied to the mast as the ship began to sink. She prayed for hours, waiting for a lifeboat to return. Gorham survived and lived another 40 years to celebrate her 101st birthday.
The sinking of the RMS Bohemian was the worst wreck ever recorded off Casco Bay. In the oncoming weeks, I’ll be searching for details about the Irish who died just as they were about to land on America’s shores. I’m also eager to learn more about people who survived and those who remain unclaimed.
In the meantime, I’ll keep busy with August Gale readings, signings and working on getting that movie made. Slainte to my Irish, Newfoundland and American friends. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all.
RMS Bohemian

SAMMY IN THE SKY. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Jamie Wyeth. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.