SS England, 1863 National Line

The Healy family--Patrick and Mary and their four children, Patrick, Thomas, Bridget, and Mary--left Castlebar, Ireland, in March of 1866, for Queenstown, going by train. Queenstown, now called Cobh, is located fifteen miles southeast of Cork in southern Ireland. This seaport city, with a fine harbor, was the departure point for hundreds of emigrants leaving Ireland for the United States and Canada.

The S.S. England, a steamship built in 1865, was owned by the National Line, a British ship. The ship left Liverpool on Wednesday, March 28, 1866, stopping at Queenstown to pick up passengers before heading on to New York. The ship's captain was. R.W. Grace. The ships passengers, 1202 in all, were mostly German immigrants who boarded in Liverpool and Irish immigrants who boarded in Queenstown. There were some saloon passengers, but most were steerage. The England arrived in Queenstown a day later, Thursday, March 29, about 5:00 in the evening. After boarding all the new passengers, the ship sailed from Queenstown later that evening.

Four days later, an eight-year-old German boy was found dead in his bed from cholera. The next morning, another passenger, Thomas Walsh, aged 35, died. Patrick Healy, in his history of the family, describes the death of his little sister, Mary, during the voyage. Everyone was "singing and dancing and having a merry time until a man took sick and was in violent pain and died. The doctors made a thorough inspection of the remains and pronounced it cholera, a deadly plague and sure death for everyone that caught it. The next day ten died; the following day fifty died, and so on, until seven hundred died out of 1,650 passengers which were on board when the steamship left Queenstown, including one of our own--little Mary who was two years old at that time. She was thrown overboard. I remember father who was appointed by the doctors to help wrap the body in sheets and slide it out of the man-hole into the ocean." According to saloon passenger Rev. Ambrose Martin, Captain Grace's behavior, and that of the doctors and crew during this time was exemplary. Letters to the New York Times written by other passengers on board praised the captain's "gentlemanly conduct and tender sympathy" and that his "decisive action" in heading for the intermediate port of Halifax was of great help in checking the spread of the disease.

The ship headed for Halifax where it dropped anchor in the bay and raised the yellow warning flag. The ship was quarantined and the passengers were put on McNab's Island in the bay. They were housed in tents. All their belongings were burned. They were given new clothing, food and blankets. The weather turned cold and snowy. Campfires burned night and day. According to one report, some women and children sought shelter in the forested areas because people in the tents would not let them in unless they were known by someone. When the food was delivered, the weaker ones were left to fend for themselves. The dead were buried at one end of the island.

The England was cleaned and fumigated. On April 17, Dr. Slayter, the health officer in charge of the quarantine situation, himself died of cholera. He was buried on April 18, the day the S.S. England left Halifax for New York. Some of the passengers were left behind on McNab's Island. According to different reports there were anywhere from 24 to 55 passengers left behind. This group was to leave later on the steamer Louisa Moore whose captain was Mr. Wooster. This ship left Halifax on May 17 and arrived in New York on May 24, 1866. At this point, it cannot be determined on which ship the Healys sailed from Halifax to New York. According to Patrick, his family was quarantined on the island six weeks and then got on board another ship for New York. If they had sailed from Halifax on the England, they would have been in Halifax less than two weeks. If they sailed later on the Louisa Moore, they would have been on McNab's Island five and a half weeks. So far, the passenger list for the Louisa Moore, arriving in New York May 24, has not been located. Although they are listed on the passenger arrival list for the England, arriving May 11, there is a good chance that they actually arrived on the Louisa Moore.

The England arrived in New York in early May 1866 and anchored in the Lower Bay in a quarantine area. On May 3d, Dr. Swinburne, the New York health official in charge of the quarantine area, reported that all passengers on board the England were healthy. According to the ship arrivals lists of the National Archives, the England "arrived" in New York on May 11, 1866. On the ship's passenger list are the names of the Healys: Pat Hely, age 36, male, laborer, from Ireland; Mary Hely, age 34, female, spinster; Pat Hely, age 8, male, child; Thos., age 6, male, child; Bridget, age 3, female, child; and Mary, age 4, female, child. According to Patrick, Mary was only two. Although she died at sea, she was still listed in the ship's manifest, with no indication that she had died.

According to Patrick, the family spent two days in New York before leaving by train for Waseca, Minnesota, where his Uncle Hugh Healy lived.


Manifest from the S.S. England, arriving New York City May 11, 1866. National Archives Microfilm M237, Roll 265, Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897.  Roll 265: May 11-25, 1866.

Cameron, Ian A. "Halifax and the Cholera Epidemic of 1866."  Halifax, Nova Scotia, The Nova Scotia Medical Bulletin, Dec. 1984, p.149-153.

Registers of Vessels Arriving at the Port of New York from Foreign Ports. National Archives Series 1066, Roll 10, 1863-1867. Family History Center Microfilm 1415152.

Martin, Ambrose,"The Steamship England, a Narrative of Her Voyage and the Breaking Out of the Cholera," New York Times, Saturday, May 19, 1866, p.2, col. 4.  Written by Rev. Ambrose Martin, a saloon passenger on board the S.S. England.

Virginia and England, The; Letters of Thanks from Passengers.  New York Times, May 4, 1866. p.8, col. 3.

The Latest Report from the Hospital Ship. Letter from Dr. Swinburne. New York Times, May 1, 1866, p.2, col. 5.

Arrival of Steamship Louisa Moore. New York Times, May 24, 1866.

Anne Healy's Genealogy
29 Dec 2008
Copyright 2002-2008, Anne Field, all rights reserved.