Distinguished guests ladies and gentlemen, I’m delighted to be here today at the unveiling of the commemorative plaque to Annie Moore, celebrated as the first person to land on Ellis Island in New York on the 1st. of January 1892.
12 million immigrants entered Ellis Island’s processing centre before its eventual closure.
Companies like White Star, Red Star, Cunard and Hamburg-America played a vital part in the history of Ellis Island and immigration into America.
However there existed a large discrepancy in how passengers were treated depending on what class ticket they held.
First and second-class ticket holders did not have to enter Ellis Island for inspection. They underwent a cursory inspection onboard their ship. It was believed that if they could afford to buy first and second-class tickets
then they were less likely to end up in institutions or hospitals and would not be a burden on the state for legal or medical reasons. These passengers only entered Ellis Island if they had legal or medical problems.
So while the first and second-class passengers’ disembarked and entered the United States, Third class passengers had to take a ferry or barge to Ellis Island to undergo a medical and legal inspection.
All passengers were tagged with their name and the ship they were on.
This was very important, as many passengers did not speak English.
Should they be deported, it was the responsibility of the shipping company to take them home again.
Over the past number of years Cork has played host to a number of exhibitions and installations commemorating our emigrant past.
The Augustus Sherman Ellis Island Photo exhibition in the Civic Museum in Fitzgerald’s Park and
The launch of the listening posts at Penrose Quay among them.
The listening post is an interactive installation.
Cork City Council commissioned the Sculptor Daphne Wright and Writer Johnny Hanrahan to create ‘Listening Posts’ the first permanent sound installation in the city.
The sculpture incorporates a constantly evolving sound score which will be active day and night. Using interviews with emigrants, their descendants, those they left behind, those who worked on the ship, those wishing to return and those who are glad they got away.
Combined with marine, industrial, musical and abstract sound elements, Wright, Hanrahan, and leading sound designer Dan Jones have built up rich, layered sound-scapes each of which has its own internal logic and also contributes to the overall experience afforded by listening to all four posts.
Today’s unveiling of the commemorative plaque to Annie Moore is the latest step and was brought about by the wonderful exhibition and research conducted by Scoil Olibhéir pupils with the assistance of their teachers and principal. The fact that the school is so close to the place or origin we celebrate today should not be lost on you.
I wish to thank the pupils and staff of Scoil Olibheir in particular Damien Elliffe, Tim Mc Coy, and Principal Jimmy Daly for all their hard work which we can see has paid off handsomely.
I congratulate all involved and hope the public will come in large numbers to observe and enjoy this tribute to Annie Moore.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh –Cllr Brian Bermingham- Ardmhéara Chorcaí
Speech at the unveiling of the Annie Moore Plaque 9th October 2008.