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What were the experiences and perceptions?

Before Leaving

The American Wake began at night time, in the house of the emigrant, and continued through the night until the early hours. The young emigrant would have previously visited friends and neighbors letting them know of the impending departure. All who were close were expected to attend. Women noted for their ability to keen awail or lament) would be called upon to acquaint listeners with the virtues of the emigrant and the suffering brought upon the parents by the departure. This eulogy was given in a high pitched wail, resulting in a room full of keening women and weeping men. In less poverty-stricken areas, the American Wake proved itself a more festive occasion. Baking, cooking and cleaning were all part of the preparations. Neighbors frequently contributed food and a half-barrel of porter or stout was available for the men. The kitchen furniture was moved and seating was provided around the walls for neighbors and friends. Song and dance followed, only to be interrupted by offers of tea, and stronger beverages. Jibs, reels, quadrilles, hornpipes, and Irish step dancing were the order of the day. The next morning, the emigrant was accompanied by friends and family to the train station or the dockside for his embarkation

Source: Kelley, et al., Blennerville, The Gateway to Tralee's Past, pp. 147-50)

 

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