Having visited Cobh during the summer of 2016 the reality of emigration, particularly in today’s context when so many people are being forced out of their home, became very real. The statue of Annie Moore and her two brothers is a poignant representation of a miserable time in our history.
The day Annie Moore landed on Ellis Island in 1892 she was just 17½ years old. The girl from Co Cork, who arrived with her brothers Philip and Anthony to rejoin their parents, became the first documented migrant to go through the processing centre on the small island in New York harbour.
Moore’s life wasn’t easy. She spent her time in the Irish slums of the Lower East Side of Manhattan and died there when she was 50.
Irish artist, Matt Loughrey, discovered the New York Public Library had a store of photographs taken at Ellis Island, some of which it had bought and others which had been donated. He contacted the library, which then emailed the scanned images to him. Most of the photographs had been taken in glass plate by Lewis Hine, an American sociologist and photographer. For others, the photographer is unknown.
Loughrey’s interest in the centre in Ellis Island was first piqued in 2014. “I happened to stumble upon the information about it on the internet and was astounded by the numbers,” he says. “Some days 10,000 people would pass through the station.”
So he decided to colourise some old photographs of migrants who had passed through the checkpoint. However the image he chose of Annie Moore from Co Cork, the first immigrant to enter the United States through Ellis Island immigration point, he chose an image taken more than 30 years after her arrival and which he felt was more representative of her, the face of a woman who has lived her life as an immigrant in the United States.
Loughrey’s images have particular resonance today and he hopes to highlight the origins of today’s Americans, many of whom have ancestors who passed through Ellis Island.
“If you look at Ellis Island those people were fleeing persecution,” he says. “That’s what’s happening now too. It’s very relevant in these times.”
In addition to Annie Moore, Loughrey also worked to add colour to pictures of other Ellis Island migrants, including German and Finnish stowaways, women from Syria, Albania and Czechoslovakia, a Romanian shepherd, an Armenian Jewish man and a little Italian girl who had found a penny.
Part of article from Irish Times Digest (Sun, Feb 26, 2017)