The Land of Promise - Journey

The Land of Promise

The Journey

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The day came to leave. The Reverend Woodside and sixteen families from his congregation set sail from Londonderry in a brigantine named the Maccallum.

It was a two-masted sailing ship with square rigged foremasts and at least two sails on the main mast. Another ship, the Mary and Elizabeth, also left from Londonderry.

An engraving based on a drawing of Coleraine harbour in the early 1700s (Public domain, source Creative Commons)

The Reverend McGregor and the families from Aghadowey left from Coleraine on the Robert. Two other ships, the William and Mary and the William, sailed with them.

The ships were made from wood. They were designed to transport cargo, not passengers, so they weren’t very comfortable or big. These ships sailed frequently between America and Ireland, carrying goods such as flax seed, timber, grain and tobacco.

My parents were excited about new opportunities, but a little anxious about taking a young child on such a long and dangerous journey. Passengers had to stay below deck in the cargo hold. They only went out on deck for a short time each day.

There was very little privacy. My mother tried to partition off a small area for the family with some linen cloth, but it didn’t stop the noise of the other passengers.

The journey was to take about eight weeks, but that depended on the weather and the seaworthiness of the ship. The passengers had to wash their clothes in buckets of seawater.

My mother cooked meals on the ship, which wasn’t an easy task. My parents and their friends brought food with them: potatoes and vegetables, eggs, oats and salted and dried meat. The fresh food didn’t last long. They cooked their food on a caboose, as lighting fires on deck risked setting fire to the ship. Often families cooked together using the same pot of boiling water, so each family wrapped the food in a muslin cloth so that they knew which was theirs.

Caboose: a word meaning an outdoor oven or fireplace, often found in a ship’s cabin (Courtesy of Vivi-o /

The captain always made sure that the crew was well fed.

As the journey continued, the food began to run out. Fresh vegetables were finished and the meat was rationed. Sometimes there were fresh eggs from the chickens onboard. Mother tried to make the food go further by thinning down the porridge from the morning for tea.

The men spent their time discussing what they thought life would be like when they got there.

Sailing ship at sea (Courtesy of North Wind Pictures Archives / Alamy Stock Photo)

The journey across the Atlantic was dangerous. There were storms to face and the added threat of pirates.

After a few weeks, life on board the ship was different. The weather was dreich, food was scarce, fresh water was limited. People were living on top of each other. With so many people in such a small space, if one of them became ill it would quickly spread throughout the ship. For most people, the boredom was the worst thing.


The Journey Activities

  1. Ask your pupils to read The Journey.
  2. Ask your pupils to use Resource 2.1 to write Jane McFadden’s diary entry for Day 5 on board the Maccallum. Encourage them to think about the weather, conditions on board the ship, the food and friendships.
  3. Ask your pupils to create a storyboard of Jane McFadden’s journey using the template provided (Resource 2.2).
  4. In groups of six, ask the class to create a tableau of life on board the ship. Use the Situation Cards (Resource 2.3).
  5. Encourage your pupils to research the games children played in the 1700s. How do they differ from games we play today? Encourage them to form pairs or groups to design and make a game that children could play today to entertain themselves on a long journey. Then ask them to test their games.
  6. In the playground or the main hall, ask your class to play the Port or Starboard Game.
  7. As a class, listen to some music associated with ships and the sea, for example John Ireland’s Sea Fever, Benjamin Britten’s Storm; Handel’s Water Music or sea shanties. Encourage your pupils to use a variety of audio resources, such as the C2K audio network, to produce a sound picture of the McFadden’s sea journey.
  8. Encourage your class to explore a banana and a banana chip, a plum and a prune and a grape and a raisin. Ask your pupils to use Resource 2.4 to record their observations on the differences between the fresh and the dried fruits. Remind them to refer to appearance, smell, touch and taste. As a class, discuss what has happened and why.
  9. Drying is a method of preserving food. Ask your pupils to list the dried food and drink items that they might find in a kitchen cupboard. Explain why foods are dried. Encourage them to describe situations where dried foods or meals might be the best choice.
  10. Using the story, highlight all the references to water and its uses. Encourage your pupils to list all the activities that use water in the home today.
  11. ‘Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink!’ is a line from the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Ask your pupils, in pairs, to investigate why those on board the Maccallum couldn’t drink the sea water.
  12. Encourage your pupils to investigate what can cause dehydration in the body and what the effects are.
  13. Encourage the class to pour some water coloured with food dye into a jug. Then, ask them to put a celery stalk into the jug and leave it overnight. The next day, ask them to observe the change in the celery. Encourage your pupils to discuss why they think this has happened and what it means for our bodies.
  14. Ask your pupils to find out why it is important to keep the body hydrated. As a class, watch the videos: Why do we Need Water? (Resource 2.5) and It’s Great to Hydrate! (Resource 2.6). Encourage your pupils to explore a range of ways to achieve good hydration.
  15. Encourage your pupils to create a class tally of water intake over a school week. This should include drinks and water-based foods and when they were consumed. At the end of the week, ask your pupils to present their findings in graph form and discuss the conclusions.
  16. Using Resource 2.7, ask your pupils to find the route Andrew McFadden needs to take to get the jug of water. He needs to drink his daily allowance of eight glasses to get there. Encourage your pupils to use ICT software, for example Scratch, to program the correct route through the eight glasses of water to the jug.
  17. Explain to the class that children in Ulster are fortunate to have clean water to drink. In other countries, many children have to drink contaminated water. As a class, watch the video clip The Water Effect (Resource 2.8).
  18. Ask the class to carry out a water filtration experiment. Encourage them to:
    • start by cutting the tops off four 1 litre soda bottles;
    • then, turn the top of the bottle upside down, this will act as a funnel, and place into the bottom part;
    • label the bottles A, B, C and D;
    • place a coffee filter in Bottle A, a paper towel in Bottle B, kitchen roll in Bottle C, and a piece of muslin cloth in Bottle D;
    • pour the same amount of dirty water into the funnel in each bottle, being aware of the importance of fair testing;
    • observe what happens; and
    • decide which filtration method produces the cleanest water.
    Remind the class that this is not drinking water.
  19. Encourage the class to read the water cycle leaflet The Amazing Cycle of Water (Resource 2.9)
  20. Ask your pupils, in groups of four, to create a water cycle using a variety of materials and then produce a piece of writing explaining the water cycle process.
  21. Ask the class to form groups of four and then encourage each pupil to come up to the front one at a time and look at the illustration of a brigantine ship, similar to the Maccallum, for 20 seconds (Resource 2.10). Ask them to return to their group and draw what they saw. Encourage each group to organise themselves to complete the picture of the Maccallum. Then, ask each group to compare their picture with the illustration. Ask them what worked well in this activity and how they could improve it.
  22. Encourage your pupils to use squared paper to draw a scaled image of the brigantine ship. Resource 2.11 is a picture of the ship overlaid on 2.5 cms squared paper.
  23. Encourage your pupils to explore the navigation technologies that different modes of transport use today. Ask them to compare these methods with those the captain would have used on the Maccallum in 1718.

Curriculum Mapping

Journey Curriculum

Supported by Maine Ulster Scots Project
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