This picture captures the most rudimentary but fundamental act during emigration: paying the emigration agent.
The various signs in the picture advertize: "G. O'Neil E[mig]ration [Ag]ent", "Direct from Cork", "For Quebec", and "Hibernia." In the right foreground, a woman sits on a box that says: Jack Sullivan Goin to Ameriky [sic]. In the background, there seems to be a woman and child in distress, possibly due to they or a loved one leaving Ireland.
The second and third paragraph make reference to a particularly busy time of year when many people left Cork: "Upon reference to notes and papers of my own, and to information afforded me by the emigration agents here, I am disposed to think that about the middle of May the great emigrational torrent ceases to flow from these shores. Looking backward for the last month, I find that, during the week ending April 11 the greatest rush for the season took place. The numbers who left Cork that week could not have fallen far short of 1500 souls…" The date May 10, 1851 has also been written on the picture.
Source: NYPL Digital Collections