On February 13, 2010 Maggie Delaney appeared at her second Fireside Chat at Fort Boonesborough State Park. The Fireside Chats are a series of presentations (with dinner) presented in the blockhouse at the fort. Each Saturday night in February features a different speaker and also a different menu of “Frontier Fare.” The chats are sponsored by The Fort Boonesborough Foundation.
It seemed hard for me to believe that Carol Jarboe first presented her portrayal of Maggie just one year ago at the 2009 Chats. Although Jarboe has been portraying Maggie, the indentured servant at events for several years, last year was her first full length presentation. At that time Jarboe amazed her friends and all of the public in attendance with her tear wrenching portrayal of an eighteenth century indentured servant. Throughout the year she continued her portrayal appearing at libraries, re-enactments, family reunions, Women on the Frontier and more.
Said Mat Bryant who portrays frontiersman William Whitley, “Carol moved up the bar for all of us that do first person portrayals.” And justly so. I have seen the portrayal several times now - each one a bit different, a bit deeper and a bit more emotional. Said Jarboe before the performance, “Maggie has continued to grow and change. The storyteller in me feels the need to add and change every time my research unearths some little known fact about indentured servitude.”
Jarboe begins her performance with no introduction. She prefers to enter as Maggie Delaney and thus stay in the minds of her audience that way. Said Jarboe ”If I am introduced first as Carol Jarboe - portraying Maggie Delaney the audience has to make the transition from my 21st century identity to my 18th century persona. I prefer them to meet Maggie first. After it is over they can be introduced to Carol Jarboe”. So Maggie makes her entrance when Parson John, her master, calls her into the room. “Parson John” is portrayed by Carol’s husband Frank Jarboe.
I held my breath as she made her entrance wondering what the reaction would be to Maggie. Last year she was a complete unknown. This year she appeared as a character that had received a lot of press, had a DVD of her performance for sale and had many return visitors in the audience. I needn’t have worried. In only moments the audience fell under Maggie Delaney’s spell. Her tale is of the hard life of a woman and her family forced to leave Ireland in abject poverty and sign their lives away for 7 years for passage to America. Few historic accounts tell the actual facts of that life. Romantic novels often referred to the servants leading a wonderful life, spending their few years of servitude and moving on to a charmed life. Reality was never quite that. Jarboe tells her tale of different masters, beatings, families separated, exhausting dawn to dusk work in such a way as to let her audience know the true realities of life as an indentured servant. With humor and hope she weaves an unforgettable tale.
And for the second year in a row - Maggie Delaney touched our hearts. Jarboe received a standing ovation for her performance and returned to answer questions from the audience.