A passage from Catharine’s new book: Polly of Bridgewater Farm, an unknown Irish story.


Chapter XII

The Snow, Winter 1846-47

The snow fell and fell and fell.  In the early days of the winter it had seemed a blessing, covering over all the misery with a white blanket, covering the hovels thrown up against every spare wall in Omagh.  Covering the old graveyard on the hill with its raw new graves and the mass grave that held men, women and children.  As its continued, it overwhelmed with its whiteness, blotting out the life of trees and beasts, freezing the last life out of the bones of exhausted men who had worked on the roads until they fell.

Occasionally a figure appeared at the front door of Bridgewater Farm, seeking shelter from the storm.  One night just as Jane was smooring the fire, turning the turf inward on itself, she saw a shadow passing the window.  Even at this hour, someone was on the road seeking shelter.

When she opened the door, there was a young woman with three children clinging to her ragged skirt.  The woman’s pallor and the children’s faces shocked her.  They were the faces of little old people.  She had seen many of these children when she was helping out at the postmaster’s soup kettle in Dromore and up at the Grange, home of Lucas St-George.  These waifs were beyond all she had seen.

”We’re on our way to the poor house at Lowtherstown,” the women gasped.  ”They told us the way in the village, but it’s farther than I thought.  Would you have a corner of straw where we could lay our heads till the morning?”

Jane’s heart sank, she had so little to offer.  Then she remembered almost word for word the letter that an outraged citizen had sent to the Impartial Reporter about  the conditions in the Lowtherstown Workhouse.  There was no way she could send this woman and her children to that hell hole.  She well recalled James Dill scolding her for exhausting herself caring for the sick and starving.  But now, she also recalled her mother saying, ”Look after those who have a call on you.”  She repeated this out loud half to herself.  Eliza and Polly had already gone to find straw.

”If anyone has a call on us, this women does,” Eliza said defiantly as she produced a small horde of food from somewhere in a deep pocket in her skirt.  More than once Jane had suspected her eldest of hiding portions of her own food to give out later.  Just then, William came wearily carrying a pail of warm milk.  Jane heated the milk and poured it over chunks of bread.

In the morning, Jane sent the family off with the last blanket her mother had made for her.  She wondered if any of those children would still be alive in a week’s time.


”I loved the book.  It made me feel part of the family.”

Evelyn West – Past President, Clogher Historical Society, Monahan, rep. of Ireland

Polly is unforgettable.”

Marie Foley – Director (ret.) Neilsen Gallery, Boston, Mas.


Available here: click here





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