A cold winter 1947

The story virtually ignores the Second World War as a minor interruption to the Wexford girl story. Maggie and her new husband, James, settle in to their new lives in England. Their friends, Jonty and Betty, in the years to the end of the war, increase the size of their family by four more children in addition to Veronica and her elder brother, Albert. By the end of the war, Veronica and Kathleen, Maggie’s daughter, become firm friends.

The tale instead moves on to 1947, to the coldest winter of the century on record at that time. Maggie and James worry about Jonty, Betty and their children. Money is tight and their old terraced house, like Maggie’s, is cold and damp, but James and Maggie are, relatively speaking, better off. James braves the snow and wind to buy boxes of food for Betty’s family. As an employee of the coal mine, James also has coal that he can spare for Betty’s fire.

The children play in the snow but the school had to close when Sister Mary slipped and ‘fell on her arse with her legs in the air.’ Veronica comes to stay with Kathleen’s family for the winter to ease the burden on Betty. All the children have only thin second-hand clothes to wear in that winter but neighbours help each other out. As winter progresses, even the coal mine has to shut down. The army is called in to clear the roads and railways. Thousands of people lose power to their homes.

Moving on to 1950, Betty’s family is relocated from their crumbling terraced house into a new Council house, two miles from Maggie’s. They promised to keep in touch and Kathleen hugged all her departing friend’s family – even Veronica’s elder brother, Albert. After his dad died, just after the war, Albert is now working and taking on chores that his dad would have been responsible for. Veronica and Kathleen remain close friends even after the house move.

As 1952 arrives, Kathleen receives a shock. Her parents, Maggie and James have decided that they want to return to Ireland, to their families and so that Kathleen can get to know her grandparents, aunts and uncles. Veronica isn’t the only one in her family to be devastated by the news. Her brother, Albert, has taken quite a shine to Kathleen. He will shortly be starting National Service and asks Kathleen to promise to write to him. She agrees on condition that he’ll write back.

Kathleen, who has been working for the priests for the past seventeen years gets a good recommendation from them to take with her. The teachers and sisters at the school all sign a greetings card for Kathleen. Meanwhile, Albert doesn’t know what to do. For the past four years he has been contriving excuses to visit Kathleen’s family hoping just to see her.

As the English shores disappear from the sight of passengers on the ship taking them to Ireland, Kathleen weeps, wanting to return. She’ll miss Veronica badly, but she’ll also miss Albert.

More tomorrow about their new life in Ireland.

I took today’s featured photo at Smuggler’s Cove, Ardgroom on the Beara Peninsula of County Cork Eire while I was on holiday. I used my former Pentax K3-ii 24 MM cropped sensor camera with a 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at f/14 and 48 mm. The shutter speed was 1/40 secs and the ISO was 100. The shot was handheld.

Leave a Reply