Authors: Vivienne Dockerty
Copyright Â© 2014 Vivienne Dockerty
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study,
or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents
Act 1988, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in
any form or by any means, with the prior permission in writing of the
publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction in accordance with
the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Enquiries
concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the publishers.
Although places and events exist in my story, this is a work of fiction.
All the characters, names, incidents and dialogue is from my imagination
or have been used fictitiously.
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ISBN 978 1783066 506
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
is an imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd
Converted to eBook by
A Woman Undefeated
Dreams Can Come True
Ping Pong Poms
Her Heart's Desire
I'd like to thank the volunteers who do such a good job at the Courthouse and Slate Museum in Willunga, South Australia, particularly a lady there who told me that an ancestor of hers was one of the early settlers in the township.
I would also like to mention two books that I found invaluable during my research:
and District,' 1837-1900
by Martin Dunstan and
Cradle of Adversity: A History of the Willunga District
by Rob Linn.
I'd also like to thank everyone who has bought my books either online or from the bookstores and those that I have met at the many events that I like to go to.
One of the readers of
A Woman Undefeated
wondered if Molly had been left behind in the hamlet to starve. I decided to give her an answer.
I would like to dedicate this book to Denis Gavaghan, who was a source of inspiration when I was trying to finish this book. A kindred spirit, an Irishman, from the very region that gave birth and shelter to my ancestors, I was fortunate to meet him and his wife Maureen, whilst on a trip to Loch Awe in Scotland, a beautiful place.
Denis has given me permission to publish a poem that he wrote recently,
The Moment at Hand,
which is all we really own, as we travel along life's way.
Last night I had a dream about dying
So I lay in my bed and I wondered
Our past, just a gathering of memories
So live each victorious moment
The sun had appeared from behind the rain clouds, much to the relief of the middle-aged man and woman who hurried into their farmhouse, situated as it was above a small hamlet a few miles away from the village of Killala.
“I'll boil a kettle, Filbey,” the woman said once they were in the kitchen. “You go and get the tin bath and we'll put her in it. I'm not takin' her stinking to high heaven to Sara's house. It'll be bad enough expectin' your cousin to feed another mouth until we get on the boat.”
“She's only weeny, Bessie. To be sure Sara won't even notice the little dote. Go to your Aunt Bessie, Alanna, and she'll make you nice and clean.”
“Want Maggie.” The little girl stood with her thumb in her mouth, staring at the farmer with wide eyes, as she watched him place the tin bath in front of the kitchen fire, where there were still enough glowing embers to boil a kettle.
“Yer'll see her later. She said we could take yer on a little âoliday. We'll go to the seaside. You'd like that, wouldn't yer?”
“Oh for heaven's sake, Filbey. I hope she isn't going to be whinin' for her sister all the way to Sligo. She should think herself lucky we've decided to take her away from all that misery and look at the state of her. You'd think somebody would have given her a wash now and again.”
“Bessie, have some pity, they're buryin' her mother today. The last thing on any folk's mind would be the cleanliness of the poor child's body. Now, that water should be warm enough. Strip âer out of that terrible bed gown and I'll pour a bit of the kettle in the bath.”
The child started to scream, as the woman gripped the hem of the nightdress and yanked it roughly over her head. She ran for the door, flapping her arms wildly, her skin the colour of alabaster against the darkness of her long matted hair.
“Grab âer,” shouted Bessie, over the child's cries, after turning back to test the temperature of the bath water, before picking up a piece of towelling in readiness. “I bet she's never had a bath in all âer three years.”
“Come âere, Molly, we won't hurt yer.” Farmer Filbey's voice was gentle and his plump face full of sympathy, as he ambled across the short distance to where the girl was trying to jump up and pull at the door latch. “Let's make yer nice and clean and then we'll go on that little âoliday.”
Defeated, but still sobbing, Molly allowed herself to be carried, but began to scream and thrash around wildly once she began to feel the tepid water being sloshed onto her skin.
“Give me that soap,” Bessie shouted above the bedlam, pointing to a jar on the well scrubbed, pine table that held a thick, green, carbolic solution. “Needs must,” she muttered grimly as she placed a dollop in her hand, then rubbed the glutinous fluid over the child's head and body.
“Now the jug. Filbey will you ever take a look at this, just look at the colour of this water.”
“Ah Bessie, take a minute to be gentle. She's been ill. Didn't Maggie say she's had a fever? It's not the child's fault she's in the state she's in. Here, give me the cloth and I'll dry her in it, while you find her a biscuit.”
It took the soothing voice of the man, the comfort of his arms around her and the tempting look of one of Bessie's homemade biscuits, before Molly's sobs changed to an occasional hiccup. She stared across from the safety of Filbey's arms at the old, wooden chiming clock that ticked from where it sat above the kitchen dresser, then watched as the woman carried the bath to the scullery, where she heard the sound of water swishing away.
“We'll have to get on.”
The woman had come back, wiping down the table and moving the jar back to its original position on a nearby window sill.
“Yer said Colooney would be here as soon as he'd fed his animals. I hope to âeaven yer'll manage to get them boxes on. There's not a thing in there that I'd leave behind for the next one's to make use of.”
The farmer nodded, his manner one of resignation, as if this kind of conversation had gone on before and he didn't want to hear it again.
“We're ready aren't we, just a case of tampin' down the fire? What are we going to put the child in, Bessie? She can't travel all the way to Sligo in this old towel, she'll catch âer death of cold and what'll we do if it rains on the way I don't know. Look, already the poor dote's shiverin'. Is there anything we could use in your travellin' bag?”
“Me change of clothin', that's all, I've thrown âer dirty bed gown on the muck heap. Not that it would have been fit for wearin' anyway.”
Bessie's face wore a long suffering look. She was dressed in her best blue, linen gown with a white, lace collar, when normally she would wear a dark, homespun skirt, a white blouse and an all enveloping pinafore for the farm work. “I'll have to wrap her up in one of me clean petticoats and me second best shawl.”
The sound of a horse's hooves clattered into the cobbled farmyard and Filbey, dressed in brown, moleskin trousers, a white and brown, striped collarless shirt and black, shiny shoes, with the few hairs on top of his head smoothed down with a type of pomade, went to the door after placing the little girl, who was still wrapped in the towel, into Bessie's arms. The child began to cry again, her damp hair clinging to the woman's face and her small body shuddering.
“There, there, Molly,” Bessie crooned, trying to fight off the frustration she was feeling, as she carried her burden to one of the large trunks placed near the doorway. Here she was, being given the gift of a lovely little girl to love, but in circumstances that were going to take every ounce of her willpower to get through. This wasn't a little holiday that her husband, Filbey, had tried to soothe the child with the promise of, they were to sail across the ocean to the other side of the world.
” said the tall, thin man who tenanted the neighbouring farm. “Didn't I tell yer, I'd be over at this time of the mornin?” Not that Filbey had uttered a word other than “
,” but Colooney took his worried expression for reproach. “Got yer boxes ready? I'm hopin' to make it there and back agin ter Sligo by the end of the day.”
“Piper won't let yer down,” Filbey said in reply. “He's been a good horse since I bought him as a youngster and I give the axles a good greasin' on the cart. Shall we load up then?”
He turned away quickly, lest the man saw the ready tears that had come into his eyes when he looked upon his faithful horse. Piper had been part of his family for the past ten years.
“Is she ready?” Filbey's eyes were drawn to the pretty little girl, standing in the doorway, now ensconced in a white petticoat, the drawstrings of the waist pulled up around her neck and a dark brown woollen shawl tied in a knot over it. Her dark hair, now that it had dried, sat squeakily clean just touching her shoulders and he noticed that her large eyes were blue, though filled with tears again.
“Come to Filbey,” he said kindly and picking her up he carried her to the cart.
“What are yer doin' with the Mayo child?” asked Colooney, looking puzzled. “Isn't it today that they're buryin' her mother up at Ballina?”
“She's ours now,” Filbey said stoutly. “The sister's gone off to England with the young Haines lad and seeing as âow their Aunt Tess âas her âands full, we were allowed to take âer. All above board, Father Daley knows about it.”
“Fine, fine, none of me business really, I just wondered” Colooney said, pulling back a tarpaulin in the cart in readiness for covering his load. “Do yer want âer to sit up here with you or back there with yer missis and the boxes?”
“She can come with me. The little dote keeps cryin' for their Maggie. Not that it matters now, but you'd think that she'd have been taken over the water too.”
Which wasn't true, Maggie hadn't had a say in the matter. They'd snatched the child from her cot whilst her Aunt Tess had attended Mairi Mayo's funeral.
“Anyway, me and Bessie can give her a better life than her sister could.”
“A matter of opinion, Filbey. Sure, I'd rather sit out the famine here, face the
(the bad times) which my family has done for generations, than go off to God knows where, across miles and miles of sea.
Bionn adharca fada ar na ba thar lear.
“So they say, Colooney, the grass is always greener on the other side and let's hope it will be.” Filbey shrugged and left the child on the bench, where she stared ahead at the rear end of the patient horse, watching its twitching tail in fascination. A few minutes later the two men loaded the first of the heavy trunks behind her.
“Come on Bessie,” Filbey said, as he went in to drag the second trunk to the door and noticed his wife was still wiping down the kitchen range with a bit of old rag. The stone flagged floor shone from a recent mop up of where the tin bath had been. “This is the first day of our great adventure. Pick up yer bags and off we'll go.”
It was hard for Bessie to stand in the yard and not look back at the place that had been her home for almost twenty years. Brought here all that time ago as Farmer Filbey's bride, she had been a pretty young thing, full of hope for a happy future, blessed as she would be with a quiver-full of children to help on the farm. Now her sharp, pointed face was etched with lines and her down turned mouth showed unhappiness. There had been no pitter pattering of tiny feet after all.
Bessie, not usually a sentimental woman, couldn't help but shed a tear as she looked at the four square, stone built house, with its now empty cow byre and one of its doors having been left hanging by one of its hinges, and at the deserted barn which usually stored a glut of hay or barrels of healthy potatoes. She thought of the hens that had clucked and the geese that had waddled around the now deserted yard. If it hadn't been for the blasted famine and the increasing amount of rent they'd had to pay, they would have tenanted the farm for the rest of their lives.
Yes, the past twenty years had been hard going. The youngest daughter of a slater, she had been unused to supervising the staff needed to run a small dairy and arable farm. It had taken determination and fortitude to help the farm make a small profit, along with her husband Clarence, and she had quickly learnt how to handle a lazy kitchen girl or dairymaid, though recently there hadn't been much work for Maggie, her latest servant. Maggie had left the hamlet the day before, bound for England in the company of Michael Haines and his family, who had worked as a
on the estate of the local Big House. Now her house and dairy would be empty except of course for the furniture that would sit there gathering dust whilst waiting for the blighted land to revive. Then someone else would cook in Bessie's kitchen, sleep in her bed and take advantage of all of those bottles of preserves that she'd had to leave behind in her larder. All that hard work had been for nothing. It was a crying shame.
“Give me the child,” she said to Filbey, after seeing that Molly had been placed upon the bench seat of the cart and looked a bit wobbly. “I'd sooner have her down here with me, where she can âave a sleep under this blanket I've brought.”
Molly looked wild-eyed as she was handed over, having settled in her place with a rear view of the patient Piper, but she became resigned as Bessie took charge, especially as the woman had now placed the yard cat in the cart beside her.
“Sara might want it” Bessie said in explanation, after Filbey had raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Can't leave the poor thing to fend for itself and I wouldn't want it to.”
Piper set off along the rutted lane at his new master's command with his harness jingling and the cartwheels creaking under the weight of its cargo. Filbey glanced back to the row of grey roofed, stone built cottages that had been built forty years earlier to house his father's farmhands. They were all empty now except for one, as most of the workers had gone off to live in pastures new. Only Widow Dockerty lived there now, visited by her sea captain son, Johnny, when his ship docked across in Sligo, a small town on the Atlantic coast. Filbey hoped to God that the widow didn't perish in the winter storms that would soon be on their way.
Is this a foolish dream?
He asked himself again, as the vehicle rounded a corner and the place of his toil for twenty years disappeared from view. He had sold everything he could to the man who sat beside him, in order to pay for his passage to a distant land. It was very distant, on the other side of the world to be precise, a place they called Australia. Why he'd got the notion was beyond him, as he had always felt homesick after a couple of days when they had gone to stay in Sligo with relatives. Perhaps it was a feeling of growing old and never achieving more than his forebears, or maybe it was the thought of struggling to make a living now that the landlord had raised the rent and was insisting that the land be given over to rearing sheep. When he had seen the poster, placed in the window of a government building in Sligo town by Her Majesty's Colonization Commissioners, exhorting all skilled workers to travel across the ocean to a new life in Australia, it hadn't taken him long before he was sitting at the recruitment table. After listening to the official in command, he had watched as the man filled out the application form.
Outwardly, and mostly to his wife in an effort to keep the poor woman's spirits up, he boasted of the nice, long sea voyage they'd be having, with plenty of rest, enabling him to take up the tools of his trade again when they got to the other end. Inwardly, he quaked at the notion that the ship might go down or there'd be nothing for them when they got there, though now he had another reason to leave this life behind and find a new one â his little girl. She'd be Molly Filbey when they boarded that ship to Adelaide and Molly Filbey was going to have the best of everything when he and his wife reached the New World.