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Authors: Kirsty Murray

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Bridie's Fire

BOOK: Bridie's Fire
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The C
quartet is a sweeping Irish–Australian saga made up of Bridie's story, Patrick's story, Colm's story and Maeve's story, four inter-linked novels for ages 10 and up, beginning with the 1850s and moving right up to the present.

Bridie's Fire

Becoming Billy Dare

A Prayer for Blue Delaney

The Secret Life of Maeve Lee Kwong

is a fifth-generation Australian whose ancestors came from Ireland, Scotland, England and Germany. Some of their stories provided her with the backcloth for the
series. Kirsty lives in Melbourne with her husband and a gang of teenagers.


s Magic Flying Fish
Market Blues
Walking Home with Marie-Claire

Howard Florey, Miracle Maker
Tough Stuff


First published in 2003

Copyright © Kirsty Murray 2003

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

The Australian Copyright Act
1968 (the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or ten per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.

Allen & Unwin
83 Alexander Street
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Phone: (61 2) 8425 0100
Fax: (61 2) 9906 2218
Email: [email protected]

National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication entry:

Murray, Kirsty.
Bridie's fire.

For children.
ISBN 1 86508 727 0.

I. Title. (Series: Murray, Kirsty. Children of the wind; bk. 1).


This project has been assisted by the Commonwealth
Government through the Australia Council,
its arts funding and advisory body

Designed by Ruth Grüner
Set in 10.7 pt Sabon by Ruth Grüner
Printed by McPherson's Printing Group

3 5 7 9 10 9 8 6 4 2

To Ruby Joy Murray,
my brave and fiery girl



1 Ride a wild pony

2 The hunger

3 St Brigid's Eve

4 The going away

5 Fever and changelings

6 Road into darkness

7 The death-house

8 Black dogs and broken houses

9 Pilgrim souls

10 Riot

11 Angel, go before me

12 Land of forever young

13 The voyage south

14 Winds of freedom

15 The New World

16 Beaumanoir

17 Gilbert Clarence Arthur Bloomfield
De Quincey

18 By the waters and the wild

19 Silken threads and golden needles

20 The fate of girls

21 Sea change

22 Hearts of fire

23 Ember prayer

24 Gold dust

25 Billy Dare

26 Leap of faith

27 Midnight

28 The choice

29 Alone

30 The night fossicker

31 Eddie Bones

32 Songbird of the South

33 A troupe of stars

34 Broken promises

35 The living and the dead

36 Starry, starry night

Author's note


Bridie's story is the first of four novels in the C
series. In both Ireland and Australia, countless kind souls generously provided me with their time, their knowledge, their family stories, their understanding of themselves and their connections with the past. Many people have helped these stories come to life over the past few years, but for the moment I will confine my thanks to those who helped with
s Fire
. I would also like to acknowledge the support of the Australia Council in funding this project; without its support, none of these stories would have been told.

In the West of Ireland
I am grateful to Father Pádraig Ó'Fiannachta for his wisdom and insight; Con Moriarty of Lost Ireland for some fabulous yarns; Gerry O'Leary of the Kerry Historical Society for a wealth of information; Tim Clarke, Heidi and Fionn O'Neill for their generous hospitality; and especially Alice and Shanthi Perceval for their love, support and companionship.

In Dublin
I thank Margaret Hoctor, Elaine Ryan, Con Sullivan and Ruth Lawler for their time and their kindness, and also the staff of the National Library of Ireland for patiently answering a convoluted list of questions.

In Melbourne
I am indebted to Judy Brett and Graham Smith, Mairead McNena, Catherine O'Donoghue, Alice Boyle, Val Noone, the Celtic Club, the Caroline Chisholm Library,
Clann an Ghorta
, the La Trobe Library at the State Library of Victoria, and my ever-reliable local favourite, the Yarra Plenty Regional Library Service.

Special thanks to Peter Freund of Her Majesty's Theatre, Ballarat, for his fabulous insights into the history of theatre on the goldfields, and the wealth of material he provided. And to Trevor McClaughlin for his commitment to reconstructing the lives of the orphan girls.

I am also very grateful to Rosalind Price for her continuing faith, and to Sarah Brenan, John Bangsund and Penni Russon for their persistent clarity and annoying attention to detail.

And of course, most importantly, there are the people who have had to live with this project and still have more blarney to suffer before it's finished: Ruby, Billy and Elwyn Murray, and Ken, Romanie, Isobel and Theo Harper. Thanks, guys.


Ride a wild pony

‘Bad scran to you, evil prince,' said Bridie, thrusting her stick at Brandon. ‘Pick up your weapon and I'll kill you three times over!'

Brandon waded out to where his driftwood sword floated on the waves, while Bridie leapt nimbly from one black rock to another until she stood on the one that jutted out furthest into the ocean.

‘C'mon, boyo, the great warrior Queen Medb is ready for battle!'

Brandon looked up at her and grinned. ‘That's two times you've let me kill you,' he said, ‘and I've only had to die this once. So, you know, I'm thinking I'll not risk another thrashing.'

Before she could reply, he ran down the pebbly beach to join the other boys.

Bridie watched him for a moment and then turned to face the sea. She shouted a victory cry, her voice ringing out across the waves. Her friend Roisin glanced up from where she was gathering shellfish from the rocks. ‘What are you shouting about now, girl?' she asked.

Bridie stretched her arms wide, as if she could embrace the wind. ‘Do you ever feel, on a summer day like this,' she said, ‘that if you sing out they'd hear you calling on all the islands, hear your voice all the way to America?'

Roisin tucked a wisp of red-gold hair behind her ear.

‘All I'm feeling is my empty belly. Mam will be wild that I've spent the morning larkin' about with you and not gathering shellfish to thicken the pot.'

Bridie jumped down from the rock, sending a spray of seawater into the air.

‘I've a sack full of periwinkles and I'll give you the lot, girl.'

‘I can't be taking them from you.'

‘But I'm wanting you to take them,' said Bridie, running across the beach and picking up the small hessian sack that she'd left near the base of the cliffs. She pushed the bag into Roisin's arms. ‘There are more little ones in your house than in ours.'

‘You'd best be taking them,' said Brandon, joining them. He was followed by Roisin's small brothers, Mickey and Jim.

‘You never know what I'll do if you cross me, Roisin O'Farrell,' teased Bridie. ‘Why, when I was a strip of a girl, I was so mad at our dad for going out in the currach without me that I jumped off the cliffs at Dunquin.'

Roisin laughed and slung the bag over her shoulder. ‘I know that old story. My mam told it to me. She says there's no one as wild in the whole of Ireland as Bridie O'Connor in a rage. God bless you, girl.'

Roisin and Bridie walked along the beach, calling for their brothers to keep up. Mickey and Jim straggled behind, picking up coloured pebbles. They were scrawny boys with round pale faces and thin gold hair. Brandon looked big and sturdy beside them. Bridie watched him with pride as he showed them how to skip stones across the surface of the ocean, his curly red hair bright against the blue water. The wind picked up, making the pebbles skitter off course, but Brandon stepped into the waves and sent a purple stone skimming smoothly out to sea.

They were turning onto the cliff path when, out of nowhere, a black pony came charging up the beach, with surf churning white about its hooves. There was no time to get out of its way. It skidded to a halt, rearing up so close that Bridie could smell the hot scent of horseflesh as its black hooves scraped against her shoulder.

‘It's the pooka!' she shouted. ‘Run!' She stumbled backwards, trying to herd the other children behind her, but before she could stop him, Brandon slipped past, stretching out his arms to the wild pony.

‘It's only a frightened beast,' he said, glancing back at Bridie. ‘If we're still, she'll know we're her friends.' The pony lowered its head and nuzzled his chest, as if it understood his words.

Roisin reached out for her little brothers. They stood a short distance up the path, poised to run, but Bridie took a step closer until she felt the pony's breath warm against her cheek.

‘If it is only a frightened beast and not the devil's own mare, why don't you prove it, boyo,' she said. ‘Why don't you get on her back and take her for a ride. I dare you!'

‘You come away from it, Brandon!' shrieked Roisin, grabbing her brothers' arms and dragging them further away. ‘You climb on its back and it'll take you into the surf and drown you. You know those stories, Bridie – why, you told them to me yourself! The black pony will take you across the sea to the fairy folk or bring the devil to your door. How can you be daring your own brother to risk it!'

Bridie and Brandon looked at each other, and they both laughed as their thoughts entwined.

‘Man alive, Roisin, you don't think I'd be daring him and not taking the dare myself?' She turned to Brandon and gave him a leg up. The pony stamped its feet and snorted anxiously, shying away.

BOOK: Bridie's Fire
12.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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