Catherine Cookson was born in East Jarrow and the place of her birth provides the background she so vividly creates in many of her novels.
Although acclaimed as a regional writer her novel THE ROUND TOWER won the Winifred Holtby Award for the best regional novel of 1968 her readership has spread throughout the world. Her work has been translated into twelve languages and Corgi alone has over 32,000,000
copies of her novels in print, including those written under the name of Catherine Marchant.
Mrs. Cookson was born the illegitimate daughter of a poverty-stricken woman, Kate, whom she believed to be her older sister. Catherine began work in service but eventually moved south to Hastings where she met and married a local grammar school master. At the age of forty she began writing with great success about the lives of the working class people of the North-East with whom she had grown up, including her intriguing autobiography, OUR KATE. Her many best selling novels have established her as one of the most popular of contemporary women novelists.
Mrs. Cookson now lives in Northumberland.
Also by Catherine Cookson
THE BLACK VELVET GOWN THE BLIND MILLER THE CINDER PATH COLOUR BLIND A DINNER OF HERBS FANNY MCBRIDE FEATHERS IN THE FIRE FEN WICK HOUSES
FIFTEEN STREETS THE GAMBLING MAN THE GIRL
THE GLASS VIRGIN GOODBYE HAMILTON HAMILTON HAROLD
THE INVISIBLE CORD THE INVITATION KATE HANNIGAN KATIE MULHOLLAND
JONES THE LONG CORRIDOR MAGGIE ROWAN THE MAN WHO CRIED THE
THE NICE BLOKE OUR KATE PURE AS THE LILY ROONEY
THE ROUND TOWER THE TIDE OF LIFE THE UNBAITED TRAP THE WHIP
and published by Corgi Books The "Tiny Trotter' Trilogy TILLY TROTTER
TILLY TROTTER WED TILLY
The "Mary Ann' Series A GRAND MAN
THE LORD AND MARY ANN THE DEVIL AND MARY ANN LOVE AND MARY ANN LIFE
AND MARY ANN MARRIAGE AND MARY ANN MARY ANN'S ANGELS MARY ANN AND
The "Matlen' Trilogy THE MALL EN STREAK THE MALL EN GIRL THE MALL EN
By Catherine Cookson as Catherine Marchant
HOUSE OF MEN
THE FEN TIGER
HERITAGE OF FOLLY
THE IRON FACADE
MISS MARTHA MARY CRAW FOR
THE SLOW AWAKENING
To Mrs. Lilian O'Mions and her staff at the Hastings Public library for their invaluable help, which is always siven me with such goof!
The Divellin^ Place I
ROOK'riVO The House of Fisc. hell 73
HOOK rHRF. K T hi-Child JJ3
hook i-'oi'r 1836:
The Return 199
ROOK FJVE 1953:
RidI Circle 355
The cottage had two rooms. It was one of ten in the hamlet of Heatherbrook in the County of Durham, and, up to two hours ago, it had housed thirteen members of the Brodie family; now three of them were dead.
Cissie Brodie stood in the dim light of the death- smelling room and looked at the bodies of her parents dressed in white calico shifts, lying side by side on the platform bed; and at their feet, hardly longer than their four bare soles, lay the baby; and her Efteen-year-old brain was refusing to take in die situation.
That the fever should take her mother she could well understand, for with each child she had gotten weaker, and the one born two days ago had been too much for her, together with the fever. But that the fever or any other ailment should kill her father was something that she could not understand; for, as far back as when she was tour, she could hear him bragging about his strength, for he was head and shoulders bigger than any agricultural worker for miles around. When three years ago the fever had taken John, aged eleven, Nancy, aged ten, and Peter, aged eight, her father had said it was because they had no constitution, they had taken after their mother. He had pointed to Cissie, saying, "You had it and it didn't take you; no, because you take after my side, and we are strong, we Brodies." But he hadn't said this in front of her mother, because his nature was kind.
And now he was gone strength, constitution and all. What was she to do? What was to become of them? Besides herself, there were nine of them left;
the eldest, Jimmy, was only ten and the youngest, here in her arms, was but eleven months. How was she going to feed them? She didn't think about housing them, her father had been bonded by the year and the house was part of the contract.
As if the thought of food had been conveyed to the child, it started to whine; and she shook it up and down in her arms, saying under her breath, "Ssh! There now. Ssh! There now. Sshi Sshi" while all the time she stared at her parents.
Last week Farmer Hetherington had let them have all the turnips they could eat and two quarts of skimmed milk a day, but she was sensible enough to know that the farmer's generosity was forthcoming only because he expected her father to be back at work this week.
A section of her mind, planning ahead, thought, Perhaps he'll take Jimmy on the farm, not just stone- picking or crow-scaring. But on this she sighed, knowing there was little chance, as they were standing grown men off all around.
She looked down at the child tugging at her skirt and whispered, "What is it?" and Charlotte, aged five, her brown eyes wide, her lips trembling, said, "I'm gonna be sick."
On this, Cissie's eyes ranged helplessly around the half circle of children, all facing the bed. Jimmy, Mary, William, Bella, Sarah, Charlotte, Joe, and Annie in that order. Then, her eyes coming to rest on Charlotte again, she hitched Nellie further up into her arms before she said softly, "Go down to the burn and get a drink. You go with her, Sarah. Go to the clean part, mind, where it comes out of the rock;
don't go near the river, mind, not even to put your feet in. " Tlie river. Parson Hedley said, was where you caught the fevprSarah, a year older than Charlotte, nodded her thin face, so like that of the man lying on the bed. Then, taking her sister by the hand, she went towards the door; and, as she reached it, it opened and a woman entered'ikiand, going up to Cissie, said under her breath, " ^&et rid of the lot of them. Here's Matthew Turnbull from Benham come over to measure them. "
Cissie looked at Mrs. Fisher, who acted as midwife and layer-out of the dead not only for Heatherbrook but also for the other hamlets within a radius of three miles, and she nodded her head once; then, turning to Jimmy, she said, "See to them. Jimmy, will you?" and he, as if marshaling a flock of sheep, spread his arms wide and guided the silent children through the doorway and past the big broad fellow who was standing waiting to come in.
Matthew Tumbull had to stoop his head to get into the room, and he sniffed audibly and coughed as he glanced towards the bed. Then he turned and looked at the girl with the child in her arms. At this point, Mrs. Fisher, twisting her apron straight on her hips, said, "Ah well, I'll leave you to make your own arrangements." She nodded from one to the other, then went out.
Cissie looked at the man. She hadn't seen him before. Mr. Proctor, the carpenter who usually made the coffins for round about, had died of the fever three days ago. She swallowed deeply before she asked, "How much do you charge?"
He stared at the lint-white face before him, the two round brown eyes seeming to be lost in their sockets, the nut-colored hair sticking wet to the forehead, the child's hand alternately opening and shutting over the point of the small breast beneath the faded print bodice, the bodice and skirt themselves hanging as if on a clothes prop, so thin she was.
They had told him that she had been left with nine baims to see to; well, she wouldn't manage that for long, the workhouse gates would open wide for the o i nc ^wetting nace lot of them. It was the first time he had seen her but not the first time he had heard her name. Parson Hedley had mentioned the name now and again to him.
"Joe Brodie," he had said, "there's a man who would have done things given the chance."
"And a compassionate man," he had said. Had he not found his wife when she was twelve years old working in a coal pit in West Riding? She was a distant relation of his, halt cousin, but he had brought her from that life, and not only brought her, he had bought her from her people for a golden sovereign and had fetched her to his home, a cottage on the outskirts of Jarrow, and there she had stayed until she was sixteen working in the fields, which must indeed have appeared Elysium after her experiences down a coal mine from the age of seven. And on the day she was sixteen Joe Brodie had married her. Joe Brodie, Parson Hedley said, had always wanted to learn and had been determined his sons should too. He hadn't been bothered about his eldest girl because, after all, there was really no necessity for a girl to read, but the two eldest boys he had sent every Sunday to listen to Bible readings preparatory to their learning their letters. But now all that would be ended.
He looked from the bed to the girl. For the plainest coffin that would hold only until it got into the ground he charged ten shillings. He shut his mind to his father and his mother and his own particular troubles and gave her the answer to her question.
"Five shillings each," he said.
She moved her head slowly, and when she spoke her voice was just above a whisper.
"I haven't got it, not right away I haven't. I could pay you off in bits, or" -she turned and looked at the mantelpiece where, on the narrow ledge above the open fire, stood a clock.
"If you would take that," she pointed, "it's worth a bit--it came from my grandmother's house in Jarrow and her father brought it from foreign parts;
it's worth a bit. "
Yes, he i^ald see that, it was an unusual clock. It was abouilCighteen inches high, with a painted face, and on its floor was a little man with a hammer waiting to strike the hour. Yes, he'd like that, it was a nice piece, but he guessed its value to be more than ten shillings, more than a pound in fact. He turned from her, saying, "We'll see about it later; I'll get the business over first, leave it to me." He jerked his head towards the door, and after a moment she turned from him and walked out and into the street.
It was about two o'clock in the afternoon and the sun was high. It hadn't rained for two weeks now and the mud road appeared like a ribbon of ridged rock running between the cottages. On each side of the road were five cottages, two pairs attached and one standing singly. The fact that their own cottage stood by itself had always given her the feeling that they were different, that their family was slightly superior to the rest of the hamlet, and this feeling had been borne out by her father's attitude both inside and outside the house, for she had never known him raise his hand to her mother, like Mr.
Taggart did, and Mr. Snell and Mr. Patterson. Very likely this was because he didn't drink. Her father had been an unusual man, inasmuch as he had been determined that none of his children would work full-time before they were ten--picking in the fields in season was nothing. Mr. Fisher and Mr. Martin, whose sons all went down the mine when they were seven, said he was barmy and where would it get him, but Mr. Martin and Mr. Fisher were not really of the hamlet, they lived about half a mile up the road; all those in the hamlet worked on the three farms roundabout, the Hetheringtons, the Woolleys, and the Thomtons, who were all tenants of Lord Fischel, so the families in the hamlet had in a way always felt protected, even in spite of riots and wage troubles.
She herself had felt protected until yesterday, for, as some of the women in the place said, she didn't know she was born. There she was, a big lump of a girl of fifteen and had never been to work in either a mine, a factory, or a farm household. All she had done was look after the house, and which one of them when young wouldn't have chosen that and thought themselves blessed. And yes, she supposed she had been blessed, for, as they said, all ^red had to do was to look after the house, her mother, and the hairns since she was seven. There had only been six of them then, John, Nancy, Peter, Jimmy, Mary, and William.
But after William was born her mother's legs had become so swollen that she couldn't put them to the ground and had to lie abed for months on end. But every year she'd had a hairn, except the year she missed between Joe and Annie, and she should have had one then but it came away too early.
Cissie had loved looking after the house and the hairns and prided herself that she kept both cleaner than any other woman in the hamlet.
And unlike the rest of the women in the hamlet, who worked in the fields all day or in the farmers' houses, because that was in their man's bond, she didn't have to leave the cleaning and washing until the Sunday, but twice a week she would take the big bundle down to the stream, and if the children weren't picking they would help to beat the clothes on the stones and spread them out on the bushes to dry.
But she was always thankful when there were only little Joe, who as yet was only four, Charlotte, and Sarah to help her, for that meant the others were earning.
But over the last two months she had washed nearly every day, as her mother was unable to hold anything, and if she left her for two days the place smelled. The kitchen had always smelled a little, because her mother's bed was there, also the shakedown that held Annie, Joe, and Charlotte, but again she prided herself it wasn't a stench like that which came from the other houses, it was just a smell.
But now there would be no need to wash every day except the bits and pieces that the baims dirtied. What was to become of them? She looked at the child in her arms. Nellie had fallen asleep. She was plump and well fed; that was because she always cried when she was hungry and therefore was served first. But now there was hardly any food in the house; they were down to two loaves and some pig fat, and the children could go through two loaves quicker than lightning through a haystack.