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Authors: Katie Flynn

Rose of Tralee

BOOK: Rose of Tralee
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Contents

About the Book

About the Author

Also by Katie Flynn

Title Page

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Epilogue

Copyright

About the Book

The year is 1925, and in Liverpool, Rose Ryder worships her father, a tram-driver. She nurses a secret dream of driving trams too, even though it’s not considered a job for women. Meanwhile, in Dublin, Colm O’Neill is happily settled – until his father gets a job working on the Liverpool-Birkenhead tunnel, and takes Colm across the water with him. When tragedy strikes and her beloved father is killed, Rose and her mother scrape a living by turning their home into a boarding house. And it is their boarding house which Colm and his father come to when they arrive in Liverpool . . .

About the Author

Katie Flynn has lived for many years in the North-west. A compulsive writer, she started with short stories and articles, many of which were broadcast on Radio Mersey. She decided to write her Liverpool series after hearing the reminiscences of family members about the life in the city in the early years of the century. She also writes as Judith Saxton.

Also by Katie Flynn

Liverpool Lass

The Girl from Penny Lane

Liverpool Taffy

The Mersey Girls

Strawberry Fields

Rainbow’s End

No Silver Spoon

Polly’s Angel

The Girl from Seaforth Sands

ROSE OF TRALEE
Katie Flynn

For Vicki Turner, who patiently read reference books to
me and cooked me wonderful meals whilst I wrote
this book – thanks!

I am most grateful for the generous help given me by Jack Gahan and his colleagues in the Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society – Jack has done his best to stop me from making any really bad mistakes about the trams in the twenties and thirties, but because of a rush to get this book ready for the printers, he has not been able to check the MS – so any mistakes are mine, but the good research is his!

As usual, I’ve used many facts given me by the wonderful people who helped the Everton Library production of VILLAGE WITH A VIEW, and I’m particularly grateful to Mrs J. Spruce, whose delightful reminiscence of Everton in the thirties – and in particular her memories of her tram-driver father – inspired me to write this book.

I do apologise if I’ve left anyone out, but since the start of M.E., my memory has been totally unreliable.

Chapter One

1925 Dublin

It was August, and a hot and sunny day for once. Colm O’Neill, sitting on the canal bank holding in one hand a long willow wand from which dangled a length of line, with his eyes half closed against the noontide glare, was indulging in a beautiful daydream, which was rapidly becoming the next best thing to sleep. In his mind’s eye he was seeing the straightness of his line suddenly jerked out, the rod itself bending from its natural shape into a perfect curve as the huge salmon that had taken his bait fought to get free. The salmon was a dream one, so it was, pinkish, with a great, ruby-red eye and a mouth which gaped wide as a railway tunnel. In his dream Colm played the giant up and down the bank, scattering the other kids who were fishing alongside of him, whilst bigger boys envied and smaller ones oohed and aahed.

The salmon, when he had got it ashore, would be for his mammy, of course. And wouldn’t the mammy be pleased with him? His dream skipped a mile or so and there he was in their room, holding out the giant fish, whilst his mammy, with tears in her eyes, thanked him for providing her with enough food to last a week.

And then, all of a sudden, Colm was back on the canal bank and the giant salmon had somehow
managed to get the line around his foot. It was heaving and pulling with painful force . . . Colm opened his eyes and got half way to his feet, all ready to hit the salmon over the head with anything handy ... and came back to earth with a bump. His line hung slack, nothing was nibbling his bait, but his leg was still being half torn off him so it was, and even as he stared at the calm, unrippling water, he realised what was happening. Caitlin was on the move and the rope with which he had tethered her was heaving urgently at his ankle as she reached the end of it.

With a sigh, Colm bent down and untied the rope, shouting: ‘Caitlin, ye devil’s spawn! What on the good earth d’you t’ink you’re doin’? Haven’t I telled you, times wit’out number, not to stray when we’re by water? You’ll be drownded, so you will, and who’ll get the blame? Answer me that, you eejit!’

Caitlin took no notice but continued to heave at her rope, so Colm, well used to this, jerked and watched with some satisfaction as his young wan sat down on her bottom with a bump. Hastily propping his rod on a stone, he set off in pursuit, reaching her in a couple of strides and swinging her off her feet into his arms. She giggled and wriggled but made no protest and Colm, carrying her grimly back to his rod, reflected that divil though she was, she could have been worse. She was only five and the sit-down had been a hard one, but not a sound of protest had come from his little sister. She often yelled with temper or cried with rage, but apart from that she was of a sunny disposition – Mammy often said they saw more smiles than frowns from Caitlin and, though his friends always groaned when he appeared with his young wan in charge, they had to admit that even at her tender age she was game for most things.

Colm sat her down on the grass and took his place next to her.

Beside him, his friend Seamus rolled over onto his stomach and peered down into the depths of the canal, then sat up once more and addressed the child on the end of her rope. ‘Did you run off, you bad gorl?’ he enquired cheerfully. ‘What a good t’ing it is that you’ve a big brother to look after you! Have you forgotten already bein’ near on drownded in this very canal when you was a little mitchin’ babby? And you’ve frighted all the fishes away, so you have – we might as well go home right away, wit’ such a turble young wan to turn our hairs grey before time an’ scare the fishes away.’

‘She didn’t go far, not wit’ the rope round her middle,’ Colm assured his friend. ‘Phew, don’t you go remindin’ her of that other time, you great eejit, or she’ll likely fancy another dip.’

‘I dare say she don’t need much remindin’,’ Seamus said lazily. ‘I bet your ould wan gave you the rough side of her tongue that day.’

‘She would have, if she’d knowed,’ Colm acknowledged. ‘Isn’t that why I rope the kid whenever I’m near water? I’m just t’ankin’ the Lord above that she didn’t go straight down the bank just now, but only along it.’ He turned to the child, sitting on the grass and picking daisies as though she had never done anything more adventurous in her life. ‘Didn’t I tell ye not to stray, now? Whyfor did you go off?’

Caitlin looked vaguely around her as though searching for the explanation, then turned a pair of large, dark-brown eyes reproachfully up at her brother. ‘You’d goned asleep, an’ I wanted the yellow duckies,’ she said in her small, clear voice. She
pointed a chubby finger further along the bank. ‘See ’em, Colm?’

There were no ducks further along the bank, yellow or otherwise. Colm heaved a sigh and picked up his rod, pulling it carefully clear of the water and missing the reedy margin more by luck than judgement. ‘You aren’t supposed to go anywhere wit’out me, Cait,’ he reminded the child, though without much hope. ‘You promised Mammy, so you did. What’ud she say if I telled her you’d been strayin’ off after yellow ducks ... or anyt’ing else, come to that?’

‘You won’t tell,’ Caitlin said tranquilly. ‘I never tells an’ you never tells, Colly. When will you catch the fish?’ she added hopefully.

‘Soon,’ Colm said. Truth to tell, he was beginning to get bored and was sure he would never catch anything worth taking home, anyway. Because it was a nice afternoon the bank was crowded with young fishermen, all using an amazing assortment of tackle. Bits of string, half a clothes pole, bent pins, a length of orange rope . . . and the bait was almost as varied. Colm had some precious pieces of bacon rind, Seamus was using earthworms, someone farther along was putting his faith in bread pellets ... spoiled for choice the bloomin’ fish should be, Colm thought crossly, but no one had had a bite so far as he knew. The denizens of the deep seemed indifferent to the fine feast being wafted before their goggly eyes.

‘It’s too hot and there’s too many chisellers, all wit’ the same t’ing in mind,’ Seamus said lazily. ‘Did you see that feller ground-baitin’ wit half a loaf? He’s spoiled the sport for the rest of us, feedin’ the buggers like that.’

Colm gave his friend a warning look; Caitlin loved
new words. But since she was still gathering daisies and murmuring to herself as she cast them into the lap of her dirty cotton frock, there seemed little danger there. ‘You’re right about the fish,’ he said. ‘I’ll give it another ten minutes, so I will, then I’m off. The ould wan wants some spuds washed an’ over the fire by when she gets home. Wit’ the littl’un along it’ll take us half an hour to walk from here; might as well start sooner than later.’

Since neither boy possessed a watch the ten minutes passed by guess, but during that time no one caught a fish and it was with only the pretence of reluctance that Seamus, too, pulled his line out of the water and wrapped it around his hazel wand, whilst Colm quite happily made his own preparations for the walk home. The canal had proved a disappointment so they might as well leave now as later.

If it hadn’t been for Caitlin he and Seamus would probably have gone further afield – maybe down to the Liffey, where the fishing was better, or even to the big pond out at the Brickfields. But the ould wan was terrified of the child drowning and had made Colm swear that he would take her to nowhere dangerous. The fact that his mammy would consider the Grand Canal dangerous was a mere woman’s whim, he and Seamus had decided. The water wasn’t deep ... well, not very deep . . . and because of the tow-path there was no need to get too close to the edge. Some kids fished from the tow-path, of course, but he and Seamus were happy enough to sit on the long grass, well back from the water, and fish as best they could from there.

When the two of them were ready Colm wound in Caitlin’s rope and lifted her to her feet. ‘We’re goin’ home now, alanna,’ he said cheerfully. ‘If you get
tired, I’ll carry you. But you can walk for a whiles.’

Caitlin still had the daisies in her skirt but she trotted along beside him, the rope dipping between them. Colm did not intend to let her off it until they were in their own home since, with the best will in the world, he could not keep watching her every minute of the walk. Past experience told him that she would stop by every other grating to push a daisy or two through, or trace a picture in the dust with a grubby forefinger, or dart into the road in pursuit of a mangy dog, or a pigeon, rootling between the paving stones. On the rope, at least she would stay within a foot or two of him, so that he could curb her worst excesses.

As he had told Seamus, he had never forgotten the day he and his pals had gone to fish for crabs alongside the Liffey. They had begged or borrowed lengths of line from older brothers or fathers, and had baited them with scraps of long-dead and stinking fish, found down on the quays. He’d had Caitlin with him, of course, because his ould wan was working as a cleaner in one of the smart houses in Ely Place and could not look after the child, but Caitlin had been a baby then, not even a year old. He had brought her along in a wooden fish box to which he had fixed small wheels, and had satisfied himself that she was sound asleep before sitting down on the quayside and dropping his line hopefully into the gentle brown water.

She hadn’t made a sound on waking, either. She had climbed out of the fish box and crawled to the edge of the quay . . . and before he had had the remotest idea what was happening he had seen a flash of white and there she was, bobbing in the water below, too startled even to shout as it closed over her head.

BOOK: Rose of Tralee
10.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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