Monday, 26th November 1866
Do you know, I feel quite blissful today, seeing the sun rise late on this clear chilly morning….
I was christened Margaret, but have always been called Meg. I am sixteen years old, my father is the Lock
Keeper and we live at the Lock Keeper’s House at Staleen Lower on the Boyne Canal, beside the great bend in
the Boyne, in the county of Meath but within a cockerel’s crow of the county of Louth.
Because of his duites my father is obliged to read and write well (and know how to conduct money matters),
and he made sure that I and my two brothers were well schooled. I was proud to observe when he iflled last
year’s census form, on my line under “Literacy” he wrote “Read and Write”.
Each day the horse-drawn boats come and go through the lock, lfour and yarn eastwards from the mills along
the canal to the port of Drogheda; coal, ale and other provisions in the opposite direciton. My father
calculates and collects the fees and records the passages, and my brothers and I help now and then. (My
mother meanwhile conducts household matters kindly but with some authority).
One paritcular boat, by name “Fuinseog”, plied its passage once or twice a week, up and down, and the crew
consisted of “Captain” John Tierney, Esq., and his son Jack. Someitmes if itmes were quiet Captain John would
tarry for a while and smoke a pipe of tobacco with my father. The lad Jack and I were a bit shy at ifrst, but
gradually began to discourse on diverse matters, mostly of little consequence, and to explore the nearby wood
or ramble down to the edge of the mighty Boyne river to see if we could spy an elegant heron or a lfash of
kingifsher. If the weather happened to be inclement, we might shelter in our woodshed to await the
reappearance of the Captain.
One day, well into summer, Jack and I were siittng side by side on a fallen tree in Staleen wood, a little short on
conversaiton for once, when he suddenly leaned towards me and, Lordy me, kissed me gently on the lips. My
heart leapt, but not wanitng to appear childishly nonplussed, I willingly returned his kiss and we strolled
blissfully back to where the Captain awaited to depart.
All summer our innocent romance conitnued, meeitng once or twice a week at Staleen Lock.
Then one day the Fuinseog came in, and in Jack’s place was a pale, pimply youth, no more than thirteen or
fourteen. “Where’s Jack?” I enquired hesitantly, turmoil in my head and heart. “Oh, now that he’s turned
eighteen, he’s got a job at Simpson’s Chandlery, beyond in Drogheda”. And off went the Fuinseog again,
leaving me beretf in my private anguish.
Weeks passed, the Fuinseog, drawn as always by a sturdy Shire, moored up again at the lock. The Captain
observing me sagely from under his cap, handed me a sealed envelope. My heart bounding, I rushed to the
shelter of the woodshed and tore open the letter.
“My dearest Meg,
I am missing you so much. Every day I look out at these ifne ships leaving for great ciites like Liverpool, Bristol
or Glasgow. Please, please come with me, and we can leave together and make a wondrous new life together
Your very affecitonate friend,
Well, I thought, he’s eighteen, I’m not yet seventeen, and there’s Phonsie Lydon above in Donore who seems
nice…….maybe……maybe not……for now anyway.
Monday, 26th November 1866