Anne Doughty comes to the blog with a story set in the middle of the potato famine in Ireland in the mid-19th century.
The Girl from Galloway
Set in Ireland’s nothwest county of Armagh during the reign of Victoria in 1845, this story follows the life and struggles of Hannah McGinley, wife of Patrick, mother to Rose and Sam. Born in Scotland to a small and successful farmer, Hannah’s husband Patrick is a traveling laborer, leaving with many other Irishmen in need of work who travel to harvest and work farms for owners whose sons have moved on, or need help finishing the harvest. She’s still finding the contrast between her childhood life and the one she leads now, especially as all of her family are now scattered ‘to the wind’ and her little cottage is a bit out of the way. But there are bonuses, just up the hill is her husband’s Aunt Mary who is able to provide butter and milk, her handwork on napkins provides a steady (if small) income. But this is a time of little for many: little food, less opportunity and even less money.
Hannah’s children attend the local ‘hedge’ school, run by Daniel. A blind man with a knack for ‘seeing’ things that one might not expect, and a regular slate of visitors to his cottage who listen to his stories and share their own. Quite unexpectedly, his assistant teacher at the school is soon to be married, and Daniel needs help: two people have come to mind. Hannah with her knowledge of English, her ability to read and write, and her camaraderie with Daniel and Jonathan, a young man who claims his desire is to join the priesthood and help out where he can. With Daniel’s ability (and reticence) to display his English skills, he needs the help – but Hannah can serve to help gain a measure of the young man, and perhaps they can continue the school. It is at this point that another young man approaches, serving as the ‘information gatherer” for the Quaker Friends Society: having heard of the deprivations and poverty, they are looking for information and avenues in which they may be of help. Quickly this young man has ideas and information from Hannah, and their friendship takes its first tentative steps.
Full of the struggles of those who were most reliant on their small kitchen gardens, available work and the island staple of the potato, the story takes all of the perspectives: the worries from those who have little enough to share but want to do what they can for others, managing and finding ways to bring in donations and provide the children in the school with other options, and more than a share of personal tumult, the tale draws the reader into Hannah’s life and her own concerns, even as the government (read Parliament and the English landlords) seek to blame the locals for their own lack of opportunity, poverty and starvation, and watch as many are forced into workhouses, to emigrate, or simply starve in their homes in desperation. Intriguing as the school with its fifteen pupils is seeking to give the children more options than were ever offered their parents, and providing a little beacon of light as the characters come together to help, support and celebrate one another as they weather the famine of 46.
Title: The Girl from Galloway
Author: Anne Doughty
Genre: Family Saga, Historic Elements, Historic Woman's Fiction, Irish, Setting: Ireland, Small Town, Victorian
Published by: HQ Digital
Published on: 19 March, 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 8 Hours: 8 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Book Depository ♦ Google ♦Audible
The hardest times can build the strongest friendships
County Donegal, Ireland, April 1845.
Since following her heart and moving from her comfortable home in Scotland to the harsh mountainside of Ardtur, County Donegal, Hannah McGinley hasn’t had the easiest life. But surrounded by her two children and her loving husband Patrick she has found happiness.
When her daughter returns home with news that her school may close as one of the teachers is moving away, Hannah feels compelled to take the vacant post. With the schoolmaster Daniel having lost his sight, Hannah knows that he won’t be able to manage the children alone.
But the money from teaching is poor and as the potato crops begin to fail all around them, times are getting tougher still. Will Hannah be able to help her family and save the school?
This lyrical saga full of depth and emotion will sweep you away to a simpler time.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.