The 10th of May

by Kitty Hughes

In early spring
As buds unfolded on
the whitethorn over the well,
She trudged the grey road
home from school.
Next day she stayed in bed.
He steered two horses and the plough
over the river field,
Soon the potatoes would sprout.

She fought for breath
They tried their best, to cool her brow
With soothing poultice from the cold spring well.
Strangers came – for shelter
On the run!
The barn was safe and snug.
Fear stalked the land
No doctor came,
The night was long, they prayed their beads
In the morning she was gone.

Men came quietly, took off their hats
The Big Fellow and the Blacksmith, too
Shook each hand to
pay their respects… So sorry,
A great loss…too soon!

With heavy hearts and dressed in mourning black
They carried her along
the grey road to Ennybegs.
Prayed and sang the Requiem.
Next door the scholars paused and bowed their heads,
blessed, as the bell tolled its lonesome knell.

For a whole year they wore the mourning veil,
As the thorns of war pierced
friendships, once true.
When my Grandmother died
On the tenth of May, nineteen twenty-two.

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in a Poetry as Commemoration workshop held in association with Longford Archives at Edgeworthstown Community Library, in October 2023.  The workshop was led by writer Mary Melvin Geoghegan.

Catherine Doherty Esker, the author’s grandmoher, was a National School Teacher in Ennybegs NS. She took ill in February 1922 and died on 10th of May 1922 aged 55. Among the callers to sympathise at her funeral was Michael Collins and Seán McEoin.