Raheny, Dublin, 6am, The Young Mother

Margaret had already been up for an hour, having cooked the porridge and made the tea for her husband and fed her baby. She looked out the window, it seemed as if it was going to be a sunny day. The birds were singing wildly and her hens and geese were competing with the harsh call of the corncrake from the fields around the house.

The days were long at the moment and soon the haymaking would start, when every man, woman and child would be expected to take part in the labour of taking in the hay. It was back-breaking work but there was always the satisfaction at the end of it of seeing the hay safe for the winter. And at Dowling's, the local big farmer where her husband worked in the dairy as well as keeping his own few fields, there was always a good meal and refreshments when the work was over. Margaret put some more water on the fire to heat for washing the baby. She dreamed of the day when she could maybe get enough money together from the egg money to pay for a range; they were so much less work and kept the place so warm. But nonetheless her cottage was snug and dry and she was happy that this baby had come in time for the summer weather. She thought briefly of the other child, the one who had died; but he had been born in November, just when the weather was coming into its worst. This time she was making sure that the baby got the good milk, straight from the cows at the dairy. Her mother said good milk would build up any child to live to be a hundred.

Later, she would walk down to Raheny to get water and sit under the trees by the stream to chat to some of the other young mothers. And perhaps if the nurse was in the Dispensary she would drop in to ask her about the baby's cough.

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