The year was 1886 when I was born. My name is Mary Brophy. It was tough for my mother as she already had six children and a seventh would be a big burden. Times were hard in Ireland. Starvation and poverty. Children dying, no work no money. Rich getting richer and poor getting poorer.
Not enough money or food and a father who did not care for his wife or children. My mother it would seem had no choice but to send me away. She sent me away when I was 6 years old to a family in the Caribbean. The trip was not pleasant. Very rough seas and not much to eat or drink. It was very scary expectably for someone as young as me. On arriving we were herded off the ship like cattle. We were lined up on the dock and inspected for lice and other nasty things. I just cried all I wanted to do was go home but alas that was not to be. The family that was to take me arrived. They were not very nice, and it was clear that I was only there to serve their needs. Life was so hard. I learned to adjust to my surroundings. The house was big and there was only three of us to run it. The housekeeper and myself and a young boy. As time went by memories of my mother faded and I accepted my faith.
The years passed quickly. The island was indeed beautiful. At times it was quite hot and when it rained it was bad. When I turned fourteen I went into the village to shop for the family. It was usually bustling but on this day, it was eerily quiet and just a bit scary. There had been rumours of some bad fighting between colonist and natives. On this day I saw a group of natives huddled together. Looked like they were planning something. Suddenly I heard shots and I ran for cover. Soon the firing stopped, and I made my way back to the house. What I found was not good. The family had fled and left me alone. I thought what will I do now. I gathered my thoughts and went in search of whatever I could find to survive. I found a few coins, food and some clothes. I slipped out the back door and headed for the hills. When I got there, they were a lot of others in the same predicament as me.
As I sat there wondering what faith had in store for me, a young man approached me. He told he had a way to escape the island and asked if I wanted to go with him, I replied yes please. He went away for a while but soon returned. He said, “we must wait till nightfall it will be safer that way.” So, we waited. When it got dark we headed for an inlet. There was a boat hidden there. It turned out that the boy was an apprentice carpenter and built the boat so that he could escape and return home. We loaded the boat with some supplies and set sail. It would be many days before we reached the next island. We could rest and pick up some more supplies. We had to be very careful where we landed as some of the islands were not friendly. It would be almost two years before we reached where the young man was from. I should mention that his name was Hans Boswel and he was Dutch.
We had slept for a long time and when we woke we found ourselves in a strange place. Strange to me but not to Hans. There were strange buildings and a lot of coloured flowers. Hans said that the buildings were windmills and the brightly coloured flowers were tulips. We docked the boat and went ashore. It was such a beautiful place. The year now was 1902. I was sixteen and Hans was just eighteen. We had been through a lot together in just two years. When we arrived in the town we had very little money. Hans found a job as a carpenter. As for me I found a job in a local bakery. When we were asked we always said we were married. Not long after that we found we were having a baby. Hans found us a place to live and we were very happy. Soon our daughter arrived, we called her Anna. It was not long before our son came too. We called him Hans after his father.
We soon also set up our own business, a carpentry shop. Business was good, and it was not too long before we were able to afford a new house. Hans made all the furniture It was a beautiful house and we had a gorgeous garden for the children to play in. I decided to write a book about our adventures. It turned out to be a very good book. We read it to our children when there were small and now they are all grown up. Soon they will have their own children and they can read it to them also. It has been many years since we left that island. They have not always been good years, but we survived. I sometimes think about my family and wonder what happened to them. I don’t remember what my mother looked like but what she did for me was the right thing. If I had stayed with her I may not have had much of a life.
It has been ten years since Hans passed away and I miss him so much. We never did get married, but it would not have made much difference. We would still have stayed together regardless. Our grandchildren asked me when I read the book I wrote. “Is this story about you and grandfather I say yes.” They look at me in disbelief and smile. They say, “Nanny you are such a great storyteller.” They are such wonderful children and I just wish that Hans could be here to see them growing up so strong. Soon I will join Hans and I am happy to do that.
Collette Furlong. I am 60 years old. I am a mother and Grandmother. I have been a writer since 2015. I have had 2 stories published in our Local magazine and have read one story on local radio. I love to write short stories. Poetry is all new to me but love putting them together.
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