The Blight

Its 1845. The start of the Great Famine in Ireland.
Nollaig and her younger sister Siobhán have been put in the workhouse, their parents gone to work the roads for money. Faced with the harsh work, rotten food and vile conditions, Nollaig knows escape is their only chance. It was only a little while before one of them caught the dreaded disease or starved to death.

But escape isn't easy and death is fast approaching...

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1. Prologue

I was running, wind in my hair, sun on my face. My strong legs pounded the moist soil, leaving the sound of laughing children behind. I was free to do anything, be anything.

“Nollaig slow down.”

I raced back a few paces and grabbed Siobhán’s clammy hand, then lurched forward again. Splashing through shallow puddles from the previous night’s rain, I laughed.

Siobhán was breathing heavily, my own chest heaving. I slowed a little remembering she’s only 10.

“Come on Siobhán we’ll miss it. Hurry.” The potatoes were being harvest today which means we all get out from school early to help. The first potato was always a big deal for Da especially because last years didn't grow too well.

We hurdled the low wall surrounding the field. Nearly there, Ma and Da in the distance and some folk to lend a hand. As we reached them I knew something was wrong immediately. Da was knelt on the ground, head in his big, rough hands.

“Ma?”

“They’re ruined Nollaig. All rotten. We've not a thing left.”

That is the first time I heard my Da cry, great heavy sobs that shook through him, shocking us all.

“Don’t worry Michael it’ll be okay,” Ma repeated this over and over to Da.

But it wasn't going to be okay, we all knew it sure. We ate them for food, sold them for money. Without them we’d die.

The blight had arrived.

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