‘You’re gonna be eating strange bread!’ said Minnie the Caddy, running her finger round the rim of the tea-cup. She was telling a fortune, in her little cottage up the flank of Slieve Martin, near Rostrevor.
This was a way of saying that you were destined for foreign parts.
‘ .. but there’s great handshakes for you at the end of the journey. You’re going to be surrounded with drink and with people.
Begod, there’s no poverty there.’
Minnie Crawford had taken a similar journey in her youth, over forty years previously.
In the early years of the century, here as in many places throughout the North of Ireland, many women (Minnie included) worked in the flax fields and flax holes, pulling, retting and spreading, or riddling the flax seed, but wages were so low that many of the young, unmarried ones emigrated to England to seek better prospects.
Minnie Crawford was among them.
On a Spring morning in 1922 Minnie arrived at Euston Station, London. She had travelled overnight on a cattle boat out of Greenore bound for Hollyhead. From there the train took her the whole way to London. Her through ticket had cost thirty-nine shillings, a sizable sum then!
She stood below the station clock clutching her bag, bewildered by the roar and bustle of the big rail terminus. Already she was homesick.
‘Then, thanks be to God!’ cried Minnie, for she was telling her own story,
‘My cousin Katie Magee arrived to collect me.
She was working in London and she took me to Kensington and found me a place to eat and to sleep. Then she got me a job as a kitchen maid in a big house in Kensington High Street.’
… more later ….