John McCullagh September 16, 2006
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By late October the wheat fields surrounding our house since our arrival were all shorn and empty. All that remained, a short distance away, seeming forlorn and lonely in the vast sea of grey stubble, was a huge pile of straw.

One dusky evening, when I was splitting firewood, Mr Jeffrey set this strawstack ablaze! 

I gazed at it in silence and with an unaccountable feeling of sadness, as it flared ferociously and then gradually burnt itself out – the last moments of its brief flaming glory reflected in my bedroom window. It felt as though its demise marked the end of a rich episode in my life.

And that’s how it proved to be.

I recall little of our departure from Sunnyside. I remember being in a Chinese restaurant. My father was wearing his old blue serge suit: my mother had donned one of her hand-me-down dresses for this occasion.

I recall being on a train that would take us to our new home. I wondered if this was the same train that I had heard nearly every night for the last six months.

The train was stationary in a field of snow. I could hear the locomotive hissing steam and chugging desultorily at the head of its string of mixed carriages and freight cars. We seemed to be waiting for somebody or something. There appeared to be some anxiety that what or for whom we were waiting would not arrive in time to catch the train.

Eventually, with a feeling of relief I saw, through the coach window, my father and Barney Quinn running towards us across the unmarred field of newly-fallen snow, leaving deep footprints behind them.

Behind them too in the distance, I could make out a building with a large-lettered slogan emblazoned on its wall: LAST CHANCE SALOON.

I don’t remember feeling of sadness or remorse at leaving Sunnyside – and our friends there – behind.   Nor indeed excitement either at the journey or at what adventures lay ahead.  These were matters for parents to mull over! Children accept the inevitable.

St Brides: to the sawmills …

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