When we arrived in Canada way back in the early Twenties, our house in St Bride’s had not yet been built and we were assigned a house on a farm in Sunnyside – about fourteen miles north-east of Edmonton.
Barney Quinn’s family were in the same predicament. Like us they spent their first six months out of Ireland in Sunnyside. Our nearest neighbour was the Jeffreys family about half a mile away. Our house was built on their land and both our parents worked part-time for them.
Two ‘unapproved’ and rarely-travelled roads intersected here in a hollow. Within that and set back about one hundred feet from the road our house was located. In front there was a potato garden and we were surrounded on the other three sides – to within three feet of the walls of the house – by wheat fields. There was not a shrub or tree growing anywhere near and from a distance the house looked like a tiny island in a restless sea of wheat!
The first few months were a stressful time. In addition the two younger children contracted whooping cough and had to be hospitalized in the Royal Alexander Hospital in Edmonton. Felix, the baby, was seriously ill and every time he got an attack we thought that he would die.
The house had no well so water for drinking had to be carried from the Jeffrey’s, and water for washing from a little river half a mile down the road.
Often in pleasant weather my mother would bundle the laundry together and the entire family – with the exception of our father, who was working – would trudge off to the river! We would take a picnic with us: a few peanut butter sandwiches and a can of tea creamed and sugared, and make a pleasant outing from what would otherwise have been drudgery!