Archive | October, 2013

Billy

13 Oct

When Paddy McGuire left the Workhouse he promised Billy Cattell that he would look out for some work for him; he knew it was Billy’s ambition to go to sea and could see no reason why a healthy lad of thirteen should not be on his way to earning a living.
‘I’ll ask around the Docks for you Billy lad.’ He told his young friend as he left, and true to his word, Paddy found him work as a ship’s hand. Billy stayed at the workhouse for a bed at night, but now he was able to spend his days around the place of his dreams. The first born of John and Mary Ellen, and ten years of age when Auntie Lizzie left him in the Workhouse, he felt betrayed and bitter. The hurt felt as deep as the oceans he longed to sail and the hatred he nurtured for his father was like a dormant sea monster, submerged, awaiting an awakening. Those who knew him would never have believed him capable of such feelings. He was a warm and likable boy whose cheerful, mischievous spark had not been extinguished by the suffocating regime he had endured.
Darkly handsome and quick to smile, he was popular and made many friends among the inmates. Friendships forged in adversity and strong enough to last a lifetime. But the memory of scouring the bars of Liverpool with Catherine and Alfie , in search of their father, would never leave him, and although the longing to find his father remained, he knew he could never forgive him for deserting them.
The boat was a bright red steamer called The Coral, which carried passengers from Liverpool to Amsterdam. Tom Featherstone, the Captain, was always looking out for lads ‘with the sea in their blood’, as he put it, and sensed that Billy was just that.
‘You’re no stranger to the life here Billy.’ He had remarked, ‘I’ve watched you at the rigging, you know what you’re doing!’
‘I spent my childhood here Captain. Wanted to learn everythin’ so I could be a seaman.’
‘Work hard for me Bill and soon I’ll take you on a trip. I like to keep the ship clean and tidy. If we look after her, she’ll look after us.’
‘I’ll do me best Captain.’
In his bed at the Workhouse, he felt the faint stirrings of hope, a new sensation, like life returning to a long numbed limb.
On The Coral, he cleaned the deck polished brass and mahogany, checked the rigging and waved her on her way like a proud father as she bobbed, bright red on the choppy River Mersey.

A Rendezvous

1 Oct

Three weeks had passed since Bernie and Colleen had left her; only three weeks? It seemed like three life times.  She thought about their parting words.’ We’ll be at the gate every day.’ and hoped they had not given up on her,  regretting having almost given up on herself. 

After supper she went to the yard and peered through the railings at busy Brownlow Hill, where the early evening socialites were about their business.  Carriages carrying the very rich bumped along the cobbled road towards the City Centre where entertainment of the highest rank awaited them at theatres, music halls and restaurants.  Liverpool was the second city to London and home to many wealthy merchants who enjoyed a charmed life in landscaped  mansions, beyond reach of the sullied arms of smoke and grime.

Catherine was indifferent towards these people.  She liked to see the beautufully groomed horses and polished carriages, but her thoughts never drifted to greater depths. She accepted that she was not one of them, and that was the end of it.

‘So there y’are Cathy me darlin!!’

Her world warmed at the sound of Colleen’s melodic voice.

‘It’s standin’ here every night we’ve been and after frettin’ our socks off about you.’ Colleen scolded, but the girls joined hands through the railings, knowing that no such barrier could hinder their friendship.

Bernadette and Colleen looked stunning, with bright red shawls and emerald green bonnets to brighten their plain brown frocks.   Long dark curls hung in ringlets the like of which would never be seen on Catherine’s side of the railings.

‘Gertie gave me a message from ‘elen in the itch ward.’ Catherine whispered.

‘Elen?’ The girls were puzzled.

‘Yes,she knows my daddy.’

‘Ah, sure the one you spoke to when we were about looking for Bernie.’ Colleen recalled their Christmas visit to the Infirmary with a smile.

‘She says to look in The Crown on Lime Street and he’s got a ticket to America.’

‘America! Jaysus! I’ll ask me da to look for him.  The Crown on Lime Street’s not the sort of place ladies like us should be hang’n around, so it’s not.’ Said Bernie with a wink.

‘More for the ladies of the night, to be sure.’ Colleen swung her purse and affected a provocative walk to make her point.

The three laughed histerically until the bell rang for Cathy to return to her dormitory and destroyed the mirth.

‘Stay strong now Cathy! You’ll soon be out here with us, havin’ a laugh!’ Colleen comforted.

‘See you tomorrow?’ She she pleaded.

‘We will that!’ Bernie promised.