Bone Road by Geraldine Mills. Arlen House, 2019.
About the author:
Geraldine Mills is a poet and short story writer. Her poetry collections are Unearthing your Own, Toil the Dark Harvest, and An Urgency of Stars.Her short fiction collections are Lick of the Lizard and The Weight of Feathers. She won the Hennessy/Sunday Tribune New Irish Writer Award and is a recipient of the Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship.
Author's description of Bone Road:
Little was known about my maternal great-grandparents who emigrated to the US in the 1880s until I heard the name James Hack Tuke. Suddenly their story came rushing up for air. Mr Tuke, a Quaker, visited the west of Ireland during the Great Famine. Haunted by what he saw, he returned in 1880 to see it was still ravaged by congestion and poverty. He believed that one solution to such destitution was an Assisted Emigration Scheme. Known as the ’Tuke Fund’, it was a voluntary scheme which supported whole families going, with their passage paid, a set of new clothes and landing money when they arrived. Nearly 10,000 people emigrated from Connemara and County Mayo between 1882–4. On 22 June 1883 my great-grandparents, Philip and Mary Heveron, and their six children, one of them my grandmother, left Elly Bay in North Mayo on the SS Waldensian,arriving into Boston Harbour on 4 July. They were ticketed to Warren, Rhode Island, where my great-grandfather was given work in the cotton mills. However, they couldn’t settle and now with seven children they made the journey back. My great-grandfather went directly to County Mayo. The rest of the family were admitted to the Cork workhouse on 10 November 1884. They left in April 1885 and were reunited in Belmullet, County Mayo. This verse memoir attempts to chart the course of their leave-taking and homecoming through documented fact and imagined memory in order to retrieve those lost parts of my family’s history.
Here is a sample poem from the book:
Hunger for Somewhere Else
They’re glad to see the back of
all the wind-crippled whins,
turn their heads from
the rain over Achill head,
smoor the final fire.
They’ve had their bellyful
of stinking haulms,
grateful now to hand back
their hungry piece of grass to the landlord
and watch the dog on a scatter of stone,
a fetch in the tumbled-down scailp,
a fling of dunlins on sand
waiting for the boat to sail.
Condition: New paperback