A STORY OF CONFLICT IN CORK, IRELAND
‘The bastards wouldn’t let us put out the fires. The city has burnt to the ground.’
‘Sit down, Conor, please.’ Imogen pleaded with her husband. ‘You’ll wake the baby.’
‘It won’t end now. The Republicans will want revenge. They’ll hit back harder. I saw Jimmy heading away with O’Donoghue. I hope to God he isn’t doing something stupid.’
‘He shouldn’t have joined the army in the first place. I told him that. Why didn’t you stop him?’
‘He’s a grown man, he can make his own choice.’
‘Jimmy’s your brother. You could have spoken to him. Told him how dangerous it would be to get mixed up with the IRA. And now this. What will they do?’
Conor finally stopped pacing the room and sat down in his armchair next to the fire. The dark nights of winter had arrived and the cold in the air threatened the first snowfall. He slumped back and Imogen saw the tiredness in his blackened face.
‘It was senseless. I saw them. British soldiers setting buildings alight. Blacks and Tans joining them. I never thought I’d see the day, Irishmen burning the houses of their countrymen. We tried to put the fires out and the British shot at us.’ He paused. ‘They shot at us for trying to save Cork from burning. They cut our hoses.’ Conor leaned forward, his head in his hand.
‘I told you this would happen. The bleedin’ IRA brought this on us. Attacking patrols around the city, killing and wounding soldiers.’ Imogen said.
‘It wasn’t soldiers tonight, Imogen, it was innocent people. Civilians like you and me with no stake in this bloody war. Beaten by British soldiers.’ He stood again, his fists balled in anger. ‘You need to be careful what you say about the Republicans, Imogen. If they hear you bad-mouthing them…’ Conor trailed off, leaving the threat hanging in the air.
‘Oh, it’s like that is it, Conor O’Mahony? Well, you married an Irish girl with an English father, so what does that make you? Maybe you wish you never had proposed to me?’
‘Dammit, woman. We can’t just sit here and let them tear this country apart. Maybe the Republicans are right. If we want to protect our country, we have to fight for it. The British won’t leave us alone until either they win or we do.’ He picked his jacket up off the chair and pulled it on.
‘Where are you going, Conor? You can’t go back out, not with the soldiers still on the streets.’
Conor looked at her. She saw the Irish pride and anger in his face. He walked out the living room. The front door slammed closed, bringing a draft of cold air rushing through the house.
The baby started to cry in the bedroom. Imogen went through and picked her up, cradling her in her arms.
‘Ssshhh, little girl,’ Imogen comforted her, rocking backwards and forwards. Conor was right, it wouldn’t end here, she thought. Neither side would back down. There was no easy solution. The Republicans wouldn’t rest until the British left the island. The British would continue to oppress them until their army was defeated. Between the two armies the ordinary people were trapped living in fear.
‘Do you know what your name means?’ she asked the bundle in her arms. ‘Saoirse means freedom. Liberty. One day you might get to see that for Ireland.’ The baby girl stopped crying, tucking herself into her mother’s bosom. Imogen looked out the window at the dark night. She knew Conor would join the fight. There was nothing she could do to stop him, or the war.
‘One day.’ She closed her eyes and carried on rocking gently backwards and forwards, her daughter in her arms.
Written as part of The A to Z Challenge 2018. Click HERE for more details of the challenge.
Each day in April we will visit a different town or city in the European Union, whose name will begin with the letter of the day – today it’s a scene from history in Cork in the Republic of Ireland – for a story based on a theme also corresponding to the same letter.
Over the course of the month and 26 stories, we will visit all 28 member countries to complete a farewell tour before Britain leaves the political union next year, touching on the history, politics, culture and people at the heart of Europe.
For a full list of stories, visit here: THE A TO Z CHALLENGE 2018.
Click the link for more information on the Burning of Cork: Wikipedia.