The Great-Grandmother’s Warning

The Glen area of Derry City lies between Rosemount and the Northland Road. The Rosemount shirt factory dominates the skyline and it provided work for the women. Because of the lack of work in the town for men, many fathers went to England for employment. Wives stayed at home or worked in the shirt factories, hoping that the extra money might help them get out of the poverty trap.

In the 1940’s when a couple married, they usually moved in with the parents of the woman. The small terraced houses were overcrowed, often having one family to each room, three or four families to a house.
In one house there were four generations living, great-grandmother, grandmother and her husband and their daughter, her husband and new baby.

The grandmother had always looked after the children, rocking them to sleep in her rocking chair. When she died she was mourned deeply and terribly missed by her daughter and grand-daughter, who both worked in the Rosemount factory.The empty rocking chair was a sad reminder in the corner of the kitchen.
A neighbour undertook to look after the baby until such times as his mother could give up work to stay at home.

One day in the factory, above the loud noise of the machines the mother heard the sound of a rocking chair. She tried to convince herself that she was hearing something which wasn’t there but the more she tried to ignore it the more insistent the sound of rocking became. Then she heard her grandmother’s voice crooning a lullaby, just as she had done in life.
The woman jumped up and ran from the collar-room where she worked to her mother who worked on a different floor. Her mother listened to her believing that the girls’ story was some sort of warning. She then took her by the arm and both of them ran home.

When they went into the kitchen, the neighbour wasn’t to be seen. The chair was rocking furiously in the corner. No-one was there.
The room was filled with gas leaking from the antiquated gas pipe used for the gas iron.
They ran upstairs and found the baby in his cot lying quite still. His mother grabbed him and ran outside where he began to revive.

The neighbour was sitting in the back yard, sick but otherwise recovering.
She told the mother that she had felt unwell and that she may have passed out. As she was talking she looked at them in dawning horror realising that something was wrong since they should have been at work. She screamed and tried to rush by them to see to the baby.
They reassured her that the baby was fine.

When they related what had happened to alert them she confessed that just before she had taken ill, she had seen the chair rock but had thought that it was a draught from the window.
When it was safe to return to the house the chair was in the corner as usual, quite still.



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