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Authors: Janet MacLeod Trotter

A Child of Jarrow

A Child of Jarrow

A compelling and heartrending sequel to the
bestselling THE JARROW LASS

Janet MacLeod Trotter

Copyright © Janet MacLeod Trotter, 2002

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the publisher.

Published by MacLeod Trotter Books

First eBook edition: 2011

ISBN 978-1-908359-02-5

Janet MacLeod Trotter was brought up in the North East of England with her four brothers, by Scottish parents. She is a best-selling author of 15 novels, including the hugely popular Jarrow Trilogy, and a childhood memoir, BEATLES & CHIEFS, which was featured on BBC Radio Four. Her novel, THE HUNGRY HILLS, gained her a place on the shortlist of The Sunday Times' Young Writers' Award, and the TEA PLANTER'S LASS was longlisted for the RNA Romantic Novel Award. A graduate of Edinburgh University, she has been editor of the Clan MacLeod Magazine, a columnist on the Newcastle Journal and has had numerous short stories published in women's magazines. She lives in the North of England with her husband, daughter and son. Find out more about Janet and her other popular novels at:

Also by Janet MacLeod Trotter


The Beltane Fires

The Hungry Hills

The Darkening Skies

The Suffragette

Never Stand Alone

Chasing the Dream

For Love & Glory

The Jarrow Lass

Return to Jarrow

A Crimson Dawn

A Handful of Stars

The Tea Planter's Lass


The Vanishing of Ruth


Love Games

Non Fiction:

Beatles & Chiefs


‘This is the sequel to The Jarrow Lass; and A Child of Jarrow is just as compelling.'
Sunderland Echo.

‘The Jarrow Lass was inspired by Catherine Cookson's grandmother. This follows into the next generation, with Cookson's mother and the childhood of the great novelist herself. It is a winner.'
The Bookseller.

‘Brings early 20th century Jarrow vividly to life. A smashing read.'
Lancashire Evening Post

* * *

For all my special and talented nieces -Noelle, Sophie, Fiona, Annabel, Isla, Skye, Lorna and Susan - with much love

* * *

Chapter 1


By the time they struggled down the hill into Jarrow, one daughter either side of their wheezing mother, the Coronation celebrations were half over.

‘You should've gone on ahead with our Mary and Jack,' Rose panted, stopping once again to catch her breath. Her legs were already swelling up in the heat. ‘I could've stopped at home.'

‘And miss the party? Don't be daft, Mam!' Kate exclaimed, squeezing her arm. ‘It's not every day we get a new king.'

Rose grunted. ‘We haven't yet. Lying in some palace with bits of his insides missing, isn't he? May the saints protect him!'

‘Don't you start,' Sarah muttered, her broad face perspiring in the sudden summer heat. ‘You sound like Father.'

‘Aye,' Kate laughed, mimicking their stepfather's gruff speech. ‘”What they want to have a Coronation festival for? The bugger's not even being crowned! What if he never recovers from his operation? Might as well crown the next one!”'

Sarah burst out laughing ‘Didn't stop him ganin' off at the crack of dawn to start celebratin', mind, did it?'

‘That's enough,' Rose said sharply, regaining her breath. ‘Show some respect for your father.'

Kate felt familiar rankling at her mother's insistence that their cussed stepfather, John McMullen, was their father. He was notorious around Jarrow for his foul-mouthed ranting and drunken brawling, for his defence of all things Irish and contempt for all things womanly.

Kate remembered little of her own father, William Fawcett, except for fragments of memory that warmed her heart: piano music and lusty singing, a gentle voice telling her tales of the saints. She remembered sitting high up on strong shoulders so she could look out over a vast sea of hats and caps. She could recall a smiling fair face and a large hand wrapped around hers, pulling her down the lane. They were running faster and faster, her father crying out, ‘Race the moon, Kate! See if we can beat it!'

But consumption had killed him, just as it had Kate's eldest sister, Margaret. To save the remaining four girls from the workhouse her mother had married the stern, volatile John McMullen and achieved a precarious semi-security for them all. Or not quite all, for their sweet-natured sister Elizabeth had died of the measles soon after young Jack had been born. And there had been dark years of no work and aching hunger when she and Sarah had been forced out to beg on the streets for food. Kate still felt sick at the memory of the terror and humiliation.

‘Respect!' Sarah spat out the word.

Kate gave her older sister a warning glance. She did not want past miseries to spoil their present enjoyment. Yet she knew Sarah hated their stepfather even more than she did, and for good reason. It was only two years since he had nearly whipped her to death for missing the last tram home from Newcastle. Since then Sarah had worked up river in Hebburn and returned home as seldom as possible. But they had both been given the day off for the Coronation festival and neither of them was going to pass up a rare holiday and the chance of a free tea. She and her sisters loved a party, and Sarah had come home safe in the knowledge that John McMullen would be occupied inside some public house, boozing until sundown or the landlord threw him out.

Kate was glad the dignitaries of the town had decided it was too late to call off the celebrations at this late hour. The processions, brass bands and entertainment in the park would go ahead as planned, despite the luckless King Edward's coronation being put off until he had recovered from an appendix operation. But looking down the bank from Simonside, they could see that the processions were over. Bunting flapped irritably in the hot breeze and twists of paper from penny sweets scudded across the cobbles.

‘I can still hear the bands playing,' Kate said eagerly, chivvying her mother forward.

‘Where do you think our Jack's got to?' Rose fretted.

‘He'll be in the park watching the soldiers. You know he's daft about uniforms.'

‘Aye,' Sarah laughed. ‘Better find him before he joins up.'

‘Don't say that!' Rose gasped. ‘He's still just a bairn.'

‘She's teasing, Mam,' Kate reassured, knowing how Rose doted on her shy, serious-minded son. ‘Haway and let's find the fun.'

They linked arms and bustled their mother into the dusty town, the sisters singing as they went. It was only after they reached the crowded park and the tea stalls, and spotted Jack's slim figure and dark head close to the running buglers of the Durham Light Infantry, that Kate remembered Mary. No one had thought to ask about their youngest sister - quick-tempered, petulant, restless Mary. But Mary had always taken care of herself and, at fourteen, took little heed of what anyone said, not even her stepfather. She was the only one of them who showed him no fear and walked a tightrope between his indulgence of her and his quick-fire temper.

As a small girl, Mary had been brought up by their Aunt Maggie and had always been closer to her than her own mother. John, in his own gruff way, had tried to spoil Mary, make up for Rose's neglect, but to no avail. Mary seethed with resentment and impatience at them all. She hated living in the old isolated railway cottage to which Rose had moved them a year ago, and chaffed at the restrictions imposed by her parents.

‘Jack's allowed to wander where he likes,' she would rail. ‘Why can't I go into town?'

‘He comes to no harm round the fields,' Rose would defend, ‘and he brings home food for the pot.'

‘You let our Kate go.'

‘She works in the town.'

‘It's not fair!' Mary always ended up screaming. ‘I hate it here! I wish I still lived with Aunt Maggie!'

Kate saw how this wounded her mother but if she leapt to Rose's defence, Mary accused her more shrilly of being the favourite daughter. It was Mary's beloved Aunt Maggie offering to take her and Jack to the festival that had allowed Mary her freedom today. Kate caught sight of her sister now, arms linked with her young cousin Margaret, who allowed herself to be bossed by Mary. They were gazing at a display of glass birds and china vases that were prizes at an archery stall. Mary turned and Kate waved her over, but her sister ignored the gesture.

‘She'll be off to get Jack to win her one of them birds,' Sarah commented. ‘Anything fancy and our Mary's got to have it.'

‘Let's get Mam a cup of tea,' Kate said brightly. She preferred to be snubbed by Mary than be the focus of her waspish tongue. Let her sister spend the day how she wished, for Kate was determined to enjoy herself too.

They found Rose's sister, Maggie, picnicking on the edge of the field. She quickly shared out her paste sandwiches and rock buns and they caught up on each other's news.

‘Danny's doing canny at the Works.' Maggie spoke of her husband. ‘Good regular work this summer. How's John? Still celebratin' the end of war with the Boers?'

Rose snorted. ‘He's not signed the pledge, that's for certain. I'm just glad the troops are coming home and Jack's too young to join up. He's had me that worried these past couple of years with all his talk of soldiering - and running around pretending to shoot at imaginary Boers.'

‘Just lads' games, Mam,' Kate assured. ‘He's not even out of short breeks.'

‘Aye, let the lad play while he can,' Maggie agreed. ‘He'll be out to work and at the beck and call of the bosses soon enough.'

‘Is Aunt Lizzie coming over the day?' Sarah asked.

They were all fond of Rose's youngest sister, who lived beyond Gateshead on the grand Ravensworth estate where her husband, Peter, was a gardener.

Maggie shook her head. ‘Have you not heard? She had a bad fall - ankle's up like a balloon. Peter sent word a couple of days ago that Lizzie wouldn't be across. Didn't Mary tell you? I told her when she came down yesterday.'

Rose gave an impatient sigh. ‘No she didn't. That's half the reason I've bothered to come out the day - the thought of seeing our Lizzie.'

‘How will she manage with the bairns?' Sarah asked.

‘Aye, it's a busy tune of year for Uncle Peter an' all,' Kate added.

Maggie nodded. ‘I said to our Mary, “Why don't you gan over to Ravensworth to help out for a week or two?” But she didn't seem that bothered.'

Rose snorted. ‘No, she wouldn't. Not if it means keeping an eye on Lizzie's wild boys. She'd rather be at home, even though she complains at the little I tell her to do.'

‘Well, who can blame the lass?' Maggie said in defence of her niece. ‘She's more delicate than your other lasses - more suited to shop work than skivvying, I'd say.'

‘Work-shy, more like,' Rose said bluntly. ‘She didn't last with the Simpsons more than a few months. Spent more time looking through Mrs Simpson's wardrobes than polishin' them.'

Kate wished that she could go and help her aunt, for she had loved her one visit to the countryside when her cousin Alfred had been christened. She had glimpsed the towers of Ravensworth Castle glinting mysteriously above the wooded hillside above them and passed one of the lodges with its impressive wrought-iron gateway. Her Uncle Peter had given them rides in a handcart and picked strange furry fruit growing against a warm brick wall that had tasted sweeter than plums.

But she knew that her mother needed the wages she brought in from working as a general maid in a prosperous part of South Shields. Her stepfather's wage as a docker was as unsure as the seasons, its size dependent on the number of stops he made to quench his thirst on the long way home up Simonside bank. So Kate kept her secret yearning to herself.

‘Wait till I have a word with Mary,' Rose determined. ‘Might be just the answer - get her out from under me feet.'

They stayed on to watch the children's races and special tea laid on by the borough council. Later, Kate slipped away with Sarah and they wandered round the town, arm in arm.

‘I've met this lad,' Sarah told her abruptly.

‘Lad?' Kate asked, her blue eyes widening in surprise. She saw her sister's plump fair face colour. ‘You're never courtin'?'

‘Keep your voice down!' Sarah hissed, looking around her anxiously.

Kate too glanced over her shoulder in familiar fear, as if their stepfather would suddenly burst out of a nearby pub and harangue them for being out alone on the street.

‘It's all right, he's drinking down Tyne Dock with Uncle Pat,' Kate said, reading her sister's thoughts. ‘So who is this lad? And where did you meet him? Why didn't you tell me before? Eeh, fancy you courtin'!'

‘I didn't say I was walking out with him - I've only just met him,' Sarah said, flustered. ‘I shouldn't have told you.'

‘Haway,' Kate grinned. ‘You can't keep secrets from me -I'll not tell a soul.'

Sarah gave a self-conscious smile. ‘He comes into Hebburn on a Saturday to sell veg from his da's allotment. I answered the door to him once and now he comes regular. Always stops for a bit chat.'

‘That's canny,' Kate encouraged. ‘Is he bonny-looking?'

‘Aye,' Sarah said cautiously. ‘He's smaller than me, mind, but he's got a grand smile.'

‘So where does he live?'

‘Gateshead way.' Sarah shrugged evasively.

‘What do they call him?'

Sarah shrugged again. She caught Kate's sceptical look. ‘But he said he's coming to Hebburn for the fireworks the night.'

‘The night?' Kate exclaimed. ‘So what are you doing in Jarrow? Get yourself back to Hebburn before he finds another lass to share his cabbages with! You'll never find a man round these parts with Father watching like a hawk. I just have to look at a lad and he's calling me worse than muck.'

‘Do you think I should?' Sarah asked, unsure.

‘Aye, course I'm sure!' Kate insisted. ‘Gan back before it's all over.'

Sarah still looked undecided. She took Kate's arm. ‘Will you come with us? I can't go looking for him on me own.'

Kate felt tempted. How she would love to go to Hebburn and watch the fireworks light up the night sky. Fireworks always reminded her of her real father and being carried in his arms as the heavens above them exploded with light. Rose had once told her the event had been for the old Queen Victoria's Jubilee, but forbade her ever to mention it in front of her stepfather. Kate had learnt long ago that any mention of their past life as Fawcetts always enraged John McMullen.

The other thing that fuelled his jealous temper just as much was the thought of his step-daughters attracting the attentions of men. He was more possessive of their virtue than their own father ever could have been and was forever lecturing them on the dangers of lust. Even to glance at a man or exchange a casual word was a crime. John would accuse them of encouraging men and berate them in foul language. It mattered not how old or ugly the man. Even portly Harry Burn, their married neighbour, provoked John's jealousy for calling by with a gift of vegetables and a cheery word.

‘You ever get into trouble with a man and I'll skin the hide off you!' their stepfather often threatened. Kate never doubted that he would. ‘No one disgraces the name of McMullen, do y' hear?'

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