The other kind
Everyone in the town agreed that my mother was the most capable Matron the workhouse had ever known. And it went without saying that she was far more capable than the Master, Jeremiah Dollard, who put aside the bottle and roused himself to action only when he heard rumblings of discontent from the Board of Guardians. Otherwise, Master Dollard never came out of his cottage, which was the mirror image of our own, on the other side of the gatehouse. But Mother was up at cockcrow, relieving the porter of the keys, checking on the consistency of the stirabout, ringing the heavy bell that stood in the main yard.
Once she was satisfied that the paupers’ day had been properly set in motion, she returned to our cottage to supervise me. While the slavey served us potato cakes, Mother would quiz me one last time on my Latin vocabulary, and then send me off to school (I was educated in the town by the Brothers) with a kiss like a brand on the forehead. Of her three children, only I had survived infancy.
Read the rest of this piece in The Dublin Review 43.