I have the pleasure of hosting Judith Barrow’s latest novel: A Hundred Tiny Threads. Judith is my mentor, a friend and talented author, I wish her every success with this latest installmentof her family saga.
My next book, A Hundred Tiny Threads, is the prequel to the trilogy and is the story of Mary Howarth’s mother, Winifred, and father, Bill. Set between 1910 & 1924 it is a the time of the Suffragettes, WW1, the great influenza epidemic and the Black and Tans who were sent to Ireland to quell fight for independence from the UK. It is inevitable that what forms the lives, personalities and characters of Winifred and Bill eventually affects the lives of their children, Tom, Mary, Patrick and Ellen. And so the Howarth/Pattern trilogy begins.
Gritty family saga set in Lancashire in the 1900s and Ireland at the time of the Black and Tans
Winifred is a determined young woman eager for new experiences, for a life beyond the grocer’s shop counter ruled over by her domineering mother. When her friend Honora – an Irish girl, with the freedom to do as she pleases – drags Winifred along to a suffragette rally, she realises that there is more to life than the shop and her parents’ humdrum lives of work and grumbling.
Bill Howarth’s troubled childhood echoes through his early adult life and the scars linger, affecting his work, his relationships and his health. The only light in his life comes from a chance meeting with Winifred, the daughter of a Lancashire grocer. The girl he determines to make his wife.
Meeting Honora’s intelligent and silver-tongued medical student brother turns Winifred’s heart upside down and she finds herself pregnant. Bill Howarth reappears on the scene offering her a way out.
Excerpt from A Hundred Tiny Threads.
Wilfred Howarth had given Bill a beating that morning for not getting up when first called and had promised another when he returned home after his shift. He’d said he was getting Bill used to an early rise because the following day would be his thirteenth birthday; the day he was to follow his father down the mine as a putter. It didn’t bother Bill; he’d always known that pushing the small wagons along the metal plates through the workings to the passages where the horses could be hitched up to them was to be his lot in life.
Bill remembered hearing the thump and rush of running feet on the cobbles outside his house at the same time he heard the warning siren from the mine. He’d run with the crowd before even knowing what was happening; seeing with the strain on the faces and the hearing of the sobs and cries of the women and children around him that life in the village had changed forever.
‘What’s ’appened?’ Bill caught the arm of a woman.
‘They say there’s been a flood.’ Her eyes were wild. ‘My three lads are down there. What am I going to do? I have two more bairns to bring up. Their da’s already gone; killed in that explosion last year.’ She grabbed his sleeve before dropping to her knees.
Pulled down with her Bill looked around for somebody to help the woman but there was no one; they might as well not be there for all the notice paid to them.
He dragged her to her feet. ‘C’mon. Unless we get to the gates we’ll never know who’s safe and who’s still down there.’
The management had closed the gates. The cries of despair soon changed to shouts of anger in an effort to discover what had happened. When a grey-faced man in a suit approached the crowd the silence was instant. He held up his hand to quiet them, an unnecessary gesture, before he spoke.
‘From what we can gather there was break through to an old abandoned mine that was flooded. We know some of the men are safe—’ He waited for the cries of relief to abate. ‘But we don’t know how many yet.’
Then a huddle of men, bowed, silent and trailing a thin stream of black water behind them, appeared, walking towards the gates.
Bill knuckles grated together as the woman’s gripped his hand. And then she screamed. ‘Eddie!’ She looked at Bill and laughed; a high-pitched noise. ‘That’s Eddie, my eldest.’ Then turning she shouted, ‘Where’s your brothers.’
As the young man came closer Bill saw the white tracks cutting through the black of coal dust on his face.
‘Gone, Ma. They’re gone.’ He shook his head, bewildered. ‘There was so much water–water and thick mud. One minute we were working together and then all this water came flooding through and they were gone.’
She fainted. The manager unbolted the gates and the crowd surged around her, pouring into the yard before milling around in sudden confusion. The man’s blank gaze fastened on Bill in a blink of recognition. ‘Your da was with ‘em.’ He nodded, his voice trailing away. ‘He’s gone too…’
Bill thought his feet would never move from the spot he stood in. Then he turned, jumped over the lifeless form of the woman and ran for home, shocked by sense of release and freedom that coursed through him.
He tumbled through the doorway of the house.
‘Didn’t you hear the siren?’ He held his side against the pain of the stitch.
‘I did.’ Marion didn’t lift her head from staring into the small fire in the grate. ‘I reckon someone would tell me sooner or later what‘s happened.’ Now she did look at him, her eyes narrowed. ‘And here you are.’ She slowly moved her head up and down. ‘Here you are. You’re going to tell me he’s gone, aren’t you?’
Bill nodded, a succession of small bobs of the head. ‘Yeah. The mine—’
‘I don’t want to know. All I want you to know is that you’d better make sure you’re ready to take his place as wage earner in this house.’
It had taken months to recover some of the men’s bodies. But never Wilfred Howarth’s.
Judith Barrow, originally from Saddleworth, Yorkshire, has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for almost forty years.
She has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen, a BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University and a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University. She has had short stories, plays, reviews and articles, published throughout the British Isles and has won several poetry competitions. She has completed three children’s books.
She is also a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council’s Lifelong learning Scheme
If you fancy a gritty family saga, then I promise Judiths series is worth a read. Her characters still linger in my heart. Thanks for reading. 🙂