Murin “Silkie” McDonough

Mistress Murin “Silkie” McDonough, Owner of the Ordinary, The Sealkie’s Hyde. Born in September of 1678, in Galway, Ireland.

Murin McDonough lived a happy but difficult childhood with a loving family in Galway, Ireland. Her father was an educated Catholic and a supporter of King James II: a combination that could lead to an early death. In 1691 The Treaty of Limerick was signed ending the Jacobite war. The parliament placed by the English ignored the treaty and began enforcing the The Penal Code. Clan McDonough suffered as did many of the Irish Catholics due to the many restrictions imposed by the English parliament. Her mother, Anne, a midwife working outside of the law, struggled to provide for Murin and her older brother. Her Father, Michael McDonough chose to educate his children, teaching them the basics of reading, writing and mathematics, disregarding the laws that forbade such a thing even in the home. No longer permitted to continue in his work as a court clerk because of the laws prohibiting any Catholics from holding public office, he was forced to find employment at much lower wages. His debt rose and soon he was thrown into debtor’s prison where he died within the year.

The McDonough children had little time to practice their learning but their limited skills always proved useful when payments for services were found short. The lass would gently state to her employer that her wages were incorrect and ask for the difference. Her work was exemplary so they would keep her on despite her discovery of the “mistake”. Murin helped support her family by working for a seamstress and as a mender of nets and sails. At 16, Murin was betrothed to Aiden O’Neill. They were married and lived with Aiden’s family behind their carpentry shop.

As Murin O’Neil departed the shop one day to run errands, an English officer blocked her path, insisting that he accompany her in a most unfriendly way. Witnessing this Aiden came to her aid. The officer seized Murin’s arm and began to guide her away, ignoring Aiden’s request to release his wife. Murin let out a sharp cry as the man’s grip tightened. Aiden would allow it no longer, he grabbed the officer shoving him away from Murin. The officer drew steel, Aiden defended himself and in an instant that lasted an eternity for Murin the Englishman lay in the street, the mallet in Aiden’s hand red with blood. Aiden was dragged to the gaol. Every extra pence the family could manage was used to make Aiden’s life inside the prison walls as comfortable as they could afford.

During the mockery of a trial, Murin tried to speak on her husband’s behalf but none would listen. He was found guilty of murder but Murin would not let it rest. She hounded the magistrate, begging that he ease her husband’s sentence. Her petitions were ignored and Aiden was hanged for murder.

The magistrate grew tired of Murin’s pleas and had her transported for her involvement in the crime. She barely survived the voyage from Ireland to Barbados. The child she carried in her belly did not. Murin was indentured, a slave, on the sugar plantation of Edward Hodge. The majority of her work was done, in the house, for Katherine Hodge, wife to Andrew, Edward’s son.

As the years passed, Murin became Katherine’s confidant and her closest friend. In many ways, Mistress Hodge was as much a prisoner as Murin. Murin, though a slave, when in attendance of Mistress Hodge, was shown love and understanding. Although Murin was not free and her indenture was continually extended by Mister Hodge, she considered herself blessed for her friendship with Mistress Hodge. She would often spend the night asleep on the mistress’s settee so that the lady would not be alone in her room while Murin’s peers were lying in dirty straw in the slave’s quarters. Katerine would give her clothing that showed little wear and she was permitted to partake of food from the main kitchen. Murin had also become a trusted servant and was permitted to travel to town on the monthly supply runs to fetch anything that the lady of the house may have needed.

Murin had often seen gentlemen come to the plantation for business, pleasure or recuperation. Few stayed as long as John Christian Sterling, then captain of the merchant ship Trinity.

Murin was uncomfortable around the man from the start. Not because of the ghastly scar that ran through his left eye. He was in fact, quite handsome despite the injury. She was not uncomfortable in his presence because it was sometimes obvious that he was still adjusting to his own freedom. She was uncomfortable with the man because he was kind to her and, unlike most of the “gentlemen” who came to the plantation, he was not grabbing at her at every opportunity. He made her uneasy because he spoke directly to her, as Katherine had become accustomed to doing, almost as if Murin were an equal.

She was told of his past and how he had been enslaved in Algiers. How he was granted his freedom only because his father paid a large ransom. Murin knew what slavery was, she lived it. She could clearly understand why on occasion he would wake at night screaming. The tales that she overheard, the rumors throughout the household, made her life on the plantation seem pleasant in comparison.

But, if Katherine had not asked that Murin be kind to the captain she would have kept her distance, especially after she discovered that Sterling was Katherine’s lover; an affair that ended nearly as rapidly as it had begun when Sterling, with Katherine’s aide, helped Murin escape to England.

copyrighted 2007

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2 Responses to “Murin “Silkie” McDonough”

  1. Julie Richards Says:

    LOVE Silkie’s history! Did you write this, Mary Ann?

  2. Murin "Silkie" McDonough Says:

    Aye Mistress Richards, twas MaryAnne wot wrote down my life story as I told it.

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