‘Denied her real identity,
she will find the truth…’
– The Blue Washing Bag
[ About the Book ]
The Payton twins, born to an unmarried mother in a small town in rural Ireland, are brought to the children’s home by the Parish Priest. Constantly reminded of their mother’s unforgivable fall from grace, they suffer the consequences of her shameful act. Separated without warning at the age of eight, the bond they shared is broken.
Molly Payton arrives in town. Shiny red suitcase in her hand – looking forward to a clean slate – hopeful of a bright future. She is forced to leave again less than a year later, traumatized … having left her baby behind.
Years later, Daisy discovers the distressing truth of her past. Abandoned at birth, left at the side of the street in a washing bag. She has encountered many hardships on her journey which only serve to strengthen her resolve, to prepare her as she sets out to find those who are responsible … and make them pay
[ My Review ]
The Blue Washing Bag by Mary Clancy was published September 2020 with Poolbeg Press and is described as ‘a gripping 1940s Irish family saga’ Following the lives of a family from the 1940s to the 1980s it takes the reader on a journey through a very different Ireland when communities kept many secrets close to their hearts.
Daisy O’ Neill grew up in a home where she was very much loved but also very much protected. Her mother, Rose, was an older lady when she adopted Daisy but this truth was never revealed to Daisy until Rose lay on her death-bed many years later. Daisy’s beginnings were very sad, a child abandoned outside a church in 1965, in a blue washing bag. Rose very much wanted to keep this shocking truth from Daisy but in doing so, alienated her daughter through the teenage years. Rose was quite set in her ways but her love for Daisy was always evident. Rose had lost her husband and never had children of her own so Daisy was very dear and very special to her.
Against all her mother’s advice Daisy married in her early twenties. Her husband, Tom, was older than her, a man about town and Daisy thought that he would take her away from the suffocation of her life with Rose. But Daisy was about to make a disastrous mistake. Tom was not all that she had hoped for as married life took a completely unexpected and troublesome turn.
The year before Daisy was born, Molly Payton came to town. Escaping her own past, one that caused her much pain, Molly had hoped for a new life, a new beginning but Molly’s dreams were to be shattered. Within twelve months she was leaving town again and abandoning a part of her that she would, and could, never forget. Molly’s story was a heart-breaking one, one that was all too real for many young girls who became pregnant in an Ireland of long ago. There was great shame attached to any young woman who gave birth out of wedlock and terrible pressures were put on them to give up their babies. Molly herself had grown up in a care-home, so had herself experienced that feeling of abandonment, that feeling of being unwanted. Molly Payton’s story is tragic and quite a disturbing one.
Mary Clancy is a writer who is fascinated by a time in our society when some women and young girls were treated with disdain and, ofttimes, shamed for their very existence. Behind the closed doors of too many houses there was a woman on her knees begging forgiveness, a young girl hiding away, for fear of a secret being discovered, in absolute terror of what would come next. In The Blue Washing Bag, Mary Clancy digs deep into many of these themes, with multiple stories interwoven into this, at times, bleak depiction of times past. The male characters in this book are predominantly portrayed as rather unlikable and weak individuals who prey on the weak and the innocent.
Daisy herself was a character I had very mixed feelings towards. I wanted to have more empathy for her but some of her actions were just not pleasant. She suffered a difficult life but, in turn, she treated some people in her life quite harshly. Was she a product of her upbringing? Did society play a hand in how her life transpired? There is an anger running through Daisy, a frustration grown out of how her life began. Daisy did make her own bed and paid dearly for it. In her haste to break away bad decisions were made, ones that she was challenged to overturn. Forgiveness is a trait that Daisy struggled with but can we blame her for this?
Mary Clancy worked for many years as a social worker and in child protection so she brings her own knowledge and experiences to The Blue Washing Bag, a book that was one she felt she needed to write.
“Loving the countryside, and the way of life of the Irish people, I have always found it intriguing to hear stories of long ago. Stories about how young Irish women and men lived their lives in a society where the Church and State were not to be reckoned with. Stories about those who faltered against the norms of the society in which they lived. And the moral police who morally policed the lives of others within their own communities. Nine times out of ten it was the women who suffered.”
– Mary Clancy
The Blue Washing Bag is very much about finding the strength deep within to keep going, to keep the head up and navigate a personal course through life against great difficulties. An unusual book in that I couldn’t fully empathise with Daisy but, in saying that, probably a more realistic depiction of the impact of societal behaviour on the development of a person. We are all moulded by our past and it can prove very challenging for some to completely move beyond the scars, both physical and emotional, that are left behind.
[ Bio ]
Mary Clancy comes from Tipperary Town in Ireland. She lives in Kildare with her family. Having enjoyed many years working as a social worker in child protection and fostering – Mary has just had her debut novel ‘The Blue Washing Bag’ published by Poolbeg Books.
She writes Irish Historical fiction. Stories of old Ireland and the repercussions of secrets and lies on future generations. Stories of women who found themselves pregnant outside of marriage and the punishments inflicted on them by the moral police disguised as the pillars of society.
Mary writes about the every day lives of ordinary people in rural Ireland of the 1940’s to the 198O’s.
Twitter ~ @MaryBAClancy1