April 26th 1846

I watch the sun come over the horizon as I sit outside the small cottage I call my home. I couldn't sleep again last night. Coming out here helps clear my mind.

My stomach rumbles and the pains of hunger come over me again. I can hear my baby sister Ceilí crying from inside. The potato famine took a massive toll on our family, with our crops failing and everything else that went on. I can hear everyone getting up inside. The day has begun.

It's dark now. Today was like all the others. Hunger pains never stopping, Ceilí crying a lot. Everyone tired, hungry and in a bad mood. Happiness isn't found often anymore.

We managed to scrounge a little bit of food today. We, meaning my brother Bradan, my sister Aileen and me. I'm the eldest of the four O'Keefe children, at age thirteen. Aileen is eight, Bradan is six and Ceilí is two. We live with Mama and Papa in our run-down cottage. We have no money to fix it up and what we get, we barely survive on. Most days my siblings and I scrounge the rubbish of the rich Irish to find something edible. We find enough to take the edge off our hunger but never fully satisfy it.

The candles flicker as a draught of cold air comes through. Ceilí starts crying again and Mama quietens and soothes her. Papa is stressed as usual. The landlord is raising the rent. Something about getting money back from what he lost when the famine started. He keeps taking our money. The money we could use for food.

It's started raining again.

Bradan and Aileen shuffle closer to Mama, who is sitting on one of the straw beds cuddling Ceilí. The water finds its way through a hole in the roof and splashes onto the stone floor. We need to fix the leak but Papa doesn't have the strength or the money. The landlord should really do something about it, but all I've ever seen him do is take our money. Mama gets up and walks over to the small stove on which she has a broth cooking. The thin watery mix does little to still my hunger but at least it puts something in my stomach. Our house consists of the stove, a small table with a couple of stools and two beds made of straw. Bradan, Aileen and I sleep on one, Ceilí sleeps with Mama and Papa in the other. I finished my broth a while ago and am sitting on one of the beds of straw. Aileen finishes her broth and comes to join me. I run my fingers through her brown hair as she goes to sleep on my lap. I pull the small blanket over her thin figure. Bradan joins her on the bed. A wave of tiredness passes over me. I need to sleep too. Maybe tomorrow will be better.