A hand-written parish record reveals that Peter Geherty married Mary Hannon at Castlepollard on 16 October 1818. One of hundreds of Westmeath linen weavers, Peter shared a humble stone cottage alongside the Mullinger Road with his wife, their children and a well-worn, hand-operated loom. Never more than a meal away from hunger, though better off than many of their neighbours, the family endured as had countless generations of Gehertys before them.
Irish Thatched Cottage. Photo by Jaclyn E. Grant
Mary Geherty dedicated much of her life to spinning flax fibres into yarn in less than ideal conditions. Even at mid-day, the interior of the thatched, stone cottage was often cold and always dark. A single tiny window was the only source of natural light. On most days, the weaver's wife left the rough-hewn wooden door ajar to admit a little more light. During the evenings, when the smoky flame of a tallow candle flickered erradically beneath the soot encrusted thatch, she squinted and leaned instinctively closer to her work. They rythmic rocking of Mary's foot on the treadle and the repetitive squeak of the wheel, like the insidious onset of arthritis in the joints of her fingers, went unnoticed.