General Fiction posted November 29, 2017 Chapters: 1 2 -3- 

This work has reached the exceptional level
A story of love, loyalty and betrayal.

A chapter in the book Where The Grass Grows The Greenest

The Kavanagh Family

by Margaret Snowdon

Robson Levinson came across young Rosaleen Kavanagh – the only daughter of an explosive manufacturer – and Morgan Rodmayne – the Squire’s son, getting intimate in the woods. He accidently makes his presence known and embarrasses the young man with his sarcastic comments.


George Kavanagh’s father had begun the manufacture of gunpowder on a small site, realizing that he had an unending and cheap source of its main ingredient, charcoal. He did well; he and his family prospered. He bought timber-bearing land and coppice woods, setting men, with George to supervise, in the production of charcoal.

     But it was George himself who realised the potential to those of the Cumberland gunpowder manufacturers. In 1826 he extended by purchasing woodlands where an abundance of juniper bushes grew, producing coals from which the very best gunpowder is made. The fast-flowing Lakeland becks operated the heavy machinery he needed in the crushing and milling processes. The other raw materials required: Sulphur from Sicily and saltpeter from India, could be readily shipped from Liverpool to Milnthorpe and then by wagon to his mills.

     The  blasting  powder was used in the quarries and mines which honey-combed the mountains of the Lake District. George Kavanagh supplied much of the explosives used by the great mine owners in the area, as well as the collieries in Glasgow, Stoke-on-Trent, and to slate quarries of Scotland and Wales.

     His business covered many acres by the beck from which it got its power, with half a dozen large water-wheels: fire engine house, a saw mill and joiners shop, stores and repair house, cart and wagon sheds. There were separate changing rooms for the men and women who worked for him – six hundred of them now in two twelve-hour shifts. There were stables for his horses, cottages for his workforce and a watchdog kennel crammed with fierce beasts to guard the lot!

     Now in his fifties, George Kavanagh meant not only to see his sons take his place when the time came, but grandsons sturdily growing and awaiting their turn in the order of things. Already his sons, Amos and Elliot, had worked in every process which made up the manufacture of gunpowder. Each stage must be learned the hard way, George insisted, for a man will only be respected and obeyed when he can do, and be seen to do, what his workers are employed in. If it was dangerous and complicated, which it was, then all the better for it made men of them, and though he still addressed them both as “lads” he knew them to be men and his pride in them was immense.

     He watched them each day donning the protective leather  skins and gloves,  the  special  nail-less  boots worn to avoid accidental sparks, preparing to enter the works where perilous measures were performed. They were as carelessly courageous as he himself had been and he loved them both beyond all others.

     They were alike, the three of them: big, dark and vigorous with enormous enthusiasms and appetites and a total belief in themselves. Through  his  sons George  Kavanagh  lived  again  as a young man.  He looked ten years younger than his own wife and his faith in himself and their sons was enormous.

     ‘Now then, lad,’ he said that morning at breakfast, fixing Amos with a fierce, fond eye, speaking plainly for that was his way. ‘When’s that lass of yours going t'name the day? How long is it … seven … eight months you’ve been dancing attendance on her? And there’s nowt been said t'me yet about the wedding. What’s she dithering about at? You’d think she’d not rest until she’d got you up the aisle. You tell her there’s plenty’d take you if she doesn’t look sharp!’

     He shoveled bacon and eggs into his mouth with the same determined force with which he had been known to feed the furnace in his own engine house and with the same effect.

     ‘Hold on, father!’ Amos was laughing for he was good-humoured when allowed his own way, quick tempered when he was not. At the mill he was “Master Amos” the owner’s son and the future “Master” himself, and he let no man trespass on his good nature for it was in such a way that familiarity was bred. The workmen touched their caps respectfully when he crossed the yard, and jocularity between them and himself was frowned upon.

     ‘You know what women are like when it comes t'weddings, trousseaux … linen and such,’ he continued agreeably enough. ‘Mavis said she wants everything t’be just so. Only last night, Mavis said that she thought an Easter wedding would suit her fine so that’s what…’

     ‘Mavis said! Mavis said! An Easter wedding! Suit her fine, would it? Who the hell does she think she is? What about us? Have we no say in the matter? And you? What in damnation are you thinking of, letting her dictate  t’you  like  that?   Doesn’t she know she’s getting the best catch in the county? You tell her! Easter indeed! I was looking t’having a grandson by the end of next summer and another on the way by Christmas.’

     ‘God’s teeth, father…’

     ‘It’s a wedding before Christmas I’m after or there’ll be none at all. It’s nowt t'me that she’s Oscar Sinclair’s lass’ – which was not true for Oscar was one of the wealthiest manufacturers in south Lakeland. A union between his lad and Oscar’s lass suited George admirably, for not only did she have money and a claim to gentility, but was a plain-spoken, sensible girl and would make a fine mother for his grandsons.
     Amos’s quick temper flared. The Kavanaghs were well-known in the valley for the ease with which their anger was set alight. They were all the same from Amos and Elliot – the lads – to young Rosaleen herself. It was undoubtedly inherited from George’s mother who had been Irish and volatile. When they crossed swords, with one another sparks would fly and those not involved stepped well back, enjoying it nevertheless for a Kavanagh confrontation  could be vastly entertaining.

     ‘Well, in that case, it’s nowt t’you when me and Mavis get wed then,’ Amos said hotly. ‘If cash means as little as that, we can please ourselves … and so we bloody well will.’

     ‘Watch that mouth of yours, my lad. It’s not his cash I’m interested in. It’s how quick that girl of his can put a grandson in my arms, but the rate you’re going God knows when that’ll be.’

     Amos’s chair crashed backwards to the new carpet recently laid. A source of great pride, it was, to Mary Kavanagh, and she winced  as  heavy  boots  stamped angrily across it.

     ‘It’s none of your damned business when me and Mavis have a child. Damnation, you’ll be telling me how t’go about it next…’

     ‘That’s enough! There’s nowt wrong with a man wanting t’see his son set up with a decent girl and a few grandchildren about his knee before he dies.’

     ‘Dies! Goddammit, you’ve years yet. Anyone would think you were t’be off within the twelvemonth.’

     George tossed his big, dark head and his shoulders bunched dangerously. ‘Now you listen t’me, you young pup. I’m the maser in this house and will be until they carry me down that path t‘the graveyard.’ He pointed dramatically to the garden beyond the long window and obediently the whole family, and the maid who served them, turned their heads to look.

     Rosaleen sighed in exasperation. She was well used to a “set-to” between her father and brothers, but today she had counted on her father’s good humour for she wanted to ask his permission to take her mare across the fells to visit Alice Sullivan, whose father supplied timber for the making of the barrels used in the Kavanagh Mills. Not that she had any intention of calling on Alice, outside of the few minutes needed to allow the girl’s mother to see her and so establish an alibi. The arrangements had been in existence ever since Rosaleen had fallen helplessly in love with Morgan Rodmayne.

     But there was no hope of her getting her father to agree now. She would have to think of another way.
To be continued…
Robson Levinson – mine owner
Oakland House
Rosaleen Kavanagh
George Kavanagh – her father – gunpowder        manufacturer
Mary Kavanagh – her mother
Amos & Elliot – her older brothers
Mavis Sinclair - betrothed to Amos
Oscar – her father
Alice Sullivan – friend of Rosaleens
Morgan Rodmayne – in love with Rosaleen
Squire Rodmayne – his father

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