It was on her father’s farm, on the old Coach Road between Dromore and Enniskillen, that Polly spent an idyllic two years with her parents, George and Jane Noble. Then disaster struck. On January 6, 1839, the Big Wind rose out of the sea and swept across Ireland, wailing like a thousand banshees. It flattened whole villages, burned down farm houses, and finally killed her father. It changed Polly’s life forever.
Two years later, Polly’s mother, Jane, married William Fleming, the handsome widower across the road at Bridgewater Farm. Soon Polly began to walk back and forth the mile or so to the one-room school run in Dromore by the Kildare Society.
But she also found time to plant potatoes, milk the cows, look after the goats, pull flax, chase hens and run bare-foot in the meadows.
Then disaster struck again. The potato crop failed and famine and typhus threatened Bridgewater Farm. Like thousands of others the Flemings decided they must escape.
They packed what they could and travelled by horse and cart to Londonderry/Derry, drinking in their last views of the green fields and hills of Ireland. On the 14th of May, 1847, along with four hundred and eighteen other passengers, they boarded the three-masted sailing ship Sesostris.
After an appalling voyage, during which some of the passengers, including Polly’s darling little brother and sister died, they docked at Grosse-Ile, the quarantine station on the St. Lawrence River, about an hour from Quebec. After three years in Montreal, where she met her future husband, Polly was now ready for her next adventure in a vast unknown land called Canada. Her destiny would be linked with a dozen children who had lost their mothers, one of them a future mayor of Toronto.
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