TITLE: Cut From Strong Cloth: The Ellen Canavan Story
GENRE: Historical Fiction
Rooted to the ship’s weathered deck and holding tight to her big brother’s hand, the child riveted her gaze on the dead body. Her Da’s face, once full of laughter and mischief, now lay silent while wails drifted out on mournful ocean winds, bemoaning a death at sea.
Women she did not even know had washed his body and then dressed him in his best outfit, frayed at the sleeves, but respectably clean. Traditions mattered, even here. His funeral cloth, fashioned from a wide strip of old sail, contained a brick placed at the bottom and edges sewn together. Inside laid his lifeless body. The eyes had sunken into the skull, sallow skin drooped from the face, and arms and legs were stiff with rigor mortis. A solitary facial flap of the grimy shroud had been left untied for the family to cast one last look upon his features.
The ship’s bells began to toll, announcing the burial.
The child, Ellen, fought tears. She knew what would come next, but refused to look out at the sea. Mist dampened her thin homespun dress while the ocean continued its relentless pulse against the ship’s timbers. She did not feel the elements. Silent throughout the incantations of the priest, she stared at the wrapped corpse in front of her. Depleted of all visible emotion, her small frame trembled, but not from the wind slicing through her meager clothes. She shivered with the recognition of abandonment.
At first, a small throng had gathered.