My Granny Mac's house on the Staffordstown side of Randalstown had an outdoor toilet and no running water which was not unusual in rural Ireland in the late 1950s. Despite this Granny kept a clean house. Water was pumped from a well in the garden and carried into the kitchen in a white enamel bucket. Granny used a lot of bleach. Her pine kitchen table was scrubbed every day with a bleach solution and was as white as snow. Likewise, the wooden boards that covered the outdoor toilet. Bleach couldn’t disguise the toilet smell but it went some way.
I’d been warned never to drink bleach as it was a deadly poison. This lesson was so well learned so that when I used the outdoor toilet one morning just after Granny had scrubbed it and got bleach on my bum I was worried. I tried to clean the bleach off with the lavatory paper (cut up newspaper) but didn’t succeed except for transferring it to my hand. Poisoned bum and hand. This was a very bad situation.
Without thinking things through I went into the house and plunged my poisoned hand into the big enamel bucket of water in Granny's kitchen. Now there was no bleach on my hand. But then it dawned - the water was poisoned now and Granny would use it to make tea and everyone would drink the tea and then they would die. I would have to confess.
Aunt Clare came into the scullery and filled the kettle. I wanted to tell her about the poisoned water but I couldn't for she was scary. I couldn’t tell her and even if I told Granny, Aunt Clare would find out and she’d be so angry. She would shout at me, she might slap me. I couldn’t risk it.
So I said nothing and waited for them all to die. It was an anxious time.
Granny and Aunt Clare. They survived. No thanks to me. Aunt Clare is in her eighties now. I hope no one tells her about this. For she might still slap me.