Dan lives with parents. His brother and sister live elsewhere. Dan’s father is Patrick (Pat) O’Brien, her mother, Biddy O’Brien. Dan is the youngest child; his brother, Séamus, has emigrated from Ireland to Boston in the US; his older sister, Honora, is a maid in the ‘Big House’ owned by Colonel Vandeleur. Vandeleur owns the land on which Dan and Brigit’s families live on. They occupy (rent) a quarter of an acre of land. Brigit’s family occupy two acres. Dan is named after the Irish ‘Liberator’, Daniel O’Connell. Dan is always accompanied by his beloved dog, Cú (pronounced Coo). Dan is age 14.
Her father is John O’Dea and her mother, Mary O’Dea. She has twin siblings who are younger, Marie and Michael and her grandmother (Mamó) – Peggy – lives with them. Brigit is age 13.
Liam is an only child. His mother is dead. He lives with his father William Hayes, a shop-keeper and pawn-broker. Liam is age 14.
Cú is a black and white collie. He has lived with Dan since he was a puppy and is devoted to him. Cú is 4 years old.
The following characters are real:
The local Catholic priest. He is a supporter of Daniel O’Connell and, tellingly, his cottage is named ‘Repeal Cottage’. He works with the local Protestant minister, Rev. Martin (also a real person) and visiting Quakers to bring soup to the local poor.
Thomas Grubb and James Harvey
Two Quakers (members of the Society of Friends) who were part of a larger nationwide movement to provide relief. They were part of the Limerick Relief Committee. One 15 February 1847, Grubb and Harvey were asked to travel to the west of Clare, including Kilmicheal (which is close to Kilkee) on behalf of the Limerick committee.
Vandeleur does not appear in the text, but we hear of him as the owner of a local ‘Big House’ (where Honora is employed) and landlord of Brigit and Dan’s families. He achieved notoriety for the ruthless way in which he evicted his tenants after 1847: he evicted as many as 180 familiesamounting to just over 1,000 persons - alarger number than any of his fellow landlords in the Kilrush Union.