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Aunt Jessie's big mistake

Sophie's Diary

March 22nd 1941
Well. Hugh and I have arrived in Ireland at last!!!! It was a terrible journey. Hugh was terribly sick on the boat over. We're staying in this big grey house called ‘Greystones' belonging to grandfather. I really think Aunt Jessie has made a BIG mistake sending us over here. I know it was dangerous for us in London during the Blitz with all the bombs and things but we hardly had time to say goodbye to mum. If we could have waited till she was a bit stronger, we might have found out more about grandfather and Ireland. As it is, we don't know anything.

When we got off the boat, it took us quite a time to find grandfather (Did he even want to be found?) but I could tell it was him because he looked like an older version of dad. I was scared of him straight away – he's got these piercing blue eyes that stare straight at you and he seems very old. He also seemed very cold too and used to ordering people about. Grandfather's house is huge but he didn't exactly welcome us to it. I think he's a bit annoyed that we're here. Nancy, his housekeeper, is nice though and made us feel at home. I was really upset when grandfather just left the table after dinner. He didn't seem at all interested in how mum was and didn't ask about dad or life in London either. What's wrong with the man?

The quiet takes a bit of getting used to. There'll be a lot of children feeling homesick tonight. I can't help thinking about Maggie, Lily and Tom and wondering how they all are. I heard grandfather coming back from his walk but he never had the decency to come and say goodnight to us. He's so different from Grandad Joe. Grandad Joe would always tell me stories and play games with me. He was fun to be with. But this grandfather – he's never been to see us in London, never shown the slightest bit of interest in us. I think Aunt Jessie has made a BIG BIG mistake but we're stuck here now. How on earth are we going to get on?

1.Why do you think Sophie and Hugh have been sent to Ireland?
2.Underline the words that show you that Sophie is upset or worried?
3.What questions could you ask to find out more about Sophie and Hugh?
4.What do you think might happen in the future?


This story has been made up and the people do not exist, but it is based upon real historical sources.
What type of sources do you think the author might have used to gain background information?


What had happened to Sophie before the ‘Big Mistake’?

You are going to read some extracts taken from a novel by Marita Conlon-McKenna called Safe Harbour. They show the main events in Sophie’s life before she reached Ireland.

Some of these extracts will be compared with photographs taken and other extracts actually written by real people at the time. These will help you to understand the background and Sophie and Hugh’s situation more clearly and to think how useful Safe Harbour is as a source for history.

For some of the diary extracts you will be asked to imagine you are Sophie and write a diary extract summarising your feelings.