Mark of Bravery: The Life of Margaret Lamboute

On July 13th 1898 in the woods near the village of Adare, the body of a woman was found partially buried in mud at the bottom of a ditch .The shocked villagers took it back to the village, where they confirmed what everyone already suspected. This was the body of Margaret Lamboute.

Born May 3rd, 1862, Margaret was the fifth of nine children of poor farmer tenants Mary and William Lamboute. From the very beginning of life she fought against difficult odds. Born three weeks premature, it was considered a miracle that she even survived infancy. Her problems were further escalated by a large red birthmark that covered more than half her face. Rejected by the superstitious villagers, Margaret led a lonely existence, sometimes even in her own home. She herself, however, accepted her disfigurement with grace and cheer, something that stayed with her throughout her life.

Despite being the only child in the village with such a mark, Margaretís real moment of distinction came in the summer of 1870, when she was only eight years old. She was helping her mother carry clothes down to the stream where they did their washing, when suddenly a drunken husband approached his wife and commenced beating her with the wooden beetle she had been using to pound her clothes. The rage of the man scared the onlookers, and no one did anything until little Margaret suddenly began throwing rocks at the manís head. The man lunged at Margaret, but tripped and fell hard enough to be knocked out cold.

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Word about her bravery spread quickly, and the locals started to view her differently. She was still taunted and gossiped about because of her appearance, but people also agreed that she had saved that womanís life at the washing pool. Margaret started to get somewhat accepted at Sunday school, partly because of the stories of how she had stoned the drunkard, and partly because Father OíShea, the village priest, took her under his wing. Just two years after the incident at the washing pool, Margaret again earned her reputation for bravery when she dragged a drowning young boy out of the river Maigue, John Callaghan, who later became her friend.

In 1877 William Lamboute left for America, leaving his wife and eldest son to manage the farm. The added responsibilities were too much to handle, so Mary accepted the help of a distant cousin, Martin Sweeney, who came to live on the farm. Sweeney turned out to be a violent man who abused Margaretís mother. Doing the unthinkable for women of her time, Margaret confronted the man in the village pub, accusing him of abuse in front of the other patrons and threatening to kill him if he ever showed his face in their house again. Inspired by her courage, the other villagers backed Margaret and drove him out of Adare.

After the Sweeney incident, Margaret knew happiness briefly when she married Callaghan in 1882. She never had any children, but still doggedly accepted her life cheerfully, as she had done since childhood, despite, or maybe because of, her prominent mark. In March of 1898, Margaret went missing. When they found her body, there was no way to know how she had fallen into the ditch. There were whispers of her old arch enemy Sweeney prowling about the village in the days before she disappeared, and some suspected foul play,but no one could prove anything. In the end, the very birthmark that had so defined her short tragic life was the only thing that identified the brave Margaret Lamboute.