Mary Cahel, one of two characters who provide most of the dialogue and dramatic action. She is the mother of Denis Cahel, who is being held in Galway Jail. She is a strong-minded woman with a deep sense of family pride. Like many of the common people of the time, she cannot read. She goes to Galway bearing a letter that she has not opened, in order to find out from the authorities at the jail what it says about her son, who was arrested for firing a gun. She is concerned about his possible punishment and about his good name, and therefore that of the family. It has been rumored in their village that he informed on his companions to save himself.
Mary Cushin, Denis’ wife, who goes on the long journey to Galway with her mother-in-law. She was prepared to ask a neighbor to read the letter for them, but she could not overcome Mary Cahel’s fear of the letter’s contents and how they might be used by the person who read the letter. Mary Cushin is torn between fear that Denis may have been executed and hope that he will be released when they arrive at the jail.
Terry Fury and
Pat Ruane, Denis’ friends, who also were arrested.
The gatekeeper, who tells Mary Cahel and Mary Cushin that Denis has been hanged and that the letter gave them permission to visit him before his sentence was carried out.