Three families in post-war Liverpool, connected by history, separated by circumstance. The O'Neils, who have lost brothers and sons into the bowels of London's East End, keep watch over their one remaining young male, a delightful boy named Seamus. Hardworking and good-hearted, they cling together and help not just each other, but a whole community of dock workers. Meanwhile, Rosh Allen mourns the loss of Phil, her dearly-beloved husband. Aided and impeded by her mother, Anna, she struggles to raise three fatherless children. With the help of a kind-hearted neighbour, her wounds begin to heal, and she begins to take the first faltering steps into 'normality'. Tess and Don Compton are on the verge of separation. An apparently greedy and selfish woman, Tess wants a semi-detached house, a Skaters' Trails carpet and all her own way. But what really lies behind her desire to live on the posh side of the St? And despite everything why can't Don hate her? Behind the three families, two men are at work. One will do serious damage; the other will reunite a clan that goes all the way back to Ireland and to ancestors thrown ashore from ships of the Spanish Armada.