Set on the shore of Strangford Lough, the play deals with the tragic events in the home of John Quinn, an illiterate fisherman, his ambitious son and his miserly wife, whose greed caused the death of their youngest son and will ultimately destroy them.
Molly Trainor and Michael Quinn are to be married, and Michael is keen to develop the family's fishing business by buying a bigger boat. While his father, John, seeks to help him get on, his mother Kathrine refuses to loan him the money. A tough woman from a hard upbringing, she is grieving desperately for her favoured son Stephen, who has drowned. With the coming of All Soul's Night, Kathrine's anguish at Stephen's death becomes ever-greater, as the background to his tragic death emerges.
Meanwhile Michael goes to sea in poor weather to find salvage from a ship wreck, and as night turns to dawn, it becomes apparent that tragedy has struck again. John and Kathrine find themselves alone together, and now must try to find peace in this bitter home.