Will Fitzgerald’s father, John, was born at number 67 Merrion Square, Dublin, Ireland in 1814, the eldest son of Dr Edward Fitzgerald and his wife Mary Jane neé Maquay. John’s younger brother Thomas died at a year old.
John met Duncan Simpson at the ‘Seminary for General Education’, a school run by the Reverend R.H. Wall at number 6 Hume Street. They became best friends but John followed Fitzgerald family tradition that the eldest son study medicine at Trinity College. Duncan was bound as an apprentice to William Crawford, a surgeon at Mercer’s Hospital while also studying at the private school of anatomy, medicine, and surgery in Park Street (now Lincoln Place) before receiving his letters testimonial from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. On graduating with an M.D. from Trinity College, John joined his father’s medical practice on Merrion Street Upper. Duncan became a renowned surgeon at Mercer’s Hospital and married Maria Wingfield of Rutland Square (now Parnell Square) in 1844.
In 1845, John married Sarah Crawford of York Street, William Crawford’s middle daughter. Their son, Edward, was born in 1846 and Will was born in 1849. In 1851, following the death of his father, John took over the Merrion Street Upper medical practice and entered into partnership with Dr Kenneth Wilson, father of Cecilia, Will’s former fiancée.
John is immensely proud of his sons but discovers they are just as stubborn as he is. Edward breaks with family tradition and insists on joining the army. Currently serving in India, Edward has been promoted to the rank of major and is married to Ruth with a son named after his grandfather but despite all this, John still wishes Edward had gone into medicine.
It is Will who was intent on becoming a doctor but John is appalled when, on graduating from Trinity College, Will joins the Merrion Street Upper practice only to leave after a few months to live and set up his own medical practice in the Liberties, a poorer area of Dublin. Nor does John approve of Will’s choice of wife. Isobel Stevens may be a well-educated clergyman’s daughter but she is a fallen woman and simply not good enough for his son.
When Duncan dies suddenly in November 1880, John retires from practising medicine and offers the Merrion Street Upper practice to Will. When Will agrees to take over the practice, a relieved John takes up the position of editor at the Journal of Irish Medicine. It is a well paid position so John won’t be left out of pocket by no longer practising medicine.
Never one to display his feelings publically or otherwise, at the start of A Suitable Wife, John has become even more distant. At first, Sarah, Will and Isobel put John’s behaviour down to him coming to terms with losing his best friend, retiring from medicine and adjusting to an office job in a short period of time.
But when Isobel and Will each see John getting into a cab on St Stephen’s Green and then see him leaving a cab in the middle of Merrion Row whilest holding up all the traffic, they can’t help but be puzzled and concerned. Is John hiding something from his wife and family?
Dublin, Ireland, 1881. Will and Isobel Fitzgerald settle into number 30 Fitzwilliam Square, a home they could once only have dreamed of. A baby is on the way, Will takes over the Merrion Street Upper medical practice from his father and they are financially secure. But when Will is handed a letter from his elder brother, Edward, stationed with the army in India, the revelations it contains only serves to further alienate Will from his father.
Isobel is eager to adapt to married life on Fitzwilliam Square but soon realises her past can never be laid to rest. The night she met Will in a brothel on the eve of his best friend’s wedding has devastating and far-reaching consequences which will change the lives of the Fitzgerald family forever.
Read an excerpt from Chapter Two…
A copy of The Irish Times was lying on the desk as Will went into his surgery the next morning. He put his medical bag down on the floor and glanced at the advertisements on the front page. What was he supposed to be looking at?
“Page four,” Fred informed him from the doorway.
Will went to the page and his heart sank. Doctor Saves Infant’s Life Through New ‘Piglet Procedure’. The article described how he had saved the life of the premature newborn son of the late Clive Ashlinn Q.C. Will was named but Fred, and how he had saved Cecilia’s life, was not.
“This is nothing to do with me, Fred.”
“No,” he replied firmly. “The detail in this article could only have come from a doctor and I haven’t spoken to Cecilia’s father since that night.”
“Well, Dr Wilson certainly told someone after I’d spoken to him.”
“I’m sorry, Fred. This article should be about you. You saved Cecilia’s life.”
“Yes, but not with the ‘Piglet Procedure’,” Fred muttered. “I’ll see you this evening.”
Will sighed and closed the newspaper.
“Will?” About to run up the steps to number 30 and escape the cold just before one o’clock, Will turned hearing his father’s voice. “Have you seen The Irish Times?”
“I have,” he replied shortly as his father stopped beside him. “Come inside, it’s freezing.” Will hurried up the steps, opened the front door and they went into the hall. “Who was responsible for that sensationalist article?” he demanded, quickly closing the door and putting his medical bag on the hall table.
“I met Ken Wilson and he told me—”
“He clearly didn’t tell you the baby was full term,” Will interrupted and his father’s jaw dropped.
“Yes,” he replied, taking off his hat and hanging it on the stand. “And, thanks to you, all those who can count and know Cecilia was the one who ended our engagement and married Clive Ashlinn with undue haste, now know why – she was pregnant with his child after having sexual relations with him behind my back. For God’s sake, Father, did you not stop for a moment to think – to count back the months? If the baby had been conceived after Cecilia married Clive, it wouldn’t have survived five minutes – if even that – no matter what was done to try and revive it. Fred saved Cecilia’s life. He performed a difficult caesarean – that old fool Smythe should have done it hours beforehand – and I get all the credit for clearing the baby’s airway. It’s completely ridiculous. Please don’t do it again.”
His father’s eyebrows rose in clear offence. “The practice needs more patients and it was an ideal opportunity to obtain some publicity for you. As well as that, I was going to ask you to submit a paper to the Journal of Irish Medicine.”
“On how to swing a baby by its ankles? Thank you, Father but, no. Ask Fred for one on the caesarean.”
“We receive papers on caesareans all the time.”
“Well write an editorial on elderly doctors and how they put their patients’ lives at risk.”
His father nodded. “I have heard complaints about Smythe before but he cannot be compelled to retire until…”
“He does actually kill someone.” Will rolled his eyes. “While you’re here, could you come into the breakfast room, I need to speak to you about Fred.”
They went inside and Will closed the door to the hall. The table was laid for luncheon and his stomach began to rumble.
“Is Fred in trouble, Will?” his father asked.
“Yesterday morning, I caught him in his surgery with a young woman.”
“A young woman? You mean a whore?”
Will winced. He hated the term. “I mean a prostitute. And it doesn’t seem to be the first time he’s brought one to the practice house.”
“I caught him twice with one.” His father sighed. “I thought that now he is going to be a father…”
“It would seem that has only made matters worse. Needless to say, we had ‘words’ about it. I told him if I caught him with a prostitute there again, he’d be out and—”
“You can’t dissolve the partnership so soon, Will,” his father interjected firmly. “How would it look?”
“Father, Fred’s sexual excursions are none of my business, but he will not indulge his urges at the practice house. He and Margaret are coming here to dinner this evening and I want to try and build bridges with him but I also think he misses his father greatly.”
“We all miss his father greatly.”
“Could you speak with him, please?” Will asked. “Perhaps bring him to your club for a drink occasionally?”
“Be a father figure to him, you mean?”
“Yes. I’m finding it very difficult to be a friend to him at the moment and the newspaper article certainly hasn’t helped matters.”
His father nodded. “It was well intended.”
“I know it was,” Will conceded. “But don’t expect Cecilia or her parents to be too pleased about it either.”
“No,” his father replied quietly. “How is Isobel?”
“A little nervous about the dinner as it’s our first but other than that she is very well.”
“Good. Well, I’ll let you begin luncheon.”
“Please don’t tell Fred I’ve spoken to you about him?” Will asked.
“Thank you for calling, Father, and my love to Mother.” He saw his father out and turned as he shrugged off his overcoat, hearing the morning room door open. “My father,” he told Isobel, hanging the overcoat on the stand.
“Yes, I heard his voice,” she said and closed the door. “Will, have you seen today’s Irish Times?”
“Fred showed the article to me.” Taking her hand, they went into the breakfast room. “He isn’t happy about it. My father has just told me he is responsible.”
“I’ve asked him not to do it again.”
“You didn’t row, did you?” she asked.
“No. I didn’t row with Fred either.”
“Good.” She gave him a little smile. “For a moment, I thought you were going to tell me Fred has refused to come this evening.”
“Fred and Margaret are definitely coming to dinner this evening,” he assured her. “I have some house calls to make this afternoon, but I should be home before six o’clock.”
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