Thirty-seven year-old Cecilia Ashlinn was born at number 14 Merrion Square North, the only child of Dr Kenneth Wilson and his wife Cordelia. Ken worked with Dr Will Fitzgerald’s father, John, at the Merrion Street Upper medical practice and they were also great friends. Cecilia and Will were friends as children, they later fall in love and Cecilia accepted Will’s proposal of marriage.
After working at his father’s medical practice for a short time, Will moved to the Liberties of Dublin and set up practice there. Cecilia hoped she could persuade him to leave and although he agreed they would live with his parents at number 67 Merrion Square after their marriage, he refused to give up his practice in the Liberties.
Will’s stubbornness and the location of his practice made Cecilia regret their engagement and unknown to him, she allowed Clive Ashlinn – a rich barrister who lived at number 12 Merrion Square – to court her. She wrote to Will, breaking off their engagement and the announcement of her engagement to Clive was published in The Irish Times only three weeks after the announcement of her engagement to Will had been published there. Cecilia and Clive were married at St Peter’s Church in July 1880 and they took up residence at 46 Rutland Square.
Cecilia’s betrayal left Will heartbroken and his family and friends furious. All contact between the Fitzgerald and Wilson families was ended except for John and Ken who met regularly in the Trinity Club but they wisely gossiped about other families and never mentioned their own.
Cecilia and Clive were involved in a cab accident in November 1880. Clive was killed and the pregnant Cecilia was badly injured but recovered and moved back to her parents’ home on Merrion Square. In January 1881, Dr Fred Simpson delivered her son by caesarean section and Will assisted, reviving the baby by the unorthodox ‘Piglet Procedure’.
It is now September 1886, Ken Wilson has died in his sleep and Will calls to number 14 to express his condolences. It is the first time Cecilia has seen Will since just after her marriage to Clive. He is happily married with children, a home on Fitzwilliam Square and he has taken over his father’s medical practice. It is Cecilia who is fearful for the future.
Now her father is dead, Cecilia must take matters into her own hands. Hatching a plan with a hidden motive, she writes to Will and unknown to her mother and in-laws, invites the Fitzgeralds to number 14 for tea after the funeral. She desperately needs their help but after her past deceit can she be trusted?
Dublin, Ireland, September 1886. Will is reacquainted with his former fiancée when his father’s close friend Dr Ken Wilson dies suddenly. On finding they have received the only invitation to the Wilson residence after the funeral, the Fitzgeralds witness the tensions between Cecilia, her mother and her in-laws and discover her hidden motive for wanting them present.
When Isobel is reunited with an old friend from Ballybeg, his shame at what he has done to survive hampers her attempts to bring him and Alfie together again. With an empty life and low expectations, can Peter regain his self-respect or are he and Alfie destined to be alone?
Read an excerpt from Chapter One…
At five minutes to one, Will went up the steps and rang the front doorbell of number 14 Merrion Square North. Pryce opened the door and he took off his hat.
“My name is Dr William Fitzgerald and—”
“Will?” He peered past the butler and saw Cecilia hurrying down the stairs. “Thank you, Pryce, I shall speak to Dr Fitzgerald.” The butler nodded to her then went down the steps to the servants’ hall. “Please, come in, Will.”
He went into the hall and closed the front door, left his hat and medical bag on the table and followed her into the morning room.
“My father called to the practice house just before surgery,” he said. “You have my deepest condolences, Mrs Ashlinn, your father was always very kind to me.”
“Father liked you very much,” she replied. “Much more than Clive. He thought Clive was ‘too cute’ – as he put it – far too clever for his own good.”
Will wisely stayed silent and she gave him a wobbly smile.
“Please, call me Cecilia, Will. It has been a long time since we have spoken – that awkward encounter in the Merrion Square garden if I remember correctly. You look well.”
She didn’t but that was to be expected. Her face was ashen and already there were lines at the corners of her eyes and mouth and strands of white in her blonde hair. She was thirty-seven, just a year older than he was, but she appeared to have aged prematurely.
“How is your son?” he asked and she blinked away tears.
“Asking where Grandfather is and I don’t know how to explain.”
“How did you explain Clive’s death?”
“Badly. I told him that before he was born his father went to heaven.”
“Explain that his grandfather has joined his father in heaven.”
“Yes, I shall. That I have a son at all is thanks to you. I know I should have thanked you long before this but I was furious at your father for the sensationalist article he wrote and had printed in The Irish Times and then as time went on…”
“Fred performed the caesarean section. I simply revived the baby.”
“Poor Fred. Do you ever see Margaret?”
“Yes, she is godmother to my daughter Belle and visits the children regularly.”
“What a lovely name. Are your children at school?”
“Yes, Belle and Ben plus my nephew John and Vicky – who is the daughter of a doctor friend and lives with us – all attend Mrs Pearson’s school on Fitzwilliam Square.”
“Clive is educated here by a tutor and is very eager to learn and—”
“Cecilia,” he broke in gently, hearing the clock on the mantelpiece chime one o’clock. “I called not just to offer my condolences but to offer to be a pallbearer and represent my father and the Merrion Street Upper medical practice. Your father and my father weren’t just in practice together, they were great friends and your father almost became my father-in-law.”
“You’re very kind, Will. I shall send a message to number 30 when the funeral arrangements have been made.”
He nodded, opened the door and followed her along the hall to the front door.
“I never expected you to leave your practice in the Liberties,” she said. “But here you are – Dr Will Fitzgerald with a practice on Merrion Street Upper – a husband and a father with a home on Fitzwilliam Square.”
“Life takes us in many unexpected directions,” he replied, picking up his hat and medical bag then opening the door.
“It does,” she said simply.
“Take care of yourself, Cecilia.”
“Thank you, Will, I shall.”
He put on his hat and raised it to her before going down the steps to the pavement and walking away along Merrion Square North.
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I’ve created a map of the Dublin area with locations which feature in The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series. As a few locations don’t exist anymore, some are approximate but I’ve been as accurate as I can. Tap/Click in the top right hand corner to open the map.