The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series

The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series is a gritty family saga set in Victorian Ireland. The series brings to life the dark underbelly of Victorian Dublin society and gets to the heart of the social issues of the day. As I publish each book in the series I’ll be adding blog posts with character profiles, location histories and general background information. Below, I’ve listed all the posts so far and categorised them. Tap/click the blue link to open the post in a new tab. All the posts contain an excerpt from the books. I’ve also created a map of the Dublin area with locations which feature in the series. You can follow my blog by tapping/clicking the Follow button in the sidebar on the right or tap/click the Follow button that appears in the bottom right-hand corner of this website so you won’t miss a post.

The Books

Book One: A Scarlet Woman

Can an idealistic young doctor and a fallen woman find love when Victorian society believes they should not?

Book Two: A Suitable Wife

Can Will and Isobel hold the Fitzgeralds together when tragedy and betrayal threaten to tear the family apart?

Book Three: A Discarded Son

Can Will and Isobel right the wrongs of the past without hurting those closest to them?

Book Four: A Forlorn Hope

Can Will and Isobel bury their differences with those estranged from them and unite in a time of crisis or are some rifts too deep to heal?

Book Five: A Cruel Mischief

Can Will and Isobel prevent events of the past from influencing the present and future?

Books One to Three: Box Set

Out Now on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

Character Profiles

Meet Isobel Stevens

Meet Dr Will Fitzgerald

Meet Will’s mother – Sarah Fitzgerald

Meet Will’s father – Dr John Fitzgerald

Meet Will’s best friend – Dr Fred Simpson

Meet Fred’s wife – Margaret Simpson

Meet Isobel’s grandparents – Lewis and Tilda Greene

Meet Isobel’s brother – Alfie Stevens

Meet Isobel and Alfie’s mother – Martha Ellison

Meet Solicitor James Ellison

Meet Martha’s twin brother – Miles Greene

Meet Dr David Powell

Meet Gordon Higginson QC

Meet Dr Jacob Smythe

Location Histories

A map of Dublin, Ireland – click/tap to open in a new tab

Merrion Square, Dublin, Ireland

The Liberties of Dublin, Ireland

Monto: Dublin’s Red Light District

Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin, Ireland

St Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland

The Westmoreland Lock Hospital, Dublin, Ireland

Rutland Square, Dublin, Ireland

The Four Courts Marshalsea Debtors Prison

History

The Great Snow of January 1881

Dublin’s Coal Holes and Coal Cellars

Laudanum: The Aspirin of the Nineteenth Century

The Dublin Artisans Dwellings Company

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. Enjoy!

The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series is

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Meet A Cruel Mischief’s Dr Jacob Smythe

Please note this post contains SPOILERS for books one to four. If you haven’t read them yet, tap/click the banner below to catch up!

Dr Jacob Smythe is eighty-five years old and was born in – and still lives in – number 8 Rutland Square East on the north side of Dublin. The love of Jacob’s life married another man and he vowed to never marry but he did not take a vow of chastity and fathered at least four children with his patients over the years.

Jacob practised medicine until 1883 when Dr Will Fitzgerald’s father John put pressure on him to retire. Also a retired doctor, John is now editor of the Journal of Irish Medicine and gave Jacob a position there making sure the elderly gentleman does as little as possible.

When John notices Jacob’s memory is fading fast, he brings him to Will for assessment. Will examines and questions Jacob and agrees with his father that senility is setting in at a rapid rate. Right up until he retired from medicine, Jacob had a penchant for all too freely dispensing laudanum tinctures to ladies. They included Will’s mother Sarah who became dependent on it for a time so she will be angry that Jacob is now one of Will’s patients but with just two elderly servants, Jacob needs to employ a nurse as soon as possible and a doctor must oversee his care.

With Jacob incapable of working anymore and with just £200 in cash stored in a box on the floor of his wardrobe, how can Will’s fees be paid, a nurse be employed and the butler and cook-housekeeper be kept in their positions and out of the workhouse? Where can the considerable and urgently needed money be found?  

Dublin, Ireland, October 1885. The fragile peace within the Fitzgerald family is threatened when Dr Jacob Smythe becomes one of Will’s patients, angering his mother. But in attending to the elderly gentleman’s needs, Will inadvertently reunites Sarah with an old adversary and Isobel discovers she and Dr Smythe have an unexpected and tragic connection.  

When Alfie receives a card on his twenty-ninth birthday, the recognisable handwriting and cryptic message shatters his hard-won personal contentment. Has a figure hoped long gone from his life returned to Dublin to wreak a cruel mischief on all those who banished him? Is Alfie’s ambition of becoming a doctor about to be derailed when he has less than a year left at Trinity College?

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

On Wednesday morning, three responses were delivered to the practice house and on Friday afternoon following their house calls, Will and Barbara sat down in her parlour on the second floor with eight letters and went through them.

“I think we can narrow them down to these two,” he said, laying a hand on top of them. “The other six applicants have experience with ladies only and it’s my guess they are applying through necessity only and not a with a genuine willingness to attend to a gentleman.”

“I agree and out of the two, I would choose Mrs Darby,” Barbara replied. “Unlike Miss O’Keefe, Mrs Darby may not be a trained nurse with qualifications but she certainly has experience. My only concern is her age.”

Will picked up Mrs Darby’s letter and read the pertinent paragraphs again.

I am a native of Dublin who recently returned from forty-one years in the United States of America. I was a Union Army nurse during the Civil War and afterwards, I nursed my husband who suffered a shotgun wound to the head and never regained his full mental faculties. My husband died in May, hence my decision to return to Ireland.

I am sixty-three years old and in excellent health. I am willing to be engaged as a nurse and I can also housekeep if required. I will be found kind and attentive and very useful in the gentleman’s home.

“Even if Dr Smythe doesn’t engage Mrs Darby, I’d very much like to meet her.”

“So would I, Will.”

“I’ll go and see my father and we’ll pass these two letters to Dr Smythe and discuss them with him. Thank you for this, Barbara.”

“Not at all,” she replied. “Have you told your mother that Dr Smythe is now one of your patients?” she asked and he shook his head. Like a coward, he’d been putting it off. “You really should tell her.”

“I know. I’ll call on her this evening.”

His father was leaving the offices of the Journal of Irish Medicine when Will turned onto Hume Street ten minutes later.

“Father?”

“Ah, Will. Were there many responses?”

“Eight but Barbara and I have whittled them down to these two,” he said, passing the letters to his father. “Read them over dinner and I’ll call to number 67 when I’ve eaten and we’ll go and see Dr Smythe. I must also tell Mother that Dr Smythe is now one of my patients – simply as a courtesy,” he added. “Nothing more.”

“Very well.”

“Did you find the box of money?” he inquired and his father nodded.

“It contained two hundred and twenty pounds, eight shillings and sixpence. Seven pounds went straight to Mrs Macallister to pay outstanding debts to the butcher and the coalman.”

“When were wages last paid to the Macallisters?”

“Two months ago so I gave them five pounds each. Will, Jacob can’t afford to pay a nurse any more than thirty pounds per annum. I wish it were more but I must eke out Jacob’s saving while he and I decide which items of furniture and which paintings must be sold.”

“Do whatever needs to be done,” he said and his father nodded.

Isobel was coming down the stairs when he closed number 30’s front door behind him and hung his hat on the stand.

“This evening, Father and I will call on Dr Smythe so he can choose from the two most suitable applicants,” he said, placing his medical bag on the hall table and kissing her lips. “So I must eat and run, I’m afraid.”

“You’re meeting your father at number 67?” she asked and he nodded as he unbuttoned his overcoat, shrugged it off and hung it up beside his hat. “In that case, I’ll come with you and spend the evening with your mother. I hope you’re hungry. Mrs Dillon has made the most enormous steak and kidney pie.”

“I’m ravenous.”

“Good.” She took his hand and led him into the breakfast room.

Three-quarters of an hour later, Tess, one of his parents’ house-parlourmaids, admitted them to number 67 Merrion Square and showed them into the morning room.

“Isobel and Will.” His ageless mother put a periodical to one side, got up from the sofa and kissed their cheeks. “Is there something wrong?”

“No, not at all,” he replied. “Father and I are calling on Dr Smythe and, rather than sitting at home alone, Isobel has come to spend the evening with you.”

“Dr Smythe.” His mother tensed and sat down again. “You and your father?”

“Father brought a medical concern he had with Dr Smythe to my attention and, as a result, Dr Smythe is now one of my patients. I am informing you, Mother, as a courtesy.”

“I see,” she replied shortly.

“I don’t know how long we’ll be.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Isobel said and he nodded to her and his mother then returned to the hall where his father was shrugging on his overcoat.

“Mother now knows Dr Smythe is a patient of mine,” he said and his father simply nodded, lifted his hat down from the stand and they left the house in search of a cab.

“Mrs Darby sounds intriguing,” his father said, handing the two letters to him as a cab stopped for them on the corner of Merrion Square South and Merrion Street Upper.

“Yes, she does,” Will replied. “Number 8 Rutland Square, please,” he instructed the cabman before climbing inside after his father. “Out of the two, she would be my choice to meet and interview but, of course, it’s up to Dr Smythe.”

Macallister admitted them to the house, brought them upstairs and announced them. The drawing room was very masculine and contained a huge brown leather sofa and two wingback armchairs similar to those found in a gentleman’s club plus numerous side tables, a bookcase and a writing desk and a table at each of the windows. A fire was blazing in the hearth and Dr Smythe got up from one of the armchairs which stood on either side of the fireplace and shook their hands.

“Doctors Fitzgerald – come in and sit down. According to Macallister, my memory is behaving itself today. Would you like a drink? Whiskey? Brandy?”

“Thank you but no,” Will replied and held up the letters. “I have brought two responses to the advertisement for you to read and consider.”

Dr Smythe took the letters, sat in his armchair and gestured for them to take a seat. Will chose the sofa, well away from the fireplace, while his father went to the second armchair and they waited for Dr Smythe to read both letters.

“This applicant – no,” he announced and before Will could stop him, dropped one of the letters into the fire. “But I would be most obliged if you could request that Mrs Darby attends for an interview here.”

“Her age and lack of nursing qualifications don’t concern you?” Will asked.

“Edward,” Dr Smythe replied and Will heard his father shuffle in his armchair making the leather squeak. “I once had a patient who fought in that war. He was shot in the knee. The wound turned gangrenous and the leg had to come off. He told me the army nurses saw things no woman should ever see and did things no woman should ever do. So I want to meet Mrs Darby.” Getting up, he lifted Will’s hand and slapped the letter onto his palm. “At her earliest convenience.”

Explore my blog for more excerpts, character profiles and historical background information

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Meet A Cruel Mischief’s Gordon Higginson

Gordon Higginson is a forty-six-year-old barrister with chambers on Henrietta Street on the north side of Dublin. He was born and grew up on Mountjoy Square, studied law at Trinity College and now lives at number 33 Rutland Square.

Number 33 had been owned by Samuel Laban, a barrister friend of Gordon’s. When Samuel died unmarried and childless, he bequeathed the house to a cousin who didn’t want it and put it and the contents up for auction. Gordon bought the house cheaply as it was in a dilapidated condition and he had it renovated and decorated. He is proud to live in the largest house on the west side of Rutland Square.

Gordon is married to Elizabeth, nee Dawson – Margaret Powell’s elder sister – who loves him without question. They have two daughters – Olivia and Jemima – but Gordon hopes they will have a son in due course.

Quick thinking, ruthless and arrogant, Gordon is respected but not liked. He is a useful acquaintance for Will and Isobel to have but they know he can never be trusted. Gordon proved his worth by skillfully devising a scheme to put an end to a crisis in Margaret’s marriage. Now, two years on, has the figure hoped long gone from Dublin returned to wreak a cruel mischief on those who banished him? Has Gordon’s grand scheme begun to unravel?

Dublin, Ireland, October 1885. The fragile peace within the Fitzgerald family is threatened when Dr Jacob Smythe becomes one of Will’s patients, angering his mother. But in attending to the elderly gentleman’s needs, Will inadvertently reunites Sarah with an old adversary and Isobel discovers she and Dr Smythe have an unexpected and tragic connection.  

When Alfie receives a card on his twenty-ninth birthday, the recognisable handwriting and cryptic message shatters his hard-won personal contentment. Has a figure hoped long gone from his life returned to Dublin to wreak a cruel mischief on all those who banished him? Is Alfie’s ambition of becoming a doctor about to be derailed when he has less than a year left at Trinity College?

Read an excerpt from Chapter Three…

[Will] walked around the square to number 33 and rang the doorbell of the Higginson residence before blowing out his cheeks. He didn’t trust Gordon one bit but this had to be done. The Higginson’s butler opened the front door and Will mustered up a smile.

“My name is Dr Will Fitzgerald. Is Mr Higginson at home?”

“I shall ask, Dr Fitzgerald. Please come in.”

Will went inside, the butler closed the door then took his hat and hung it on the stand before going up the stairs which rose around three walls of the hall. A few moments later, Gordon came down the steps with the butler behind him.

“Will.”     

“Gordon. May we speak in private?”

“Come with me.”

Will followed the barrister up the stairs and into the drawing room. Gordon gestured to an armchair and Will sat on the edge while Gordon went to the sofa and listened intently as Will explained the reason for his call. When he finished, Gordon sat back, crossed his legs and swore profusely up at the ceiling.

“And the birthday card was received on what date?” Gordon asked, lowering his head and Will swallowed a curse. He should have known this would turn into a cross-examination.

“October 31st. It was Alfie’s twenty-ninth birthday.”

“You have never thought to tell me before this that your brother-in-law was David’s lover?”

“No,” Will replied shortly. “Up to now, no-one outside the family has been told – for quite obvious reasons.”

“When did Alfie see David last?”

“The day Margaret was raped. He had not seen nor heard from David until he received the birthday card.”

“And you believe him?”

“Yes, I do,” Will snapped. “If you had seen how shaken Alfie was the morning of his birthday, you would believe him, too.”

“Very well.”

“Have you heard from David at all?”

“No.”

“So, you don’t know if he is still living where he chose to go?”

“No.”

“Christ, Gordon,” Will roared, thumping a fist on the arm of the chair. “David could be back here in Dublin.”

Explore my blog for more excerpts, character profiles and historical background information

Buy A Cruel Mischief: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Five for

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Or read A Cruel Mischief: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Five FREE with 

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If you haven’t read books 1-4 yet, click on the banner below to catch up!

Amazon ASIN: B091LBYBDH

Paperback ISBN: 9798732069006

Fitzgeralds Series ASIN: B07W4WRWGM

Buy A Cruel Mischief in paperback at

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The Dublin Artisans Dwellings Company

Corner of Pimlico and The Coombe. Photograph by William Murphy

The Dublin Artisans Dwellings Company was established in 1876 by a group of investors as a semi-philanthropic private venture to provide quality housing for the city’s working class who lived in appalling conditions but also as a profit-making business. Capital raised through shares and government loans was used to build cottages and houses.

Proposed DADC houses at Meath Place, off Pimlico

To keep costs under control and speed construction, a small number of common house designs was used across the DADC’s schemes. Type A, the simplest, was a two-roomed cottage with one fireplace and was in use from the early 1880s to the late 1890s. The Type E, a three-roomed (living room and two bedrooms) single-storey cottage was the most common of all house types constructed by the DADC and was used in at least sixteen schemes from 1883 to 1909.

Plans for DADC houses on Reginald Street and Reginald Square

In 1885, the DADC built sixteen houses and twelve cottages on the south side of what was then known as Tripoli and around the corner onto Pimlico. They range in scale from single-storey cottages in the central square to two-storey terraced houses on the perimeter. The two-bay red-brick houses had a pitched roof and a shared brick chimney stack with single square-headed openings on the first floor and arched openings on the ground floor and were originally fitted with timber single sash windows and timber panelled doors. Each house and cottage had its own mains water supply, its own back yard, a privy and a coalhouse. The rents, however, were too high for a general labourer and many of the houses and cottages were occupied by Guinness Brewery employees and Jacob’s factory workers.

DADC houses on what was known as Tripoli, now Pimlico, built 1885. Photograph from Google Street View. Tap/Click to open

World War One stopped building schemes and this halt continued well after the end of the war because of a rent strike but three schemes were built from 1929 to 1933. The basic dwelling was now an eight-roomed house with a kitchen, an indoor bathroom, front and back gardens and mains electricity.

Plan of DADC house to be built on The Coombe

The DADC was unwilling to develop further schemes after 1933 as local authorities were now providing working-class housing regardless of profitability. In 1961, the DADC began to sell off its houses and use the income to invest in commercial property. The last houses were sold in 1979 and the DADC, now called D.A.D. Properties Ltd was taken over by Rohan Holdings in 1984.

City of Dublin 1886, held by Ordnance Survey Ireland. © Public domain. Digital content: © Ordnance Survey Ireland, published by UCD Library, University College Dublin. Tap/Click to open

Dublin, Ireland, October 1885. The fragile peace within the Fitzgerald family is threatened when Dr Jacob Smythe becomes one of Will’s patients, angering his mother. But in attending to the elderly gentleman’s needs, Will inadvertently reunites Sarah with an old adversary and Isobel discovers she and Dr Smythe have an unexpected and tragic connection.  

When Alfie receives a card on his twenty-ninth birthday, the recognisable handwriting and cryptic message shatters his hard-won personal contentment. Has a figure hoped long gone from his life returned to Dublin to wreak a cruel mischief on all those who banished him? Is Alfie’s ambition of becoming a doctor about to be derailed when he has less than a year left at Trinity College?

Read an excerpt from Chapter Four…

Two hours later, after a busy surgery, Will let himself into Bob’s house on Tripoli and left his hat and medical bag in the hall. He went into the parlour, lit a small oil lamp on the mantelpiece then glanced around the room. Two easy chairs stood on either side of the fireplace, one with a copy of the Freeman’s Journal lying on it and a laden bookcase stood against the opposite wall. Taking the lamp, he went into the living room, around the table and chairs and on into the scullery in an extension at the rear of the house. Noting the sink and the tap with water from the mains, he smiled to himself, recalling how he had gone out to the yard at the back of the house on Brown Street in all weathers to pump water into an enamel bucket for cooking, washing and cleaning.

Unlocking the back door, he went out to the concrete yard and tried the first of two doors at the rear of the extension. It opened into the coalhouse and he shut the door then opened the second and peered into the privy – another luxury he hadn’t had at the Brown Street house – and he nodded approvingly. Closing the door, he went inside and locked the back door. He placed the temporary surgery hours notice in the parlour window then went upstairs to Bob’s bedroom which was located at the front of the house as Will’s had been in the house on Brown Street.

The bedroom housed a large double bed with a brass bedstead and a mahogany bedside table, wardrobe, chest of drawers and corner washstand. Putting the oil lamp on the chest of drawers, he went to the wardrobe, took out a russet-coloured carpet bag and put it on the bed. He lifted Bob’s dressing gown down from the hook on the back of the door, folded it and placed it in the bag. He opened the top drawer of the chest of drawers but it contained shirts and collars so he went down to the next and the next, finding nightshirts folded neatly in the third drawer. He put two in the carpet bag and was closing the drawer when he saw the corner of something white protruding from under the chest of drawers.

Crouching down, he reached for it and pulled out a dainty lady’s cotton handkerchief edged with lace. Since moving out of the rooms next door to the surgery on Pimlico, once occupied by Jimmy and his late mother, Bob had continued to join Mrs Bell and Jimmy each evening for dinner. Other than that, Bob had not opted to engage Mrs Bell as his housekeeper and now Bob had a lady friend, Will could only assume the arrangement was unlikely to change. He put the handkerchief back under the chest of drawers, picked up the oil lamp and the carpet bag and went downstairs to the parlour. Extinguishing the lamp, he put it back on the mantelpiece then left the house and walked to Thomas Street in search of a cab.

Explore my blog for more excerpts, character profiles and historical background information

Buy A Cruel Mischief: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Five for

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Or read A Cruel Mischief: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Five FREE with 

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If you haven’t read books 1-4 yet, click on the banner below to catch up!

Amazon ASIN: B091LBYBDH

Paperback ISBN: 9798732069006

Fitzgeralds Series ASIN: B07W4WRWGM

Buy A Cruel Mischief in paperback at

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The Four Courts Marshalsea Debtors Prison

The Main Courtyard of the Four Courts Marshalsea (Debtors) Prison, Thomas Street, Dublin in 1860.

About one-third of the prison population in early nineteenth-century Ireland was made up of persons imprisoned by their creditors for debt. In 1818, 13,000 people were sent to prison with 6,600 being imprisoned for debt. The majority paid rent for their accommodation but increasing rates for rooms and food dashed their hopes of freedom and many spent the rest of their lives in prison.

City of Dublin 1847 held by Ordnance Survey Ireland. © Public domain. Digital content: © Ordnance Survey Ireland, published by UCD Library, University College Dublin.

The most important debtors prison in Ireland – the Four Courts Marshalsea – dated from the 1770s and was located off Marshal Lane (now Robert Emmet Close), off Bridgefoot Street, off Thomas Street in Dublin. Originally a remand prison for criminal trials in the Four Courts, it became a debtors prison for cases brought to the Court of King/Queen’s Bench (one of the Four Courts) from all over Ireland.

An 1809 plan of the prison.

The building was laid out around two courtyards which housed the prisoners’ rooms, guard room, tap room, a chapel and an infirmary. The prison Marshal’s house was in the upper yard along with accommodation for his deputy.

A ground plan of the prison.

The Pauper Building consisted of six rooms, each to contain eight persons. They were furnished with bedding for the reception of debtors unable to pay rent to the Marshal or provide furniture for themselves. In 1848, food for pauper debtors, as laid down by the rules of the court of Queen’s Bench, was 2 lbs (0.9 kg) of bread and 1 (UK) quart (2 pints or 1.13 litres) of new milk per day.

Marshalsea Barracks. National Library of Ireland on The Commons.

The Four Courts Marshalsea was abolished by the Four Courts Marshalsea Discontinuance Act 1874, due to “the very small and diminishing number of persons in that prison, and to the very large prison staff in proportion to the number of prisoners.” It was then used as a barracks by the Dublin Militia. After 1922, it became a tenement until it fell into disuse. It was demolished in 1975 and some of the stone was used to repair the city wall at Cook Street.

Dublin, Ireland, October 1885. The fragile peace within the Fitzgerald family is threatened when Dr Jacob Smythe becomes one of Will’s patients, angering his mother. But in attending to the elderly gentleman’s needs, Will inadvertently reunites Sarah with an old adversary and Isobel discovers she and Dr Smythe have an unexpected and tragic connection.  

When Alfie receives a card on his twenty-ninth birthday, the recognisable handwriting and cryptic message shatters his hard-won personal contentment. Has a figure hoped long gone from his life returned to Dublin to wreak a cruel mischief on all those who banished him? Is Alfie’s ambition of becoming a doctor about to be derailed when he has less than a year left at Trinity College?

Read a spoiler-free snippet from Chapter Six…

“[He] was a general merchant and sugar broker with a premises on Thomas Street. His father had also leased the property as had his grandfather. [He], however, had a bad head for business and after the non-repayment of a bank loan, a writ known as a capias ad satisfaciondum was issued which enabled the manager of the bank to have [him] gaoled until the debt was paid.”

“Where?” Isobel asked.

“He was brought to the city gaol at Newgate in Green Street but because he was classed as a pauper debtor, he was transferred to the Pauper Building in the Four Courts Marshalsea which stands off Bridgefoot Street which is off Thomas Street. He shared one of six rooms with seven other men and he managed to survive for the best part of a year on a diet of bread and milk.”

“Who ran the business while he was in gaol?”

“His mother. She sold or pawned whatever she could and took in boarders. She paid off the debt but it broke her health. Less than a month after [he] was released, she was dead and he was bent on revenge.”

Explore my blog for more excerpts, character profiles and historical background information

Buy A Cruel Mischief: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Five for

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Or read A Cruel Mischief: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Five FREE with 

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If you haven’t read books 1-4 yet, click on the banner below to catch up!

Amazon ASIN: B091LBYBDH

Paperback ISBN: 9798732069006

Fitzgeralds Series ASIN: B07W4WRWGM

Buy A Cruel Mischief in paperback at

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Rutland Square

Bartholomew Mosse

Rutland Square (now Parnell Square) is the oldest Georgian square in Dublin. In 1748, Surgeon Bartholemew Mosse leased a four-acre and one rood plot described as ‘a piece of waste ground, with a pool in the hollow, and a few cabins on the slopes’ at the top of Sackville (now O’Connell) Street. Here he established the world’s first purpose-built maternity hospital designed by Richard Castle for Dublin’s poor to ensure fewer mothers and babies died during childbirth and it opened in 1757.

James Malton. Lying-In Hospital Dublin. 1795. The Art Institute of Chicago. 

To the east, the Rotunda Assembly Rooms (the former Ambassador cinema) were added, designed in 1764 by John Ensor and which led to the hospital becoming known as the Rotunda. To the north, the New Assembly Rooms containing a tea room, supper room (now the Gate Theatre) and ballroom were built in 1784.

Excerpt from John Rocque’s 1756 map of Dublin City

The most distinctive feature of the square was that the centre did not contain a park for the use of its residents. The ‘New Gardens’ designed by Robert Stevenson and opened in 1749 were public gardens and used as a means of raising funds for the hospital. They were the equivalent of London’s Vauxhall and Ranelagh Gardens, laid out with lawns, an elm tree-lined bowling green with a coffee room on the south side and winding pathways on the north side and pavilions where entertainments, theatrical performances and concerts were offered to paying patrons. According to according to an 1821 history by George Newenham Wright the gardens were established:

“…For the purpose of holding Sunday evening promenades, for the benefit of that establishment. Those entertainments were continued for many years, to the great advantage of the funds of the hospital, until the Association for discountenancing Vice petitioned the governors of the charity to suppress this immoral proceeding; since which the gardens have only been opened on the other evenings in the week during the summer season: on those occasions, one and sometimes two military bands attend, and play from eight to ten o clock, while the persons admitted promenade along a terrace in front of the orchestra, eighteen perches in length; the walk round the entire square, inside, measures 1 fur. 35 per. The interior, which is thickly planted with full grown elms and close underwood, on promenade evenings is brilliantly illuminated with festoons of variegated lamps and other fanciful decorations; and lately, singers have been introduced to amuse in the intervals between the different airs called for by the visiters.–The receipts of one evening, at this place of amusement, have been known to amount to upwards of 20 l. which is an enormous sum, if we consider the moderate price of admission, five pence each.”

James Malton. Rotunda and New Rooms. 1795. The Art Institute of Chicago. 

The success of the pleasure gardens led to the surrounding plots becoming highly desirable as residences for the rich and terraces of Georgian townhouses on Cavendish Street (later Cavendish Row) to the east of Dr Mosse’s plot, Granby Row to the west and Palace Row to the north, were laid out between 1753 and 1785 on plots leased from Luke Gardiner and further developments were added to the north and west. In 1784, an Act of Parliament was passed to remove the wall surrounding the gardens, and introduce railings and street lighting. The square was officially renamed in honour of Charles Manners, fourth Duke of Rutland and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in 1785 under a further Act of Parliament:

“…For the completing and effectually lighting and watching Rutland Square, and for the better support and maintenance of the hospital for the relief of poor lying-in women in Great Britain Street, Dublin, and for other purposes therein mentioned.”


Charlemont House – now The Hugh Lane Gallery – Rwxrwxrwx, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The most significant property was Charlemont House designed by Sir William Chambers in 1763 for the Earl of Charlemont and built at the centre of the square’s north side. In the 1870s, the house was bought by the government and used as the Irish General Register and Census Offices and is now The Hugh Lane Gallery. Also on this side are the Dublin Writers Museum and the Irish Writers’ Centre. The Gothic Revival Findlater’s Church (Abbey Presbyterian Church) was erected in the 1860s by Alexander Findlater, at his own expense, and presented to the Presbyterian congregation. According to George Newenham Wright:

“The houses around this square are all noble structures; amongst them are those of Lord Charlemont, Lord Wicklow, Lord Longford, the Countess of Ormond, the Earl of Bective, the Earl of Farnham, and several others.”

The rear of the Rotunda Hospital c1907. National Library of Ireland on The Commons. 

The name of the square was changed to Parnell Square in honour of Charles Stewart Parnell at a quarterly meeting of Dublin City Council on 3 April 1933.

The Rotunda Gardens. National Library of Ireland on The Commons.

The square is now home to the Garden of Remembrance, the national site commemorating the 1916 Easter Rising which led to the foundation of the Irish State.

Rutland Square in 1885

Dublin, Ireland, October 1885. The fragile peace within the Fitzgerald family is threatened when Dr Jacob Smythe becomes one of Will’s patients, angering his mother. But in attending to the elderly gentleman’s needs, Will inadvertently reunites Sarah with an old adversary and Isobel discovers she and Dr Smythe have an unexpected and tragic connection.  

When Alfie receives a card on his twenty-ninth birthday, the recognisable handwriting and cryptic message shatters his hard-won personal contentment. Has a figure hoped long gone from his life returned to Dublin to wreak a cruel mischief on all those who banished him? Is Alfie’s ambition of becoming a doctor about to be derailed when he has less than a year left at Trinity College?

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

Doctors Fitzgerald senior and Smythe were the last to present for surgery on Monday. Dr Smythe was a great deal thinner and frailer than when Will had seen him last.

“Would you like me to stay, Jacob?” Will’s father asked, sitting him down in the chair in front of Will’s desk.

“Yes, John, if you would, please,” Dr Smythe replied and Will lifted a second chair from a corner of the room, placed it beside the first and his father sat down.

“Your father thinks I’m descending into senility,” Dr Smythe informed him as Will retook his seat behind the desk.

“Do you agree with him?” Will asked and Dr Smythe pursed his lips for a moment before shrugging. “Well, would you mind if I asked you some questions?”

“No, not at all.”

“Do you know what day it is today and the date?”

“Today is Monday but I’m afraid the date eludes me.”

“And do you know what my name is?”

“Dr Edward Fitzgerald,” Dr Smythe replied promptly, naming Will’s grandfather, and Will shot a glance at his father who winced and looked away.

“And the Prime Minister – what is his name?” Will asked and Dr Smythe began to count off the names of various Prime Ministers on his fingers.

“The Duke of Wellington… No, far too long ago… Could be Melbourne… No, he’s dead a long while. I know it’s not Peel or Palmerston and it’s not Gladstone…” Dr Smythe tailed off, pursing his lips before suddenly thumping a fist on the desk. “It is Mr Disraeli,” he proclaimed with a firm nod.

The Marquess of Salisbury had succeeded Mr Gladstone as Prime Minister in June. Mr Disraeli had last been Prime Minister in 1880 and he had died the following year but Will gave Dr Smythe an encouraging smile all the same.

“If you were to walk home from the Journal offices, which route would you take?”

Dr Smythe raised his pale blue eyes to the ceiling and pondered the question for a few moments. “I wouldn’t walk, I would take a cab,” he stated and Will couldn’t help but admire his ingenuity in evading an answer.

“Well, what is the address you would give to the cabman?” Will added and Dr Smythe sighed and shook his head.

“A square… It’s across Carlisle Bridge and beyond Sackville Street…”

Carlisle Bridge was now O’Connell Bridge and those of a Nationalist persuasion were now referring to Sackville Street as O’Connell Street but at least Dr Smythe would be heading in the right direction.

“How is your appetite?”

“Rather small. Extremely small, in fact. My cook does her best but…” Dr Smythe tailed off again and Will nodded.

“Will you consent to me taking a medical history and giving you an examination, Dr Smythe?”

“An examination? If all these infernal questions haven’t been an examination, then I don’t know what one is.”

“A physical examination,” Will clarified.

“Whatever for? John promised me this would be no more than a chat.”

“When you practised medicine and a new patient presented him or herself and you were concerned for their wellbeing, what did you do?”

“Take a medical history and examine them,” Dr Smythe replied promptly before slumping back in his chair. “Oh, blast it, very well.”

Will took as much of Dr Smythe’s medical history as the elderly gentleman could remember before giving him a full physical examination. He sat down and made notes of the results while his father helped his friend back into his clothes.

“Your pulse and respiratory rate are all normal for a man of your age,” Will began as Dr Smythe and Will’s father retook their seats. “But I don’t think I need to tell you that you are too thin and your memory gives me great cause for concern.”

“So what do you suggest?”

“That you engage a nurse and—”

“A nurse?” Dr Smythe roared and Will and his father jumped. “I don’t need a nurse.”

“Yes, you do,” Will replied firmly. “Today’s date is November 2nd 1885, the Marquess of Salisbury is the Prime Minister and you live at number 8 Rutland Square.”

“Rutland Square,” Dr Smythe whispered to himself. “Of course.”

“Dr Smythe, you need to engage a nurse whether you like it or not.”

“You think my memory will deteriorate further?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so,” Will’s father replied and Dr Smythe turned to him. “I have noticed a sharp deterioration, even in the past two months, which is why I brought you to Will.”

“Will?” Dr Smythe peered at him with a perplexed frown. “But I thought you were Dr Edward Fitzgerald?”

“He was my late grandfather,” Will explained. “I am Dr Will Fitzgerald.”

“Dr Edward Fitzgerald,” Dr Smythe muttered. “Yes. Tall, like you and your father. But,” Dr Smythe pointed a long forefinger at Will, “you’re the spit of him, you know?”

“Am I?” Will looked from Dr Smythe to his father who smiled and nodded.

“You were named after Surgeon William Crawford, your mother’s father but, yes, you’re the spit of my father. Jacob,” Will’s father turned in his seat and laid a hand on Dr Smythe’s arm, “you need a nurse and you need to engage one now.”

“While I still have the mental faculties to do so,” Dr Smythe concluded and Will and his father nodded.

“I’m afraid I must ask you this, Jacob,” Will’s father continued. “How much savings do you have in the bank?”

“Oh…” Dr Smythe tailed off and gazed up at the ceiling. “I have approximately two hundred pounds.”

Approximately two hundred pounds would not purchase food, coal and clothing and pay Will’s fees and the wages of a nurse, a butler-come-valet and a cook-housekeeper for long. Meeting his father’s eyes, Will knew he was thinking the same.

“It will suffice for the present,” his father said then looked away and Will could all but hear him add silently: But we must urgently think of a way of generating an income for you.

“It’s not in the bank,” Dr Smythe announced suddenly and Will’s jaw dropped. “My savings are not in the bank.”

“Where is the money, Jacob?” Will’s father asked and Dr Smythe smiled.

“It’s safe.”

“Safe where?”

“In a box on the floor of my wardrobe,” Dr Smythe replied and Will immediately thought of the jewellery safe on the floor of Isobel’s wardrobe.

“Jacob, I am going to take charge of the box,” Will’s father told him gently and Dr Smythe exhaled a long sigh of relief. “And I will discuss the household spending with the Macallisters as well as their wages.”

“That is very good of you, John.”

“Not at all, Jacob,” Will’s father said then nodded to Will to continue.

“An advertisement will be placed in the newspapers,” he informed Dr Smythe. “And to ensure the utmost discretion, the responses will come here to the practice house. My colleague Dr Barton is also a qualified nurse and she and I will pass on the most suitable responses to you and you will make the final decision as to who you engage.”

“At Trinity College, I could memorise the essential points from a chapter of a textbook in less than half an hour.” Dr Smythe smiled sadly. “Now, I am about to choose a nurse to care for me in my dotage.”

Will couldn’t help but feel a sharp stab of pity for the elderly gentleman. Opening a desk drawer, he reached for a pen, a bottle of ink and a sheet of notepaper. Opening the bottle, he dipped the nib into the ink and wrote:

My name is Dr Jacob Smythe.

My address is number 8 Rutland Square.

My physician is Dr William Fitzgerald. His practice house is at number 28 Merrion Street Upper. He resides at number 30 Fitzwilliam Square.

My employer and friend is Dr John Fitzgerald. He is editor of the Journal of Irish Medicine. The offices are located at number 6 Hume Street. He resides at number 67 Merrion Square.

“Take this,” he said, blotting the sheet of notepaper and passing it to Dr Smythe.

Dr Smythe read the reminders and showed them to Will’s father who nodded.

“An excellent idea.” He folded the sheet in half and half again before placing it in the inside pocket of Dr Smythe’s frock coat. “But I will accompany Jacob home and speak to Macallister.”

And instruct him not to allow his master to leave the house unaccompanied, Will finished silently.

“In a week, I hope to have some responses for your perusal,” he said and the three men got up.

“Thank you, Dr Fitzgerald,” Dr Smythe replied, holding out a hand.

“You’re very welcome, Dr Smythe,” Will replied with a smile and shook it before showing him and his father out of the practice house. He closed and locked the front door and went into the office. “Eva, I need to find a nurse for Dr Smythe as quickly as possible so I will be placing an advertisement in the newspapers,” he informed the practice secretary. “The responses will be coming here and Dr Barton and I will assess them.”

“Yes, Dr Fitzgerald.”

“I have the odds and ends of his medical history and my notes from his physical examination. I’ll fetch them for you so you can open a new patient file.”

That afternoon, Will placed an advertisement in The Irish Times, the Freeman’s Journal and the Dublin Evening Mail and it appeared in the following day’s editions.

WANTED: An experienced nurse to attend to an elderly gentleman with senile decay. Application by letter, to be made to Dr William Fitzgerald, 28 Merrion Street Upper, Dublin.

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A Cruel Mischief: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Five

RELEASE DAY!

Can Will and Isobel prevent events of the past from influencing the present and future?

Dublin, Ireland, October 1885. The fragile peace within the Fitzgerald family is threatened when Dr Jacob Smythe becomes one of Will’s patients, angering his mother. But in attending to the elderly gentleman’s needs, Will inadvertently reunites Sarah with an old adversary and Isobel discovers she and Dr Smythe have an unexpected and tragic connection.  

When Alfie receives a card on his twenty-ninth birthday, the recognisable handwriting and cryptic message shatters his hard-won personal contentment. Has a figure hoped long gone from his life returned to Dublin to wreak a cruel mischief on all those who banished him? Is Alfie’s ambition of becoming a doctor about to be derailed when he has less than a year left at Trinity College?

The Kindle edition is 99 cents/99 pence at Amazon until Tuesday 6 April and is also available to read through Kindle Unlimited. The paperback edition will follow shortly.

I’ve created a map of the Dublin area which shows where all the characters live, work and visit. Tap/Click the box in the top right hand corner to open it.  

Join my readers group on Facebook to chat about my books in a spoiler-free way and hear about my latest news and lots more!

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Meet A Forlorn Hope’s David Powell

Please note this post contains SPOILERS for books one to three. If you haven’t read them yet, click on the banner below to catch up!

David Powell was born in Co Meath, Ireland the only child of the late Cecil Powell, a farmer and his wife. David is gay but keeps his sexuality a secret until he moves to Dublin aged eighteen to study medicine at Trinity College. While in his final year, David meets Alfie Stevens, Isobel Fitzgerald’s brother, and they fall in love. When Will and Isobel accidentally find them together, Alfie makes them promise never to tell anyone.

When Will’s best friend Dr Fred Simpson reveals he has syphilis and has passed it to his wife Margaret and their unborn child, Will insists Fred retires from practising medicine and urgently needs to replace him at the Merrion Street Upper medical practice. Isobel suggests David even though he is less than a year qualified but has been doing locum work to gain experience. Will takes him on and David proves to be an excellent doctor and even assists in the births of Will and Isobel’s twins.

When Alfie and David are attacked outside a club for gay men and Will’s father hears a delirious Alfie calling out for David, John puts two and two together and is furious. Isobel pleads with John to turn a blind eye and he reluctantly agrees. But John Fitzgerald should not have been trusted.

Will and Isobel discover John has persuaded David to enter into a marriage of convenience with Fred Simpson’s childless widow, Margaret. It is little wonder David gave in to greed. In marrying Margaret, David gains a large house with a prestigious address on Ely Place Upper in which he can establish his own medical practice but the marriage need never be consummated.

The fragile marriage has far reaching consequences. John, David and Margaret’s deception devastates Alfie – almost costing him his life – and it enrages Will and Isobel who retaliate by denying John access to his three grandchildren. This angers Will’s mother Sarah who believes the children should not be involved. But can their differences be buried or are some rifts too deep to heal?  

Dublin, Ireland, September 1883. The rift between the Fitzgeralds deepens when Will’s father threatens legal action to gain visiting rights to his three grandchildren. But Will, Isobel and John are brought unexpectedly together by Will’s mother when Sarah’s increasingly erratic behaviour spirals beyond their control.

Isobel is reunited with a ghost from her past unearthing memories she would rather have kept buried while the fragile marriage of convenience orchestrated by John becomes more and more brittle before it snaps with horrifying consequences.

Read an excerpt from Chapter Six…

Even during the dark days of Nicholas’ burial and Fred’s death and funeral, he had never seen {Margaret} in such a state. Her brown eyes were wide and staring, her blonde hair was escaping its pins, and her black and white striped gown was splattered with manure from the streets. “Sit on the bed, Margaret,” he instructed and he sat on the edge of the double bed, trying desperately to keep his voice calm. “Sit beside me.” He patted the bedcovers and nodded to the maid and housekeeper who reluctantly let her go.

After a moment or two’s uncertainty, Margaret sat beside him and he heard Bob whisper to the servants to please leave the room with him and they would attend to the maid in the hall.

The door closed after them and Will forced himself to give Margaret a kind smile.

“We’ve known each other for a few years now, haven’t we?” he asked and she nodded.

“Yes. And?”

“And I would like to think you could tell me what has brought you to this. I’m going to be blunt with you, Margaret because it is time for honesty. Even when Nicholas and Fred died and you went through an unimaginably terrible time, you still didn’t attack a caller with a knife. Why now?” he inquired softly.

“It’s David,” she replied with a sniff. “He doesn’t love me.”

“Margaret, you knew David would not love you when you married him.”

“But I hoped,” she added and screwed up her face as she fought to find the correct words. “I hoped he might fall in love with me eventually. He threw Alfie Stevens over for me, after all, but he does not even pretend to love me. In fact, he recently made it plain that I disgust him.”

“Do you love him?” Will asked and was relieved when she shook her head.

“For a while, I managed to convince myself that I did. But I do not. It was nothing more than a futile effort to try and overcome the bitter regret I feel at having agreed to marry him. I had hoped David and I would have grown accustomed to each other over time – become companions and more – but I know now it was a forlorn hope because there is nothing between us except hate and mistrust. David simply wanted this house and social status and I have realised just how much I miss Fred and our baby and how I shall be alone and childless in this marriage for as long as I live. Please, Will. Tell me you miss Fred, too?”

Tears stung his eyes and he nodded. “I miss Fred every day – and I will continue to miss him every day for the rest of my life.”

Margaret gave him a wobbly smile, rested her temple on his shoulder and he put an arm around her, wondering when she had last been afforded some kindness.

“Margaret, please leave this house for your own wellbeing.”

“And go where?” she asked miserably. “Neither Mother nor Elizabeth approved of this marriage and—”

“What on earth are you doing? Get away from my wife.”

Will and Margaret jerked apart and he got off the bed. David, with Will’s father behind him, was standing at the bedroom door.

“We’re-we’re not doing anything,” Margaret stammered before he could speak. “Today, I have been rather… upset and I did something I now very much regret.”

“What was it?” David asked.

“Margaret slapped Dr O’Brien when he called here a short time ago,” Will interjected and, out of the corner of an eye, saw Margaret give him an incredulous glance.

“Why would Dr O’Brien call here?” David added suspiciously.

“I called to number 30 earlier today and matters became rather heated,” Margaret explained. “I behaved atrociously and a short time ago Dr O’Brien called here to inquire after my state of health. It was then that I behaved atrociously to him.”

“In that case, you should go downstairs to the hall where he is waiting with Isobel and apologise to him.”

“I shall,” Margaret replied and scurried from the room.

“Do you often choose to sit on the beds of ladies who are not your wife?” David demanded and Will tensed.

“Only ones who have realised their husband will never even like them and simply married them for material gain.”

“Will,” his father snapped.

“You can’t even pretend to be a husband to her, can you, David?” Will ignored his father. “You can’t even befriend her – take an interest in anything she enjoys – take her out for meals – or to the theatre – because all you wanted from this charade of a marriage was this house, a medical practice and as high a social standing as you could grab with both hands. Soon, society will wonder – if they are not wondering already – why you are never seen socialising with your wife.”

“You don’t socialise either. And I would thank you and your wife not to interfere.”

“That is because my wife and I are not desperate to achieve a higher social status. And we are ‘interfering’ because very soon, your wife’s health will breakdown completely.”

“Just like your mother’s has,” David sneered and Will made a grab for his throat, only for his father to push him away.

“Enough.” His father placed himself between them. “Do not mention my wife in that way ever again,” he ordered David, who flushed.

“I apologise,” he replied quietly.

“I am ashamed to say that Margaret has been neglected lately,” his father continued. “That shall be remedied, Will, I can assure you.”

“Remedied in what way?” Will asked. “Her family need to know she is ill so they can give her the help and support she needs – and if you won’t tell them – I will.”

“Don’t make threats.”

“It’s not a threat, Father, it’s a promise. Mrs Dawson is currently in Wicklow – no doubt you have the address. I shall call here on Friday evening and if I discover that David has not gone there and afforded Mrs Dawson the courtesy of informing her face-to-face that Margaret is ill, I shall travel to Wicklow on Saturday and tell her myself. Now, I think it would be best if Isobel, Bob and I saw ourselves out. Good evening to you both.”

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Photo credit: “Portret van een onbekende man met hoed” by Felix Friedrich Busenbender and Woodbury & Page, Rijksmuseum is in the Public Domain, CC0 / A derivative from the original work

Meet A Forlorn Hope’s James Ellison

Please note this post contains SPOILERS for The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series books one to three. If you haven’t read them yet, click/tap on the banner to catch up!

Fifty-eight year-old James Ellison is Will Fitzgerald‘s solicitor. James was in partnership with Ronald Henderson for thirty years until Ronald’s sudden death in late 1880. Unknown to James, Ronald was gay and died in a brothel in Dublin’s red light district known as Monto. James ensured that a scandal was averted and only scant details of Ronald’s death appeared in the newspapers. James’ eagerness to avert a scandal was not only out of respect for his friend and business partner but also because he was in love with Ronald’s widow, Martha, Isobel Fitzgerald’s mother.

James’ only son died aged fourteen of consumption and when his wife died, James expected to be alone for the rest of his life but when Ronald introduced him to Martha shortly before their marriage, James fell in love with her instantly despite knowing nothing could come of it. When Ronald died and Martha discovered he had married her solely for companionship, James had to put his feelings aside and assist her with the settlement of Ronald’s estate.

But James couldn’t keep away from Martha and Alfie Stevens, Isobel’s brother, noticed how often James was calling to number 55 Fitzwilliam Square. Realising James was courting her mother far too soon after Ronald’s death, Isobel went to James’ offices and asked him what his intentions were towards her mother. James told Isobel that he and her mother were in love, they would be extremely circumspect and when a year had passed since Ronald’s death, they would marry.

James and Martha married in December 1881 at St Peter’s Church and James moved into number 55. He continued to practise law alone from his offices on Westmoreland Street.

When Will and Isobel discovered Will’s father, John, had persuaded Fred Simpson’s childless widow, Margaret to enter into a marriage of convenience with Alfie’s former lover David Powell, it enraged them and they retaliated by denying John access to his three grandchildren.

When A Forlorn Hope begins, over a year has passed since the marriage and when John meets Will and Isobel in St Stephen’s Green, he threatens legal action if they continue to deny him access to young John, Ben and Belle. Will and Isobel ask James for assistance but will they want to hear, agree to and comply with his legal advice?

Dublin, Ireland, September 1883. The rift between the Fitzgeralds deepens when Will’s father threatens legal action to gain visiting rights to his three grandchildren. But Will, Isobel and John are brought unexpectedly together by Will’s mother when Sarah’s increasingly erratic behaviour spirals beyond their control.

Isobel is reunited with a ghost from her past unearthing memories she would rather have kept buried while the fragile marriage of convenience orchestrated by John becomes more and more brittle before it snaps with horrifying consequences.

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

Will managed to swallow his anger at his father for most of the afternoon as he made house calls. Closing number 30’s front door at just before half past four, it rose again and he shook his head as Isobel came out of the morning room.

“Young John has made a friend and I may have made one, too,” she announced with a smile and kissed his lips.

“Oh?” he replied, hanging his hat on the stand and placing his medical bag on the hall table before following her into the morning room while she told him about the Pearsons. “Her husband lost an arm?”

“Yes. His right arm.”

“Where was he stationed with the army?”

“India, where he and Marianne got married, and then Egypt.”

“And they are moving into number 7. Well, well. I’m glad the house won’t be standing empty for much longer. What is Daniel like?”

“Small and blonde and I don’t think he had ever seen ducks before.”

Will smiled, hearing voices in the hall. “How was Mother?” he asked just as the door opened and Zaineb, one of their house-parlourmaids, showed a worried-looking James Ellison into the room.

“Gorman said you asked that I call and that it was a professional matter.”

“I’m afraid it is,” Will replied, nodding his thanks to Zaineb and the maid left the room. “Please sit down, James, and we’ll explain.”

He and Isobel sat on the huge reddish-brown leather sofa while James sat in one of the armchairs and listened intently while Will recounted the meeting with his father in St Stephen’s Green.

“And he said, ‘If you and Will continue to deny me that right, I shall have no choice but to speak with my solicitor,’” the solicitor clarified.

“Yes.” Will nodded.

“And did you reply?” James added.

“I told him not to dare threaten us. Then a few minutes later, Isobel saw him go into the offices of Hugo Blackwood & Son – Hugo Blackwood is his solicitor. James, does my father have a legal right to visit his grandchildren?”

“Well.” James sighed. “He is the children’s grandfather and you have been denying him access to them for over a year…”

“So what do you propose we do?”

“You and Isobel have two choices. The first is to grant your father visitation rights before he has the opportunity to take the matter any further. The second is to do nothing for now. Wait and see what your father does. His going into the offices of Hugo Blackwood & Son this morning could have been a bluff as he may just have been doing as you are doing now and seeking legal advice. The problem is that the longer he is denied access to the children, the more likely it is that he does instruct Hugo Blackwood to take legal action against you both.”

Explore my blog for more excerpts, character profiles and historical background information

Buy A Forlorn Hope: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Four for

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Paperback ISBN: 9798688108330

Fitzgeralds Series ASIN: B07W4WRWGM

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Photo credit: Portret van Jules Verne by Félix Nadar, c.1880 – c.1886, Rijksmuseum is in the Public Domain, CC0 1.0 / A derivative from the original work

Laudanum: The Aspirin of the Nineteenth Century

In an era before aspirin, anti-depressants or effective sleeping pills, narcotic drugs played a huge part in Victorian life. Called the ‘aspirin of the nineteenth century’, laudanum was a popular painkiller and relaxant and was available to purchase without a prescription in any pharmacy.

Laudanum contained approximately 10% opium combined with up to 50% alcohol. Due to its bitter taste, it was mixed with many ingredients including spices, honey, chloroform or ether, wine, whiskey or brandy. Depending on the tincture’s strength and the severity of the patient’s symptoms, an average adult dose ranged from ten to thirty drops.

Many laudanum tinctures were targeted at women and were widely prescribed by doctors for problems with menstruation and childbirth and even for nervous afflictions such as ‘the vapours’ which included hysteria, depression and fainting fits.

Laudanum was extremely addictive and addicts enjoyed highs of euphoria followed by deep lows of depression along with slurred speech and restlessness. Withdrawal symptoms included aches, cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea but it was not until the early 20th century that it became widely recognised as addictive.

The 1868 Pharmacy Act attempted to control the sale and supply of opium-based preparations by ensuring they could only be sold by registered pharmacists and they had to be clearly labelled as a poison. This was largely ineffective, however, as there was no limit on the amount the chemist could sell to the public. Twenty-five drops of laudanum could be bought for a penny, making it affordable to all classes of society.

Because of the demand, every pharmacy stocked laudanum but for inexperienced pharmacists, this could prove to be dangerous. Cutting opium fresh from a damp lump rather than waiting for it to dry out, or carelessly weighing it could result in a stronger batch. In 1899 aspirin was developed, a far safer painkiller, beginning an era of better-regulated medicines.

Dublin, Ireland, September 1883. The rift between the Fitzgeralds deepens when Will’s father threatens legal action to gain visiting rights to his three grandchildren. But Will, Isobel and John are brought unexpectedly together by Will’s mother when Sarah’s increasingly erratic behaviour spirals beyond their control.

Isobel is reunited with a ghost from her past unearthing memories she would rather have kept buried while the fragile marriage of convenience orchestrated by John becomes more and more brittle before it snaps with horrifying consequences.

Read an excerpt from Chapter Five… 

“Has no study been made into the detrimental effects of laudanum?” {Isobel} asked. “Or is it too useful to the medical profession and also to husbands in keeping their wives docile?”

“No and yes,” {Alfie} replied simply before grimacing. “For a study to be made, the researcher will need evidence from a dependant and who would wish to admit to a stranger that they are – or were one? You’re right, laudanum is too useful but there are mutterings that it is too widely available and too easy to obtain but—” He shrugged. “It is a vicious circle – more dependants would have to come forward and explain how they obtained it and where from for something to be done…”

“…And that is not likely to happen,” she concluded and Alfie shook his head.

There was one other cab standing outside the gates to the cemetery when they got out of theirs.

“This is the first time I have come here and not been frozen,” she said as they walked up the Avenue.

“But this time you can barely see anything.” Alfie laughed and she gave him a dig in the ribs. “Ouch. What was that for?”

“I am supposed to be in deep mourning,” she reminded him, pulling a tiny handkerchief edged with black lace from her sleeve. “Look – I even brought this useless thing with me.”

“Mother gave you that handkerchief.”

“I know. It’s lovely to look at but utterly inadequate. Will has wonderful handkerchiefs – ones you can actually get your nose into,” she added and Alfie had to stifle another laugh. “I shall pretend to dab my eyes with this if we meet anyone.”

“Is it possible to walk a circuit of the cemetery?” Alfie asked.

“I don’t know, I’ve only walked directly to graves and back to the entrance. Can we walk to Fred Simpson’s?” she asked suddenly. “Will and I only come here on Fred’s anniversary and I would like to see if the grave is tidy while I am here.”

“Of course we can.”

“It is a little further on and along a path to the right,” she said, lifting the veil a little.

They walked on and turned right, only for Alfie to pull her behind a large pedestal adorned with a praying angel.

“What is it?” she whispered fiercely as she crouched beside him, having to retie the ribbon holding the lace veil to her hat.

“Margaret Powell is at the Simpson graves,” Alfie replied and Isobel peered around the side of the pedestal, lifting the veil and draping it back over her hat so she could see clearly.

Margaret, dressed in black, was kneeling at the graves where her first husband, Fred, their baby son, Nicholas, Fred’s mother, Maria, and Maria’s husband, Duncan, were all buried. Ida Joyce, Margaret’s lady’s maid, was standing a few feet behind her.

“…Give me yours,” Margaret was demanding and Ida walked forward and held out a handkerchief. Margaret snatched it from her and bent over the grave. “This is filthy.”

“What is she doing?” Alfie whispered and Isobel slowly straightened up and looked out from behind the praying angel.

Margaret was busily polishing a glass globe which encased red porcelain roses. Isobel had bought the globe to place on the grave to commemorate the first anniversary of Fred’s death. The globe was as clean as could be expected but Margaret continued to polish it vigorously, a lock of her blonde hair escaping its pins and falling across her face.

“Mrs Powell,” Ida began but Margaret ignored her. “Mrs Powell, perhaps, we should return—”

“I want to have this globe sparkling before we leave,” Margaret interrupted and Ida rolled her eyes.

“Poor Ida,” Alfie murmured as Isobel crouched beside him again. “To go from being Grandmother’s lady’s maid to Margaret Powell’s.”

“Mrs Powell, the small patch of green you can see is moss or some such like on the inside of the glass,” Ida told Margaret remarkably calmly. “It is a result of the globe being here in all weathers. Thanks to you, the outside of the glass is sparkling now.”

“But the inside is not,” Margaret replied, picking up the globe and, before Ida could stop her, throwing it away. Isobel clapped a hand to her mouth as the globe landed with a smash on a neighbouring grave, the glass and porcelain scattering all over it. “That is much better,” Margaret continued, sitting back on her heels to survey the Simpson graves. “I will not have filthy adornments on the graves of my husband and son.”

“No, Mrs Powell,” Ida responded in a voice which shook a little. “Mrs Powell, the graves are tidy now and the cab is waiting.”

“Yes.” Margaret got to her feet, wiping her hands clean with Ida’s handkerchief, then dropping it on the path. “I am delighted with how the graves look now. We shall visit again soon.”

And with that, Margaret strode away towards the Avenue. Ida quickly picked up her ruined handkerchief, shoved it up her sleeve and ran after her mistress.

Behind the pedestal, Isobel exchanged an incredulous glance with Alfie.

“When did you see Margaret last?” he asked.

“Well over a year ago when I brought the box of David’s belongings from the surgery on Pimlico to number 1. She certainly wasn’t like… that. Alfie, we can’t leave the other grave in such a condition,” she said, glancing at the shards of glass and porcelain glistening in the sunshine.

“But we have nothing to put the pieces in.”

“We can leave them beside the grave.”

They got up, crossed the path, and carefully began to tidy the grave. They cleared the area as best they could and she went to the Simpson graves noting how the gravestone was beginning to weather already.

“What will you tell Ben about Fred?” Alfie asked. “He has Fred’s name so he is bound to be curious eventually.”

“Will and Jerry have hundreds of stories about Fred – Fred at Wesley – Fred at Trinity – Fred being Fred – he will not be forgotten,” she said, lowering the veil. “I don’t like seeing the Simpson graves bare but if Margaret’s mental state means she is simply going to throw away anything she disapproves of then what can we do?”

Alfie squeezed her hand then took her arm and they walked back to the Avenue.

“I’m sorry,” he said with a sigh. “I had hoped our jaunt would have been rather more enjoyable than this.”

“You brought me to a cemetery,” she teased. “But, thank you, it was very thoughtful of you.”

“And very enlightening,” Alfie added and she replied with a sombre nod.

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Photo credit: Empty bottle for opium tincture, London, England, 1880-1940. Credit: Science Museum, LondonAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Photo credit: An unscrupulous chemist selling a child arsenic and laudanum. Wood engraving after J. Leech. Credit: Wellcome CollectionAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Photo credit: An ad for laudanum in the Sears catalog: Mike Mozart via Flickr. Attribution CC BY 2.0
Photo credit: WMS 3339, For cholera: ’30 drops of laudanum. Wellcome CollectionAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Photo credit: Interior of typical victorian (pharmacy). Credit: Wellcome CollectionAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Photo credit: Laudanum poison 100ml flasche.jpg This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Cydone. This applies worldwide.

The Westmoreland Lock Hospital

Dublin’s Westmoreland Lock Hospital was established in 1755 by George Doyle for the treatment of venereal diseases. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many hospitals would not admit patients suffering from venereal disease leading to a need for a dedicated hospital.

The name Lock Hospital dates back to early leprosy hospitals, which were known as ‘lock’ hospitals derived from the French word loques which were the rags used to cover the leper’s lesions. Later ‘Lock Hospitals’ were specifically developed for the treatment of syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection.

The Westmoreland Lock Hospital was first located on Rainsford Street in Dublin. The hospital opened with 300 beds but over time this was reduced to 150. It changed location on several occasions before relocating to Townsend Street in 1792. The hospital was named in honour of John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmoreland who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland at the time and who sponsored the move to Townsend Street. The building consisted of a centre, containing the officers’ apartments, and two wings with additional buildings for the reception of patients. The move to Townsend Street was significant as it signalled a shift in the importance of acknowledging and treating venereal disease.

From 1819 men were no longer admitted to the hospital. Instead, they received treatment for sexually transmitted diseases at Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital or Dr Steevens’ Hospital. The Lock Hospital continued to treat women, many of whom were prostitutes. High levels of prostitution in Dublin, especially in the red light district known as Monto, were the result of the presence of large British army barracks in the city. Syphilis and gonorrhoea were rife among soldiers but their spread was blamed on women and prostitutes in particular.

An 1854 Select Committee on Dublin Hospitals reported that of the 6,550 unmarried women admitted to medical institutions in the city with venereal disease in 1850, at least half were believed to have been infected by soldiers. The Westmoreland Lock Hospital’s patient registers for the 1860s showed that most of its Dublin inmates lived in streets adjacent to army barracks, especially the Royal (now Collins Barracks), Ship Street and Beggar’s Bush barracks.

In 1881, Lieutenant Colonel Tucker of the 80th Foot, based at the Royal Barracks, wrote to the assistant adjutant at Kilmainham protesting at the level of venereal disease in his regiment. He said that 284 of his men, 43% of the unmarried men under his command, were then in hospital with venereal disease. According to Tucker, his men could not walk in the vicinity of the barracks, “Without being accosted by troops of largely diseased women.” It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Tucker that his men might equally have been spreading venereal disease amongst Dublin women.

Unlike Cork, Cobh (Queenstown) and the Curragh, Dublin did not come under the jurisdiction of the Contagious Diseases Acts, which allowed any woman suspected of being a prostitute in the vicinity of a barracks to be checked for disease and kept without consent at a Lock Hospital. The Westmoreland Lock Hospital never had the power to hold women against their will.

Tucker’s letter, with others from senior army officers and military surgeons stationed in Dublin, was sent in November 1882 by the adjutant general on behalf of the commander of forces in Ireland to Dublin Castle urging the extension of the Contagious Diseases Acts to the Dublin metropolitan area. But, except for an undertaking to look into enlarging the facilities at the Westmoreland Lock Hospital, the government rejected the proposal and in April 1883, the operation of the Acts in both England and Ireland were suspended.

The number of women treated at the Westmoreland Lock Hospital during the year ending 31st March 1881 was 772 and they were segregated by religion and by marital status. Many married women infected by their husbands were admitted, sometimes with infants also infected with disease, and were kept away from ‘common prostitutes’.

Unlike other Dublin hospitals, the Westmoreland Lock Hospital was largely ignored by the public and had few voluntary subscribers or donations from charitable organisations because of its ‘distasteful’ patients and illnesses. Dr Rawton Macnamara, senior surgeon to the Westmoreland Lock Hospital, told a parliamentary select committee in 1881 that none of the other major Dublin hospitals would admit venereal disease cases except for Dr Steevens’ Hospital. The Westmoreland Lock Hospital was supported by a government grant of £2,600 per annum but it only enabled less than half of the 150 beds to be occupied.

When Ireland gained independence in 1922 and the British army left Dublin, Catholic organisations began to force the closure of the brothels in Monto. As a result, the sex industry declined and many remaining ‘fallen women’ were sent to the infamous Magdalene Laundries. In 1946 the Westmoreland Lock Hospital was renamed St Margaret of Cortona but due to a continuing drop in admissions and the building having fallen into disrepair, the hospital closed its doors for the last time in 1956 and was demolished.

Dublin, Ireland, September 1883. The rift between the Fitzgeralds deepens when Will’s father threatens legal action to gain visiting rights to his three grandchildren. But Will, Isobel and John are brought unexpectedly together by Will’s mother when Sarah’s increasingly erratic behaviour spirals beyond their control.

Isobel is reunited with a ghost from her past unearthing memories she would rather have kept buried while the fragile marriage of convenience orchestrated by John becomes more and more brittle before it snaps with horrifying consequences.

Read an excerpt from Chapter Two…

“Please don’t allow the other woman to simply walk back out onto the streets.”

“We’re not the feckin’ Shelbourne Hotel, you know?” {the constable} replied and {Isobel} shot him an irritated glance before peering back into the cell.

“I don’t think it’s just the drink that’s wrong with her.”

“A bit of an expert, are you?”

“My husband is a doctor,” she explained. “And I have seen enough of his patients to conclude that Maggie is not mad but is most likely suffering from syphilis.”

“Ah – Jaysus – syphilis?” Constable Flynn’s eyes bulged in a mixture of horror and disgust. “Could she have given it to me or the other lads?”

“Not unless you were all intimate with her during the early stages of the illness. Were you?”

“No, we were not,” he stated with clear offence.

“Then, please, Constable, you’ve been kind to her. Do her another kindness by bringing her to the Westmoreland Lock Hospital on Townsend Street. They care for women with venereal diseases there and it’s not too far away. Please?” she begged. “Let her be cared for properly there so she doesn’t have to live on the streets?”

“The Lock Hospital?”

“Yes. Please?” she begged again. “I’ll gladly pay the cab fare.”

“I can’t take money off you.”

“Then, I will hail a cab and pay the cabman directly. Please?”

“Aragh, all right. One less unfortunate off the streets can only be a good thing. Let me have a word with Sergeant O’Keefe.”

Explore my blog for more excerpts, character profiles and historical background information

Buy A Forlorn Hope: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Four for

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Or read A Forlorn Hope: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Four FREE with 

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Buy A Forlorn Hope in paperback at

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Amazon ASIN: B08JGX4TLP

Paperback ISBN: 9798688108330

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Photo credit: By Unknown author – Scan of a photograph of the Westmoreland Lock Hospital, Public Domain, Link