St Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland

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St Patrick’s Hospital was the first psychiatric hospital to be built in Ireland and one of the very first in the world. Its foundation was brought about by the will of Jonathan Swift, satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet and cleric who, upon his death in 1745, left £12,000 to ‘build a house for fools and mad’. He was keen that his hospital be situated close to a general hospital because of the links between physical and mental ill-health, so St Patrick’s was built on a site between Bow Lane and Dr Steevens’ Hospital in the west of Dublin city.

The motivation for Swift’s legacy grew from his involvement with the day-to-day problems of the Irish people, not only as an individual but also as dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. In the eighteenth century, there were no specific provisions for the mentally ill. The first record of public provision for the mentally ill were the cells erected in the Dublin City Workhouse in 1708 and three years later ten cells were allocated for insane soldiers at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. Mostly, if not being cared for by their families or found wandering the streets or countryside, the mentally ill would be confined with criminals in prisons, with the poor in a workhouse, or with the sick in a hospital. Swift had firsthand knowledge of these conditions having served as a workhouse governor and as a trustee of several hospitals.

Bethlem Royal Hospital in London had been the first to house the mentally ill in 1377. By the eighteenth century, it had become infamous and known as ‘Bedlam’. It had a reputation for cruelty, neglect and poor living conditions, with an inadequate diet, rough clothing and inactivity. Worse still, the patients were displayed as entertainment – as a ‘freak show’, a ‘spectacle’, a ‘menagerie’ from which ‘both provincial bumpkins and urban sophisticates could derive almost endless amusement’ for a fee.

After a visit to Bethlem Royal Hospital, Swift got himself elected one of its governors in 1714. By 1731, Swift had decided on his legacy, intending his hospital to be charitable and more humane than Bethlem Royal Hospital.

Following the layout of the seventeenth century updated structure of Bethlem Royal Hospital, architect George Semple designed St Patrick’s with a basement, first floor, and second floor. Each ward was a long corridor with an iron gate, a keeper’s room at the entrance and cells opening from it. The eight by twelve-foot cells had sturdy doors and high windows.

St Patrick’s Hospital opened in 1757 with sixteen patients and a staff consisting of a master, male and female keepers, cook, laundry maid, housekeeper, porter, and surgeon. Lack of funds quickly required admitting chamber boarders (paying patients) along with pauper patients.

By 1793, two expansions provided more rooms and more staff but they had no special training to deal with the mentally ill and treatments were limited to baths, purges, bleedings, drugs or restraints and care was still primarily custodial. However, conditions for the comfort of patients in the early decades at St Patrick’s were superior to those at Bethlem Hospital.

On each ward, two apartments of sixteen feet by twelve were for the accommodation of chamber boarders who, in 1825, paid sixty guineas per annum. There were seven other apartments for the use of chamber boarders in the front of the building. In 1825, the occupants of these apartments paid one hundred guineas per year and had a servant for their own use exclusively.

Heating came from coal fires in the corridors and the cleanliness of patients and their surroundings was a priority. Paupers were supplied with stools, wooden beds, and bedding (straw was only used for violent patients). Meals consisted of porridge at breakfast, potatoes plus meat three times a week at dinner, bread and milk at supper and beer occasionally. Chamber boarders brought their own furnishings and would have had a higher-quality diet.

The hospital grew significantly throughout the 19th century. By 1817, two building extensions saw the patient population rise to over one hundred and fifty and by 1872, the number of staff was over fifty.

Dr Richard Leeper was appointed medical superintendent in 1898 and was largely responsible for transforming St Patrick’s from an asylum for the maintenance of the mentally ill to a modern hospital for their treatment and cure. Dr Leeper abolished the use of restraints, introduced the segregation of female and male wards and oversaw the construction of bathrooms and day rooms providing work and leisure activities for the patients.

Dr Leeper’s successor, Norman Moore, removed the old prison-like doors on the cells, introduced occupational therapy (including crafts and farm work) to the patients and challenged the assumption that the mentally ill were a danger to themselves and society and should be locked away.

After the introduction of deinstitutionalisation in the late 1980s, the hospital went into a period of decline but in 2008 the hospital announced the expansion of its outpatient services to a series of regional centres across Ireland. Today, St Patrick’s Mental Health Services is Ireland’s leading not-for-profit mental health organisation, with over 700 staff members delivering 12% of the country’s total inpatient care and treatment needs.

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Dublin, Ireland, 1881. Isobel Fitzgerald’s mother, Martha, marries solicitor James Ellison but an unexpected guest overshadows their wedding day. Martha’s father is dying and he is determined to clear his conscience before it is too late. Lewis Greene’s confession ensures the Ellisons’ expectation of a quiet married life is gone and that Isobel’s elder brother, Alfie Stevens, will be the recipient of an unwelcome inheritance.

When a bewildering engagement notice is published in The Irish Times, the name of one of the persons concerned sends Will and Isobel on a race against time across Dublin and forces them to break a promise and reveal a closely guarded secret.

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Read an Excerpt from Chapter Two…

They got out of the cab at the gateway facing St Patrick’s Hospital. Will paid the cabman then introduced himself to the porter, explained their reason for visiting and they were admitted to the grounds.

The porter escorted them to the seven-bay, two-storey over basement hospital which had further buildings to its rear she could only partially see as they approached. The area in front of the hospital, separated from Bow Lane by a substantial wall, was planted with trees and had a lawn surrounded by a gravel path. Outwardly, it all appeared very serene.

They went inside, up a beautiful cantilevered staircase and she and Alfie waited in the entrance hall while Will and the porter went in search of the matron. The sounds of a man sobbing echoed towards them and Isobel exchanged a nervous glance with Alfie.

“…No, Dr Fitzgerald, Miles is not on one of the wards.” They turned as Will, the porter and a middle-aged woman dressed in a black dress and a white nurse’s cap walked towards them. “I am Matron Rice,” she said, shaking first Isobel’s and then Alfie’s hands. “You are very welcome to St Patrick’s Hospital. Miles is what is known as a chamber-boarder. He has his own apartment and a servant.”

“An apartment and a servant?” Isobel exclaimed and the matron nodded.

“Oh, yes, Mrs Fitzgerald. Miles is very comfortable here.”

“How…” Isobel tailed off, racking her brains. “Is he?” she concluded the question feebly.

“Miles is a very gentle soul. Although, he is not as sharp-witted as you or I, he is certainly not considered an ‘idiot’ or a ‘lunatic’.”

“Then, should he really be here?” she asked.

“To be quite honest with you, Mrs Fitzgerald, Miles is here simply because his parents did not want a ‘dim-witted’ son.”

“We did not know of his existence here until yesterday,” Isobel said quietly.

“So your husband told me. It is nothing to be ashamed of, many families tuck their husbands, wives, sons and daughters away in establishments such as this. Please, come with me,” she said and they thanked the porter as he took his leave.

They followed Matron Rice along a gallery with windows situated high enough to be out of the reach of patients until the matron halted outside a door to their left.

“It would be best if you went in one at a time. Perhaps, you first, Mrs Fitzgerald. Miles, it’s Matron,” she said, opening the door. “I have a visitor for you.”

Isobel went inside, her heart thumping as Matron Rice closed the door, and couldn’t help but gaze around the parlour in a mixture of pleasant surprise and relief. The large window was sited at a standard height which could only mean the occupant was not deemed to be either at risk of trying to escape or taking their own life. The walls were papered with a pattern of green leaves on a cream background and on the floor was a rug, also with a leaf design.

To the right of the door was a small dining table and two chairs and to its left was a tall mahogany bookcase overflowing with volumes of all sizes. Two armchairs upholstered in green velvet stood on either side of the fireplace, above which hung a huge mirror. Sitting at a walnut writing desk at the window and reading a book was her uncle. He twisted around in the chair and looked her up and down, taking in her coat and hat’s leaf pattern and she smiled. Like his father, he had a beard but wore no spectacles.

“Good afternoon, Miles,” she said softly.

“Are you a new nurse?” he asked, getting to his feet and doing up the buttons of a black morning coat.

“No, my name is Isobel. What are you reading?” she asked, edging forward.

Jane Eyre.”

“Are you enjoying it?”

“Yes, I am. Do take a seat,” he said, gesturing to one of the armchairs.

“Thank you.” She sat down, trying not to make it obvious she was staring at him as he retook his seat at the desk. Dark-haired like her mother, he also had her mother’s high forehead and brown eyes and reminded Isobel of Mr Parnell, leader of the Home Rulers and president of the Land League.

“If you are not a nurse then, who, may I ask, are you?”

“Has anyone spoken to you about your family?”

“I have no living family,” he replied, turning his attention back to the book.

“That is not true,” she said and he lifted his head. “Miles, you are my mother’s brother – you are my uncle.”

He stared at her and she smiled again as he digested her words. “I am your uncle,” he stated and she nodded. “Why have you not visited me before?”

“Because until yesterday I did not know you were here. Out there,” she gestured to the gallery, “are my brother and my husband. Would you like to meet them?”

“Are you going to bring me home with you?” he asked and she stared at him in consternation.

“Matron Rice says you are very comfortable here,” she said instead of answering. “You have a lovely parlour and a lovely view,” she added, stretching her neck and catching a glimpse of the lawn and gravel path.

“I am lucky. Some of the other patients have cells. I am really your uncle?”

“Yes, you are,” she said. “My name is Isobel Fitzgerald and I have one brother called Alfie. My husband is called Will. Would you like to meet them?”

“Yes, I would, thank you.”

“I’ll go and fetch them.” She got up, went to the door and opened it. “Come in and meet Miles.”

They followed her into the parlour and she caught Alfie glancing around the room in surprise, having expected, like her, for it to be far more austere.

“Miles,” she said and he got up from the chair. “This is my brother, Alfie Stevens. And this is my husband, Will Fitzgerald.”

“I am delighted to meet you.” Miles greeted them formally. “Do you live in Dublin?”

“We all live on Fitzwilliam Square,” Alfie replied. “And I am studying medicine at Trinity College.”

“I am a doctor,” Will told him. “But I’m off duty today.”

“Are you going to bring me home with you?” Miles asked again and Alfie threw her a startled glance.

“No, we are not,” Will replied gently and Miles’ face fell.

“But we shall come here and visit you regularly,” she added. “I would very much like to take a walk with you around the lawn.”

“Why will you not bring me home with you?” Miles persisted.

“When did you last leave this hospital?” Will pointed to the gates.

“I…” Miles tailed off and his shoulders slumped. “Never.”

“We will come here and visit you,” she repeated, hesitantly reaching out and squeezing his hand. “Now we have met you, we will not forget you.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

“Good. That’s settled, then.”

“Is there a book you would like me to bring you when I come to visit?”

“Well.” Miles’ face creased as he pondered her question. “I have almost finished Jane Eyre and I would like to continue with the Brontës – perhaps Wuthering Heights?”

Wuthering Heights it is,” she said.

“When will you visit again?”

“In the next few days, I promise.”

“Thank you.”

Isobel returned to the gallery and rejoined Matron Rice with Will and Alfie following, hoping she wouldn’t cry. Alfie closed the door to the apartment and they went downstairs.

“You will visit again?” the matron inquired.

“Yes, we will,” she replied.

“Good, because we have had promises before.”

“I don’t make promises I will not keep,” she said. “Miles has asked for a book – Wuthering Heights – is it suitable for him?”

“Yes, it is.”

“And mince pies?”

Matron Rice smiled. “He will enjoy them very much.”

They walked in silence to James’ Street where Will hailed a cab. They climbed in and sat down but she couldn’t stop the tears coming.

“There is barely anything wrong with him,” she sobbed.

“Matron Rice explained that he appears to have the reasoning of a fifteen-year-old boy,” Will said, putting an arm around her. “When we return during the week, I will speak with Dr Harrison the medical superintendent.”

“When he asked me if we were going to take him home with us, I didn’t know what to say.” She fumbled in her sleeve for a handkerchief and blew her nose. “We can’t take him home with us.”

“But I could take him home with me,” Alfie said and grimaced. “What I mean is – if it would benefit Miles not to live in a hospital, then, number 55 would be ideal.”

“I shall mention it to Dr Harrison,” Will told him. “But there is the small matter of your mother and James, who are expecting to return from honeymoon to a quiet married life. As well as that, your grandmother doesn’t want anything to do with Miles, so we must not tell her husband we have seen him in case it causes friction between them. There are many things to take into account but first and foremost is what Dr Harrison has to say. We do nothing until I have spoken to him.”

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

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Author: Lorna Peel

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Cover photo credit: Wilhelm Roentgen (1845-1923), German physicist, received the first Nobel Prize for Physics, in 1901, for his discovery of X-rays in 1895: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com and Portrait of a man in a top hat and morning suit holding a cane: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com
Cover photo credit: Florence Court, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland: phb.cz/Depositphotos.com
St. Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin. Photo credit: DubhEire [CC0] via Wikimedia Commons
Jonathan Swift by Charles Jervas. Photo credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
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Fitzwilliam Square

Fitzwilliam Square is a Georgian garden square named after the Fitzwilliam family, Earls of Merrion, who urbanised the land as part of their great estate on the south side of the River Liffey in Dublin, Ireland. The square was managed and developed by Richard Fitzwilliam, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam and was laid out in 1792. The centre of the square was enclosed in 1813 through an Act of Parliament.

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The Hon. Richard Fitzwilliam, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion

The square comprises a central garden, surrounded by four streets – Fitzwilliam Square North, East, West and South. There are 69 houses with 17 houses in the north, west and east sides and 18 houses on the south side. All four sides of Fitzwilliam Square had long rear gardens and stable lanes.

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Fitzwilliam Square West

Lord Fitzwilliam opted for a simple design for the square consisting of red brick houses of four storeys over a basement with the windows diminishing in height in the first, second and third storeys. The typical Fitzwilliam Square house had a standard two-room plan with a rear dog-leg stairs and long yellow-brick rear buildings. Front doors were flanked by pilasters and surmounted by wide fanlights with delicate, lead glazing bars – creating the iconic Dublin doorcase. All the houses are two bays wide except for Nos. 56-59 (North Side), which are narrow three bay and Nos. 5 (East Side) and 35 (South Side), which have broad three bay facades.

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Georgian doors in Fitzwilliam Square

From the beginning, Fitzwilliam Square was a prestigious location and during the 19th century it continued to attract the middle classes, comprising of military officers and the professional classes. There was a significant increase in the number of doctors living in the square in the early 20th century, who were locating their consulting rooms within their private houses,which was also the case for the legal residents of the square. This period of change showed the adaptability of the houses and represented a growth of non-residential uses on the square. In the mid 20th century, doctors and their families moved to the suburbs and continued to use Fitzwilliam Square for their consulting rooms.

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46 Fitzwilliam Square

By 1950, only 24 houses were still residential and 69 doctors had consulting rooms on the square. This trend continued until the 1970’s when the relocation of St. Vincent’s Hospital from Leeson Street to a new campus meant many of the doctors in Fitzwilliam Square moved their practices south to Donnybrook. Following their departure, multi-office use became popular on the Square including accountants, solicitors, doctors, management consultants, architects and financial services.

The Garden

The layout of the garden in the centre of Fitzwilliam Square has not changed since its layout in 1813. The main reason for this may be that the garden has remained in private ownership unlike the other Georgian Squares in Dublin, i.e. St. Stephen’s Green, Mountjoy Square and Merrion Square whose original layouts have changed considerably over the years.

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Fitzwilliam Square Garden

In 1813, an Act was passed naming 14 Commissioners to be responsible for maintaining the central garden. The layout of the Garden in the early days comprised of perimeter planting of trees and flowering shrubs around the large grassed open space in the centre.

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Later in the 19th century, the planting of the flowerbed was added to the garden.  There was also the added responsibility of the maintenance of railings, gates and garden seats. In 1875, new gaslight pillars were erected and a few years later the Commissioners paid Dublin Corporation to widen the kerb and concrete path outside the railings. In the 1880’s, the final physical change to the garden was the erection of a small timber summer house on the eastern side.

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A hot day in 1890s Fitzwilliam Square. 

The garden became an international focus during the later 19th century when the Lawn Tennis Championships of Ireland were first held on the open grass centre. In the 20th century little changed until in 1963, the original 150-year lease expired ending an historic link with the commissioners and the early days of the square. After a few years of discussion it was agreed that the garden would be leased to the Fitzwilliam Square Association Ltd. for another 150 years.

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Irish Lawn Championships at Fitzwilliam Square

Today the large grassed open area remains and is used still for tennis in the summer and the pathways within this area along with the planted trees and shrubbery have remained intact as existed nearly two centuries ago.

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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.

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Read An Excerpt From Chapter Five…

[Isobel] smiled then turned as the morning room door opened and Alfie was shown in.

“I was in the gardens, making myself scarce, and I saw the three of you walk home so I thought I’d follow you.”

“Is Mr Ellison is calling on Mother again?” Isobel asked. “Should I call, too?”

“What do you mean, again?” Will inquired before Alfie could reply.

“With all that’s happened, I forgot to tell you that Mr Ellison appears to be courting Mother,” Isobel told him.

“There’s no ‘appears’ about it,” Alfie added. “He calls to the house every few days.”

“Has he spoken to you?”

“Mr Ellison doesn’t need my permission to court Mother, Will.”

“No, but has he?”

“No, he hasn’t,” Alfie replied. “But he knows that I know why he’s calling. I also called to thank you for taking David on as locum, Will. He’s looking forward to Monday.”

“I’m looking forward to him starting, too. I dealt with all the patients myself last week. I don’t want to have to do that again.”

“When do you think Dr Simpson will return?”

Will didn’t answer the question and Alfie flushed. “It’s none of my business. I’m sorry, Will.”

“You and David must come to dinner soon,” Isobel interjected brightly.

“That’s very kind, but how, exactly?”

“We’ll invite David and you will call at an agreed time and be ‘persuaded’ to stay to dinner,” she said and Alfie mulled it over for a few moments before nodding.

When he had shown Alfie out, Will returned to the morning room and Isobel sat on the sofa making a helpless gesture with her hands.

“Someone needs to speak to Mr Ellison about him courting Mother so soon after Mr Henderson’s death. If Alfie is reluctant to do it, then I will. On Monday.”

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Photo credit: Richard Fitzwilliam of Merrion: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit: Margaret Clough / Georgian doors in Fitzwilliam Square / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo credit: Oliver Dixon / Fitzwilliam Square West / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo credit: 46 Fitzwilliam Square by Ralf Peter Reimann used under CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo credit: Fitzwilliam Square Garden – Alamy Stock Photo
Photo credit: A hot day in 1890s Fitzwilliam Square – Dublin Civic Trust
Photo credit: Irish Championship Matches – Cultural Tales 
Photo credit: by Robinson – Arthur Wallis Myers (1903): Lawn Tennis at Home and Abroad. Scribner’s Sons, New York. (online), Public Domain

The Great Snow of January 1881

2018 has been a year of weather extremes in Ireland. As well as a heatwave in July, Dublin had two ‘snow events’ in February and March 2018. The first was the ‘Beast From The East’ and it was followed by the ‘Mini Beast From The East’. But in January 1881, Dublin also went through a snowstorm of intense severity.

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Satellite view showing Europe partially covered in snow under the influence of the anticyclonic cold wave named Hartmut or the “Beast from the East” on 27 February 2018

January 1881 began with a high pressure system to the south of Ireland and Great Britain with a westerly/south-westerly air flow. The weather turned much colder as the high pressure drifted towards Greenland around January 8th and Arctic air was drawn over Ireland and Great Britain. A low pressure system moved in from the east on January 11th which met the freezing air and snow began to fall. As the low pressure system deepened, a gale force easterly wind developed with heavy blizzards and drifting snow on 17th January.

Freemans Journal

Reports of a ‘cold snap’ appear in the Freeman’s Journal on Monday 17th January 1881. According to the report, snow had fallen on the morning of Friday 14th January, but the main focus was on the severity of the cold. On Sunday 16th January, the temperature dropped to -19.1 degrees Celsius (-2.38 degrees Fahrenheit) at Markree Observatory, near Collooney in Co Sligo, the lowest air temperature ever recorded in Ireland. Dublin’s canals were frozen ‘inches deep’ and hundreds of people enjoyed skating in the Zoological Gardens, the Botanic Gardens, St Stephen’s Green and near Portobello Bridge on the Grand Canal. The Freeman’s Journal commented: ‘In a word, the weather was very pleasant for the young and well-to-do, but of course it has brought to the poor the double misery of failing work and biting cold’.

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Winter – The fountain beside the Mansion House, on Dawson Street, Dublin

‘The heaviest fall of snow which has taken place for many years occurred in Dublin yesterday’ reported the Freeman’s Journal of Tuesday 18th January. It snowed incessantly in almost blinding showers on Monday 17th January and when it stopped at about 9pm there was at least seven inches of snow on the ground. The snow impeded traffic through the streets, horse-drawn trams were unable to operate after 7pm and most cabs and cars also disappeared as their drivers did not want to work their horses in the thick snow. People had to make their way home on foot and ‘ladies especially felt the inconvenience as it was difficult to walk’. Trains continued to run but they were all late ‘as they were obliged to travel necessarily with great caution’. The snowfall did mean that the temperature rose and at midnight, there was an indication of a thaw.

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Weir on the River Dodder below Orwell Bridge circa January 1881

The Freeman’s Journal of Wednesday 19th January reported on the aftermath of the snowstorm. ‘Snowdrifts to depths of at least a foot, if not more accumulated at points exposed to the wind’. Gangs of men employed by the United Tramways Company worked through Monday night into Tuesday morning to clear the tramlines and ‘upwards of fifty tons of salt were thrown on the ways’. A large part of Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) adjacent to Nelson’s Pillar, was occupied by lines of tram-cars which had remained there all Monday night.

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The south side of Mountjoy Square in the snow of January 2010

On Tuesday morning ‘All fronts and gables of houses exposed to the wind were thickly flaked with snow, and the appearance of the streets generally, the river, and the sky was about as wintry as anyone recollected’. The snow was shovelled from the roofs of the tram-cars and they began to ply first from Rathmines and other shorter distances, and by the afternoon the whole tram system was operational again.

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Postcard of College Green, Dublin

Men from Dublin Corporation started clearing the pathways and streets, carting the snow to the river and throwing it into the Liffey at the bridges. The mail steamer from Holyhead did not arrive in Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) until after 1pm, having been due at 7am, because the railway line at Conway in North Wales was blocked by a fall of snow. During Tuesday no snow fell but the weather remained very cold and ‘a terrific gale set in from the east’ and it remained stormy until night fell.

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Burgh Quay, Dublin on Tuesday, 11 February 1936, and was printed on page 2 of the next day’s Irish Independent with the caption:
“Yesterday’s snow being shovelled into the Liffey”

The Freeman’s Journal of Thursday 20th January reported there had been a succession of snow showers the previous morning, but by afternoon the sky cleared, the sun shone and the evening became very cold with indications of frost. Tramlines were free of snow everywhere and most footpaths were cleared but ‘vast masses of snow lay in most of the streets and on the housetops’.

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Marrowbone Lane, Dublin in the 1890s by Joseph Kavanagh

‘The severity of the weather continues unabated’ reported the Freeman’s Journal of Friday 21st January. The previous day, temperatures were still low and there was a heavy fall of snow at three o’clock in the afternoon. Large quantities of ice floated down the River Liffey during Thursday and collected in huge masses at the bridges. Telegraphic communication with England, which had been greatly impeded, was restored.

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A Backstreet in the Snow by Walter Osborne

By Monday 24th January, the Freeman’s Journal was reporting that ‘Saturday brought no relaxation of the iron grasp in which the frost has held land and water, sky and almost the sea itself during the past week’. Private individuals and extra labourers employed by Dublin Corporation were still clearing the footpaths and throwing the snow into the River Liffey ‘although in too many streets the highways were still encumbered by masses of snow’. Saturday evening and night were intensely cold and on Sunday morning there was the threat of snow but the sun shone in the afternoon and the rise in temperature brought on a thaw which produced flooding as the snow and ice melted.

A_Suitable_Wife_SQUARE

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.

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Read An Excerpt From Chapter One…

Dublin, Ireland. Monday, January 17th, 1881

Will helped Isobel out of the cab outside the Shelbourne Hotel on St Stephen’s Green. He paid and tipped the cabman generously and they made their way carefully up the steps. A bellboy with a shovel – fighting a losing battle to keep the steps clear of snow – stood to one side to let them pass, and the liveried doorman touched his silk top hat with a white-gloved hand as they went into the foyer.

The heaviest snowstorm for years was wreaking havoc on Dublin and Will had considered cancelling the celebratory dinner but hadn’t the heart to send a servant out in such atrocious weather. The deep snow had resulted in traffic chaos, the cabman had been forced to take a longer route to the hotel, and they were cold and late.

Will’s oldest friend, Fred Simpson, and his wife Margaret were waiting near the reception desk and gave them relieved smiles as Will and Isobel stamped snow from their shoes. They were shown to a table in the hotel’s dining room and they sat down. Although the large room was pleasantly warm, Isobel opted to unbutton but continue wearing her striking new coat of black velvet leaves on a white velvet background with black velvet collar and cuffs and Margaret chose to keep her exquisite black velvet cloak around her shoulders for the time being.

“May we have a bottle of champagne?” Fred asked the waiter. “We will make our selections from the menu shortly.”

“Very good, sir.”

The waiter left them and Fred grinned around the table.

“It is the 17th of January. Doctors Fitzgerald and Simpson have been in general practice together for just over a month and in partnership for a week. We couldn’t allow it to pass uncelebrated – despite the best efforts of the weather.”

“No,” Will agreed. “And I’ve never been for a meal here before. Have you?”

“I have,” Margaret replied, glancing around the elegant room, where the murmur of conversation intermingled with the clinking of glassware and china. “But it was a birthday dinner a long time ago. Fred.” She turned to her husband. “Isobel and I shouldn’t really be drinking champagne.”

“One glass won’t do you expectant mothers any harm.”

“No, I suppose not,” she conceded.

“Could you ask for a jug of water as well, please, Fred?” Isobel asked. “I’m parched.”

“Yes, of course. I hope this will be the first of many celebratory dinners.”

“So do I,” Isobel replied but didn’t sound particularly enthusiastic as she tucked a wisp of her dark brown hair behind her right ear.

At almost three months pregnant, the new gold-coloured evening dress she wore only emphasised how pale she looked and she was unusually quiet. While at four months pregnant, Margaret in mauve was positively blooming with colour in her cheeks following a weekend away in Co Wicklow. He and Isobel wouldn’t stay out too late this evening. Reaching for her hand under the table, he gave it a little squeeze and she squeezed it in reply.

The waiter served the champagne and they made their orders from the menu before Fred raised his glass.

“I propose a toast – to Margaret and Isobel – and to the continued success of Doctors Simpson and Fitzgerald’s medical practice.”

“To Margaret, Isobel and the medical practice,” they all chorused and sipped the excellent champagne.

“You’re going to have to excuse me for a few minutes.” Isobel got up and Will and Fred also got to their feet. “Could you come with me please, Margaret?”

“Of course,” Margaret replied and the two women left the dining room.

“Will, is Isobel all right?” Fred asked as he and Will sat down again.

“She’s tired,” he explained. “I’m delighted she’s pregnant but, ideally, it could have waited a few more months. She was prepared to come and live with me in Brown Street but then her mother gave us number 30 and all it entailed.”

“I thought she was coping well with the servants?” Fred added.

“She is, but being mistress of number 30 is still a huge responsibility, as is trying to ensure we don’t spend too much while you and I rebuild the practice.”

“She must think this dinner is an enormous extravagance?”

Will opened his mouth to reply but heard Margaret’s voice calling him.

“Will? Please, come quickly.”

Turning in his seat, he saw Margaret at the entrance to the dining room beckoning him to come to her. Both he and Fred went to her and Will’s heart turned over as tears rolled down her cheeks.

“Where is Isobel?” he demanded.

“In there.” Margaret pointed to the ladies cloakroom.

Will pushed the door open and found Isobel sitting on the edge of an armchair just inside the door, her brown eyes wide with horror.

“Will, I’m bleeding. The baby—”

“We’ll go straight home.” He helped her up and out into the foyer. “Fred, find a cab.”

“I’ll ask the doorman to hail one for us,” Margaret said and hurried away from them.

“Isobel’s bleeding,” he whispered to Fred. “We need to bring her home at once.”

“Waiter.” Extracting his wallet from the inside pocket of his tailcoat, Fred pulled out a banknote and handed it to the young man. “I’m afraid we must leave.”

“Thank you, sir. Do you need any assistance?”

“No, thank you,” Will replied, searching the foyer for Margaret’s blonde head and spotting her at the revolving doors signalling for them to leave the hotel.

He and Fred guided Isobel outside, carefully down the steps, and into the waiting cab. Sitting beside her, he clasped her hands. They were freezing cold and he raised them to his mouth, gently blowing his warm breath onto her fingers.

“Number 30 Fitzwilliam Square, please,” Fred told the cabman before tipping the doorman, assisting Margaret into the cab, then getting in himself.

The cab, with the four of them squashed in the back, travelled excruciatingly slowly through deep snow to Fitzwilliam Square. When it stopped outside the Georgian townhouse, the cabman was asked to wait and they led Isobel inside.

“Some towels and warm water, please, Mrs Dillon,” Will instructed the cook-housekeeper as she approached them with concern in the hall. “My wife is unwell.”

Isobel was brought upstairs to the bedroom they shared on the second floor and Will lit all the gas lamps then the oil lamp on his bedside table. Mrs Dillon came in with an ewer of water, a basin and some towels draped over her arm and placed them on the marble-topped washstand. She and Will undressed Isobel, helped her into a nightdress and let down and plaited her hair while Fred pulled back the bedcovers and laid out the towels in the bed. Isobel was bleeding heavily and Will’s heart plummeted.

“My wife has gone to wait in the morning room, would you please look in on her, Mrs Dillon?” Fred asked. “She may be a little upset. Oh, and please bring the cabman inside for a hot drink, he must be frozen.”

“Yes, Dr Simpson,” the housekeeper replied and left the bedroom.

Isobel was lifted into the huge double bed on top of the towels and the pillows arranged at her back.

“Let me examine her, Will,” Fred offered.

“No—”

“I’m calmer than you are, so let me do it,” Fred insisted softly. “Wait outside.”

Will nodded and went onto the landing. I’m delighted she’s pregnant but, ideally, it could have waited a few more months. Wincing at what he had told Fred, he pulled open his white bow tie and his collar before leaning on the banister rail and closing his eyes.

Feeling a hand on his shoulder, he jumped and turned around.

“You probably already know,” Fred told him. “But Isobel is miscarrying. There is heavy vaginal bleeding with clotting, but it’s not excessive and I’m afraid nature will just have to take its course. I’m so sorry, Will.”

“Is she in pain?” he asked.

“She says there is cramping but nothing too extreme. I’ve helped her into her drawers and placed two small towels in the drawers to absorb the discharge.”

“Thank you, Fred. Take Margaret home. This must be awful for her.”

Fred nodded. “I’ll take your surgery and house calls tomorrow. Be with Isobel.”

“Yes. Thank you.”

Fred squeezed his arm and went downstairs.

Will took a deep breath before opening the bedroom door. Isobel was lying back against the pillows but her face was turned away from the door.

Closing the door behind him, he went to the bed and sat down. Gently putting his arms around her, he held her, feeling her trembling.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“This is no-one’s fault.”

“But it must be my fault,” she insisted. “Did Fred’s father leave me damaged when he carried out the abortion?”

“I don’t know,” he replied helplessly and kissed her temple. “You wanted some water at the hotel, would you like some now?”

“Yes. But please hold me first.”

“Of course I’ll hold you. Fred is taking my surgery and house calls tomorrow. I’m staying here with you. Are you hungry at all?”

“No. Just very thirsty.”

“I’ll ask for some water.”

He laid her back against the pillows and left the bedroom. Downstairs in the hall, he met Mrs Dillon.

“How is Mrs Fitzgerald?” the housekeeper asked anxiously.

“Please come into the morning room.” He opened the door for her and they went into the large reception room at the front of the house. “My wife is having a miscarriage,” he said, hearing his voice shake, and Mrs Dillon’s face crumpled in sympathy. “She isn’t in any pain but the process will take a day or two. After that…” He tailed off and sighed. “She will need time to recover, both physically and mentally. But now, she would like some water, please.”

“Water? Is that all?”

“Yes. And Dr Simpson will be taking my surgery and house calls tomorrow, so I can be here.”

Mrs Dillon nodded. “I’ll bring up a jug of water. I am so sorry, Dr Fitzgerald.”

“Thank you.”

He went back upstairs and into the bedroom. Isobel was sitting up, her face in her hands. He sat on the bed and she clung to him, sobbing. He stroked her hair until she rested her forehead on his shoulder and he heard a knock at the door. He lifted her head, kissed her lips, and opened the door.

Mrs Dillon, with more towels of various sizes laid over her arm, was lifting a tray with a jug of water and a glass on it from a table on the landing. She had clearly discreetly waited for Isobel to stop crying before knocking.

“Thank you,” he said, taking the tray from her, and watching as she draped the towels over his arm.

“If there is anything else you or Mrs Fitzgerald need, just ring.”

“I will. Goodnight.”

He closed the door and put the tray down on the bedside table. He poured a glass of water, sat on the bed again, and passed it to Isobel. She drank the water in three gulps, he took the glass from her and placed it back on the tray.

“I’m going to put some more towels under you and then I think we should try and sleep.”

“Yes.” She lifted herself, he laid the towels under her, then leant back against the pillows.

He got undressed and pulled on a nightshirt, extinguished the gas lamps and got into the bed. “If you are in any pain or if you feel the bleeding getting any heavier, wake me.”

She nodded and he turned the oil lamp down before lying down and holding her hand. He listened until hers was the deep and slow breathing of an exhausted person fast asleep. But he couldn’t sleep. This was two miscarriages now. Was she right? Had Duncan Simpson damaged her while carrying out her abortion? Would she never be able to carry a baby to full term? He lay staring up into the darkness and didn’t fall asleep until dawn was breaking. 

* * *

Isobel opened her eyes and ran her hands over her stomach. She was still cramping and could feel herself bleeding like a very heavy monthly. Will was fast asleep and snoring a little so she didn’t move. Two miscarriages. She blinked back tears. She’d so wanted a baby with Will and this pregnancy had been progressing positively – she’d almost reached the three-month mark.

“Isobel?”

Hearing Will’s voice, she turned to him in the twilight. He looked as exhausted as she felt and tears stung her eyes. This must be awful for him, he had been looking after her so well.

“I’m all right.”

“Are you in any pain?”

“No, but I am hungry.”

“Good.” He raised himself up onto an elbow. “So am I.”

“And I’d like to get up. I don’t want to lie in bed all day.”

“Well, if you’re sure?” he said, sounding uncertain.

“I am. And please don’t tell my mother?” she begged.

“Isobel, I’m going to have to tell her. I want her to be here with you tomorrow.”

“Mother can fuss tomorrow,” she said. “I want peace and quiet with you today.”

He leant over and kissed her lips. “I need to examine you first.”

He got out of bed, opened the curtains, then went out to the table on the landing where their water for washing and shaving was left for them. Carrying the two ewers into the bedroom, he closed the door with a foot before placing them on the washstand. He washed and dried his hands then pulled the bedcovers down.

He removed the soiled towels from her drawers before helping her to take the drawers off. Wrapping them in a large towel, he placed it on the floor by the door. Lying down on the bed, she opened her legs and stared up at the ceiling as he examined her.

“Is your bleeding heavier than the last time?” he asked.

“It feels heavier. But I wasn’t quite two months pregnant then.”

“Yes.” He straightened up, reached for a flannel, and began to clean her. “I can’t see anything which would lead me to worry. Nature will just have to take its course.”

“That’s what Fred said.”

After washing, shaving and dressing, Will helped her to wash and dress. She pinned up her hair, placed two more small towels in her drawers, then stood in front of the full-length wardrobe mirror smoothing her hands down the skirt of her new high-necked emerald green day dress.

From arriving in Dublin with nothing but the square-necked navy blue dress and black coat she was wearing, she now had five dresses, two coats and three hats to her name. Sadly, the gold-coloured evening dress would now be forever associated with the miscarriage. Perhaps she could bring it back to the dressmaker and have it altered in some way, as it would be a shame – and a waste – to never wear it again. But that is a decision for another day, she told herself, closing the wardrobe door.

Taking Will’s arm, they went slowly down the stairs to the ground floor breakfast room overlooking the rear garden which they used as an everyday dining room.

“Mrs Fitzgerald?” Mrs Dillon followed them inside. “I was preparing a breakfast tray for Florrie to take up to you.”

“Thank you, but I didn’t want to lie in bed all day.”

“My wife needs peace and quiet today, Mrs Dillon,” Will told her. “So, no callers, please.” As he spoke, a bell jangled downstairs in the servants’ hall and he sighed. “I’ll see who that is.”

He went out to the hall and Isobel sat down at the table, her stomach rumbling.

“Some porridge, toast and marmalade and coffee, Mrs Fitzgerald?” Mrs Dillon asked.

“Oh, yes, please.” She gave the housekeeper a grateful smile as she heard Fred’s voice in the hall. “I’m very hungry.”

“That’s good to hear.”

“I’m afraid the bed is in rather a mess—” she began but Mrs Dillon held up a hand.

“Don’t you worry about that, Mrs Fitzgerald. You just rest and recuperate.”

Mrs Dillon left her and a couple of moments later both Will and Fred came into the breakfast room. The weather must be bitterly cold still as Fred was wearing a black woollen overcoat with a grey scarf wound around his neck almost covering his chin.

“I’m delighted to see you up and about.” Fred bent and kissed her cheek and she smiled as his black moustache tickled her ear.

“Thank you for all you did last night, Fred.”

“Not at all. I’m glad I was able to help.”

“I hope Margaret wasn’t too upset?” she asked.

“She was, a little, but she’ll be very relieved when I tell her you are up and about and hungry.”

“Fred.” She clasped his hand. “The last thing I want is any awkwardness between Margaret and myself. I would be delighted if she would call here in the next few days. Will and I are going to have a very quiet day today.”

“Of course.”

“And perhaps we could attempt the celebratory dinner again soon, too?”

Fred gave her a grin. “When you’re well enough, we’ll all go to the Shelbourne again.”

“Yes. Will you stay for some breakfast?”

“Thank you, but no. I simply called to see how you were. It has stopped snowing at last but it’s deep and difficult to walk in so I’d better be on my way to the practice house.”

“Thank you, Fred. Be careful.”

Fred kissed her hand and Will followed him out of the room. A few minutes later Will returned with Florrie, one of their house-parlourmaids, and their breakfast.

Isobel soon finished a bowl of porridge, two triangular slices of toast and marmalade followed by a cup of coffee, and was sitting back satisfied in her chair when she heard her mother’s angry voice in the hall.

“What do you mean, no callers today? Don’t be ridiculous, girl, I’m her mother. Is she still at breakfast?”

Isobel exchanged a weary glance with Will and he swore under his breath as footsteps approached the breakfast room door and it opened.

“Mrs Henderson.” Will got to his feet as her dark-haired mother came in wearing a russet-coloured dress and hat she favoured with a matching cloak.

“What is this nonsense, Isobel?” she demanded, pulling off her black gloves. “The maid said you were receiving no callers today?”

Will closed the door to the hall then held the chair next to Isobel’s as Mrs Henderson sat down.

“I’m afraid we have some bad news,” he said, returning to his seat at the head of the table. “Isobel is losing the baby.”

“Losing..?” Her mother frowned, struggling to grasp Will’s meaning.

“I’m having a miscarriage, Mother,” she said quietly.

Mrs Henderson clapped both her hands to her cheeks. “Oh, Isobel. Oh, why didn’t you tell me at once? Why are you not in bed?”

“We were going to tell you later, Mother, and I wanted some peace and quiet today but not to lie in bed all day.”

“Why did this happen, Will?”

“I’m afraid there is no answer to that,” he replied. “It’s just one of those things.”

“I’m so sorry. I was so looking forward to being a grandmother.”

“Would you like some coffee, Mother?” she asked, changing the subject and gesturing towards the coffee pot.

“No, thank you. As it has stopped snowing, I called to ask if you would like to visit the National Gallery this afternoon as I have never been, but it can wait.”

“Perhaps next week?” she suggested.

“Oh, Isobel,” Mrs Henderson whispered, her voice shaking.

“Don’t cry, Mother, please,” she said, fighting to keep her own voice steady. Or I will start again, she added silently.

Mrs Henderson pulled a handkerchief from a sleeve and dried her eyes. “Would you like me to stay with you?”

“I will be staying with Isobel today,” Will told her. “But if you could stay with Isobel tomorrow, I would be very grateful.”

“Yes, of course. But may I call this evening?”

“Yes, you may.” Will nodded. “Shall I see you out?”

Her mother kissed her cheek before getting up and leaving the room with Will following. He returned a few moments later, kissed the top of her head, and poured them some more coffee.

“How are you feeling?”

“Better. The porridge was delicious.”

“Good.”

They settled on the huge reddish-brown leather sofa in the morning room, fell asleep, and didn’t wake until luncheon was announced at one o’clock. After some delicious thick vegetable soup and soda bread, she went upstairs to change the towels in her drawers. She then put on her beautiful black and white velvet coat and joined Will in the garden for some fresh air and to see the snow.

The steps down from the back door and a couple of yards of the path had been dug out but the remainder of the long and narrow garden which ran between the house and the mews was covered with at least five inches of snow. She hadn’t seen so much snow since one severe winter in Co Galway when she and her elder brother, Alfie, her parents and the servants had been snowed in at Ballybeg Glebe House for three extremely long days.

Snow drifts had rendered the roads impassable and being cut off from, not just Ballybeg village, but also from his beloved church, her father’s cruel and vindictive temper intensified. The Reverend Edmund Stevens took his frustration out on, not only his wife and children but also on the servants for the first and last time. As soon as the roads were passable, their cook-housekeeper and house-parlourmaid packed their bags and left. It was almost a month before they were replaced and, having inherited her mother’s lack of culinary skills, the meals the two of them struggled to produce simply served to infuriate him even more.

February 23rd would bring the first anniversary of his death. Were any of his former parishioners mourning him, she wondered because his widow and children most certainly were not. Crouching down on the path, she laid the palm of her right hand on the snow. It had an icy crust which even the warmth of her hand couldn’t melt. Her father’s heart had been frozen through and through and his grave in cold, damp peaty soil near the church door in Ballybeg Churchyard, and now likely covered with a deep blanket of snow, was a fitting resting place for him.

“Whenever there was snow at the Glebe House, my father never allowed Alfie and I to play in it,” she told Will, straightening up and rubbing her hands together. “He wanted his precious garden to always appear pristine. But when it began to snow here, I was already visualising our child playing out here with us – throwing snowballs and building a snowman – things Alfie and I were forbidden to do. How silly of me.”

“Remember what I said, Isobel,” he said, raising her hands to his lips. “If it turns out that we can’t have a child ourselves, we will adopt. We may not have made the child ourselves but we will have a child.”

“But I wanted us to have a child we made. I wanted to have your child, Will.”

“Isobel?” They turned around as Alfie stood at the back door wearing a black woollen overcoat similar to Fred’s and a pale blue scarf wound around his neck. “No, don’t step into the snow, there’s enough room on the path for the three of us.” Closing the door, he came down the steps. “I had lectures this morning and Mother has just told me. Oh, Isobel.” He kissed her cheek before hugging her. “I’m so sorry.”

“Is Mother very upset?” she asked.

“Yes, she is. I’ve persuaded her to go and lie down. I have only one lecture tomorrow and it’s first thing in the morning. Would you like me to call here afterwards and keep you company?”

“Well, I had already asked Mother, but if you could come as well and try and keep the conversation a little upbeat?”

Alfie smiled. “I’ll try my best.”

After her mother called that evening, Isobel and Will retired to bed early. Will examined her again and agreed with her that the rate of bleed was slowing. He kissed her lips then turned down the oil lamp and she fell into a deep sleep with her head resting on his chest.

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Author: Lorna Peel

Title: A Suitable Wife

Series: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin

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Apart from the photograph of The Weir on the River Dodder, which is thought to have been taken in January 1881, there doesn’t seem to be any other photographs taken in Dublin at that time.
Photo credit: Hartmut Feb 27 2018 by NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit: Winter / National Library of Ireland on The Commons / No known copyright restrictions
Photo credit: Weir on the River Dodder Below Orwell Bridge / National Library of Ireland on The Commons No known copyright restrictions
Photo credit: Into The Liffey / National Library of Ireland on The Commons / No known copyright restrictions
Picture credit: The South side of Mountjoy Square in the snow of 2010 – Photographed by Bryan Butler – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Kobac using CommonsHelper and used under CC BY 3.0
Picture credit: A Backstreet in the Snow by Walter Osborne [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Picture credit: Old Dublin – Marrowbone Lane – Whyte’s Auction House

 

 

Merrion Square

Merrion Square is one of Dublin’s finest Georgian squares. Three sides are lined with red brick townhouses, while the fourth side faces Government Buildings, the Natural History Museum, Leinster House (seat of the Oireachtas or Irish parliament), and the National Gallery of Ireland.

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Merrion Square South

After the then Earl of Kildare (later the Duke of Leinster) built his Dublin home, Leinster House, on farmland on the edge of the city in the 1740s, the area became fashionable. Merrion Square, named Merrion after the seventh Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion, was laid out after 1762 and was largely complete by the beginning of the 19th century. Two other residential squares were built in the area – St Stephen’s Green and Fitzwilliam Square.

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The Hon. Richard Fitzwilliam, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion

The plots for each house differed in size, although most were for houses of three bays. The standard height for each house was for four storeys over basement but this also varied from one house to the next, resulting in a variation in roofline height. As it took more than thirty years for the square to be built, changes in architectural styles can be seen. 

Merrion Square North

Merrion Square North

The proportions of doors and windows in many of the houses are different. Some houses have decorative ironwork, such as first-floor balconies, and not all of the houses were fronted in granite on the ground floor. Inside, the townhouses contain magnificent ceiling plasterwork, ornate fireplaces and staircases.

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Merrion Square Park

Up until the 1970s the central railed-off garden was only open to residents in possession of a private key. It is now a public park managed by Dublin City Council and contains a statue of Oscar Wilde who resided in number 1 Merrion Square from 1855 to 1876. On Sundays, artists hang their works for sale on the railings surrounding the park.

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Dublin, Ireland, 1880. Tired of treating rich hypochondriacs, Dr Will Fitzgerald left his father’s medical practice and his home on Merrion Square to live and practise medicine in the Liberties. His parents were appalled and his fiancée broke off their engagement. But when Will spends a night in a brothel on the eve of his best friend’s wedding, little does he know that the scarred and disgraced young woman he meets there will alter the course of his life.

Isobel Stevens was schooled to be a lady, but a seduction put an end to all her father’s hopes for her. Disowned, she left Co Galway for Dublin and fell into prostitution. On the advice of a handsome young doctor, she leaves the brothel and enters domestic service. But can Isobel escape her past and adapt to life and the chance of love on Merrion Square? Or will she always be seen as a scarlet woman?

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Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

By four o’clock on Sunday afternoon, she was fit to drop as she arrived at the Harvey residence on Merrion Square. Mrs Black brought her upstairs to a tiny attic bedroom, which she was to share with the other as yet unnamed parlourmaid. She longed to simply crawl into the narrow single bed allocated to her and sleep, but she had to go back downstairs to the servants’ hall to meet the other servants at dinner.

Mr Johnston sat at one end of the long dining table and Mrs Black sat at the other. Mrs Harvey’s lady’s maid, Edith Lear, Mrs Gordon the cook, Claire – the other parlourmaid – and Bessie and Winnie – the two housemaids – sat along one side. Down the other side, she was placed beside Frank, the footman, and Mary, the tiny kitchenmaid. She couldn’t help but notice a large number of servants for what was actually a very small household.

They all seemed friendly, asking her where she had been born, why she had come back to Ireland after her mother’s death, and telling her the Harveys’ were a good and fair couple to work for.

As early as she dared she excused herself, and climbed the stairs to the bedroom with a small oil lamp. Unlike the rest of the house, Mrs Black informed her, none of the servants’ bedrooms was lit by gas lighting. There was no rug on the bedroom floor either, only a small threadbare mat, and the window and door were draughty. She smiled all the same, as she unpacked her few belongings and ran her fingers over the two uniforms. She really needed two of each, but the others would have to wait until she received her wages. Being a parlourmaid was going to be hard work but it was infinitely better than being a prostitute.

She was sitting up in bed, plaiting her hair, when Claire came into the bedroom and gave her a smile.

“I’m glad I’m sharing again.”

“What happened to the last maid?” she asked, as Claire began to undress.

Claire pulled an awkward expression. “She got pregnant by a footman across the square. Both had to go.”

“Oh, I see.”

“So, you were in England? I’d love to go to England one day…” Claire tailed off and watched her yawn.

“Sorry,” she said. “I didn’t sleep well last night. A bit nervous, you know?”

“You’ve nothing to worry about here.”

“I’m glad. You’ll probably have to give me a nudge in the morning.”

Poor Claire almost had to pull her out of the bed. Used to not getting up until all hours, having to get up at six in the morning and being called Maisie, were completely foreign to her. Still half asleep, she washed in lukewarm water and got dressed in the dull grey dress and lace-trimmed white apron and cap, before following Claire downstairs.

In the hall, Claire explained the house to her. The morning room and breakfast room on the ground floor were for the Harveys’ everyday use. The drawing room and dining room on the first floor were only used when the Harveys’ had guests but still had to be attended to. The library – created when the drawing room was divided in two – also had to be attended to, as it was used each day by Mr Harvey. To escape his wife, Claire added with a grin. The lighting of the gas lamps in the house was one of the footman’s tasks and, finally, the Harveys’ bedrooms on the second floor were the responsibility of the two housemaids.

Mary, the kitchenmaid, had already removed the ashes from all the hearths, blackened the grates again and set new fires, so she and Claire only had to light them. She followed Claire’s lead, only pausing for their breakfast after the table was laid in the breakfast room, the morning room had been done, and the serving dishes, milk, tea, and toast had been carried up to the breakfast room. They were placed on the sideboard as Mr and Mrs Harvey helped themselves at breakfast.

They continued on all morning, clearing away after the Harveys’ breakfast, and setting the table for luncheon. Then, the cleaning, polishing and dusting in the hall, drawing and dining rooms, and the library had to be completed until, at last, they went downstairs to the servants’ hall for their mid-day meal. 

Claire was friendly and chatty and she warmed to her. Returning to the servants’ hall after changing into their black uniforms, Mr Johnston informed them that Mr and Mrs Harvey were having guests to dinner on Friday evening.

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Author: Lorna Peel

Title: A Scarlet Woman

Series: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book One

Genre: Victorian Historical Romance

Cover Designer: Rebecca K. Sterling, Sterling Design Studio

Ebook and Print Formatting: Polgarus Studio

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(Book Cover): Mrs Langtry: Photo credit: The National Archives, ref. COPY1/373/215
(Book Cover): Gun Powder Office (cover): Photo credit: National Library of Ireland on The Commons / No known copyright restrictions
Richard Fitzwilliam of Merrion: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Merrion Square: Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Merrion Square (Park): Photo Credit: NTF30 from Wikimedia Commons and used under CC BY-SA 4.0
Merrion Square North: Photo Credit: Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon, United States from Wikimedia Commons and used under CC BY 2.0 

The Liberties of Dublin

Dubline

Dublin in 1610

The Liberties is an area in Dublin, Ireland, located to the southwest of the city centre, and is one of Dublin’s most historic districts. In the 12th century, King Henry II of England ordered the Abbey of St Thomas the Martyr to be built on a site close to where St Catherine’s Church on Thomas Street stands today. The abbey’s Augustinian monks were granted lands to the west of the walled city and were also granted privileges and powers to control trade within their ‘liberty’. The Liberty of St Thomas Court and Donore became very wealthy and the abbey gave its name to St Thomas Street, which runs along the ancient western route into the city of Dublin. 

St Catherine's Church

St Catherine’s Church, Thomas Street

Following the dissolution of monasteries in the 16th century, the abbey lands passed into the ownership of William Brabazon. The Brabazons, who later became Earls of Meath, were landlords in the Liberties for the next three centuries.

Cork Street Fever Hospital


Cork Street Fever Hospital

In the late 17th century, construction began on houses for the weavers who were moving into the area. Settlers from England were involved in the woollen industry, while many French Huguenots’ trade was silk weaving. They built their own traditional style of gable-fronted houses in the Liberties, known as Dutch Billies.

dutchstylehouse

Dutch Billy on Kevin Street

English woollen manufacturers felt threatened by the growing Irish industry and heavy duties were imposed on Irish wool exports. The Navigation Act was passed to prevent the Irish from exporting to colonial markets and then, in 1699, the Wool Act was passed which prevented any exports whatsoever. This put an end to the woollen industry in the Liberties and, coupled with economic decline which set in after the Act of Union in 1801, many of the once-prosperous houses became poverty-stricken tenements. This prompted a number of housing developments by the Earls of Meath and the Guinness and Power families in the late 19th century. Modern houses were built for workers on Gray Street and John Dillon Street by the Dublin Artisan Dwelling Company and the Iveagh Trust Buildings on Patrick Street were the first flats built for Dubliners.

pimlico

Pimlico

During the 18th and 19th centuries, brewers and distillers moved into the Liberties, most notably the Guinness family who, in 1759, established the world’s largest brewery at St James’ Gate. Powers and Jameson also established distilleries in the Liberties, and the area had its own harbour linking it to the Grand Canal, and a mini-railway through the St James’ Gate brewery.

Guinnesses

Guinness’ Brewery

Today, the Liberties retains its distinctive character and its evocative street names, such as Weaver Square, Engine Alley, Cross Stick Alley and Marrowbone Lane. If you’re on a visit to Dublin, make sure you visit the Liberties.

A_Scarlet_Woman_SQUARE-1

Dublin, Ireland, 1880. Tired of treating rich hypochondriacs, Dr Will Fitzgerald left his father’s medical practice and his home on Merrion Square to live and practise medicine in the Liberties. His parents were appalled and his fiancée broke off their engagement. But when Will spends a night in a brothel on the eve of his best friend’s wedding, little does he know that the scarred and disgraced young woman he meets there will alter the course of his life.

Isobel Stevens was schooled to be a lady, but a seduction put an end to all her father’s hopes for her. Disowned, she left Co Galway for Dublin and fell into prostitution. On the advice of a handsome young doctor, she leaves the brothel and enters domestic service. But can Isobel escape her past and adapt to life and the chance of love on Merrion Square? Or will she always be seen as a scarlet woman?

A_Scarlet_Woman_PRINT_2

Read an Excerpt from Chapter Two…

At five minutes past five in the morning, he was called out to a woman experiencing a prolonged and difficult labour. Ten minutes later he was on the third floor of a tenement house being watched both anxiously and suspiciously by the mother-to-be and two neighbours. Their eyes widened as he lifted his stethoscope out of his medical bag and placed it over the mother-to-be’s abdomen. There was absolute silence from both inside and out as he listened for a heartbeat. The baby was most likely dead, poor little mite.

At a quarter past seven, the woman was breech delivered of a large baby boy. It was as he had feared – the child was dead. If only they had called him out sooner. If only…

Mrs Bell was cooking his breakfast when he returned to Brown Street and frowned when she saw his face.

“Delia Brennan’s baby was born feet first and dead,” he explained, and Mrs Bell crossed herself. “It was a boy and was dead before I got there. If only they had called me out sooner, but there’s no point in saying that now.” Lifting the kettle off the range, he poured some hot water into a bowl in the sink, added some cold water from a bucket and washed and scrubbed his hands.

“I was all set to ask you whether you had enjoyed the dinner last night.”

He gave her a little smile as he dried his hands. “It was pleasant enough.” And all the better for discovering he hadn’t been responsible for ‘Rose Green’ killing herself, he added silently.

“Good. Now you sit yourself down and eat this.” He sat at the table and she put a bowl of porridge down in front of him. “You can wash and shave afterwards.”

“Thank you.”

“That boy would have been Delia’s seventh.” Mrs Bell poured them each a cup of tea. “Tragic, but probably a blessing in disguise.”

“I suppose so, yes.”

“It’s strange, isn’t it?” his housekeeper mused, as he added milk and sugar to the porridge. “Delia’s been married seven years and she’s had a child every year. Maggie Millar, now, she’s been married donkey’s years and nothing.”

“George Millar drinks like a fish.”

“Could that be it?” she asked.

“It could be. It could be a lot of things.”

“Do you want children?” she added suddenly.

He grimaced. Sometimes she could come out with the most probing questions when he least expected them. “One day,” he replied. “I’m only thirty. I’ve plenty of time.”

“But don’t leave it too long, will you?”

“I need a wife first and they haven’t exactly been queuing up of late.”

“Did Amelia Belcher give you the eye last night?” Mrs Bell smiled.

“Yes, but I ignored it.”

“You told her that you were staying here. Take it or leave it.”

He nodded. “And she left it. And I’m relieved. I’m still battered and bruised after Cecilia.”

He finished his porridge and two slices of soda bread and marmalade, drank his tea, and went upstairs with a jug of warm water. When he had washed and shaved, he went into the surgery and lifted some notepaper out of his desk drawer.

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Amazon ASIN: B074LJJWJW

Paperback ISBN: 9781547079698

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

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Author: Lorna Peel

Title: A Scarlet Woman

Series: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book One

Genre: Victorian Historical Romance

Cover Designer: Rebecca K. Sterling, Sterling Design Studio

Ebook and Print Formatting: Polgarus Studio

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(Book Cover): Mrs Langtry: Photo credit: The National Archives, ref. COPY1/373/215
(Book Cover): Gun Powder Office: Photo credit: National Library of Ireland on The Commons / No known copyright restrictions 
Dutch Billy on Kevin Street: Photo Credit: Lorna Peel
St Catherine’s Church, Thomas Street: Photo Credit: Lorna Peel
Pimlico: Photo Credit: Lorna Peel
Cork Street Fever Hospital: Photo Credit: Lorna Peel
Guinness Brewery: Photo Credit: jraffin on Pixabay used under Creative Commons CC0 1.0
Dublin in 1610: Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons: Public Domain Mark 1.0

Monto: Dublin’s Red Light District

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Monto is the nickname for Dublin’s red light district derived from Montgomery Street, now named Foley Street. Monto encompassed an area bounded by Talbot Street, Amiens Street, Gardiner Street and Gloucester Street (now Sean McDermott Street). Between the 1860s and the 1920s, Monto was reputed to be the largest red light district in Europe and, according to popular legend, the then Prince of Wales, Prince Edward (later King Edward VII), lost his virginity there.

Montgomery Street

Montgomery Street

Monto emerged as a red light district in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. In the 1860s and 1870s, prostitution in Dublin had centered on the fashionable Grafton Street area. In 1863, police statistics counted 984 prostitutes in Dublin. By 1894, Dublin had 74 brothels, mostly located in Monto.

14799619693_cac2388733_o

Monto flourished due to its location being far enough away from upper and middle-class residential and shopping districts and, crucially, due to the authorities turning a blind eye. Its proximity to Amiens Street Station (now Connolly Station) provided plenty of innocent young women from the countryside looking for work, plus Dublin’s port and Aldborough Military Barracks brought in plenty of clientele.

14776474291_7e33818896_o

Nelson’s Pillar from Carlisle Bridge (now O’Connell Bridge)

The number of women working as prostitutes in Dublin in this period was extremely high, caused by chronic unemployment and the lack of any kind of industrial employment opportunities for women. In 1870, Manchester recorded 1,617 arrests for prostitution, London 2,183 and Dublin 3,255.

Lower Gardiner Street

Lower Gardiner Street

Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921 and the establishment of the Irish Free State, the departure of the British Army from Dublin took away a large part of Monto’s income. The rise to power of the Roman Catholic Church in 1920s Ireland meant prostitution would no longer be tolerated. Although various religious groups hadn’t turned a blind eye to Monto over the years, it was the Association of Our Lady of Mercy (better known as the Legion of Mary) which had the greatest impact on ending prostitution in Monto.

Elliot Place 1930s

Elliot Place in the 1930s

The Legion of Mary received the co-operation of the Dublin Police Commissioner, General William Murphy, and a police raid on 12 March 1925 ended with a large number of arrests. While this raid didn’t shut Monto down completely, prostitution in the area petered out and dispersed over the following years. With subsequent street clearances and street renaming, almost nothing now remains of Monto’s infamous past.

A_Scarlet_Woman_SQUARE-1

Dublin, Ireland, 1880. Tired of treating rich hypochondriacs, Dr Will Fitzgerald left his father’s medical practice and his home on Merrion Square to live and practise medicine in the Liberties. His parents were appalled and his fiancée broke off their engagement. But when Will spends a night in a brothel on the eve of his best friend’s wedding, little does he know that the scarred and disgraced young woman he meets there will alter the course of his life.

Isobel Stevens was schooled to be a lady, but a seduction put an end to all her father’s hopes for her. Disowned, she left Co Galway for Dublin and fell into prostitution. On the advice of a handsome young doctor, she leaves the brothel and enters domestic service. But can Isobel escape her past and adapt to life and the chance of love on Merrion Square? Or will she always be seen as a scarlet woman?

A_Scarlet_Woman_PRINT_2

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

Dublin, Ireland. Friday, July 30th, 1880

Will blinked and fought to stay awake as the cab rattled along the dark streets. It was years since he had been this drunk. The night of their graduation, wasn’t it? Fred, seated between Jerry and himself, was clapping his hands. Whether it was in an effort to keep warm or that it was because he was just as drunk but more intent on keeping awake, Will didn’t know.

“Nearly there now,” Fred announced.

“Eh, what?” Jerry slurred.

“Oh, you two are hopeless. It’s my last night of freedom. We haven’t had that much to drink.”

“We have,” Jerry stated firmly.

“Where are we going now?” Will wiped some condensation away and peered out of the window but couldn’t see a thing. “Where are we, Fred?”

“My dear Dr Fitzgerald, we are about to have the night of our lives. My treat, to thank the two of you for being such good friends to me over the years. You don’t get out enough, either of you. You with your swanky London practice, Jeremiah. And as for you, William.” Fred kicked his ankle. “The less said the better.”

“Where are we?” Will demanded. He knew what Fred thought of his practice and didn’t need to be reminded. “Fred?”

“Monto,” Fred shouted triumphantly as the cab stopped. “Sally Maher ’s kip.”

“A brothel?” Will straightened up, sobering a little. “No, Fred, I’d rather not.”

Fred just laughed, irritating him. “Don’t be ridiculous. I said I’ll pay.”

“You know damn well it’s not that.”

“I’m not listening. I’m getting the first pick of the girls, though. You two can toss a coin if you can’t agree. Don’t fall asleep, Jerry, we’re here.”

The three of them got out of the cab and Fred paid the fare. He and Jerry went straight inside while Will glanced up at the brothel. It was a commonplace terraced house if a little run down. Reluctantly, he took off his hat and followed them.

“Will?” Fred bellowed at him, and he jumped violently before turning away from the supposedly seductive red furnishings in the narrow hallway. “We’re fixed up. What sort of a girl do you want?”

Fred, Jerry, and the brothel madam all waited expectantly. Will sighed. He hadn’t a clue.

“I don’t know… black-ish hair?” Cecilia’s hair was blonde but he forced her face out of his befuddled mind. “Yes, black-ish hair.”

“Good, you can have Rose.” The madam turned away. “Maggie. Lily. Rose,” she roared up the stairs.

Three young women appeared at the top of the stairs. The first was a redhead, the second a blonde, and the third his brunette. Will watched her come down the steps. She wore a red silk robe, her dark hair was loosely pinned up, and wisps fell over her face and neck. As she reached the foot of the stairs, Will also saw to his relief, that she was in her early twenties, tall, and quite shapely. Good. Cecilia was as thin as a rake and a year older than him. His brunette nodded to the brothel madam then gave him a little smile.

“I’m Rose.”

“Will.”

“Hello, Will.” Taking his hand, she led him up the stairs, along the landing, and into a bedroom. “I hope you’re not expecting anything too outlandish,” she said as she closed the door. “Because you won’t get it from me.”

Again, he was relieved. He had never been very sexually adventurous and recently he had lived like a monk.

“No, I’m not,” he replied, shrugging off then hanging his frock coat and his hat on a hook on the back of the door.

Glancing around the room, he noted that apart from a double bed, it housed a dressing table and stool, a wardrobe, a bedside table with an oil lamp and ewer and bowl standing on it, and an armchair upholstered in red fabric. A fire was lit in the hearth but the coal was producing more smoke than flames.

“Good. Shall I help you with your clothes?” she offered.

“I can manage.”

He began to fumble with his cravat and collar, eventually managed to get them off, then set to work on his cufflinks. Minutes passed, he had made no progress whatsoever, and he swore under his breath.

“Allow me,” she said softly. He stood meekly while she undid them before proceeding to completely undress him. “Celebrating?”

“Fred’s getting married tomorrow.”

“Are you brothers?”

“No. We were at Trinity College together. We’re doctors.”

“Doctors? I see. Are you married?” He hesitated before replying and she glanced up at him. “I won’t mind if you lie.”

“I won’t lie,” he replied tightly. “I nearly was married but I’m not.”

“I’m sorry. There.” She laid his clothes on the back of the faded and threadbare armchair then gave him a long look while taking the pins from her hair. How did he compare with the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men who had passed through this bedroom? Cecilia had found him handsome. But ultimately not handsome enough. Thick dark brown hair fell down Rose’s back and she slipped off her robe before throwing it over his clothes on the back of the armchair. He blinked a few times. She had a very shapely body and firm full breasts. This might not be such a bad idea after all.

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A Suitable Wife and A Discarded Son –  The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Books Two and Three are out now!

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Author: Lorna Peel

Title: A Scarlet Woman

Series: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin

Genre: Historical Fiction/Victorian Family Saga

Cover Designer: Rebecca K. Sterling, Sterling Design Studio

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(Book Cover): Mrs Langtry: Photo credit: The National Archives, ref. COPY1/373/215
(Book Cover): Gun Powder Office: Photo credit: National Library of Ireland on The Commons / No known copyright restrictions 
Grafton Street: Image from page 431 of “Picturesque Ireland : a literary and artistic delineation of the natural scenery, remarkable places, historical antiquities, public buildings, ancient abbeys, towers, castles, and other romantic and attractive features of Ireland”. Photo Credit: Internet Archive Book Images / No known copyright restrictions
Nelson’s Pillar from Carlisle Bridge: Image from page 388 of “Picturesque Ireland : a literary and artistic delineation of the natural scenery, remarkable places, historical antiquities, public buildings, ancient abbeys, towers, castles, and other romantic and attractive features of Ireland”. : Photo Credit: Internet Archive Book Images / No known copyright restrictions
Elliot Place in the 1930s: Photo Credit: The Frank Murphy Collection (Old Dublin Society)
Lower Gardiner Street: Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/337488565799148189/
Montgomery Street / Old Dublin Housing: Photo Credit: ImageShack 
Map of Dublin: The Sunny Side of Ireland. How to see it by the Great Southern and Western Railway … With seven maps and over 130 illustrations, etc. Image Credit: The British Library / Public Domain, from the British Library’s collections, 2013

Fairs and Markets in Ireland

 

 

The fair is one of the oldest known gatherings of people which we know of. Fairs are known to have been held by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, who utilised the religious games they played for trading purposes.

In Ireland, the aenach or fair, was an assembly of every social group without distinction. It was the most common kind of large public meeting and its objectives were the celebration of games, athletic exercises, sports and other pastimes. One of the most important fairs in ancient Ireland was that at Tailltenn, now Teltown on the river Blackwater between Navan and Kells in Co. Meath. It was attended by people from all over Ireland and also from Scotland. It was held yearly on or around August 1 and marriages formed a special feature of it. Another important fair was held at Nenagh, Co. Tipperary and has given its name to the town. Nenagh in Irish means ‘the fair’.

At many of the fairs, the chief men would sit in council in places specially allotted to them and discussions would take place. Each day but the last would be given over to the games of each social group or tribe. Among the entertainments was the recitation of poems and romantic tales. Music also formed an important part and there were many harpers, pipers and fiddlers. There is no mention of dancing and it is probable that the ancient Irish did not dance as we know it. Other performers included showmen, jugglers and clowns similar to what we see in circuses today. Prizes were awarded to the best performers and were publicly presented by the most important person present, whether it was a king, queen or a chief.

Buying and selling was a very important feature of the fair. There were often three markets. A market of food and clothes, a market of livestock and horses and a market for the use of foreign merchants who sold articles made of gold and silver. Space was also assigned for cooking. The cooking would have taken place on a very large-scale to feed the large numbers of people present.

When the evening of the last day had come, all the men of the council would stand up, at a signal from the chief and make a great clash with their spears. Each man would strike the handle of the next man’s spear with the handle of his own. This was the signal for the crowds to disperse.

After these, the most ancient of the Irish fairs, others developed over the next one thousand years. When St. Patrick introduced Christianity into Ireland in the fifth century, the Pagan customs were discontinued and Christian ceremonies were introduced. The fairs were organised by the local chieftain in his area. The Gaelicised Normans later continued this tradition. Many patents were issued by King James I in the early seventeenth century, granting authority to towns to establish fairs. It would be much later, however, before many of these fairs would become a reality.

The Cromwellian policy of land confiscation, ‘To hell or to Connaught’, and later the Penal Laws, suppressed the customs previously practiced by the Irish people and denied them ownership of anything over £5. However, as the eighteenth century wore on the laws were relaxed and Catholic Emancipation was finally granted in 1829. Despite this, the Irish people largely did not own any property, renting the land from landlords. From this time onward many fairs and markets were set up. These fairs were used mainly by the landed gentry and the landlords for the buying and selling of the herds of cattle and sheep from their estates. The tenant farmer’s land could only support one cow and as time went on, the growing population and the division of the farm amongst all the farmer’s sons made it nearly impossible to do more than grow potatoes for eating and enough grain to pay the rent.

In those pre-Famine times the weekly markets provided an outlet for cottage industries, butter, linen and potatoes. It was only after the Famine, at the time of the Land War of 1879-1881, that the majority of Irish people made the transition from the market to the fair. The Land Acts which gave the tenant farmers fair rent, free sale and fixity of tenure and the opportunity to buy out their farm from the landlord, gave them the personal and economic independence to do so.

The building and extension of the railways in Ireland in the mid-to-late nineteenth century meant that cattle could be easily transported around the country to various fairs. It also brought about improvements in the breeding of livestock. Better animals were now for sale at the fairs due to the importation of different breeds of bulls and rams from abroad.

In the rural towns and villages the markets gave way to fairs held on the fair green. Gradually the fair moved onto the streets, no doubt encouraged by the business people but not by the residents as the streets would be left in a mess. The first cattle would appear in the town at about seven o’clock in the morning, some having been walked as far as ten miles to it during the night. They would be met by cattle jobbers who would buy and sell the cattle later on to bigger dealers at a profit. The buying and selling of the cattle followed a set pattern. The price would be enquired of the farmer, the farmer would then ask the dealer how much he would give. The animal’s mouth would then be examined to determine its age and a bid made. If the bidding became prolonged a third man, a friend of either the farmer or the dealer, would appear. He would enquire how much money was dividing the two and try and settle the deal by catching the hands of the farmer and dealer, slap them together and spit on them to seal the deal. A ‘luck penny’ was then given to the dealer by the farmer as a gesture of goodwill.

In the larger towns the market would be held on the streets and would be especially busy from October to Easter. This was regarded as the Christmas period when the country people would do their buying. Goods were displayed on stands lining the streets, with each range of items having its own special location. Frieze, flannel and clothing material in one location, wooden dishes in another, followed by shoes and brogues of all sizes and quality; hats, pottery, butter, flax seed, pork and beef, sally rods for scallops (used in thatching roofs) and rushes for lights. Hosiers, tailors and pedlars did not use stands, preferring to carry their wares- stockings, ready-made waistcoats, pins, needles, brass buttons and other items through the streets.

Most shoppers went straight home after the fairs and markets but some headed for the whiskey-houses (sheebeens) and the pubs, both of which had been open since six o’clock that morning. In the sheebeens, the drinking often went on all night. Unsold cattle would be stored in yards which the publicans made available to their customers.

Throughout the 1960’s the fairs and markets came under threat from the cattle marts. In the beginning the farmers would drive their cattle past the mart to the fair on the streets. As time went on, however, the farmers made less use of the fairs and markets, the majority dying out thirty to thirty-five years ago. At many marts today, it can be seen that a lot of business is still done outside on the streets in the fair tradition.

Some fairs and markets are still in existence today. The horse fair at Ballinasloe, Co. Galway and the Old Fair Day, held every year in Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo are two such examples. They prove that the fair and market, in existence for well over a thousand years still have a place in the modern world.

 

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Horse sale in Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim, Ireland: As well as the horses, there were hens, ducks, geese, guinea fowl, goats and donkeys for sale

Ireland, 1835. Faction fighting has left the parish of Doon divided between the followers of the Bradys and the Donnellans. Caitriona Brady is the widow of John, the Brady champion, killed two years ago. Matched with John aged eighteen, Caitriona didn’t love him and can’t mourn him. Now John’s mother is dead, too, and Caitriona is free to marry again.

Michael Warner is handsome, loves her, and he hasn’t allied himself with either faction. But what secret is he keeping from her? Is he too good to be true?

brotherly_love_print_jpg

Excerpt:

Caitriona stood in the middle of the kitchen floor and looked around her. The cottage was hers. The rents from sub-letting ten out of the fifteen acres of land would be coming straight to her now, too. She spent the next half hour gathering all of Bridget’s belongings together and piling them up at the door. The next time she saw Thady or Mary she’d ask if they wanted them, otherwise she’d burn them.

Walking around the side of the cottage and shooing the six chickens out of her way, she gazed at her land bathed in late Spring sunshine and beyond it to her long and narrow turf bog plot. The first field fed Áine, the small black Kerry cow, and her calf. The second and third fields – full of potatoes and oats – fed her, and the oaten straw kept Áine going through winter. Any surplus eggs, butter, and milk was sold at the weekly market five miles away in Kilbarry.

On acquiring Tommy Gilleen as a tenant, following John’s death, they had come to an agreement that Tommy would help her with both the oats and the turf in return for her help on his bog and a slight reduction in the rent. She had an income, she had food, and she had fuel. She nodded to herself, she’d be all right.

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Amazon ASIN: B01NCR1FNN

Print ISBN: 9781541002692

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