Meet A Minor Detail’s Evelyn Darby

Evelyn Darby, née Crawford, was born in 1822 in York Street, Dublin, the eldest of three daughters of Surgeon William Crawford and his wife Maria. Dr Will Fitzgerald’s mother, Sarah, was born in 1824 and the youngest daughter, Keziah, was born in 1830. Evelyn and Sarah always disliked each other, and this was compounded by the fact Keziah was their parents’ favourite daughter. Matters would come to a tragic head in April 1844.

Evelyn and Sarah had taken Keziah for a walk and while arguing, they hadn’t noticed Keziah had run on ahead of them. They searched for her and discovered Keziah had been knocked down and killed by an omnibus. As the eldest daughter, Evelyn knew her father would blame her for not keeping a closer eye on Keziah. So while Sarah was speaking to a police constable, Evelyn gave in to cowardice and ran away.

Knowing if she stayed in Ireland, her father would use his medical connections to find her, so Evelyn pawned her fur-lined hat, cloak and gloves and used the money to travel to Cork by coach and on to Queenstown (now Cobh) which was the last port of call for ships to America. She found work as a governess and for almost six months, saved every penny of her wages, then sailed to New York.

Evelyn settled in Philadelphia and married Marcus Darby. During the American Civil War, she served as a nurse in Mower General Hospital. At first, she was only allowed to roll bandages, make beds, scrub floors and empty bedpans. Later, she could wash the patients and clean medical instruments. Eventually, she was permitted to prepare medicines, apply dressings and assist in operations.

After the war, Evelyn nursed Marcus, who had been shot in the back of the head at Cedar Creek in October 1864. He suffered from memory loss and rapid and extreme changes in mood – including violence – and died in May 1885. As they had no children, Evelyn decided to go home to Dublin. She sold the house and purchased a passage from New York to Queenstown. In Dublin, she took a room at the Hammam Hotel on O’Connell Street and started looking for work.

Evelyn answered a newspaper advertisement for a nurse to an elderly gentleman with senile decay and was interviewed by the gentleman’s young doctor and then by the gentleman himself. After explaining her background, Dr Smythe complimented his doctor on recommending family to him first. Not having expected to find any remaining family in Dublin, she discovers Dr Will Fitzgerald is Sarah’s son.

Evelyn becomes Dr Jacob Smythe’s nurse, she moves into number 8 Rutland Square (now Parnell Square) and although Will, his wife Isobel, and Will’s father John, are welcoming, Sarah reacts hysterically on being told her estranged sister has returned to Dublin and wants nothing to do with Evelyn. Gradually, however, Sarah’s defences crumble and the sisters meet again for the first time in over forty years.

But Evelyn still feels like an outsider. She has never been invited to number 67 and having witnessed Sarah give John a scathing look, knows her sister doesn’t love her husband but doesn’t know why. Will there ever be a time when Evelyn can feel trusted and accepted by all the Fitzgerald family?

Dublin, Ireland, July 1887. The city is struggling in a seemingly never-ending heatwave and Will receives devastating news from his father. John has only months to live but his dying wishes leave Will reeling. With the Fitzgeralds suddenly facing money worries, some difficult decisions must be made. Can Will and John repair their complicated relationship before it’s too late?

When a tragic accident brings unexpected truths to light, Isobel discovers a forgotten life intertwined with her grandmother’s. Nothing can prepare her for Lily’s story but will learning of their families’ pasts bring Isobel peace or further heartbreak?

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

Will followed his mother and Isobel up the stairs and opened the door for them. A white-faced Evelyn was kneeling beside his father’s armchair, holding his hand while Harriett was seated on the sofa, blinking back tears. Both ladies got up and rushed to his mother while his father struggled out of the armchair, rolling his eyes in silent relief.

“Sarah.” Evelyn hugged her sister tightly, then made way for Harriett. “Oh, what a relief.”

“I’m quite all right,” his mother assured them. “I needed some air and now I need some tea, which will be here shortly. Will has been telling me of your tea-making, Harriett.”

“My tea-making was much appreciated,” Harriett replied with a weak smile and a glance at his father, who was trying not to grimace. “Come and sit down, Sarah.”

As the four ladies turned away and went to the sofa, Will tapped his father’s arm.

“Are you in pain?” he whispered.

“A little, but I’ll tell you when it’s time to administer morphine,” his father whispered back. “As per usual, I’ll call to number 30 in the morning for my weekly visit to the children,” he continued in a normal tone. “I want to continue to visit them for as long as I can.”

“Of course, and, Mother, would you accompany Father?”

“Will, I’m not an invalid yet – I don’t need accompanying,” his father snapped.

“It’s so that Mother, Isobel, you and I can discuss future practicalities,” he replied calmly. “As well as that, it’s the twins’ birthday tomorrow and Mother will be coming to number 30 in any case for luncheon.”

“I’m sorry, Will,” his father replied quietly. “I completely forgot.”

“Your father and I will call to number 30 at nine o’clock,” his mother said. “Ah, the tea,” she added as the door opened and Tess and Maura came in, each carrying a tea tray. “Thank you, I shall pour.”

When the tea was drunk, Harriett got to her feet and Will stood up and put his cup and saucer on the nearest tray, then did likewise with Harriett’s and his father’s.

“Don’t get up, John,” she said, bending and kissing his cheek. “It’s late but before I leave, if I can be of any assistance to you or Sarah or both of you – day or night – please call or send for me. And, John? Break the news to Jim soon?”

“Thank you, Harriett, I will. And Evelyn, I shall also break the news to Jacob soon, but I fear you will have to continually remind him.”

“Yes,” Evelyn replied sadly. “His memory is deteriorating fast.”

Will glanced at Isobel, who peered down at her hands, no doubt wondering how soon it would be before Dr Smythe forgot he ever loved her grandmother Isabella Laban. Isobel dreaded it and if Will was honest, so did he. To forget the name and face of the love of your life… He walked to the door via the sofa and squeezed Isobel’s shoulder as he passed, while Evelyn announced that she, too, must leave.

“I’ll walk with you until a cab stops,” he said and escorted them from the room.

“Your father is in pain,” Harriett told him as they went down the stairs.

“Yes, he says he’s in only a little pain, but I don’t believe him. He knows morphine will not just reduce pain but dull his senses and induce sleep. He wants to stay alert for as long as possible, and that means being in pain. I can’t allow that and I won’t allow that.”

He thanked and saw Harriett to the door of number 68 then continued along Merrion Square South with Evelyn.

“Will,” she began. “It’s time I knew why your mother no longer loves your father. If I’m to be frank with her, she must be frank with me.”

“I thought Father would have told you this evening.”

“In front of Mrs Harvey?”

“Harriett knows, for reasons you will be told in due course, because Mother does want to explain why, but you should hear Father’s explanation, too. We’ll arrange a time and a place for you to listen to each of them.”

“Thank you. What are your thoughts on cremation?” she asked, and he spread his hands helplessly.

“Up to today, I didn’t have any. Apart from religious considerations, with the only crematorium in the United Kingdom being just outside London, I simply assumed my patients would never wish to avail of it. So when Father…” Tailing off, he sighed and Evelyn squeezed his arm. “Did you ever hear of someone being cremated in America?”

“There’s a crematorium near Washington, Pennsylvania, but no, I didn’t. Your father’s decision is unusual to say the least and I suspect there are certain motivations behind it which have nothing to do with prevention of disease in overcrowded graveyards and the many other reasons in its favour.”

“There are, but if anyone asks, please say…”

“Of course,” she replied as they reached the junction with Merrion Street Upper. “Oh, there’s a cab coming,” she added, pointing to it and Will put up his hand. “I can’t neglect my duties to Dr Smythe, but if there’s anything I can do to help or any advice I can give, just call.”

“Thank you,” he said as the cab stopped and he helped her inside. “Number 8 Rutland Square, please,” he instructed the cabman and paid the fare. “Goodnight, Evelyn.”

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A Short History of Dublin’s Mount Jerome Cemetery

“St. Michan’s Church.” The Dublin Penny Journal 2, no. 79 (1834): 209–10. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30002982

By the early 19th Century, Dublin’s churchyards were dangerously overcrowded, unsanitary and a threat to public health. Many of the churchyards were small, often less than an acre of ground, and had been in use for centuries by both Protestants and Catholics. Burials were taking place in churchyards which could not decently or properly accommodate further coffins, as described in 1835 by Thomas Fitzpatrick, M.D., of Park Street, who attended the funeral of a lady to St Bride’s Churchyard, which was on the corner of Bride Street and Bride Road until 1900.

‘On arriving there, I was surprised to see a coffin on the ground tied with ropes, and in so shattered a condition as to permit a partial view of the body which it contained. On making inquiry, I ascertained from one of the attendants, that owing to the crowded state of the churchyard, it was necessary to lift up this coffin in order to make room for that of the lady, and while they were removing it to a short distance it broke asunder, and the body, in an advanced stage of putrification, fell to the earth, creating so disgusting an effluvia as obliged the gravediggers to retire to a distance. On the occasion alluded to, a gentleman and I recognised the head of a friend who had been interred in the same grave two years previously; the muscles and the lower jaw were removed, but the scalp being perfect, the peculiarity of the hair and the formation of the skull satisfied us of its identity.’

Daniel O’Connell. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek – Austrian National Library – Public Domain

New land for cemeteries outside the city needed to be found and Daniel O’Connell, Member of Parliament for Co Clare, and champion of Catholic rights, campaigned for the opening of a burial ground in which both Catholics and Protestants could give their dead a dignified burial. On 21 February 1832, Glasnevin Cemetery on the north side of Dublin was consecrated and opened to the public. O’Connell was soon to be involved in the campaign for the opening of another cemetery.

Glasnevin Cemetery. Finerty, J. F. (John Frederick). (1898). Ireland in pictures: a grand collection of over 400 magnificent photographs of the beauties of the Green isle … wth historical and descriptive sketches. Chicago: J. S. Hyland & co. Public domain

On 17 February 1834, a petition from subscribers to the Dublin Cemetery Company was presented to the House of Commons, seeking permission to establish a general cemetery in the neighbourhood of the city of Dublin. A petition was also presented from the churchwardens of the city of Dublin and from the Board of Health, in favour of the cemetery.

The Sun (London) – Friday 28 February 1834

The company’s petition was referred to a committee, headed by O’Connell, and on the committee’s reporting on 28 February, O’Connell and Christopher FitzSimon, Member of Parliament for Co Dublin and O’Connell’s son-in-law, were ordered to bring in a Bill in compliance with the petition. The Dublin Cemetery Bill passed the Commons on 12 May and after undergoing several amendments in the House of Lords, the Bill received the royal assent on 27 June 1834.

The Sun (London) – Friday 16 May 1834

In January 1835, the company came to an agreement with Michael Keogh for the purchase of his interest in the lands of Mount Jerome, at Harold’s Cross on the south side of Dublin. Mount Jerome was originally part of lands belonging to St Thomas’s Abbey. After the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century, the lands were granted to the Brabazon family, later the earls of Meath. The origin of the name Mount Jerome can be traced to the Reverend Stephen Jerome, Vicar of St Kevin’s Parish in 1639, who leased the lands from the Brabazons and established an estate there.

Extract from A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland 1837 by Samuel Lewis for Harold’s Cross

A legal difficulty regarding title and John Chambré Brabazon, the 10th Earl of Meath, being away on the Continent, meant the Dublin Cemetery Company did not obtain possession of Mount Jerome until November 1835, but they immediately set to work. The 25-acre cemetery grounds were laid out under the direction of Ninian Niven, curator of the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, with 600 selected species of rare and beautiful trees including yew, cypress and weeping willow, planted as an arboretum and a stone wall surrounding the grounds was built.

Ninian Niven. Nelson & Marshall, Dublin. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

On 19 October 1836, Dr Richard Whately, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, signed the deed of consecration, setting apart the lands of Mount Jerome as burial ground for ever. The Dublin General Cemetery was to be multi-denominational, so why was the Roman Catholic Archbishop not in attendance, too? The Irish newspapers give no reason but according to a scathing anti-Catholic piece in the London Morning Post of 22 October 1836 ‘A deputation waited upon the titular Archbishop, Dr Denis Murray, to know if he would consecrate any part for Roman Catholics who might think proper to select that place for themselves or their friends. He made no objection at the time, but requested a copy of the Act of Parliament, under which the institution was formed, in order that he might look into its provisions. After some time he returned for answer that, on consulting with his clergy, he must decline consecrating any part of the ground.’

The Cusack vault. Photograph by William Murphy from Dublin, Ireland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The cemetery became the burial ground for Dublin’s Protestants and more popularly known as Mount Jerome Cemetery. On 5 November 1836, the Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail declared, ‘About sixteen persons have already been interred in this place, which is termed the Protestant Burial Ground of Mount Jerome, near Harold’s Cross.’ It was not until the 1920s that the first Catholic burials took place there during a gravediggers strike at Glasnevin Cemetery.

Photograph by William Murphy from Dublin, Ireland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Mount Jerome Cemetery website states ‘The first burial took place on 19 September 1836 of the infant twins of Matthew Pollock’ but curiously, according to Saunders News-Letter of 20 October 1836, a Mr Pollock ‘one of the most active supporters of the institution’ was the first to be buried there.

The chapel. Photograph by William Murphy from Dublin, Ireland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The mortuary chapel, designed by William Atkins, was built in 1847. It was the first Puginian gothic church in Dublin and in 1874; the cemetery expanded to its current 48-acre size.

Mount Jerome Cemetery. Finerty, J. F. (John Frederick). (1898). Ireland in pictures: a grand collection of over 400 magnificent photographs of the beauties of the Green isle … wth historical and descriptive sketches. Chicago: J. S. Hyland & co. Public domain

During the second half of the 19th Century, most of Dublin’s city churchyards were closed for further burials and over the course of the 20th Century, some were built over, turned into car parks and others into public parks.

St Catherine’s Graveyard and Park behind the church on Thomas Street. The graveyard was closed to burials in 1894

In 1984, the Dublin Cemetery Company went into voluntary liquidation and by the late 1990s, Mount Jerome Cemetery had fallen into a serious state of neglect. In 1998, the cemetery was purchased by Massey undertakers and a crematorium was opened in 2000. This reversal of fortunes means the cemetery will not fall into decline again.

Photograph by William Murphy from Dublin, Ireland – MOUNT JEROME CEMETERY – SESSION ONE AUGUST 2017 [HAROLDS CROSS DUBLIN]-131402, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

With its Victorian funerary art, including ornate memorials, shrouded urns, tombs, angels, vaults and crypts, the cemetery has often been compared to Père Lachaise in Paris and Highgate Cemetery in London. The cemetery contains over 300,000 burials including the artist Jack Butler Yeats, Sir William Wilde, ‘Oculist to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria’, and the father of Oscar Wilde, the author Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, playwright John Millington Synge, judge and M.P. Thomas Langlois Lefroy, who had a youthful flirtation with the author Jane Austen, and members of the Guinness family.

Dublin, Ireland, July 1887. The city is struggling in a seemingly never-ending heatwave and Will receives devastating news from his father. John has only months to live but his dying wishes leave Will reeling. With the Fitzgeralds suddenly facing money worries, some difficult decisions must be made. Can Will and John repair their complicated relationship before it’s too late?

When a tragic accident brings unexpected truths to light, Isobel discovers a forgotten life intertwined with her grandmother’s. Nothing can prepare her for Lily’s story but will learning of their families’ pasts bring Isobel peace or further heartbreak?

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

Tess, one of Will’s parents’ house-parlourmaids, admitted them to number 67 Merrion Square at eight o’clock and while Will ran upstairs to fetch his father, Tess showed Isobel into the morning room. Sarah, seated as usual on the huge sofa upholstered in green velvet, put a periodical on a side table and gave her a puzzled frown.

“Isobel?”

“Both Will and I have called and Will is bringing John here. There is something John wants to tell you.”

“Is there,” Sarah replied in a flat tone as the door opened and the two men came in.

“Mother.” Will went to her and kissed her cheek. “Father has something he wants to tell you.”

“So Isobel has just informed me. Well, John, you had better sit down.”

John’s face was ashen as he went to what had once been his armchair, and Isobel squeezed his hand as he passed her. Taking her arm, Will led her to the far end of the room, pulled the chair out from the writing desk and she sat down.

John informed his estranged wife of his impending death and cremation remarkably calmly and when he sat back in the armchair, Sarah got up and stood on the hearth rug with her back to them and her hands on her hips, just as Will had done earlier.

“Mother—” Will began, but she held up a hand to stop him from continuing.

“You shall have the front guest bedroom, John,” she said. “It is the smallest and will be easily kept warm when the weather breaks. The bed shall also be positioned that you can look out over the square and—” Her voice broke, she ran from the room and Will ran after her.

Isobel went to the door and closed it, hearing Sarah sobbing in the breakfast room. She went to the drinks tray on a side table in a corner of the room and poured an inch of whiskey into a glass. She handed it to John, then bent and kissed his cheek.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, and he replied with a weak smile before they both jumped as the door was flung open and Sarah strode back into the room with Will right behind her.

“Cremation,” Sarah said, her voice little more than a squeak. “So half your ashes can be buried with her. Well, if you expect me to be buried with the remaining half – the second-best half – you can think again. To you, I have always been second best and I refuse to be second best in death.”

“That is entirely up to you, Sarah. I was merely affording you the courtesy of informing you that soon you will be free of me.” Passing the glass back to Isobel, John struggled out of the armchair. “Good evening to you.”

John left the room and Will nodded to the glass, silently telling her to make his mother drink the whiskey. Will then followed his father, closing the door behind him.

“Come and sit down.” Isobel ushered Sarah to the sofa, sat her down, and sat beside her. “Drink this.” She put the glass in Sarah’s hands and, to her relief, Will’s mother drank the contents in two gulps. “More?” she asked, and Sarah shook her head.

“Oh, Isobel.” Sarah squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. “I shouldn’t have shouted at John. I must apologise and—” She went to get up, but Isobel grabbed her arm.

“Wait a little while – Will is examining him,” she said and Sarah sighed and nodded.

“I have wanted to be free of John for so long – but not like this. I hoped against hope that the laws surrounding divorce might be relaxed, but they remain unchanged because the laws were drawn up by men and it is far more acceptable for a man to have a mistress than a woman to have a lover.”

“That is true.”

“And cremation, Isobel. What are people going to think?”

“I can hazard a guess, which is why Harriett should be told. She will persuade her friends and acquaintances – who amount to most of Dublin society – that cremation will become the norm one day.”

“Do you really think so?”

“Why were Mount Jerome Cemetery and Glasnevin Cemetery opened?” Isobel asked and Sarah gave her a blank stare. “They were opened because the parish graveyards were all but full. Also, compare the size of a container of ashes to the ridiculously big and heavy coffin my grandmother Greene was buried in. Cremation is practical and sanitary and it will save space and reduce the expense of funerals.”

“Isobel, I don’t want people to think we cannot afford to give John a decent Christian burial.”

“Harriett will assure them that is not the case. May I inform her tomorrow, or would you prefer to inform her yourself?”

“Please do it now, Isobel. I believe she is at home this evening. I shall attempt to gather my thoughts while you are out.”

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A Short History of Dublin’s Ha’penny Bridge

The bridge in 1818 by Samuel Frederick Brocas

Ferry services across the River Liffey date back to at least the Fifteenth Century, but in 1665, they were granted a charter by King Charles II. The Charter gave the mayor and sheriffs of the City of Dublin the right to maintain ferries over the river. They were required to provide at all times from an hour before sunrise to an hour after sunset a sufficient number of boats and all other things necessary and becoming. It empowered them to levy a toll of one halfpenny from every passenger who used the ferries to cross the river.

Roque’s Exact Survey of Dublin 1756 – Bibliothèque nationale de France – Public Domain – Tap/Click to open map in a new tab

One of the ferry stations on the south shore of the Liffey was at Fownes Street Lower, known as the Bagnio Slip. The word bagnio comes from the Italian word for illicit bathing house or brothel and there were many bagnios in Temple Bar masquerading as wash houses. In the early 19th Century, William Walsh of Aungier Street, a member of the lower house of Dublin Corporation known as the ‘sheriffs and commons’, leased the tolls of the ferries from the Corporation. A toll bridge at the Bagnio Slip would be lucrative, especially as it would provide a shortcut to Crow Street Theatre in Temple Bar, which was Dublin’s chief theatre, so Walsh proposed building a bridge and the Corporation agreed.

William Walsh listed in The Treble Almanack For The Year 1832

Costing £3000 and cast at Coalbrookdale in Shropshire, England, the iron bridge was transported to Dublin in sections and assembled on site. The bridge comprises an elliptical arch of 43 metres, is 3 metres in width, and rises 3 metres above the River Liffey.

An engraving of the bridge in Warburton, Whitelaw and Walsh’s History of Dublin Vol. 2, published in 1818

The bridge opened on 19 May 1816 with ten days toll-free to celebrate and remained Dublin’s only pedestrian bridge until the completion of the Millennium Bridge in 1999. It was originally called Wellington Bridge, after Arthur Wellesley, the Dublin-born Duke of Wellington, and victor at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815, but the name wasn’t popular. Only a year after its opening, it was being referred to as the Metal Bridge.

The Dublin Evening Post of 15 May 1817

On 29 September 1817, William Walsh was granted a further lease of the tolls of the ferries, which now included the Metal Bridge, for 70 years. It was later extended by 29 years, giving Walsh and his successors the right to extract a halfpenny (ha’penny) toll until 1916. The lease was amended in 1835, setting down stricter terms for Walsh and also enabling him to run other ferries across the river.

Dublin Assembly Roll 1824

In the early days, an average of only 450 people per day used the bridge and despite several campaigns over the years to abolish the toll, Dublin Corporation couldn’t do anything until the 99-year lease expired. Footfall across the bridge increased, however, and by 1878, the tolls amounted to a net annual income of £329 3s 10d for William Walsh’s successors.

Along the quays

In 1913, a proposal by Sir Hugh Lane to replace what The Sphere described as ‘a hideous iron bridge covered with advertisements that is at present one of the eyesores of Dublin’ with an art gallery spanning the Liffey designed by Sir Edward Lutyens was turned down by Dublin Corporation.

Sir Edward Lutyens’ design

William Walsh’s lease expired on 29 September 1916 and control of the bridge reverted to Dublin Corporation. It was expected they would abolish the toll, but a further temporary lease meant a toll was charged until March 1919.

When the Irish Free State was established in 1922, the bridge was renamed The Liffey Bridge but it remained more commonly known as The Metal Bridge. It wasn’t until decades later that it became known as the Ha’penny Bridge.

In 2001, Dublin City Council undertook an extensive refurbishment of the bridge. In the past, the bridge was painted black and silver but is now back to its original off-white colour. Today, an average of 30,000 pedestrians cross the bridge and it remains the best known of Dublin’s bridges.

Dublin, Ireland, July 1887. The city is struggling in a seemingly never-ending heatwave and Will receives devastating news from his father. John has only months to live but his dying wishes leave Will reeling. With the Fitzgeralds suddenly facing money worries, some difficult decisions must be made. Can Will and John repair their complicated relationship before it’s too late?

When a tragic accident brings unexpected truths to light, Isobel discovers a forgotten life intertwined with her grandmother’s. Nothing can prepare her for Lily’s story but will learning of their families’ pasts bring Isobel peace or further heartbreak?

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

The sun was setting as their cab made its way to the quays. It stopped behind another cab on Bachelors Walk and Will got out. To his immense relief, a solitary lady was standing on the bridge looking downriver through the railings towards O’Connell Bridge.

“It’s Mother,” he told Isobel, lifting her hand and kissing it. “I don’t know how long we’ll be.”

“Take as long as you need,” she replied softly, and he closed the door.

Pulling the remaining coins from his trouser pocket, he extracted a halfpenny, crossed the street and held it out to the tollman, who shook his head.

“The lady has asked that no one be allowed onto the bridge for a short time, sir.”

“The lady is my mother and today, she has learned that soon she will be a widow.”

“Put that halfpenny away and go to her,” the tollman said, his face crumpling in sympathy. “And give this back to her,” he added, holding out a half-crown.

“Thank you.” Will put the coins in his pocket and walked to the middle of the bridge. “Mother?” he began, and she jumped and turned to him with tears in her eyes.

“Will? How did you know where to find me?”

“You told me once that this is where you accepted Father’s marriage proposal.”

“Yes. Oh, Will, I did love him so very much once.”

“I wish I could protect you from what is to come, but I can’t.”

“I know and I’m scared. Once your father leaves the Journal, what will we do? We can’t continue to live at number 67 on his savings.”

“We will discuss practicalities at another time, but you will both continue to live at number 67,” he told her adamantly. “And Father will do his best to hide it, but he is terrified about the future, too. Which is why both you and he need your family around you. Evelyn is on her way to number 67 as we speak.”

“Evelyn? Why?”

“Isobel thought you had gone to number 8 to speak to her about Marcus. When we called and you weren’t there, Evelyn was concerned for you – and puzzled – so I told her to take a cab to number 67 and Father would explain.”

“Explain how much?”

“That will be for Father to decide.”

“I should decide it, too,” she cried. “Evelyn knows nothing about—” She broke off, unable to say Maria Simpson’s name and turned back to the view. “Perhaps it’s time Evelyn knew, but I wanted to tell her myself.”

“Let’s return to number 67.”

“Is Harriett there?” she asked, and he nodded.

“When Isobel and I left, Father was breaking the news to the servants and Harriett was about to make tea for them all,” he explained and his mother spluttered an incredulous laugh.

“Harriett making tea… The world has certainly been turned on its head today. That’s my cab over there. I must pay the cabman,” she added, opening her handbag, but he gently closed it.

“I’ll pay,” he said and took her arm.

They walked to the second cab, Will nodding gratefully to the tollman as they passed. He helped his mother inside, and Isobel kissed her cheek. He paid his mother’s fare, then returned to the second cab and instructed the cabman to take them to 67 Merrion Square.

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

Tap/Click the banners to catch up on all the books!

I’ve created a map 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.

 

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A Short History of Modern Cremation in the United Kingdom and Ireland

Modern cremation, as we know it, began almost one hundred and fifty years ago when Professor Brunetti of Padua, Italy, displayed his cremation apparatus at the 1873 Vienna Exposition along with the resulting ashes. The exhibit sign read “Vermibus erepti—Puro consumimur igni” or “Saved from the worms, consumed by the purifying flame.”

The cremation apparatus attracted great attention, including that of Queen Victoria’s surgeon Sir Henry Thompson, who wrote a paper called The Treatment of the Body after Death, which was published in the Contemporary Review of January 1874. His principal argument was a sanitary one as many graveyards were overcrowded, but he also believed cremation would prevent premature burial, reduce the expense of funerals and spare mourners the necessity of standing exposed to the weather during interment.

Philip Holland, the Medical Inspector of Burials for England and Wales, opposed cremation as not being a sanitary necessity, which prompted a second, more powerful paper from Sir Henry. The resulting debate in the press led Sir Henry and several friends to found the Cremation Society of England in 1874.

Sir Henry Thompson

The Society established the United Kingdom’s first crematorium at Woking in Surrey, England, on an acre of land purchased by Sir Henry with the aid of subscriptions of £200 each from the London Necropolis Company who had founded the nearby Brookwood Cemetery. The cremator was constructed by Professor Paolo Gorini of Lodi, Italy and was not initially enclosed in a building but stood in the grounds.

The Graphic, Saturday 07 December 1889

The new cremator was first tested on 17 March 1879, when the body of a horse was cremated. The inhabitants of Woking were strongly opposed to the crematorium and led by the vicar, appealed to the Home Secretary, Sir Richard Cross, to prohibit its use. With the threat of legal or parliamentary proceedings against them, the Society was forced to abandon further experiments.

In 1884, the Welsh Neo-Druidic priest William Price was arrested and put on trial for attempting to cremate his infant son’s body. Price argued in court that while the law did not state cremation was legal, it also did not state it was illegal and the judge, Mr Justice Stephen, agreed. As a result, the Cremation Society informed the public it was now prepared to proceed with the cremation of anyone requesting it.

William Price

Strict conditions had to be observed before a body would be accepted for cremation at Woking and in the appendix to his book Modern Cremation, Sir Henry published the forms which the Cremation Society required. These conditions, designed to prevent the destruction of a body which may have met death illegally, continued for many years to be the only form of certification for cremation. 

On 26 March 1885, the first official cremation in the UK took place in Woking. The deceased was Mrs Jeannette C. Pickersgill, whom the newspapers described as “well-known in literary and scientific circles”. By the end of the year, the Cremation Society of Great Britain had overseen two more cremations, 3 out of 597,357 deaths in the UK that year. In 1886, ten bodies were cremated.

The Globe, Friday 27 March 1885

During 1888, in which 28 cremations took place, the Cremation Society issued an appeal to the public for funds to build a chapel, waiting rooms and other amenities at the Woking Crematorium. The subscription list was headed by the dukes of Bedford and Westminster but the appeal only raised £1,500, which was less than was needed. The Duke of Bedford stepped in, making it possible to not only provide the buildings, but to purchase additional ground next to the crematorium. The buildings were constructed in English thirteenth-century Gothic style and were available for use at the start of January 1891. The churchlike appearance was intended to make the buildings look reassuring to the public at a time when cremation was an alien custom.

The Graphic, Saturday 07 December 1889

After Woking Crematorium, crematoria were established in other cities with the Manchester Crematorium opening in 1892, Glasgow Crematorium in 1895, Liverpool Crematorium in 1896 and Darlington and Hull Crematoria in 1901. Golders Green Crematorium opened in 1902 and Birmingham Crematorium opened in 1903.

The William Price case’s legal precedent led to the Cremation Act of 1902, which allowed local authorities to establish crematoria, but the Act did not apply to Ireland.

Today, cremation accounts for approximately 78% of all funerals in the United Kingdom.

In Ireland, a country with a history steeped in ties to the Catholic Church, burial is still the most common way of laying the deceased to rest because of the belief in the body’s resurrection after death. In July 1963, however, the Pope proclaimed it legal within the Catholic Church to seek cremation, but it was not until 1966 that the ban on priests conducting services in crematoria was lifted. Despite this, cremation only accounts for 21.16% of Irish funerals but this is changing, especially in cities because of the high cost of burial plots and the pandemic.

The first crematorium on the island of Ireland was opened at Roselawn Cemetery in Belfast, Northern Ireland on 10th May 1961. Compared to the rest of the UK, the cremation rate of 21.8% for Northern Ireland is low because of a continuing preference for burial and there only being one crematorium for a population of approximately 1.8 million people.

In the Republic of Ireland, there are seven crematoria serving a population of close to 5 million people. Glasnevin Crematorium, Dublin was the first to open in March 1982. Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin opened its crematorium in 2000 and Newlands Cross Crematorium, Dublin opened in 2001. The Island Crematorium in Co Cork was opened on 30 March 2007 and crematoria were opened in Co Cavan in July 2015, in Dublin’s Dardistown in October 2016 and in Shannon, Co Clare in 2017.

Dublin, Ireland, July 1887. The city is struggling in a seemingly never-ending heatwave and Will receives devastating news from his father. John has only months to live but his dying wishes leave Will reeling. With the Fitzgeralds suddenly facing money worries, some difficult decisions must be made. Can Will and John repair their complicated relationship before it’s too late?

When a tragic accident brings unexpected truths to light, Isobel discovers a forgotten life intertwined with her grandmother’s. Nothing can prepare her for Lily’s story but will learning of their families’ pasts bring Isobel peace or further heartbreak?

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

Dublin, Ireland. Friday, 1st July 1887.

Will saw his last patient out of the surgery, then returned to the chair behind his desk. Reaching for a notepad, he sat back, closing his eyes and fanned himself with it. Dublin was entering its second month of heat and drought and the city and its inhabitants stank. Hearing a quick knock, he opened his eyes and sat bolt upright as the door opened and his father looked in at him.

“May I come in? Eva told me surgery is over.”

“Yes, of course.” Will pointed to the chair in front of the desk and his father closed the door and sat down. “Is there any sign of the weather breaking?”

“Not yet. How are you coping?”

“Badly,” he admitted, pointing to a jug of lemonade with three-quarters gone from it before fanning his face again. “Did you brave the heat to catch a glimpse of Prince Albert Victor and Prince George?”

“No, but I overheard your mother telling Tess that she and Harriett went to Trinity College yesterday to see them. Harriett thought Prince Albert Victor was ‘shifty looking’ and wholly undeserving of an honorary degree.”

Will smiled. “He was probably bored stiff and cursing his grandmother for not coming here herself to mark her golden jubilee.”

“The Queen would have fainted in this heat. Can you imagine the furore at Her Majesty being carried away on a stretcher – and it happening in Dublin?”

“Careful, Father, you almost sound like a Parnellite,” Will teased and his father shrugged.

“Edward died a major in Victoria’s army – and for what?” he demanded, startling Will. “Tell me, Will, what did your brother’s death achieve? It achieved nothing. Edward died a horrible death in a country thousands of miles from here – and for nothing – it—”

His father broke off, panting hard, and Will quickly reached for the jug of lemonade and poured some into the glass he had used.

“Drink this,” he said quietly, putting the glass on the desk in front of his father. “And tell me what’s wrong.” His father sipped the lemonade and Will took the glass from him. “Well?” he prompted and his father inhaled and exhaled a deep breath.

“Over the past year, I haven’t been myself – fatigue and lower back pain – which I attributed to my age. Then, over the past few months, I developed a frequent urge to urinate, but I had great difficulty in actually urinating,” he continued and Will’s heart pounded uncomfortably. “My bowel movements have become increasingly uncomfortable and my appetite has declined rapidly. On my last visit to Greene Hall, I called to Dr Bourke in Westport and I asked him to examine me to allay my suspicions. My prostate is enlarged and Dr Bourke could feel a large mass that has extended into my anus and given my lower back pain, into my bones, too. Will, I have prostate cancer and sooner rather than later, it is going to kill me.”

Will couldn’t speak and his father reached for the jug of lemonade and poured some into the glass.

“Drink this,” his father said, pushing the glass across the desk. “And then I’ll share my plans with you.”

Will had to clasp the glass with both hands, which shook as he drank and some lemonade slopped onto the desk. “Who else knows?” he whispered, putting the glass down, then pulling his handkerchief out of a trouser pocket and mopping up the spillage.

“No one. But soon, your mother will have to be told, as I shall have to move into one of the guest bedrooms. I don’t want my doctor to wonder why my bed is in what was the dining room.”

“Your doctor? But I am—”

“No, Will, I cannot ask it of you.”

“Yes, you can.” Will thumped a fist on the desk. “I am your son and—” He broke off and grimaced. To add, ‘you should have come to me first with your suspicions’ was pointless now. “I am your doctor and I will tend to you and that is final,” he continued, struggling to keep his voice steady.

“Thank you, Will. But I shall have to move into a guest bedroom all the same as I will receive callers while I am still able. Jim Harvey for one,” he added, rolling his eyes and Will almost smiled.

“Would you like me to be present when you tell Mother?” he asked. “Or Isobel? Or both of us?”

“Isobel,” his father mused. “Yes, of course, you will tell Isobel at once – you tell her everything – but no one else, do you hear me? I have spoken to John Dalton, but I will break the news to others in my own good time.”

“Very well.”

“I would be most grateful if you could both be present. Do you have any plans for this evening?”

“We have no plans and Isobel and I can be at number 67 at eight o’clock,” he said and his father nodded. “Can I suggest that you also tell Harriett as soon as possible? Mother will need someone to confide in and with Harriett being next door..?”

“You’re right. Like Isobel, Harriett is a practical woman and she will persuade her friends and acquaintances that my plans were not those of a man of unsound mind.”

“Your plans?”

“My will does not need updating but as I said, I have spoken to John Dalton and I have planned my funeral, written the death notice for The Irish Times and a short obituary for the Journal of Irish Medicine and it will also be published in The Irish Times.”

“May I write your eulogy or have you written it, too?” Will asked dryly, scarcely believing he was making light of the subject.

“You wrote a wonderful eulogy for Fred so I can trust you to write one as equally affecting for me.”

“There is something else, isn’t there?”

“I have chosen my coffin and I apologise in advance, as it is not oak like that which Isobel’s grandmother was buried in, but a very fine elm one.”

Will waved a hand dismissively and waited for his father to continue.

“I chose it mostly for show as I must have a grand funeral and your mother must be seen to ‘mourn’ for me. However, it is what happens afterwards which preyed on my mind.”

“Have you chosen a headstone?”

“I have, but it is my burial, which initially had me in a quandary.”

“Why?”

“Maria was the love of my life,” his father replied matter-of-factly, and Will’s gut twisted painfully. “And I wanted to be buried with her. But I have been married to your mother for forty-two years and she bore me two wonderful sons so I also wanted to be buried in a separate grave so she can eventually be buried with me – unless, of course, she chooses not to be – or she remarries. I simply did not know how it could be done until I read a piece in a periodical concerning cremation.”

“Cremation?” Will’s jaw dropped.

“I shall be cremated,” his father announced. “I have discussed it with John and after my funeral, instead of the hearse taking me to Mount Jerome Cemetery, it will take me to the North Wall Quay passenger terminus. I shall set sail for Holyhead on the express night service, then travel in the train’s guard’s van to London and from London to Woking Crematorium in Surrey. My ashes will be posted to John and he will pass them on to you and I would like you to divide them and bury half with Maria and the remaining half in the new grave I have purchased. I know it is a lot to take in,” he added as Will simply stared at him in consternation, “so I have written it all down for you.” Extracting an envelope from the inside pocket of his frock coat, he put it on the desk in front of Will.

“How on earth are you going to explain this to Mother?”

“Your mother is a clever woman. She will know exactly why I have chosen to be cremated. I simply hope her anger will be cooled a little by the realisation that soon she will be free of me at long last.”

“Christ Almighty, Father.” Will got up from his chair so suddenly it fell over backwards and he walked to the window. “How can you be so calm?”

“I am anything but calm. I have spent the greater portion of my life deceiving my wife, my sons and everyone I know, so I am an expert at putting on an act. Inside, I am terrified. Soon, I will be unable to walk, unable to eat and unable to defecate. Mine will be a horrible death and despite you being an excellent doctor, you will not be able to do anything to prevent it.”  

Will clenched his fists, but his father was right.

“When will you retire from the Journal?” he asked, turning to face him.

“As soon as a replacement editor is found. I wrote my letter of resignation this morning and I have just posted it.”

“I’ll walk with you until you hail a cab, and please give my regards to Dr Smythe.”

“There is no need. I shall take my time, but I shall pass on your regards. I certainly did not expect to outlive Jacob Smythe, but physically, he is as fit as a fiddle and he eats like a horse. Miss Gamal is an excellent cook but I now struggle to clear my plate so, except for Fridays, I lunch at the Trinity Club. My lack of appetite is never commented on there and when I return home, I simply lie to Tess or Maura and say I have already eaten an enormous meal and ask for a small portion of dinner.”

“You and I must speak to Mrs Rogers and devise a menu for you of small but nourishing meals,” he said, and his father nodded before getting up from his seat.

“I feel a great relief at having told you, but I am dreading telling your mother.”

“Isobel and I will be with you. And afterwards, I want to examine you.”

“Thank you, Will. Don’t lose that.” His father pointed to the envelope on the desk, then went to the door. “I don’t want to write it all out again.”

“I won’t lose it,” Will replied, and his father gave him a brief smile.

“Good. I simply want to ensure my death is no more than a slight inconvenience and my cremation, but a minor detail.”

His father left the surgery, and Will walked to the desk on shaky legs. Extracting a bunch of keys from his medical bag, he went to the door and locked it. Returning to the desk, he righted the chair, sat down, and wept.

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A Minor Detail: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Seven – Out Now!

PUBLICATION DAY!

Can Will and Isobel honour John’s dying wishes?

Dublin, Ireland, July 1887.  The city is struggling in a seemingly never-ending heatwave and Will receives devastating news from his father. John has only months to live, but his dying wishes leave Will reeling. With the Fitzgeralds suddenly facing money worries, some difficult decisions must be made. Can Will and John repair their complicated relationship before it’s too late? 

When a tragic accident brings unexpected truths to light, Isobel discovers a forgotten life intertwined with her grandmother’s. Nothing can prepare her for Lily’s story, but will learning of their families’ pasts bring Isobel peace or further heartbreak? 

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.

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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.”

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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.”

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I’ve created a map of the Dublin area with locations which feature in The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series. As a few locations don’t exist anymore, some are approximate but I’ve been as accurate as I can. Tap/Click in the top right hand corner to open the map.

 

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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.

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

Tap/Click a banner below to catch up on the rest of the series!

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I’ve created a map of the Dublin area with locations which feature in The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series. As a few locations don’t exist anymore, some are approximate but I’ve been as accurate as I can. Tap/Click in the top right hand corner to open the map.

 

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St Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland

533px-Jonathan_Swift_by_Charles_Jervas_detail

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.

1024px-St._Patrick's_Hospital,_Dublin

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 background information

Tap/Click a banner below to catch up on the rest of the series!

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I’ve created a map of the Dublin area with locations which feature in The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series. As a few locations don’t exist anymore, some are approximate but I’ve been as accurate as I can. Tap/Click in the top right hand corner to open the map.

 

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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

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 add 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 and I’ve created a map with locations which feature in the series.

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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

Meet Cecilia Ashlinn

Meet Peter Shawcross

Meet Evelyn Darby

Location Histories

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

Merrion Square

The Liberties of Dublin

Monto: Dublin’s Red Light District

Fitzwilliam Square

St Patrick’s Hospital aka Swift’s Hospital

The Westmoreland Lock Hospital

Rutland Square

The Four Courts Marshalsea Debtors Prison

Dublin City Morgue and Coroner’s Court

The Ha’penny Bridge

Mount Jerome Cemetery

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

Dublin’s Pawnshops

A Short History of Modern Cremation in the UK and Ireland

I’ve created a map 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.

The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series is

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