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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The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series: Books 4 – 6 Box Set

RELEASE DAY!

This Kindle box set contains the novels A Forlorn HopeA Cruel Mischief and A Hidden Motive.

A Forlorn Hope: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book 4

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

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

Cruel Mischief: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book 5

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?

A Hidden Motive: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book 6

Dublin, Ireland, September 1886. Will is reacquainted with his former fiancée when his father’s close friend Dr Ken Wilson dies suddenly. On finding they have received the only invitation to the Wilson residence after the funeral, the Fitzgeralds witness the tensions between Cecilia, her mother and her in-laws and discover her hidden motive for wanting them present.

When Isobel is reunited with an old friend from Ballybeg, his shame at what he has done to survive hampers her attempts to bring him and Alfie together again. With an empty life and low expectations, can Peter regain his self-respect or are he and Alfie destined to be alone?

The books 1 – 3 and books 4 – 6 box sets can be purchased as a series and are also available to read through Kindle Unlimited. 

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 Hidden Motive’s Cecilia Ashlinn

Thirty-seven year-old Cecilia Ashlinn was born at number 14 Merrion Square North, the only child of Dr Kenneth Wilson and his wife Cordelia. Ken worked with Dr Will Fitzgerald’s father, John, at the Merrion Street Upper medical practice and they were also great friends. Cecilia and Will were friends as children, they later fall in love and Cecilia accepted Will’s proposal of marriage.

After working at his father’s medical practice for a short time, Will moved to the Liberties of Dublin and set up practice there. Cecilia hoped she could persuade him to leave and although he agreed they would live with his parents at number 67 Merrion Square after their marriage, he refused to give up his practice in the Liberties.

Will’s stubbornness and the location of his practice made Cecilia regret their engagement and unknown to him, she allowed Clive Ashlinn – a rich barrister who lived at number 12 Merrion Square – to court her. She wrote to Will, breaking off their engagement and the announcement of her engagement to Clive was published in The Irish Times only three weeks after the announcement of her engagement to Will had been published there. Cecilia and Clive were married at St Peter’s Church in July 1880 and they took up residence at 46 Rutland Square.

Cecilia’s betrayal left Will heartbroken and his family and friends furious. All contact between the Fitzgerald and Wilson families was ended except for John and Ken who met regularly in the Trinity Club but they wisely gossiped about other families and never mentioned their own.

Cecilia and Clive were involved in a cab accident in November 1880. Clive was killed and the pregnant Cecilia was badly injured but recovered and moved back to her parents’ home on Merrion Square. In January 1881, Dr Fred Simpson delivered her son by caesarean section and Will assisted, reviving the baby by the unorthodox ‘Piglet Procedure’.

It is now September 1886, Ken Wilson has died in his sleep and Will calls to number 14 to express his condolences. It is the first time Cecilia has seen Will since just after her marriage to Clive. He is happily married with children, a home on Fitzwilliam Square and he has taken over his father’s medical practice. It is Cecilia who is fearful for the future.

Now her father is dead, Cecilia must take matters into her own hands. Hatching a plan with a hidden motive, she writes to Will and unknown to her mother and in-laws, invites the Fitzgeralds to number 14 for tea after the funeral. She desperately needs their help but after her past deceit can she be trusted?

Dublin, Ireland, September 1886. Will is reacquainted with his former fiancée when his father’s close friend Dr Ken Wilson dies suddenly. On finding they have received the only invitation to the Wilson residence after the funeral, the Fitzgeralds witness the tensions between Cecilia, her mother and her in-laws and discover her hidden motive for wanting them present.

When Isobel is reunited with an old friend from Ballybeg, his shame at what he has done to survive hampers her attempts to bring him and Alfie together again. With an empty life and low expectations, can Peter regain his self-respect or are he and Alfie destined to be alone?

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

At five minutes to one, Will went up the steps and rang the front doorbell of number 14 Merrion Square North. Pryce opened the door and he took off his hat.

“My name is Dr William Fitzgerald and—”

“Will?” He peered past the butler and saw Cecilia hurrying down the stairs. “Thank you, Pryce, I shall speak to Dr Fitzgerald.” The butler nodded to her then went down the steps to the servants’ hall. “Please, come in, Will.”

He went into the hall and closed the front door, left his hat and medical bag on the table and followed her into the morning room.

“My father called to the practice house just before surgery,” he said. “You have my deepest condolences, Mrs Ashlinn, your father was always very kind to me.”

“Father liked you very much,” she replied. “Much more than Clive. He thought Clive was ‘too cute’ – as he put it – far too clever for his own good.”

Will wisely stayed silent and she gave him a wobbly smile.

“Please, call me Cecilia, Will. It has been a long time since we have spoken – that awkward encounter in the Merrion Square garden if I remember correctly. You look well.”

She didn’t but that was to be expected. Her face was ashen and already there were lines at the corners of her eyes and mouth and strands of white in her blonde hair. She was thirty-seven, just a year older than he was, but she appeared to have aged prematurely.

“How is your son?” he asked and she blinked away tears.

“Asking where Grandfather is and I don’t know how to explain.”

“How did you explain Clive’s death?”

“Badly. I told him that before he was born his father went to heaven.”

“Explain that his grandfather has joined his father in heaven.”

“Yes, I shall. That I have a son at all is thanks to you. I know I should have thanked you long before this but I was furious at your father for the sensationalist article he wrote and had printed in The Irish Times and then as time went on…”

“Fred performed the caesarean section. I simply revived the baby.”

“Poor Fred. Do you ever see Margaret?”

“Yes, she is godmother to my daughter Belle and visits the children regularly.”

“What a lovely name. Are your children at school?”

“Yes, Belle and Ben plus my nephew John and Vicky – who is the daughter of a doctor friend and lives with us – all attend Mrs Pearson’s school on Fitzwilliam Square.”

“Clive is educated here by a tutor and is very eager to learn and—”

“Cecilia,” he broke in gently, hearing the clock on the mantelpiece chime one o’clock. “I called not just to offer my condolences but to offer to be a pallbearer and represent my father and the Merrion Street Upper medical practice. Your father and my father weren’t just in practice together, they were great friends and your father almost became my father-in-law.”

“You’re very kind, Will. I shall send a message to number 30 when the funeral arrangements have been made.”

He nodded, opened the door and followed her along the hall to the front door.

“I never expected you to leave your practice in the Liberties,” she said. “But here you are – Dr Will Fitzgerald with a practice on Merrion Street Upper – a husband and a father with a home on Fitzwilliam Square.”

“Life takes us in many unexpected directions,” he replied, picking up his hat and medical bag then opening the door.

“It does,” she said simply.

“Take care of yourself, Cecilia.”

“Thank you, Will, I shall.”

He put on his hat and raised it to her before going down the steps to the pavement and walking away along Merrion Square North.

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Meet A Hidden Motive’s Peter Shawcross

Peter Shawcross is thirty-two years old and was born on a farm just outside Ballybeg in Co Galway. His mother died when he was two while giving birth to his brother James. The Shawcross family often visited the Glebe House as they were the Stevens family’s nearest Protestant neighbours and Peter and James’ father Thomas was the closest Isobel Fitzgerald’s father Canon Edmund Stevens had to a friend. Despite being sent to schools hundreds of miles apart, James and Isobel’s brother Alfie were best friends. Peter was more of a loner but was still a good friend to Isobel and Alfie.

Peter and Alfie are gay and Isobel later discovers they became more than good friends. Finding them together, James coerced Alfie into leaving him alone with Isobel. James seduced her, she fell pregnant and James deserted her and went to America. Isobel had no option but to tell her father and he whipped and disowned her and she left Ballybeg for Dublin.

When Isobel and Will visit Ballybeg on their honeymoon in December 1880, they meet James on the road outside the church. James smugly informs them his father discovered Peter was gay, wrote Peter out of his will and asked him to come back to Ireland and run the farm. On being asked where Peter is, James tells them he has no idea.

In September 1886, Isobel encounters a blond gentleman waiting to be interviewed for the position of her step-father James Ellison’s new law clerk. At first, she thinks he is James Shawcross but no, it’s Peter. Has he been living in Dublin all this time? Why is he using an assumed name and most importantly, how has he supported himself? When she discovers the truth mirrors her own experiences, she fears Peter and Alfie may never be reunited. Can Peter overcome his shame and start afresh?

Dublin, Ireland, September 1886. Will is reacquainted with his former fiancée when his father’s close friend Dr Ken Wilson dies suddenly. On finding they have received the only invitation to the Wilson residence after the funeral, the Fitzgeralds witness the tensions between Cecilia, her mother and her in-laws and discover her hidden motive for wanting them present.

When Isobel is reunited with an old friend from Ballybeg, his shame at what he has done to survive hampers her attempts to bring him and Alfie together again. With an empty life and low expectations, can Peter regain his self-respect or are he and Alfie destined to be alone?

Read an excerpt from Chapter Two…

After calling to number 67 with the bed linen and toys, Isobel walked to number 8 Westmoreland Street and went up the stairs to James’ offices on the first floor. As she closed the main door behind her, two gentlemen aged about thirty, one blond and one dark-haired and seated on chairs along the wall in the hall, got to their feet. Mr Dunbar, James’ law clerk of twenty years standing had died suddenly a fortnight ago and finding a suitable replacement was proving to be quite a challenge.

“This is not a position for a lady,” the dark-haired gentleman informed her forcefully and she tensed.

“Is it not?” she replied, feigning surprise.

“Clerking is a gentleman’s position.”

“Clerking is a position for a gentleman with manners,” James snapped and she turned to him as he left his office and pointed to the door. “Out.”

The dark-haired gentleman closed his eyes for a moment, mentally berating himself, before walking to the stand, lifting a hat down and leaving the hall.

“I do apologise, Isobel.” James extended a hand into the office. “I won’t be long,” he added, looking past her at the blond gentleman and she glanced at him then did a double-take, her heart almost turning over.

No, it isn’t James Shawcross, she had to reassure herself. It’s his elder brother.

“Peter,” she said, sounding breathless and he stared at her with a mixture of astonishment and horror.

“Isobel Stevens?”

“I’m Isobel Fitzgerald now,” she told him with a smile.

“Oh, no-no-no—” He began to stutter and strode to the main door.

“Don’t go, Peter, please?” Running after him, she held the door shut.

“I haven’t been Peter Shawcross for almost six years,” he whispered fiercely.

“James will understand why,” she replied and he stared at her again, realisation dawning on his face that she certainly understood why. “He is step-father to myself and Alfie.”

“Your step-father..?” Peter peered over her shoulder at James then down at her. “How is Alfie?”

“Come and sit with me.” Taking his arm, she led him back to a chair and sat him down. “I will tell you about Alfie but first, James will interview you. So gather your thoughts while I speak to him for a few minutes. Promise me you will stay and be interviewed?”

“Yes, I promise,” he replied quietly and she squeezed his shoulder before going into James’ office.

“The name on his letter of application is Richard Rutherford,” James said, closing the door. “But you called him Peter. Kindly explain why I shouldn’t ask him to leave as well?”

“He is Peter Shawcross – James’ elder brother.”

“Then, he must leave and—”

“No, please listen?” she begged. “Peter and James Shawcross are like chalk and cheese. Their father disinherited Peter when James revealed that Peter…” She tailed off deliberately and her step-father shook his head in disgust. “Richard is Peter’s father’s name and Rutherford is his mother’s maiden name. Please interview him?”

“Oh, very well,” he replied with a sigh and she gave him a grateful smile.

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Dublin City Morgue and Coroner’s Court

It was not until 1871 that Dublin had a morgue for the reception and housing of the unidentified dead or those who died in suspicious circumstances. Before then, inquests were held in various locations. Under the terms of the 1846 Coroner’s Act, a coroner could order that a dead body be deposited in the nearest public house until an inquest could be held, and if the proprietor refused he could be fined. Cool beer cellars were an ideal storage place and as time went on, it became common for publicans to keep marble tables in their cellars for post-mortem examinations. This legislation was not removed from the Irish statute books until 1962 which explains why many publicans to this day, especially in rural Ireland, are also undertakers.

The Sanitary Act 1866 gave impetus for the creation of a city morgue. The Act stated: Any Nuisance Authority may provide a proper place … for the reception of dead bodies for and during the time required to conduct any post-mortem examination ordered by the Coroner of the district or any constituted authority, and may make such regulations as they may deem fit for the maintenance, support, and management of such place. D.J. Dickinson, Secretary of Dublin Corporation’s Sanitary Department declared in Saunders’s News-Letter of 31 January 1866 that ‘the Corporation (sanitary department) lately erected a commodious dead-house in Fishamble Street for the reception of bodies found drowned, and a coroner’s room for holding inquests.’ The Dublin City Council Minutes of 29 March 1866 reveal the building, located in a corporation yard off Fishamble Street, had only been open a month when employees from a neighbouring business complained about ‘the noise being occasioned by the removal of bodies and from inquests held therein.’ Hopes that a back entrance could be knocked through to Winetavern Street came to nothing and the building was closed.

OS Map Dublin 1864. Tap/click the map to open a larger size in a new tab.

Flynn’s Livery Stables in Bass Place off Boyne Street, described by the newspapers as filthy and wretched, was used as a morgue and for inquests from at least November 1864 and continued to be used as such until 1871. According to the Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail of 24 June 1871 ‘remains were often left for days, amid surroundings repugnant to every idea of decency or reverence.’ The Irish Times of 9 June 1870 described it as a ‘discreditable den in a filthy stable lane’ and ‘being dark and dirty; there are not even light and conveniences to perform post-mortem operations; the air is stifling and odorous, hanging about the walls laden with the effluvia of a charnel house. No one ever entered that dead-house without feeling disgust and horror.’

OS Map Dublin 1864. Tap/Click to open a larger size in a new tab.

On Monday 25 September 1871, the Dublin City Morgue was opened in a substantial two-storey stone building purchased from a Mr Curwin on Marlborough Street just north of Eden Quay. According to The Irish Builder of 15 April 1871, the building was originally erected for the Dublin Savings Bank and following the bank’s relocation to Lower Abbey Street, the building was used as ‘a Temperance Hall, an Irish School, a Rechabite hall, a cheap restaurant (kept by a black man), an oil stores more recently, and now it is being fitted up by the Corporation as the “City Morgue” in which King Coroner will hold his inquests!’ The location attracted criticism from The Irish Times as it was in a highly-populated built-up area and would have a detrimental effect on property prices. James Cleary was appointed as caretaker and registrar and the building was to be in readiness at all times both day and night.

Thoms Directory 1873.

The Freeman’s Journal of 21 June 1871 commented ‘That very unpleasant, but still indispensable, requirement for a great city, a morgue or dead house, has at last been supplied. Up to the present time the corpses of unfortunate persons found drowned or dead in the streets were treated with the greatest neglect not to say indecency. The remains of persons thus deceased were deposited in an open shed, and the coroner’s inquests were held in taverns. To remove such a condition of things the Corporation have converted the old Savings Bank in Marlborough Street into a morgue. One of the lower rooms of the establishment has been fitted up in the same manner as that adopted in the celebrated Parisian institution. The bodies are to be laid on large slabs, and over them a gentle stream of water is to flow. Passing from this ghastly apartment, a fine room has been fitted up for holding coroner’s inquests. The room is supplied with a bench, jury-box, witness chair and the other requirements of a court of justice. Ample accommodation is also provided for the press. The alterations were conducted under the care of Mr Glynn, Clerk of Works to the Corporation, and reflect much credit on that gentleman.’

Thoms Directory 1887.

Despite the newspapers describing the new morgue as well-ventilated, the mortuaries and post-mortem room were separated from the courtroom above only by wooden floorboards and the city coroner Dr Nicholas C. Whyte frequently complained about the insanitary conditions as the odour from below, especially in warm weather, was almost unbearable. It was impossible to alter the building as there was no room for an extension.

OS Map Dublin 1892 – Tap/click the map to open a larger size in a new tab.

In 1902, a new Dublin City Coroner’s Court and City Morgue opened on Store Street and the Weekly Irish Times of 9 August reported ‘From a letter of Messers A. Armstrong & Co. in The Irish Times it appears the old morgue in Old Abbey Street is a condemned structure, and yet it is occupied by a caretaker, who as a matter of kindness and humanity is permitted to reside in it.’ The caretaker was fifty-year-old Annie Byrne. ‘Should it collapse and kill her, she would, of course, be promptly transferred to the new morgue but it might be more judicious not to wait till then’ the newspaper added. By 1904, the old morgue, along with the adjacent Mechanics Institute were purchased and incorporated into the old Abbey Theatre as an entrance to the stalls and balcony and a portion was used for dressing-rooms.

Fire Insurance map from 1893 created by London-based company, Charles E. Goad Ltd. Tap/click the map to open a larger version in a new tab.

W.B. Yeats wrote in August 1904 “I have just been down to see the work on the Abbey Theatre. It is all going very quickly and the company should be able to rehearse there in a month. The other day, while digging up some old rubbish in the Morgue, which is being used for dressing-rooms, they found human bones. The workmen thought they had lit on a murder, but the caretaker said, ‘Oh, I remember, we lost a body about seven years ago. When the time for the inquest came, it couldn’t be found.’”

The old Abbey Theatre. The Dublin City Morgue and Coroner’s Court was in one of the buildings to the rear of the theatre.

The purpose-built coroner’s court and morgue on Store Street was designed by the city architect Charles J McCarthy who had gone on a fact-finding tour of coroner’s courts in England. It contained a court with a public gallery, a jury box, retiring rooms and a waiting room for witnesses. The mortuaries and post-mortem room were separate and to the rear of the building. The viewing lobby was separated from the mortuaries by glass screens so jurors and others called upon to view the bodies on which inquests were being held could observe them without actually entering the mortuaries.

Dublin City Coroner’s Court.

The outdated morgue was demolished in 1999 and Dublin City Mortuary was housed in temporary accommodation until a new state-of-the-art City Mortuary came into use at Griffith Avenue, Whitehall in 2016. The building is shared with the Office of the State Pathologist.

The Coroner’s Court on Store Street, Dublin.

The Coroner’s Court still stands on Store Street. It was refurbished between 2008 and 2010 and an extension was added, providing improved facilities for staff and members of the public.

Dublin, Ireland, September 1886. Will is reacquainted with his former fiancée when his father’s close friend Dr Ken Wilson dies suddenly. On finding they have received the only invitation to the Wilson residence after the funeral, the Fitzgeralds witness the tensions between Cecilia, her mother and her in-laws and discover her hidden motive for wanting them present.

When Isobel is reunited with an old friend from Ballybeg, his shame at what he has done to survive hampers her attempts to bring him and Alfie together again. With an empty life and low expectations, can Peter regain his self-respect or are he and Alfie destined to be alone?

Read an excerpt from Chapter Six…

At a quarter to ten on Thursday morning, Will helped Isobel alight from a cab outside the City Morgue on Lower Marlborough Street and he paid the cabman. They went inside and he introduced himself to a clerk then chose two seats at the very back of the area reserved for members of the public to avoid having to sit anywhere near {spoiler} who was seated in the front row.

As they waited for the inquest to begin, he gazed across the room. The Coroner was seated at a raised desk at one end of a large table with the witness box at the other end. On either side of the table were seats for barristers and solicitors and to their rear was the jury box with a casting of the City Arms on the wall behind them.

After the jury was sworn, the kitchen maid was called first to give evidence. As she was being sworn, she burst into tears and was incomprehensible much to the Coroner’s frustration. He discharged her and asked for the young police constable who was sworn and deposed that his name was Patrick Egan and he was a constable at College Street Police Station. He had been on his way to report for duty when he heard screams and went to investigate but could add little else which Will attributed to the shock of what he discovered. The Coroner thanked the constable, discharged him and Will was called to the witness box.

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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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A Hidden Motive: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Six

RELEASE DAY!

Can Will and Isobel help two old friends to overcome their fear and start afresh?

Dublin, Ireland, September 1886. Will is reacquainted with his former fiancée when his father’s close friend Dr Ken Wilson dies suddenly. On finding they have received the only invitation to the Wilson residence after the funeral, the Fitzgeralds witness the tensions between Cecilia, her mother and her in-laws and discover her hidden motive for wanting them present.

When Isobel is reunited with an old friend from Ballybeg, his shame at what he has done to survive hampers her attempts to bring him and Alfie together again. With an empty life and low expectations, can Peter regain his self-respect or are he and Alfie destined to be alone?

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.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

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