Merrion Square

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

12-Merrion-Square-0-1-2

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

 

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

 

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

Merrion Square Gardens

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

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

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

A_Scarlet_Woman_PRINT_2

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m glad I’m sharing again.”

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

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

“Oh, I see.”

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

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

“You’ve nothing to worry about here.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Amazon ASIN: B074LJJWJW

Paperback ISBN: 9781547079698

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

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Author: Lorna Peel

Title: A Scarlet Woman

Series: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book One

Genre: Victorian Historical Romance

Cover Designer: Rebecca K. Sterling, Sterling Design Studio

Ebook and Print Formatting: Polgarus Studio

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The Liberties of Dublin

Dubline

Dublin in 1610

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

St Catherine's Church Thomas Street

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

manorcourthouse

Manor Courthouse, Thomas Court Bawn c1895

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

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

Brown Street (2)

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

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

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

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

A_Scarlet_Woman_PRINT_2

Read an Excerpt from Chapter Two…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you.”

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

“I suppose so, yes.”

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

“George Millar drinks like a fish.”

“Could that be it?” she asked.

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

“Do you want children?” she added suddenly.

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

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

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

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

“Yes, but I ignored it.”

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

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

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

A Scarlet Woman by Lorna Peel eBook Cover

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Or read A Scarlet Woman FREE with 

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Buy the A Scarlet Woman paperback at:

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Amazon ASIN: B074LJJWJW

Paperback ISBN: 9781547079698

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

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Author: Lorna Peel

Title: A Scarlet Woman

Series: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book One

Genre: Victorian Historical Romance

Cover Designer: Rebecca K. Sterling, Sterling Design Studio

Ebook and Print Formatting: Polgarus Studio

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Monto: Dublin’s Red Light District

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

Montgomery Street

Montgomery Street

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

Grafton Street

Grafton Street

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

Custom House Quay

Custom House Quay

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

Lower Gardiner Street

Lower Gardiner Street

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

Elliot Place 1930s

Elliot Place in the 1930s

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

A_Scarlet_Woman_SQUARE-1

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

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

A_Scarlet_Woman_PRINT_2

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

Dublin, Ireland. Friday, July 30th, 1880

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

“Nearly there now,” Fred announced.

“Eh, what?” Jerry slurred.

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

“We have,” Jerry stated firmly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You know damn well it’s not that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m Rose.”

“Will.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I can manage.”

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

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

“Fred’s getting married tomorrow.”

“Are you brothers?”

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

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

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

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

A Scarlet Woman by Lorna Peel eBook Cover

Buy A Scarlet Woman for   

Kindle

Or read A Scarlet Woman FREE with 

download

Buy the A Scarlet Woman paperback at:

Amazon Create Space

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Amazon ASIN: B074LJJWJW

Paperback ISBN: 9781547079698

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

goodreads11-1024x409

Author: Lorna Peel

Title: A Scarlet Woman

Series: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book One

Genre: Victorian Historical Romance

Cover Designer: Rebecca K. Sterling, Sterling Design Studio

Ebook and Print Formatting: Polgarus Studio

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facebook-48x48  twitter-48x48  pinterest-48x48  google+-48x48  tumblr-48x48  goodreads-48x48  Wordpress  instagram_app_large_may2016_200  newsletter

Mrs Langtry (cover): Photo credit: The National Archives UK / No known copyright restrictions
Gun Powder Office (cover): Photo credit: National Library of Ireland on The Commons / No known copyright restrictions

Meet Brotherly Love’s Liam Warner

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Father Liam Warner is forty years old and is the eldest surviving child of four siblings. Liam studied for the priesthood at Maynooth College, County Kildare, which is just outside Dublin. He was the first in his family to become a priest and his mother worked herself into an early grave, taking in washing and sewing, and selling her butter, eggs, and bread at the local market in an effort to be able to afford to send him there.

Liam and his brother, Michael, have lived just outside the village of Doon for the past year where they rent and farm fifteen acres of good land. In 1831, Ireland had a population of 7,767,401 and with Roman Catholicism being the largest religion by far, the fees paid to parish priests by their parishioners for christenings, marriages, and burials etc., made them wealthy men – on a par with the Church of Ireland clergyman – and, in some cases, even wealthier. It was a hard life, however, priests spent long hours in all weathers travelling the length and breath of their parish.

With Liam’s income, he and Michael can afford to live in lodgings, so why do they need to farm the land at all? Why do they not employ a housekeeper? And why did Liam agree to be appointed priest of a remote, rural, and mountainous parish in the first place? So many questions. Discover the answers in Brotherly Love.

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

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

brotherly_love_print_jpg

Excerpt:

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It is a week since my last confession.”

Liam rolled his eyes. Malachy Donnellan. How the man had the nerve… He listened to the usual impure thoughts rubbish Malachy spouted each week and began to absolve him, wanting eagerly to get rid of him, wondering how many Hail Marys to give him, when Malachy continued unexpectedly.

“Father, there’s something else that’s been on my mind lately, something you should know about.”

“Oh? Well, go on.”

“It’s about your brother, Father.”

“Michael?” Liam’s heart thumped. “What about him?”

“Well.” Liam heard Malachy scratch his head. “I’m not quite sure, Father, but I think he’s done something. Something he regrets. Something he wants to keep quiet..?”

Malachy ended on a high, questioning note and Liam leaned forward and glared at him through the grille.

“Like what?” he demanded.

“Oh, well…” For once Malachy was flustered, as if he hadn’t expected the news to affect the priest so badly. “I’m not quite sure, but it’s been on my mind for a while now and I thought you ought to know, being his brother and all…”

“Yes, well, thank you.” Liam sat back, closing his eyes in relief. At least Malachy didn’t know. “Is there anything else?”

“Well…” He heard Malachy scratch his head again. “It is wrong to break a promise, isn’t it, Father?”

“Yes,” he replied hesitantly. “Why?”

“Oh, it’s just that your brother and I were having a little chat the other day and now he seems to be under the impression that it isn’t wrong. Now you can tell him that it is. Can’t you, Father?”

Liam didn’t reply but leaned forward again and stared at Malachy in consternation as he grinned back at him through the grille.

“Is that all?” He found his voice.

“It is, Father, thank you.”

Liam quickly absolved Malachy and gave him five Hail Marys before sinking back in his seat as he heard the other man leave the confessional box. He touched his forehead and jumped, he was sweating profusely.

“Bastard,” he whispered and quickly crossed himself.

He opened the door and peered out into the chapel. Thankfully it was empty and he went out and began to pace up and down the aisle. What had Michael been up to, talking to that man? What had he said to give him those ideas? Without waiting for anymore confessees, he threw open the chapel door and strode along the road to the cottage without disrobing. He stood silently in the doorway for a few minutes watching Michael, who was sitting on his bed staring into space. He went into the bedroom and closed the door to the kitchen.

Michael started up and gaped wide-eyed at him. “You’re back early?”

“I had one confessee. One who was more than enough.”

“Oh?”

“It was Malachy Donnellan. He told me a lot about you, Michael. What the hell have you been up to?”

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Amazon ASIN: B01NCR1FNN

Print ISBN: 9781541002692

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

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Fairs and Markets in Ireland

old-irish-market1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

brotherly_love_print_jpg

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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Pattern Day in Ireland

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An Irish ‘Patern’ at Balla County Mayo – The ‘Long station’, engraved by Eugène Froment, in The Graphic 11 (23 January 1875).

The word pattern is derived from the Irish Patrun or English Patron and most Irish parishes had a patron saint. On the saint’s feast day, parishioners celebrated what was known as a Pattern Day at a holy well or another holy site.

Devotions at holy wells began with making what was called ‘the rounds.’ The people would walk around the well a certain number of times while saying special prayers. Part of the ritual included drinking the water and bathing with it. It was thought that water from a holy well had healing powers and some wells became famous for curing specific ailments.

Patterns were a common part of Irish rural tradition until the reforms of Cardinal Paul Cullen in the 1850s. The clergy had opposed the excesses of these celebrations – the (faction) fighting, the drunkenness, and the immorality. They also criticised the popular belief in the magical powers of holy wells and other holy sites.

This opposition had gained impetus in the late eighteenth century and bishops began to issue edicts forbidding the people to participate in such festivals. Pilgrimages did decline but this was due to the Famine and social change. It also coincided with the opening of schools and a decline in the Irish language. As the Irish language and culture waned, the traditional lore and rituals faded as well.

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

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

brotherly_love_print_jpg

Excerpt:

As Father Liam Warner celebrated the Mass, he stole glances behind him and noted two things. His brother and Mrs Brady were kneeling very close together and almost all the men in the congregation had blackthorn sticks at their side. His heart sank twice over.

Once the Mass ended, he watched as Michael and Mrs Brady returned to the rock on which they had been sitting before. He then turned as the rest of the congregation parted into two distinct groups – the Bradys, in honour of Mrs Brady’s late husband – and the Donnellans – in honour of Malachy Donnellan – their leader and champion. Once the alcohol started to flow there would be trouble, he knew it, despite all he had warned them.

He wearily turned back to Michael and Mrs Brady. It was clear they were attracted to each other and he grimaced. He didn’t want his brother to become involved with a woman whose name was synonymous with violence and death in the locality. Soon after his arrival in the parish, he’d had to bury three men who had been battered to death by the Bradys. Then, he learned what had happened to John Brady himself two years ago. Oh, Michael, he thought angrily, don’t be a fool and get involved with her, no matter what she says about her hating the fighting. She’s dangerous, even if she doesn’t realise it herself.

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Sticks and Stones: What is Faction Fighting?

 

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The Party Fight and Funeral (Carleton’s Irish Peasantry by William Carleton, George Routledge & Co, 1854)

Faction fights were mass brawls at Irish fairs, markets, funerals, race meetings, and patterns (parish patron saints days) between hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people – usually families or parishes or estate tenants – whose weapons were usually sticks and stones. The fights often resulted in the deaths of one or more of the participants, and always resulted in maiming and injury. The tradition descended from one generation to the next as did the leadership of each faction.

Reasons for fighting ranged from a desire to display a family’s strength, conflicts over non-payment of dowries, fights over succession to land, and long-standing grudges often going back several generations. In many cases, the reasons behind some grudges were so trivial that it was not unusual for members of hostile factions to live and work peacefully together except for the days when the factions gathered together to fight.

The sticks used in faction fights were of holly, oak, whitethorn, and blackthorn. The blackthorn stick was popular because it was thought that a cut or a wound from a blackthorn would heal more quickly than those from a whitethorn. Sticks were also weighted at one end to cause maximum injury.

Reports in 1839 that faction fighting had all but come to an end were proved false as on 30 June 1845, fair day in the village of Ballinhassig, Co Cork, the Ballygarvan and Ballinhassig factions met to fight. When the leaders of each faction began fighting, the police attempted to stop the fight by arresting ‘Ranter’ Sullivan, the leader of the Ballinhassig faction and imprisoning him in the village Dispensary. When both factions joined forces to release Sullivan, the police opened fire and eleven people were killed, including a woman, Julia O’Callaghan. A plaque in the village commemorates those who lost their lives.

The Ballinhassig faction fight and aftermath appear to have been the final significant incidents of its kind. There were some isolated faction fights following the Famine and the last recorded faction fight took place at Cappawhite, County Tipperary in 1887.

Many thanks to Mixed Messages on Twitter for bringing the Ballinhassig Faction Fight to my attention.

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

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

brotherly_love_print_jpgExcerpt:

At the edge of the wood they stopped and stared.      

Liam, his hands on his hips, was watching in clear despair as the two factions lined up against each other. Malachy Donnellan, waving a blackthorn stick which must have been over two yards long, was wheeling – walking up and down between the factions, taunting and challenging Tommy Gilleen of the Bradys to fight.      

“It didn’t take her long to forget him, did it?” Malachy was shouting. “John Brady – the supposed best fighter ever. He didn’t seem the best fighter ever to me when I last saw him.”      

Michael saw Caitriona bite her bottom lip. Why couldn’t they let John Brady rest in peace? He gripped her hand tightly as Tommy Gilleen was at last provoked.      

“Caitriona Brady has betrayed her husband,” Tommy screamed back. “She doesn’t deserve to have the name Brady. Her husband was the best fighter ever in this parish. She may not love him anymore, she may have forgotten him, but we never will. Why do you think we’re still called the Bradys?”      

“None of you have the imagination to think of anything else?” Malachy replied innocently. “You’re just not good enough to lend your name to your lot.”      

“Aragh, you bastard.” Tommy rushed forward with his stick, swinging it around his head. He struck out but Malachy met the stick with his own. This was the signal for general ructions to begin and within seconds the entire congregation who, only minutes before had been knelt together in prayer, were beating the living daylights out of each other. 

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

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