Sticks and Stones: What is Faction Fighting?

faction-fight

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.

Documentary on Faction Fighting from TG4 – Ireland’s Irish language TV channel – in English and Irish with English subtitles

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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?

!A Discovered Diamond

brotherly_love_print_jpgRead an Excerpt…

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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Meet Sophia Nelson from A Summer of Secrets

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Thirty-three year-old Sophia Nelson is about to start work as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House, a stately home and former Cistercian Abbey in Yorkshire, England. She returned to her home town six months previously to be closer to her ageing parents, working for a short time at the town’s mining museum before a suspicious fire burned it to the ground.

Her mother has dementia, suffered a stroke, and lives in a local care home. When her father fell and badly broke his arm, he couldn’t live on his own anymore, so he sold the family home and moved into sheltered accommodation. Sophia slept on her father’s sofa for a short time before her best friend, Michelle, offered Sophia the bed in her loft conversion. Sophia can’t believe her luck in securing a local job which comes with accommodation – a flat in what used to be the stable yard of Heaton Abbey House.

Sophia gets off to an unpromising start with Thomas, Baron Heaton. She first encounters a man she later realises is him behaving suspiciously at a boathouse on the abbey estate. The following day, trying to familiarise herself with the sprawling house, she wanders into the dark library and begins to examine the leather-bound books on the shelves, not realising her employer is seated in a corner enjoying a glass of whisky. He is not too impressed that the tour guide has managed to lose herself in the house on her first day. For Sophia, it is lust at first sight of her tall, dark, and handsome employer, and who turns her into what she describes as ‘a gibbering mess’.

Matters don’t improve when she witnesses Lord Heaton throwing a man out of his office and later that day she bursts into tears and runs from the library when he asks her about her parents. Returning to the library to apologise for her behaviour, she hears him speaking about his sister, Stephanie, who is in hospital having just suffered a miscarriage. What Sophia overhears leaves her torn between her attraction to Lord Heaton and the fear of opening a Pandora’s box if the truth were to get out. How long can Sophia stay at Heaton Abbey knowing what she does?

A_SummerOfSecrets_SQUARE

Read An Excerpt:

She was at Michelle’s at eight o’clock on the dot that evening.

“Come in.” Michelle smiled. “I’ve just put the kettle on.” They brought their mugs of coffee into the living room and sat on the sofa. “So what’s up? You sounded like you were about to strangle someone yesterday.”

“Lord Heaton,” she replied simply.

“What, he’s a pain in the arse?”

“Yeah, and the rest.”

“What?” Michelle’s eyes bulged. “Oh, my God, you don’t fancy him, do you?” Sophia looked away. “Sophia?”

“I don’t know what to do,” she said miserably. “I need to leave but I can’t because I need the money and I need the flat but…”

“Heaton,” Michelle finished and Sophia smiled sadly and nodded. “Okay, tell me what’s been going on.”

“Everyone thinks he’s a recluse. He isn’t. I mean, he doesn’t go out much but it’s not like he never leaves the house or anything. I mean, we’ve been going walking together for weeks now—”

“Walking?” Michelle interrupted incredulously. “Hang on. Hang on. Rewind. You go walking together?”

“It came up that I go walking and I asked if he’d like to come. He said yes after a bit and we go walking on the moors. Stephanie comes too at the moment, though.”

“His sister?” Michelle asked.

Sophia swallowed. “Yes.”

“Okay. Go on.”

“I fancied him from the start. Bloody hell, it’s so corny but he’s tall, dark and handsome. But he’s got an awful temper and he smokes.”

Michelle shrugged. “You can’t have everything.”

“No. We just…talk. He’s shy and he’s lonely. He hates to admit it but he is. Everyone just treats him like ‘Lord Heaton’ and it’s like he’s become this character and has to keep on playing it. I mean, he continually calls me Ms Nelson. He’s never called me Sophia once.”

“And what do you call him?” Michelle frowned.

“Lord Heaton,” she replied. “It sounds ridiculous but he’s never once asked me to call him Thomas.”

“And you never once thought to ask him to call you Sophia?” Michelle added and Sophia shrugged. “Does he fancy you?”

“Yes.”

“What?” Michelle had reached for her mug but had to put it down again. “How do you know?”

“He, um, draws people. He’s got drawings of me.”

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Meet Thomas Heaton from A Summer of Secrets

Thomas Heaton Colourised

Thirty-nine year-old Thomas Heaton is the 13th Baron Heaton. He inherited the title from his father when he had just finished university at Cambridge. For almost twenty years, he has had the burden and responsibility of not wanting to be remembered as the Heaton who had to sell Heaton Abbey House. Despite working long hours – often sleeping in his office – and being regarded as a recluse, he has been forced to open up the house to the public in order to keep the estate afloat.

Luckily, the house is somewhere tourists will flock to see. Thomas’ ancestor, Sir William Heaton bought the abbey and its lands following the dissolution of the monasteries in the late 1530s, renamed the abbey after himself, and remodelled the monastic buildings to suit his own domestic requirements.

A descendent of Sir William’s was created a Baron in the early 18th century and more rebuilding took place, reflecting the family’s elevation to the peerage. A further descendent made a fortune from coal mining, resulting in yet more rebuilding and restyling. A 20th century descendent made a catastrophic business deal and was forced to sell the mine and some land but, thankfully, the house with its mishmash of styles and five hundred acres of land remained unsold.

When he has a few minutes to spare, Thomas retreats to the abbey library to savour a glass of single-malt whisky. Having studied History of Art at university and with a weakness for full-figured Renaissance women, he can hardly believe his eyes when a curvy red-haired woman wanders in and begins to examine the books, not realising he is seated in a corner. The voluptuous Sophia Nelson may as well have walked off the pages of his art textbooks and will be working and living right on his doorstep.

Thomas’ elder sister, Stephanie, recently suffered a miscarriage at the hands of her violent boyfriend and lost a lot of blood. When Thomas offered to donate blood, he is told he can’t – and why – a secret that has been closely guarded for forty years and which shakes his world to the core.

When Sophia overhears the secret, Thomas can only hope she doesn’t reveal it. He struggles to keep his distance and his feelings under control, despite finding himself more and more in her company. She is the tour guide – staff – someone he really shouldn’t become involved with. Is it only a matter of time before the secret becomes public knowledge?

A_SummerOfSecrets_SQUARE

Sophia Nelson returns to her hometown in Yorkshire, England to begin a new job as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House. There, she meets the reclusive Thomas, Baron Heaton, a lonely workaholic.

Despite having a rule never to become involved with her boss, Sophia can’t deny how she finds him incredibly attractive.

When she overhears the secret surrounding his parentage, she is torn. But is it her attraction to him or the fear of opening a Pandora’s box that makes her keep quiet about it?

How long can Sophia stay at Heaton Abbey knowing what she does?

Read An Excerpt:

Closing the bedroom door, she saw Heaton crossing the stable yard. It was the first time she had seen him dressed in anything but a suit and she stopped and stared. He was wearing a brown wax jacket with a bottle green jumper underneath, khaki combat-style trousers similar to her own and brown walking boots. She sighed and shook her head. It looked as though he was one of those men who looked fabulous in everything they wore. She reached for her mobile phone, pulled on a waterproof jacket, and grabbed her car keys before going downstairs to join him.

“You’ll have to move the seat back,” she said as she unlocked the Mini.

He got in and moved the passenger seat so far back that he might as well have been sitting on the back seat. She looked around at him, couldn’t help herself, and laughed.

“Sorry. I wanted something small and cheap to run.”

He pulled a comical expression. “I was looking to see if you had a sunroof that I could stick my head through. Maybe we should go in the Land Rover?” She nodded and he got out. “I’ll just get the keys from Des.”

She got out, locked the car, and saw him emerge from Des’ office. The two of them crossed the stable yard to the huge Land Rover.

“You’ll have to give me directions to where we start from,” he said as they got in.

“I will.”

Twenty minutes later, he pulled in at a small car park. “I haven’t been up here for years. You don’t walk too fast, do you?”

“No. There are two routes we can take. Up to what I call the big rock, which is eight kilometres there and back. Or up to the stone circle, which is five. Maybe five would be enough for today?”

He smiled. “I think so.”

He locked the Land Rover, they climbed over the stile, and walked up onto the footpath which ran through the heather.

“It’s lovely up here, isn’t it?” He halted after a few paces, hands on hips, and looked around them.

“If you need to stop and catch your breath just say.”

“Thanks. I’m not very fit. Walking between my office and the house isn’t really enough.”

They set off again at a slower pace.

“Where did you go to university?” she asked.

“Cambridge. The Heatons have always gone there. I was halfway through my final year when I learned that my father had cancer. I still have no idea how I got through my finals. The last time I saw him, he didn’t know who I was, so I do understand what it’s like. Unfortunately, he had run the estate like there was no tomorrow. I went into his study the day after the funeral and found drawers full of bills, invoices, and tax demands. Some went back years. It took years to pay all the creditors and the tax bill was astronomical. I’m still struggling to make ends meet and when the idea was put forward of opening the house up to coach tour parties, well, you saw what I was like. I apologise if I was rude to you. It’s no excuse, but I had to go to a funeral that day and I loathe funerals.”

“I hate funerals, too, and I wouldn’t like complete strangers traipsing through my home so I can sympathise. But there are tours booked for the next three months and Lady Heaton is scheduling additional daily tours because so many coach tour operators want to add the abbey to their list of stops. The way things are going, the abbey will soon have tours all year round.”

He nodded. “I know, but I am not dressing up as a monk or in a suit of armour for anyone.”

She laughed. “What do people say to you when they ask what you do for a living?”

“When people find out I have a title it is a bit of a conversation killer. I think some people have this idea that lords are all at least fifty, frequent gentleman’s clubs, and hunt, shoot and fish. I do none of those things. I was twenty-two when I inherited the title; I’ve been working to keep the place afloat ever since and I don’t want anything to spoil that.”

“It seems to be working, though.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “Just about.”

“Mum and Dad remember when you went down the mine instead of your father when he became claustrophobic.”

“Really?” He gave her an incredulous frown. “Good God, I must have been only about twelve or something. I wanted to go down with him but he wouldn’t let me. Then, when he had to come back up I asked if I could go and he just waved his hand in agreement.”

“Mum said that you asked lots of very good questions and that Dad was impressed. That is a huge compliment from my dad.”

“Were you ever down the mine?” he asked.

“No, I was never allowed, and it’s far too dangerous now. The nearest I got was the museum. I’d liked to have satisfied my curiosity but I much prefer the open air.

Mum’s grandfather was killed in a pitfall and I think she always worried that the same would happen to Dad. Now most of the time she thinks he’s dead.” She burst into tears. “Oh, God, I’m sorry.”

“Come and sit down.” Taking her arm, he led her off the path. They sat down in the springy heather and she wiped her eyes. “You have to cry, and let it all out,” he told her gently. “I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve locked myself in the library and just…”

He pulled a comical expression as she stared at him. It was hard to imagine him crying his eyes out but who knows how he reacted when he left the library after learning that his real mother was a complete stranger.

“I used to cry for my family,” he continued. “Me; the bills that still needed paying; the career I never had; the nightmare of possibly having to sell the estate; the fact that I have no life…that sort of thing. You have your cry then you dust yourself down and, in my case, head back out to the office.”

“My friends in London didn’t want me to come back up here.” She fished a handkerchief out of a pocket and blew her nose. “But I had to, she’s my mum. She and Dad are all I’ve got left and I know I’m quickly losing her. This morning she thought I was Sally, her sister. I’m really dreading a time when she forgets that I exist.”

“Do you not have any other family?” he asked.

“Mum’s brother, Martin, died when he was twenty,” she explained. “Sally lives in Cornwall. They were never close, anyway. Dad was an only child.”

“So why did you go to live in London?”

“I followed a man down there.” She shook her head at her stupidity. “I thought I’d found ‘the one’ at long last and I thought I’d be able to persuade Dad to come and live in London, even though I knew deep down that he’d never leave Mum up here and he’d never move her down there. Anyway, needless to say, it didn’t work out between Lee and me, and I was packing up down there when I got a phone call telling me that Dad had fallen and badly broken his arm and he couldn’t live on his own anymore. That was six months ago. He said himself that he should go into sheltered accommodation so he sold the house and he’s in The Beeches Complex now. Finding a job which has a flat going with it is fantastic.” She smiled. “Do you feel like going on?”

He returned a smile. “To be honest, I’d rather sit here and talk to you. I haven’t had a conversation about anything but estate business in…I don’t know how long.”

“To be honest, I think you work too hard.”

He nodded. “I think you’re right. But I have to work hard. I’m not going to be remembered as the Heaton who had to sell up. And if that means coach parties and teas, then it means coach parties and teas.”

“Did you find the fridge in the end?”

He rolled his remarkable eyes. “Yes. It’s now built into the kitchen cupboards in the pantry. Integrated, I think Mrs Fields called it, so no wonder I couldn’t find it.”

“At least you can raid it now,” she teased.

He shrugged. “There’s no Branston Pickle.”

“I can make you a sandwich if you get a craving.”

“I might just take you up on that.”

She smiled and looked away, hoping that he couldn’t see her blush.

“I rang the opticians in the town,” he announced and she turned back. “They gave me an appointment for tomorrow morning.”

“Oh. Good.”

“I hope I don’t pick the most hideous frames there.”

“Would you like me to come with you?” she asked, hoping she wasn’t overstepping the mark, and he failed to hide his relief at her offer.

“Thank you. I’d welcome another opinion. Even if I could ask Stephanie, God knows what I’d end up getting.”

“I suppose I should have mentioned it before,” she began. “Properly, I mean. But I was sorry to hear about Stephanie. A friend of mine in London lost a baby. It was awful.”

“I suppose you’ve also heard that it was because her boyfriend hits her?”

Sophia nodded.

“She won’t leave him. I’ve begged her, Lady Heaton has begged her, her friends have begged her, but she won’t. I’m terrified that one day he will kill her. She went home to her apartment the other day, refused my offer of coming here for a bit. Stubborn to the last.”

“I take it that she doesn’t know?” she asked.

“No. And that’s the way it’s going to be.” He sighed. “Look, I’m sorry you’re caught up in all of this.”

“I have to say this: I just can’t help but feel you’re burying your head in the sand over it all.”

“Well, what can I do?” he demanded. “Turn up on your friend’s doorstep and introduce myself?”

“Her name’s Michelle,” she told him.

“Michelle’s doorstep, then. Her whole family could fall apart. It sounds dramatic but if it’s anything like what’s happened between Lady Heaton and me—” He stopped abruptly realising he’d said more than he had intended to. “For now,” he continued quietly. “I just want to try and get my head around it all and let sleeping dogs lie.”

She shrugged sadly. “All right.”

“We passed a pub about a mile back,” he said, jabbing a thumb back in the direction of the road. “Would you like a coffee?”

“I would love a coffee, thank you.”

“Good. I’m freezing.”

“Why didn’t you say?”

He just shrugged comically and they returned to the Land Rover.

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The Stately Home

A stately home is a property built in the United Kingdom and Ireland between the mid-16th century and the early part of the 20th century. They include converted abbeys and other church property following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Stately homes are different from country houses in that a country house is always in the country, but a stately home can also be in a town or city. The phrase ‘stately home’ originates from the poem The Homes of England by Felicia Hemans, which was published in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1827.

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Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, England

King Henry VIII’s policy of the Dissolution of the Monasteries resulted in many former ecclesiastical properties being turned over to the King’s favourites, who then converted them into private country houses. Lacock Abbey, Woburn Abbey, and many other properties with Abbey or Priory in their name often date from this period as private houses. These houses were a status symbol for the aristocracy and famous architects and landscape architects such as Sir Edwin Lutyens, Sir John Vanburgh, and Capability Brown were employed to incorporate new trends into the buildings and gardens. Many stately homes are an evolution of one or more styles but driven by practicality just much as architectural trends.

Sir John Vanburgh and Capability Brown

The beginning of the decline of the stately home coincided with the rise of modern industry. It provided alternative employment for large numbers of servants, but its final demise began during World War I. The huge staff required to maintain them had either left to fight and never returned, went to work in the munitions factories, or filled the void left by fighting men in other workplaces. Of those who did return home from the war, many left the countryside for better-paid jobs in towns and cities.

Erddig, a group portrait of staff on the garden steps

Some estates employed at least one hundred indoor and outdoor servants

The death blow for many stately homes came following World War II. Many were requisitioned during the war and returned to their owners in poor repair. Many had lost their heirs in one of the World Wars. Owners who survived were required to pay high rates of tax and death duties. Agricultural incomes from the accompanying estates had also fallen.

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Beaupre Hall, a medieval fortified mansion, was demolished in 1966

The solution for some owners was to hold contents auctions, selling its stone, fireplaces, and panelling before demolishing the house. But some properties, including Chatsworth House, are still owned by the families who built them, retain their furniture and paintings, but have opened their house and estate to the public during the summer months. Most stately homes now have to be a business as well as a home.stately_home_brown_signA_SummerOfSecrets_WebBanner

A Summer of Secrets – Sophia Nelson returns to her hometown in Yorkshire, England to begin a new job as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House. There, she meets the reclusive Thomas, Baron Heaton, a lonely workaholic.

Despite having a rule never to become involved with her boss, Sophia can’t deny how she finds him incredibly attractive.

When she overhears the secret surrounding his parentage, she is torn. But is it her attraction to him the fear of opening a Pandora’s box that makes her keep quiet about it?

How long can Sophia stay at Heaton Abbey knowing what she does?

Read An Excerpt:

In the library he retrieved a cardboard wallet from a shelf, and brought it over to a desk, before switching on the reading lamp.

“This is an aerial view,” he told her, extracting the etchings, and placing them on the desk. “Showing the layout of the monastic buildings. You probably know that most Cistercian monasteries were built to more or less the same plan. It was quite a small abbey. This is the church and a view of the cloister. Then along comes King Henry VIII…”

He was very knowledgeable and seemed to relax when he spoke of the past but with a temper like his, his chances of being a good tour guide were very slim.

“You’re from the town, aren’t you?” he asked, returning the etchings to the folder.

“Yes, but I’ve lived in Leeds and then in London until quite recently.”

“What brought you back? If you don’t mind my asking?”

“No,” she replied, giving him a weak smile. “My mother is ill. She had a stroke and is in Rich Hill Nursing Home. She suffers from dementia, so she couldn’t live at home anymore. She kept wandering off and Dad couldn’t cope. I didn’t want to be too far away so I came back. To the mining museum originally, but then someone took a dislike to it.”

He nodded. “I’m sorry to hear about your mother.”

“Thank you.”

“It must be very hard on your family.”

She noticed a book on Renaissance women in the desk drawer as he opened it and placed the wallet inside. “I’m an only child but, yes, it is hard. She used to be such an active woman. She and Dad married late in life. When the mine closed, Dad—”

“The mine?” he interrupted sharply. “Your father worked in the mine?”

“Yes, he did. And when it closed, he put his heart and soul into the museum. I don’t think there’s a single family in the town that doesn’t have a miner in their family history somewhere.”

“I must have met him at one point or another. What is his name?”

“William Nelson. He gave a very long-winded speech when the museum opened a few years ago.”

“I remember now.” He smiled and glanced at her curls. “Red hair.”

She grinned. “There must be Irish or Scottish in us somewhere.”

“Could you give him and your mother my best wishes the next time you visit?”

“I will, but there are days that I could tell her that I was the Queen of Sheba and she’d believe me.” Don’t cry, she ordered herself, but she couldn’t stop the tears coming. “I’m sorry,” she gasped and fled from the room.

She ran blindly through the hall—almost colliding with Lady Heaton—hauled the heavy front door open, and staggered out onto the steps before halting to catch her breath. Pulling a paper handkerchief from her pocket, she wiped her eyes. Oh, God, what the hell will they both think of you now, she demanded of herself. A hysterical, nosy idiot who doesn’t know when to keep her mouth shut, that’s what.

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Paperback ISBN: 9781986599504

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Being A Baron

A peer of the realm is someone who holds one or more of five titles – duke, marquess, earl, viscount, baron – inherited from a direct ancestor, or bestowed upon him by the sovereign. Depending on the terms in which a peerage was originally granted, some cannot be held by a female and others cannot be transmitted through a female line of succession.

debretts

The baron is the fifth and last rank of the peerage and the word baron means ‘man’, being formerly the king’s tenant in chief – a nobleman who held land. A Summer of Secrets’ Thomas Heaton is the current Baron Heaton, having inherited the title from his father just after leaving university. A baron is always referred to, both verbally and in correspondence, as Lord (Heaton) rather than Baron (Heaton). A baron can also be referred to as ‘My Lord’ or ‘Your Lordship’. The title baron or baroness is never used, except in formal or legal documents.

The wife of a baron is known as Lady (Heaton). When A Summer of Secrets’ Lady Heaton was widowed, she became a dowager, but the custom has been not to prefix either the forename or the word dowager to the title, e.g. ‘Forename, Baroness Heaton’ or ‘Dowager Baroness Heaton’ until the heir to the title marries. So she continues to use the title ‘Baroness Heaton’ but she is still commonly called ‘Lady Heaton’, and addressed verbally or to her face as ‘Your Ladyship’.

The alternative robe for a Baroness, Coronation of Elizabeth II, 1953.

The coronation robe for a baroness at the coronation of Elizabeth II, 1953

Thomas Heaton’s elder sister, Stephanie, is known formally as ‘The Honourable Stephanie Heaton’, which is written as ‘The Hon Stephanie Heaton’ on letters and legal documents. She is still commonly addressed as Miss/Ms Heaton as no-one is called ‘The Honourable’ verbally or to their face.

comprising-a-barons-coronet-crimson-silk-velvet-and-ermine-robe-two-pairs-of-silk-hose-together-with-lady-woodbridges-coronet-and-crimson-silk-velvet-and-ermine-robe

The coronation robes and coronets of a baroness and baron

As with all peers, barons are entitled to both coronation and parliament robes. The coronation robe – worn only at the coronation of the sovereign – is of crimson velvet, edged with white fur and has two rows of ermine on the white fur cape. Baronesses are entitled to wear coronation robes similar to those of a baron, these are edged with a two inch border of white fur with a train a yard long. The rank of baron is also shown by the coronet worn at a coronation. As the lowest rank, a baron’s coronet is the plainest design, with six silver balls, known as pearls.

a-barons-parliament-robe-coronation-robe-and-coronet

A baron’s parliament robe (left), coronation robe, and coronet

The parliament robe of a baron is a full-length scarlet robe with a collar of white miniver fur and is tied at the left shoulder with a white ribbon. Two bars (edged with gold oak-leaf lace) on the right-hand side of the robe indicate the rank of baron. Thomas Heaton has only worn his only once – back in 1999 – just before most hereditary peers were excluded from The House of Lords.

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Sophia Nelson returns to her hometown in Yorkshire, England to begin a new job as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House. There, she meets the reclusive Thomas, Baron Heaton, a lonely workaholic.

Despite having a rule never to become involved with her boss, Sophia can’t deny how she finds him incredibly attractive.

When she overhears the secret surrounding his parentage, she is torn. But is it her attraction to him or the fear of opening a Pandora’s box that makes her keep quiet about it?

How long can Sophia stay at Heaton Abbey knowing what she does?

Read An Excerpt:

After the awful rubbery lasagne, Sophia went to the house. Finding the side door open, and with only one wrong turn, made her way downstairs to the kitchen.

“Helen?” she enquired, seeing a middle-aged woman kneading dough on a floury worktop. “I’m Sophia.”

“The tour guide. Hello. Welcome to Heaton Abbey House. All set for tomorrow?”

“Almost,” Sophia replied. “I’m going to do a walk-through of my tour to get it right in my head.”

“Want a bun before you go?” Helen offered, nodding to some buns cooling on a wire tray. “You might need the energy.”

She laughed. “Thanks, I will.”

“I saw his Lordship speaking to you earlier. In a good mood, was he?”

No. “Well, I…” she began.

“He didn’t want the house opened up to the public but didn’t really have much of a choice,” Helen explained. “It was either this or face the possibility of losing it all. So if he’s a bit rude, don’t mind him. He’s had it rough when you realise what he’s had to cope with. His father died not long after he’d left university so he couldn’t have been much more than twenty-two or three. For umpteen years he’s had the burden and responsibility of all this on his shoulders and it’s taking its toll on him from what I can see.”

“What happened to his father?” Selecting a currant bun, Sophia took a bite. It was delicious.

“Lung cancer.”

“Oh.”

“On the surface he seems to have everything, but actually he’s not been dealt that great a hand in life when you think about it. You can’t really blame him if he appears to be a little irritable and unapproachable at times. We just have to have a lot of patience with him. He and Lady Heaton are not long back from a funeral. He doesn’t like those either. Well, who does? And, of course with what happened to Stephanie last week… If he’s grumpy…just don’t take it personally, will you?”

“No,” Sophia replied. “How is she? Lady Stephanie? I didn’t know whether to ask.”

“It’s just Stephanie,” Helen corrected her with a smile. “Baron’s daughters or sisters aren’t referred to as ‘Lady’.” Sophia flushed. She should have known that. Visitors could ask her anything. “She lost a lot of blood but she seems to be on the mend. Physically, I mean. Mentally, who knows? Losing a baby… None of us can understand why she won’t leave her boyfriend. It’s not the first time he’s hit her and it won’t be the last, you mark my words.”

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Life in Ireland during World War Two

rationing

Ireland remained neutral during ‘The Emergency’, as the Second World War was called there – the only member of the British Commonwealth to do so. An estimated seventy thousand men and women served in the British armed forces, including almost five thousand members of the Irish Defence Forces who deserted to fight.

Into The Unknown‘s Kate Sheridan’s father, mother and grandmother lived in Co Galway on the west coast of Ireland. Kate’s father was a solicitor and despite having a good job, they couldn’t afford to be extravagant. He had a car but with petrol priced one shilling and sixpence per gallon and rationed, the car was only used to get him to and from work. By 1942, petrol was so scarce that most private cars were off the road.

During The Emergency, every person was issued with a ration book. Goods rationed included tobacco, butter, tea, sugar, flour, soap and clothing. Inside each ration book were several pages of instructions in both Irish and English followed by pages of numbered squares, either marked by the product name (Flour, Tea, etc.) or containing a letter to be used for different purchases. Space was also provided for keeping details of when, where and what was bought.

Kate’s mother had approximately four pounds per weeks for housekeeping. She cooked on a rather antiquated solid fuel range which was powered by a turf (peat) as coal was no longer available for domestic use. Overall, the Sheridans did not fare too badly as, unlike in the United Kingdom, eggs and meat were not rationed as most people had their own birds and animals to provide these necessities.

Mrs Sheridan kept chickens to produce eggs and for eating and any surplus eggs would be bartered for other commodities at the local shop, where she also bought flour for baking in eight-stone bags. In January 1941, the tea ration was two ounces per person per week, but by April it was reduced to one ounce. Like in the United Kingdom, rationing continued long after the end of the war.

Censorship of the press was rigid. Critical commentary was not allowed and no weather reports were printed so, apart from letters which were read and censored, the Sheridans would have known relatively little about the war and Kate’s part in it.

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London on 3 September 1939 is in upheaval. War is inevitable. Into this turmoil steps Kate Sheridan newly arrived from Ireland to live with her aunt and uncle and look for work. When she meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler sparks fly, but he is a notorious womaniser. Should she ignore all the warnings and get involved with a ladies man whose life will be in daily danger?

Charlie Butler has no intention of getting involved with a woman. But when he meets Kate his resolve is shattered. Should he allow his heart to rule his head and fall for a nineteen-year-old Irish girl while there is a war to fight?

Private conflicts and personal doubts are soon overshadowed. Will Kate and Charlie’s love survive separation, parental disapproval and loss?

Fashion girl in sketch-style

Read An Excerpt…

“You don’t know much about my family, do you?” She frowned. “I’ll tell you, seeing as we’re stuck here for the time being. My father is a solicitor in Galway but he met Mummy at a wedding here in London. They live a few miles outside Galway now, beside the sea. Granny Barbara can’t stand him and makes no secret of the fact that she thinks Mummy married beneath her. Daddy and Granny Norah are Catholic but Mummy is Church of England, and when Mummy announced she wanted to marry Daddy there was uproar. Granny Barbara and Granddad Thomas were completely against it, but Mummy and Daddy were completely for it.”

“So what happened?” Charlie asked.

“Granddad Thomas and Daddy came to an arrangement. Mummy could marry Daddy, but any children they had who were born in Ireland would be brought up Church of England, not Catholic. It’s always amazed me that Daddy agreed, but Granddad Thomas was quite frightening, from what very little I remember of him. He died when I was five, a few months after Mummy, Daddy and I were here on a visit.”

“He was,” Charlie smiled, “very Victorian in his outlook. He used to frighten the life out of me. He caught me smoking in the garden once. I was about fifteen and I can remember him bellowing at me, ‘Are you smoking a cigarette, boy? A gentleman smokes a cigar.’ He gave me a cigar and the thing almost gave me bronchitis, so I stayed with cigarettes.” He laughed. “So were you brought up Church of England?”

“I was baptised Church of Ireland, which is Anglican, too. Apparently, Daddy stood outside the church and refused to go in.” She sighed. “They really needn’t have bothered because I’ve no time for religion. Poor Mummy, she tries so hard. She’s on every committee there is, but means well, even if the locals do still call her the ‘blow-in’ after twenty-two years.”

“Why?”

“She sounds exactly like Helen and Granny Barbara—that very posh English accent—and it rubs some people up the wrong way because they think she’s putting it on. Poor Mummy; she’ll never fit in, no matter how hard she tries. Daddy’s only brother, Michael, fought in the Irish War of Independence against the British. He got shot shortly before the Truce in 1921 but didn’t die for a long, long time. Daddy paid for him to be looked after in a nursing home. I was about four when he died. That’s why Daddy is a bit, you know, about Britain. There’s no reasoning with him. Everything is all Britain’s fault, according to him, but he’s not involved in anything. I know you were wondering, Charlie,” she finished softly.

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Operation Pied Piper

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When Kate Sheridan arrived in London on the morning of 3 September 1939, the evacuation of children out of the city and into the countryside was well under way. The evacuation during World War Two was designed to save civilians in Britain, mostly children, from the risks associated with aerial bombing of cities by moving them to areas thought to be less at risk. Some of the children Kate saw at Euston Station were sent to stay with relatives, but others were sent to live with complete strangers.

At the station, children had labels attached to them and they didn’t know where they were going to or if they would be split from their brothers and sisters. The government recommended that in addition to their gas mask and identity card, the child evacuees had the following items with them:

Boys:

2 vests

2 pairs of pants

Pair of trousers

2 pairs of socks

6 handkerchiefs

Pullover or jersey

Girls:

Vest

Pair of knickers

Petticoat

2 pairs of stockings

6 handkerchiefs

Slip

Blouse

Cardigan

Other items packed in their suitcases included:

Overcoat or mackintosh

Comb

1 pair of Wellington boots

Towel and facecloth

Soap

Toothbrush

Boots or shoes

Sandwiches

Packet of nuts and raisins

Dry biscuits

Barley sugar

Apple

The children arrived in the countryside, tired, hungry and uncertain of whether they would ever see their families again. They were taken to the village hall, where they were met by the billeting officer and the host families haggled over the most presentable children while the sicklier and more scruffy children were left until last.

There were no big bombing raids on Britain in the first months of the war (known as The Phoney War) and as a result by early 1940 many children had returned home. They were evacuated again when heavy bombing raids began in the autumn of 1940 (known as The Blitz) and then again in 1944, when Germany attacked Britain with V1 Flying Bombs and V2 rockets.

Over the course of World War Two, Operation Pied Piper relocated more than 3.5 million people including 827,000 schoolchildren, 524,000 mothers with children under the age of five, 12,000 pregnant women and some disabled people.

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London on 3 September 1939 is in upheaval. War is inevitable. Into this turmoil steps Kate Sheridan newly arrived from Ireland to live with her aunt and uncle and look for work. When she meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler sparks fly, but he is a notorious womaniser. Should she ignore all the warnings and get involved with a ladies man whose life will be in daily danger?

Charlie Butler has no intention of getting involved with a woman. But when he meets Kate his resolve is shattered. Should he allow his heart to rule his head and fall for a nineteen-year-old Irish girl while there is a war to fight?

Private conflicts and personal doubts are soon overshadowed. Will Kate and Charlie’s love survive separation, parental disapproval and loss?

Fashion girl in sketch-style

Read An Excerpt…

Kate Sheridan opened the train door and, with butterflies fluttering in her stomach, stepped down onto the platform. London at last. Her journey from Ireland had taken three days. Where could she hear the latest news? The ultimatum to the Germans to withdraw from Poland was due to run out this morning. War was all but inevitable.

Glancing up and down the platform for her aunt and uncle, all she could see were hundreds of sobbing children, clinging for dear life to their equally upset parents. She knew it was rude, but she couldn’t help but stare.

“Come on, my love,” a voice from behind her shouted and she jumped. “You’re in the way.”

Picking up her suitcase, Kate moved aside as a man in an army uniform jumped down from the train with a sack-like bag slung over his shoulder.

“Why are all the children here?” she asked.

“The evacuation began the other day,” he explained, lowering the sack to the ground, and taking off his side cap. “They’re all being sent to the country for safety. You’re not a Londoner, are you, Miss? What part of Wales are you from?”

“I’m from Ballycarn,” she replied, wincing as a little boy—he couldn’t have been more than six—was pulled screaming away from his mother. “It’s not in Wales, it’s in the west of Ireland.”

The soldier laughed. “Sorry, I thought you were a Taffy, but you’re a Paddy instead. Still, you’d like to hear what old Neville has to say, wouldn’t you?”

“Neville?”

“Neville Chamberlain? The…our Prime Minister. Let’s find a wireless so we can hear him, though I know what he’s going to say.”

Replacing his side cap and hauling the sack onto his shoulder, he grasped Kate’s arm without asking permission, and she had to grab her suitcase. They hurried along the platform, weaving in and out of distraught families and porters, until they came to a railway guard who took their tickets.

“Is there a wireless nearby we can listen to?” the soldier asked.

“Yes, there’s one in the ticket office,” the guard replied. “Wait outside.”

“Good. Come on, let’s find a seat.”

They sat down outside the ticket office, Kate glancing anxiously around for her aunt and uncle. Had they given up after she hadn’t been on yesterday’s train? If only she hadn’t listened to that woman and followed her ridiculous advice. Still, if they were here, it wasn’t surprising they couldn’t find her in all this chaos.

“Shh.” The soldier nudged her arm even though she had been quiet. Don’t talk to any strange men, unless you absolutely have to, her mother had warned, and now look at her. Not five minutes off the train and she was sharing a bench with a soldier, listening to the wireless, expecting Chamberlain to tell them Britain was at war.

Her father had wanted her to go to America to find work and live with his cousin and family. America was the land of opportunity for so many Irish people, far away from Europe and the threat of war. Her maternal aunt and uncle then offered to take her and help her find work in London. So, despite her father’s grumblings, close family in London were chosen over a cousin she had never met in Philadelphia.

“…and against them, I am certain that the right will prevail.” Chamberlain’s speech ended and a long silence followed.

“You picked a great day to arrive.” The soldier turned to her with a wry smile. “There’s another train going out in a few minutes, you can get on it if you’re quick?”

“No,” she replied. “I’m staying.”

Hearing the opening bars of God Save The King, the butterflies in her stomach began to riot. Should she stand or not? She was Irish but Mummy was English, so she stood respectfully as the small group around the wireless sang the anthem as if the Germans were watching them at that very minute.

When the wireless was switched off, the soldier smiled at her. “What are you Paddies doing in Ireland now, eh? Do you have a National Anthem?”

“Yes, we have an anthem,” she told him. “It’s called The Soldier’s Song.”

He roared with laughter. “That’s priceless. We could do with an anthem like that now. Do you want to swap?”

“No.”

“Please yourself.” He saluted her and Kate wasn’t quite sure if he was poking fun at her or not. “I’d better be off. Good luck.”

“Thank you. You too.”

Feeling very alone, she watched him go. No-one had come to meet her so she would have to continue on to her aunt and uncle’s home herself. Wondering if she should take the underground train or the bus, she heard a loud wailing sound, and people began hurrying past her.

“Oi, Irish?” It was the soldier beckoning to her. “Quick.”

Fighting the urge to cry with relief, she grabbed her suitcase again, and ran to him on shaky legs. “What, what is it?” she stammered.

“Air-raid siren,” he said, pulling her out onto the street. “Come on, down here.”

Taking the suitcase from her, he pushed her in front of him, and down some steep steps. “This is an air-raid shelter; you’ll become familiar with them now you’re staying.”

They sat down on one of two benches parallel to each other and she took the suitcase back.

“Thanks for coming back for me.”

“Don’t worry about it. I knew you wouldn’t know what to do.”

The shelter quickly filled with people. By their white faces, they felt as frightened as she did.

“How long do these air-raids last?” she asked.

“Don’t know,” he replied, lighting a cigarette. “But take my advice, Irish, go to wherever you’re going—and fast. Who knows what’s going to happen now.”

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Why I Chose This Setting and Era

The Schulten Bakery

The Schulten bakery on Jonker Fransstraat, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

I chose London and the south east of England as a setting mainly because I have no close family connection with either area and I wanted Into The Unknown to be a work of fiction and not a family memoir.  

I chose the Second World War because my grandparents’ experiences of the war couldn’t be more different. In 1939, my maternal grandparents were living in The Netherlands while my paternal grandparents were living in Ireland.

Opa (my late grandfather) joined the Dutch Army. When it surrendered to the Germans in May 1940, he was taken as a prisoner of war to Bremen, Germany and was put to work clearing and developing sites to be used as graveyards. His father was a commissioner in the Dutch police and head of Group I – the economics offences group which investigated smuggling, counterfeiting and drugs – a difficult job at the best of times, never mind under German occupation.

Oma (my late grandmother) spent the war in boarding school and in Rotterdam, which was almost destroyed by aerial bombardment by first the Luftwaffe and then the RAF and USAF.

The Schulten bakery

Oma’s father was a baker with a bakery on Jonker Fransstraat and there is a family story that he and other bakers chartered a ship and brought flour back to Rotterdam from America. I have no idea whether the story is true and if anyone can dismiss or confirm the story, I’d love to hear from them.

When Oma’s family home was destroyed in the 1940 bombing of Rotterdam, they moved into the bakery. The family photographs survived, having been given to one of Oma’s sisters for safekeeping while she was away at boarding school.

The Schulten bakery after the 1940 bombing  with Oma in the doorway. As the bakery was mostly built from concrete, it remained partially intact and it became an emergency shop for the population

Meanwhile, in neutral Ireland, my paternal grandfather worked as an insurance inspector and his father was a clerk in the Transport Department in Guinness’ Brewery in Dublin until his retirement. My paternal grandmother’s parents were farmers and kept Granny and Grandad supplied with chickens, eggs, turf (peat) and also a goose each Christmas. Despite rationing and shortages of commodities, to them, the war must have seemed a very long way away.

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London on 3 September 1939 is in upheaval. War is inevitable. Into this turmoil steps Kate Sheridan newly arrived from Ireland to live with her aunt and uncle and look for work. When she meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler sparks fly, but he is a notorious womaniser. Should she ignore all the warnings and get involved with a ladies man whose life will be in daily danger?

Charlie Butler has no intention of getting involved with a woman. But when he meets Kate his resolve is shattered. Should he allow his heart to rule his head and fall for a nineteen-year-old Irish girl while there is a war to fight?

Private conflicts and personal doubts are soon overshadowed. Will Kate and Charlie’s love survive separation, parental disapproval and loss?

Fashion girl in sketch-style

Read An Excerpt…

“It seems like I’ve known you for years,” she told him.

“A year since Christmas Day.” He kissed her. “I love you so much, Kate.” They both jumped as they heard a bomb fall some way off and more planes approach.

“Bastards,” he whispered. “Leave us alone.”

“I wonder if there are people like us in Germany, sitting in shelters like this—frightened—not knowing when it’s going to end. They can’t all support Hitler.”

He’d never thought of that. “I suppose not,” he conceded. “But Hitler has brought it upon them all. Kate.” He turned her face towards his. “Your father wants you home, doesn’t he?”

She nodded. “He wanted me to go to America. It was Mummy who persuaded him that I come here. Now he really hates Bob because he thinks Bob put me under pressure to join up.”

“Is your father…” Charlie began. How could he put this delicately? “A bit anti-British?”

“He doesn’t like the British, Charlie; there’s no point in me denying it. He conveniently forgets that Mummy is British. The censor has had a field day with his letters. Churchill isn’t his favourite politician in all the world.”

“So he does hate me?” Charlie asked. “Like you said he would?”

She sighed. “He’s never mentioned you, even though I write about you in all my letters. It’s his loss.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Oh, Charlie, don’t be silly.” She kissed him. “Mummy likes the sound of you, though. Even Granny Norah does. If anyone should be able to persuade Daddy otherwise it’s her. He’s a bit of a mammy’s boy at heart.”

But an idiot apart from that, Charlie thought angrily, but smiled to placate her. Bloody hell, the man could support the IRA, or be in it for all he knew.

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Entertainment and News During World War Two

bbc

TV broadcasts from the BBC began in 1936 from Alexandra Palace in north London. Only a small area in and around London was able to receive them but all TV broadcasts stopped on 1st September 1939 at the outbreak of war as the Government was worried the transmitter would help enemy aircraft target London for bombing raids. They did not begin again until June 1946.

With television off the air, people relied on radio and the cinema for information and entertainment. Eighty percent of families in Britain owned a radio (known as the wireless) and besides the news, there were music programmes, talk and comedy shows. “ITMA”, short for “It’s That Man Again”, was a wartime comedy which began in 1939 on the BBC Home Service starring the comedian Tommy Handley. Its name came from newspaper headlines of the time, where the phrase “It’s That Man Again” was regularly used as an ironic reference to Hitler. Making fun of Hitler (and the German war effort in general) was the basis of the series.

Before the war, no news had been broadcast on the BBC before 7pm as a result of an agreement with the newspaper industry. From 25th August 1939, with war looming, the BBC began broadcasting daily morning and lunchtime news bulletins and a war report at the end of its evening news bulletins.

Cinema audiences grew from 20 million to 32 million making ‘going to the pictures’ the most popular form of entertainment during the war. In between the films, the Pathé News was shown to keep the public informed (and misinformed) on how the war was progressing. Government information films were also shown at the cinema to explain to people how to behave and act during wartime.

Music played a huge part during the war in keeping up morale with big bands and swing music all the rage. One of the most admired singers of the time was Vera Lynn, known as The Forces’ Sweetheart, whose songs included, ‘We’ll meet again’ and ‘There’ll be blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover’.

Into The Unknown’s Charlie Butler loves big bands and swing music, especially the Glenn Miller Band, who were hugely popular on both sides of the Atlantic. Kate Sheridan is unfamiliar with this style of music, or even how to dance to it, when Charlie brings her to his favourite club but is soon won over.

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London on 3 September 1939 is in upheaval. War is inevitable. Into this turmoil steps Kate Sheridan newly arrived from Ireland to live with her aunt and uncle and look for work. When she meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler sparks fly, but he is a notorious womaniser. Should she ignore all the warnings and get involved with a ladies man whose life will be in daily danger?

Charlie Butler has no intention of getting involved with a woman. But when he meets Kate his resolve is shattered. Should he allow his heart to rule his head and fall for a nineteen-year-old Irish girl while there is a war to fight?

Private conflicts and personal doubts are soon overshadowed. Will Kate and Charlie’s love survive separation, parental disapproval and loss?

Fashion girl in sketch-style

Read An Excerpt…

Giving him her hand, they walked around the corner and into a dark and smoky nightclub. They sat at a table with an unlit candle in the centre, overlooking the crowded dance floor as a band played a style of music she hadn’t heard before. Kate stared through the gloom at one energetic couple as the man lifted his scantily-clad partner off the floor and swung her around. This was certainly different from the sedate afternoon tea dances she was used to in Ballycarn and she couldn’t help but feel a little nervous.

“What kind of music is this?” she asked Charlie.

“Jazz,” he replied, sounding a little surprised she hadn’t recognised it. “What would you like to drink?” He asked as a waiter approached their table.

“A glass of red wine, please. And to have the candle lit, too, please.” She glanced up at the waiter, speculating wildly on whether Charlie had brought her to a dark table on purpose.

The waiter lit the candle, Charlie ordered her wine and a whiskey for himself, and they sat in the candlelight listening to the music for a few minutes. Will he ask me to dance, she wondered as the drinks were brought to their table, and, more importantly, was she going to make a fool of herself trying to dance to this jazz music?

“To peace, and soon.” He held up his glass, and she touched it with hers.

“I hope so,” she replied. They sipped their drinks.

“Would you like to dance?” he asked, putting his glass down and holding out a hand as the band began a slow set.

She nodded, rising, and taking his hand. Dancing with a man while wearing a pair of trousers felt peculiar, but moving slowly around the floor amongst the other dancers, she found herself savouring his closeness again. One of his hands clasped hers, the other was in the small of her back holding her against him. He smelled of a mixture of soap and cigarettes. This was dangerously nice.

“We don’t have clubs like this in Ireland,” she told him. “Well, not where I came from, anyway. So this is lovely.”

“I’m glad,” he replied and, to her relief, led her back to the table as a more up tempo set began. She saw him fighting to gather his thoughts together by the way he gripped his glass tightly in one hand, while rubbing the side of his nose with the other. “Would you like to go out with me again, Kate?” he asked, sounding surprisingly nervous.

“Don’t you have plenty of other women you could take out?” she joked, instantly regretting it when hurt sprang into his eyes.

“I want to take you out,” he said and put his glass down. “I’ve really enjoyed this evening. It’s been the first time in ages that I’ve been to the pictures and actually watched the film.” He grimaced, and she knew it was his turn to regret hasty words. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for it to sound like that.”

“I know, but you pleasantly surprised me.”

“I did?”

“Yes, by not trying to kiss and touch me,” she explained. “Thank you.”

He sat back in his seat and sighed. “I was warned not to. I wanted to kiss you.”

Picking up his glass, he drained it. “But I thought I’d better not; I might give you the wrong impression of me. I have to admit that I’m no angel.”

It was the first time he had acknowledged that he had a reputation and she couldn’t let it pass.

“In what way?” she asked.

His eyes widened at her bluntness. “Well.” She saw him glance at his glass, clearly wishing he hadn’t emptied it. “I’m rarely short of a date, let’s put it that way.”

“Oh, I see. So I really am just the latest in a long, long line of women?”

“Well, er, yes, you are,” he confessed, his face contorted in embarrassment.

“I’m curious, that’s all. You ask me out, Bob warns you not to do anything improper, and you think, ‘This one’s going to be too much trouble—just be nice, watch the film with her, and get the date over and done with—then move on’.”

“It was my father, actually,” he told her frostily. “Not Bob. And I don’t want to ‘move on’.”

“Your father, my uncle.” She shrugged. “What does it matter? Is this ‘date’ just a complete waste of time for both of us?”

He shook his head. “I hope not. I asked you out because you’re beautiful. I never intended to do anything inappropriate this evening and I didn’t need to be warned. I may be no angel, but I do know how to behave with a lady, and I certainly don’t see you as being ‘too much trouble’.”

“I’m very glad to hear it.”

“I really do want to see you again, Kate.”

“Despite being warned off me by your father?” she asked.

“He didn’t. He told me to treat you properly, which I have, and you’ve appreciated it.”

“Yes, I have.”

“Kate.” He leaned forward, having to raise his voice against the music. “I would like to take you out again on New Year’s Eve. We could come here, if you’d like? I’d be happy to teach you to dance to this music.” He jerked a thumb in the direction of the jazz band.

“Yes, thank you, that would be very nice,” she replied straight away.

“Great.” He looked and sounded taken aback at her lack of hesitation. “Well.” He sat back in his chair. “That’s settled, then.”

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Make Do and Mend

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At the outbreak of World War Two in September 1939, almost a quarter of the British population was entitled to wear some sort of uniform. The increased demand for uniforms put enormous pressure on Britain’s textile and clothing industries and rationing was introduced in June 1941. Silk was one of the first fabrics to go as it was needed for the war effort, so Into The Unknown’s Kate Sheridan was very lucky to have been bought two sets of silk lingerie by her aunt Helen to replace her embarrassingly old-fashioned underwear.

Rationing worked by allocating each type of clothing item a value in points. Every adult was initially given an allocation of 66 points to last one year, but this allocation shrank as the war progressed. Eleven coupons were required for a dress, two needed for a pair of stockings, and eight coupons for a man’s shirt or a pair of trousers. Women’s shoes meant handing over five coupons, and for men’s footwear seven.

Despite these shortages, people were encouraged to keep looking fashionable in order to keep up morale and the ‘Make Do and Mend’ campaign was launched to encourage people to make their existing clothes last longer. The ability to repair, alter and make clothes from scratch became increasingly important as the war went on. Kate would have studied needlework at school in Ireland, so she wouldn’t have found making clothes from a pattern too daunting a task.

Over 40 million gas masks had been distributed around Britain by the outbreak of war. The population were told to carry them at all times in the standard-issue cardboard box tied up with string. Fashion designers quickly saw a gap in the market, turned the ugly boxes into handbags at the top and a space at the bottom for the mask, and these were snapped up by many women like Kate.

Make-up was never rationed, but was taxed and very expensive. As with their clothes, women found imaginative ways around shortages. Bright red lipstick was a way to look glamorous, even if you couldn’t afford any other cosmetics. And when it just couldn’t be found, beetroot juice was used instead of both blusher and lipstick and boot polish instead of mascara. When stockings were in short supply, an eyeliner was used to draw a ‘seam’ up the back of the legs—which may also have been carefully painted with gravy browning to appear like a tan shade of stockings. So, instead of being moth-balled for the duration of the war, fashion became more inventive and individual—the colours brighter and the colours bolder.

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London on 3 September 1939 is in upheaval. War is inevitable. Into this turmoil steps Kate Sheridan newly arrived from Ireland to live with her aunt and uncle and look for work. When she meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler sparks fly, but he is a notorious womaniser. Should she ignore all the warnings and get involved with a ladies man whose life will be in daily danger?

Charlie Butler has no intention of getting involved with a woman. But when he meets Kate his resolve is shattered. Should he allow his heart to rule his head and fall for a nineteen-year-old Irish girl while there is a war to fight?

Private conflicts and personal doubts are soon overshadowed. Will Kate and Charlie’s love survive separation, parental disapproval and loss?

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Read An Excerpt…

Following Helen into a department store’s lingerie department, and into a changing room, Kate stripped right down to her embarrassingly old-fashioned underwear. Catching sight of the shop girl’s smirking face in the mirror, Kate wanted the ground to open up and swallow her. The girl measured her before bringing a selection of bras and knickers for her to choose from. Kate stared in consternation. How could she choose? They were all beautiful. Thankfully, Helen decided for her.

“We’ll take the peach set and the white,” she said. “Would you like to wear the peach set now, Kate?”

Kate had been running her fingers over the silk in awe and jumped. “Yes, I will. Thank you.”

She changed into the lingerie and stared at herself for a long time in the mirror. Silk. She had never felt anything so soft before.

“Let’s see, Kate.” She heard her aunt’s voice, opened the curtains, and both women stared at her. “Good Lord.” Helen seemed astonished. “You do have a figure, after all.”

Passing a boutique a little later, Kate stopped and gazed at a suit in the window. Helen had walked on but returned to her and smiled. “That’s very smart, isn’t it? Do you want to try it on?”

“Oh, no, it looks very expensive.”

“It doesn’t cost anything to try it on.”

So the suit was tried on and Kate paraded up and down the shop examining herself from all angles. The suit was deep green and flattered her curvaceous figure.

“Do you like it?” Helen asked.

“Oh, yes, it’s lovely.”

“That’s just as well because it’s yours.”

“Mine?” Kate’s mouth fell open. It must have cost a fortune. “Oh, thank you.”

“Nonsense, you’re starting to look feminine at last. Shoes and a handbag next.”

They found a black handbag and matching shoes in a shop across the street. Again, Kate paraded up and down, but this time to get used to the high heels. Standing up in them for the first time, she had almost toppled over. Kate tottered along the street, finding herself much taller than Helen, and followed her into a hair salon.

“Your hair isn’t too bad, actually,” Helen told her before turning to the stylist. “A trim, and style it, please.”

Within an hour, Kate’s hair had been swept back from her face into a chignon. Her aunt leaned forward.

“Cheekbones, too,” she murmured and nodded. “Beauty salon next.”

A further hour passed with various powders and lipsticks being tried and tested before Kate opened her eyes and gazed at the film star in the mirror, hardly recognising herself.

“Oh, Kate,” Helen breathed. “You’re beautiful.” She turned to the three women standing behind Kate’s chair. “Whatever she’s got on, we’ll take it.”

Out on the street, Kate found herself being stared at and even attracted wolf whistles from a group of soldiers. It felt strange—embarrassing—but flattering, too.

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Amazon ASIN: B081K2VF5B

ISBN: 9781670076434

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