Rutland Square

Bartholomew Mosse

Rutland Square (now Parnell Square) is the oldest Georgian square in Dublin. In 1748, Surgeon Bartholemew Mosse leased a four-acre and one rood plot described as ‘a piece of waste ground, with a pool in the hollow, and a few cabins on the slopes’ at the top of Sackville (now O’Connell) Street. Here he established the world’s first purpose-built maternity hospital designed by Richard Castle for Dublin’s poor to ensure fewer mothers and babies died during childbirth and it opened in 1757.

James Malton. Lying-In Hospital Dublin. 1795. The Art Institute of Chicago. 

To the east, the Rotunda Assembly Rooms (the former Ambassador cinema) were added, designed in 1764 by John Ensor and which led to the hospital becoming known as the Rotunda. To the north, the New Assembly Rooms containing a tea room, supper room (now the Gate Theatre) and ballroom were built in 1784.

Excerpt from John Rocque’s 1756 map of Dublin City

The most distinctive feature of the square was that the centre did not contain a park for the use of its residents. The ‘New Gardens’ designed by Robert Stevenson and opened in 1749 were public gardens and used as a means of raising funds for the hospital. They were the equivalent of London’s Vauxhall and Ranelagh Gardens, laid out with lawns, an elm tree-lined bowling green with a coffee room on the south side and winding pathways on the north side and pavilions where entertainments, theatrical performances and concerts were offered to paying patrons. According to according to an 1821 history by George Newenham Wright the gardens were established:

“…For the purpose of holding Sunday evening promenades, for the benefit of that establishment. Those entertainments were continued for many years, to the great advantage of the funds of the hospital, until the Association for discountenancing Vice petitioned the governors of the charity to suppress this immoral proceeding; since which the gardens have only been opened on the other evenings in the week during the summer season: on those occasions, one and sometimes two military bands attend, and play from eight to ten o clock, while the persons admitted promenade along a terrace in front of the orchestra, eighteen perches in length; the walk round the entire square, inside, measures 1 fur. 35 per. The interior, which is thickly planted with full grown elms and close underwood, on promenade evenings is brilliantly illuminated with festoons of variegated lamps and other fanciful decorations; and lately, singers have been introduced to amuse in the intervals between the different airs called for by the visiters.–The receipts of one evening, at this place of amusement, have been known to amount to upwards of 20 l. which is an enormous sum, if we consider the moderate price of admission, five pence each.”

James Malton. Rotunda and New Rooms. 1795. The Art Institute of Chicago. 

The success of the pleasure gardens led to the surrounding plots becoming highly desirable as residences for the rich and terraces of Georgian townhouses on Cavendish Street (later Cavendish Row) to the east of Dr Mosse’s plot, Granby Row to the west and Palace Row to the north, were laid out between 1753 and 1785 on plots leased from Luke Gardiner and further developments were added to the north and west. In 1784, an Act of Parliament was passed to remove the wall surrounding the gardens, and introduce railings and street lighting. The square was officially renamed in honour of Charles Manners, fourth Duke of Rutland and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in 1785 under a further Act of Parliament:

“…For the completing and effectually lighting and watching Rutland Square, and for the better support and maintenance of the hospital for the relief of poor lying-in women in Great Britain Street, Dublin, and for other purposes therein mentioned.”


Charlemont House – now The Hugh Lane Gallery – Rwxrwxrwx, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The most significant property was Charlemont House designed by Sir William Chambers in 1763 for the Earl of Charlemont and built at the centre of the square’s north side. In the 1870s, the house was bought by the government and used as the Irish General Register and Census Offices and is now The Hugh Lane Gallery. Also on this side are the Dublin Writers Museum and the Irish Writers’ Centre. The Gothic Revival Findlater’s Church (Abbey Presbyterian Church) was erected in the 1860s by Alexander Findlater, at his own expense, and presented to the Presbyterian congregation. According to George Newenham Wright:

“The houses around this square are all noble structures; amongst them are those of Lord Charlemont, Lord Wicklow, Lord Longford, the Countess of Ormond, the Earl of Bective, the Earl of Farnham, and several others.”

The rear of the Rotunda Hospital c1907. National Library of Ireland on The Commons. 

The name of the square was changed to Parnell Square in honour of Charles Stewart Parnell at a quarterly meeting of Dublin City Council on 3 April 1933.

The Rotunda Gardens. National Library of Ireland on The Commons.

The square is now home to the Garden of Remembrance, the national site commemorating the 1916 Easter Rising which led to the foundation of the Irish State.

Rutland Square in 1885

Dublin, Ireland, October 1885. The fragile peace within the Fitzgerald family is threatened when Dr Jacob Smythe becomes one of Will’s patients, angering his mother. But in attending to the elderly gentleman’s needs, Will inadvertently reunites Sarah with an old adversary and Isobel discovers she and Dr Smythe have an unexpected and tragic connection.  

When Alfie receives a card on his twenty-ninth birthday, the recognisable handwriting and cryptic message shatters his hard-won personal contentment. Has a figure hoped long gone from his life returned to Dublin to wreak a cruel mischief on all those who banished him? Is Alfie’s ambition of becoming a doctor about to be derailed when he has less than a year left at Trinity College?

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

Doctors Fitzgerald senior and Smythe were the last to present for surgery on Monday. Dr Smythe was a great deal thinner and frailer than when Will had seen him last.

“Would you like me to stay, Jacob?” Will’s father asked, sitting him down in the chair in front of Will’s desk.

“Yes, John, if you would, please,” Dr Smythe replied and Will lifted a second chair from a corner of the room, placed it beside the first and his father sat down.

“Your father thinks I’m descending into senility,” Dr Smythe informed him as Will retook his seat behind the desk.

“Do you agree with him?” Will asked and Dr Smythe pursed his lips for a moment before shrugging. “Well, would you mind if I asked you some questions?”

“No, not at all.”

“Do you know what day it is today and the date?”

“Today is Monday but I’m afraid the date eludes me.”

“And do you know what my name is?”

“Dr Edward Fitzgerald,” Dr Smythe replied promptly, naming Will’s grandfather, and Will shot a glance at his father who winced and looked away.

“And the Prime Minister – what is his name?” Will asked and Dr Smythe began to count off the names of various Prime Ministers on his fingers.

“The Duke of Wellington… No, far too long ago… Could be Melbourne… No, he’s dead a long while. I know it’s not Peel or Palmerston and it’s not Gladstone…” Dr Smythe tailed off, pursing his lips before suddenly thumping a fist on the desk. “It is Mr Disraeli,” he proclaimed with a firm nod.

The Marquess of Salisbury had succeeded Mr Gladstone as Prime Minister in June. Mr Disraeli had last been Prime Minister in 1880 and he had died the following year but Will gave Dr Smythe an encouraging smile all the same.

“If you were to walk home from the Journal offices, which route would you take?”

Dr Smythe raised his pale blue eyes to the ceiling and pondered the question for a few moments. “I wouldn’t walk, I would take a cab,” he stated and Will couldn’t help but admire his ingenuity in evading an answer.

“Well, what is the address you would give to the cabman?” Will added and Dr Smythe sighed and shook his head.

“A square… It’s across Carlisle Bridge and beyond Sackville Street…”

Carlisle Bridge was now O’Connell Bridge and those of a Nationalist persuasion were now referring to Sackville Street as O’Connell Street but at least Dr Smythe would be heading in the right direction.

“How is your appetite?”

“Rather small. Extremely small, in fact. My cook does her best but…” Dr Smythe tailed off again and Will nodded.

“Will you consent to me taking a medical history and giving you an examination, Dr Smythe?”

“An examination? If all these infernal questions haven’t been an examination, then I don’t know what one is.”

“A physical examination,” Will clarified.

“Whatever for? John promised me this would be no more than a chat.”

“When you practised medicine and a new patient presented him or herself and you were concerned for their wellbeing, what did you do?”

“Take a medical history and examine them,” Dr Smythe replied promptly before slumping back in his chair. “Oh, blast it, very well.”

Will took as much of Dr Smythe’s medical history as the elderly gentleman could remember before giving him a full physical examination. He sat down and made notes of the results while his father helped his friend back into his clothes.

“Your pulse and respiratory rate are all normal for a man of your age,” Will began as Dr Smythe and Will’s father retook their seats. “But I don’t think I need to tell you that you are too thin and your memory gives me great cause for concern.”

“So what do you suggest?”

“That you engage a nurse and—”

“A nurse?” Dr Smythe roared and Will and his father jumped. “I don’t need a nurse.”

“Yes, you do,” Will replied firmly. “Today’s date is November 2nd 1885, the Marquess of Salisbury is the Prime Minister and you live at number 8 Rutland Square.”

“Rutland Square,” Dr Smythe whispered to himself. “Of course.”

“Dr Smythe, you need to engage a nurse whether you like it or not.”

“You think my memory will deteriorate further?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so,” Will’s father replied and Dr Smythe turned to him. “I have noticed a sharp deterioration, even in the past two months, which is why I brought you to Will.”

“Will?” Dr Smythe peered at him with a perplexed frown. “But I thought you were Dr Edward Fitzgerald?”

“He was my late grandfather,” Will explained. “I am Dr Will Fitzgerald.”

“Dr Edward Fitzgerald,” Dr Smythe muttered. “Yes. Tall, like you and your father. But,” Dr Smythe pointed a long forefinger at Will, “you’re the spit of him, you know?”

“Am I?” Will looked from Dr Smythe to his father who smiled and nodded.

“You were named after Surgeon William Crawford, your mother’s father but, yes, you’re the spit of my father. Jacob,” Will’s father turned in his seat and laid a hand on Dr Smythe’s arm, “you need a nurse and you need to engage one now.”

“While I still have the mental faculties to do so,” Dr Smythe concluded and Will and his father nodded.

“I’m afraid I must ask you this, Jacob,” Will’s father continued. “How much savings do you have in the bank?”

“Oh…” Dr Smythe tailed off and gazed up at the ceiling. “I have approximately two hundred pounds.”

Approximately two hundred pounds would not purchase food, coal and clothing and pay Will’s fees and the wages of a nurse, a butler-come-valet and a cook-housekeeper for long. Meeting his father’s eyes, Will knew he was thinking the same.

“It will suffice for the present,” his father said then looked away and Will could all but hear him add silently: But we must urgently think of a way of generating an income for you.

“It’s not in the bank,” Dr Smythe announced suddenly and Will’s jaw dropped. “My savings are not in the bank.”

“Where is the money, Jacob?” Will’s father asked and Dr Smythe smiled.

“It’s safe.”

“Safe where?”

“In a box on the floor of my wardrobe,” Dr Smythe replied and Will immediately thought of the jewellery safe on the floor of Isobel’s wardrobe.

“Jacob, I am going to take charge of the box,” Will’s father told him gently and Dr Smythe exhaled a long sigh of relief. “And I will discuss the household spending with the Macallisters as well as their wages.”

“That is very good of you, John.”

“Not at all, Jacob,” Will’s father said then nodded to Will to continue.

“An advertisement will be placed in the newspapers,” he informed Dr Smythe. “And to ensure the utmost discretion, the responses will come here to the practice house. My colleague Dr Barton is also a qualified nurse and she and I will pass on the most suitable responses to you and you will make the final decision as to who you engage.”

“At Trinity College, I could memorise the essential points from a chapter of a textbook in less than half an hour.” Dr Smythe smiled sadly. “Now, I am about to choose a nurse to care for me in my dotage.”

Will couldn’t help but feel a sharp stab of pity for the elderly gentleman. Opening a desk drawer, he reached for a pen, a bottle of ink and a sheet of notepaper. Opening the bottle, he dipped the nib into the ink and wrote:

My name is Dr Jacob Smythe.

My address is number 8 Rutland Square.

My physician is Dr William Fitzgerald. His practice house is at number 28 Merrion Street Upper. He resides at number 30 Fitzwilliam Square.

My employer and friend is Dr John Fitzgerald. He is editor of the Journal of Irish Medicine. The offices are located at number 6 Hume Street. He resides at number 67 Merrion Square.

“Take this,” he said, blotting the sheet of notepaper and passing it to Dr Smythe.

Dr Smythe read the reminders and showed them to Will’s father who nodded.

“An excellent idea.” He folded the sheet in half and half again before placing it in the inside pocket of Dr Smythe’s frock coat. “But I will accompany Jacob home and speak to Macallister.”

And instruct him not to allow his master to leave the house unaccompanied, Will finished silently.

“In a week, I hope to have some responses for your perusal,” he said and the three men got up.

“Thank you, Dr Fitzgerald,” Dr Smythe replied, holding out a hand.

“You’re very welcome, Dr Smythe,” Will replied with a smile and shook it before showing him and his father out of the practice house. He closed and locked the front door and went into the office. “Eva, I need to find a nurse for Dr Smythe as quickly as possible so I will be placing an advertisement in the newspapers,” he informed the practice secretary. “The responses will be coming here and Dr Barton and I will assess them.”

“Yes, Dr Fitzgerald.”

“I have the odds and ends of his medical history and my notes from his physical examination. I’ll fetch them for you so you can open a new patient file.”

That afternoon, Will placed an advertisement in The Irish Times, the Freeman’s Journal and the Dublin Evening Mail and it appeared in the following day’s editions.

WANTED: An experienced nurse to attend to an elderly gentleman with senile decay. Application by letter, to be made to Dr William Fitzgerald, 28 Merrion Street Upper, Dublin.

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A Cruel Mischief: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Five

RELEASE DAY!

Can Will and Isobel prevent events of the past from influencing the present and future?

Dublin, Ireland, October 1885. The fragile peace within the Fitzgerald family is threatened when Dr Jacob Smythe becomes one of Will’s patients, angering his mother. But in attending to the elderly gentleman’s needs, Will inadvertently reunites Sarah with an old adversary and Isobel discovers she and Dr Smythe have an unexpected and tragic connection.  

When Alfie receives a card on his twenty-ninth birthday, the recognisable handwriting and cryptic message shatters his hard-won personal contentment. Has a figure hoped long gone from his life returned to Dublin to wreak a cruel mischief on all those who banished him? Is Alfie’s ambition of becoming a doctor about to be derailed when he has less than a year left at Trinity College?

The Kindle edition is 99 cents/99 pence at Amazon until Tuesday 6 April and is also available to read through Kindle Unlimited. The paperback edition will follow shortly.

I’ve created a map of the Dublin area which shows where all the characters live, work and visit. Tap/Click the box in the top right hand corner to open it.  

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Meet A Forlorn Hope’s David Powell

Please note this post contains SPOILERS for books one to three. If you haven’t read them yet, click on the banner below to catch up!

David Powell was born in Co Meath, Ireland the only child of the late Cecil Powell, a farmer and his wife. David is gay but keeps his sexuality a secret until he moves to Dublin aged eighteen to study medicine at Trinity College. While in his final year, David meets Alfie Stevens, Isobel Fitzgerald’s brother, and they fall in love. When Will and Isobel accidentally find them together, Alfie makes them promise never to tell anyone.

When Will’s best friend Dr Fred Simpson reveals he has syphilis and has passed it to his wife Margaret and their unborn child, Will insists Fred retires from practising medicine and urgently needs to replace him at the Merrion Street Upper medical practice. Isobel suggests David even though he is less than a year qualified but has been doing locum work to gain experience. Will takes him on and David proves to be an excellent doctor and even assists in the births of Will and Isobel’s twins.

When Alfie and David are attacked outside a club for gay men and Will’s father hears a delirious Alfie calling out for David, John puts two and two together and is furious. Isobel pleads with John to turn a blind eye and he reluctantly agrees. But John Fitzgerald should not have been trusted.

Will and Isobel discover John has persuaded David to enter into a marriage of convenience with Fred Simpson’s childless widow, Margaret. It is little wonder David gave in to greed. In marrying Margaret, David gains a large house with a prestigious address on Ely Place Upper in which he can establish his own medical practice but the marriage need never be consummated.

The fragile marriage has far reaching consequences. John, David and Margaret’s deception devastates Alfie – almost costing him his life – and it enrages Will and Isobel who retaliate by denying John access to his three grandchildren. This angers Will’s mother Sarah who believes the children should not be involved. But can their differences be buried or are some rifts too deep to heal?  

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

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

Read an excerpt from Chapter Six…

Even during the dark days of Nicholas’ burial and Fred’s death and funeral, he had never seen {Margaret} in such a state. Her brown eyes were wide and staring, her blonde hair was escaping its pins, and her black and white striped gown was splattered with manure from the streets. “Sit on the bed, Margaret,” he instructed and he sat on the edge of the double bed, trying desperately to keep his voice calm. “Sit beside me.” He patted the bedcovers and nodded to the maid and housekeeper who reluctantly let her go.

After a moment or two’s uncertainty, Margaret sat beside him and he heard Bob whisper to the servants to please leave the room with him and they would attend to the maid in the hall.

The door closed after them and Will forced himself to give Margaret a kind smile.

“We’ve known each other for a few years now, haven’t we?” he asked and she nodded.

“Yes. And?”

“And I would like to think you could tell me what has brought you to this. I’m going to be blunt with you, Margaret because it is time for honesty. Even when Nicholas and Fred died and you went through an unimaginably terrible time, you still didn’t attack a caller with a knife. Why now?” he inquired softly.

“It’s David,” she replied with a sniff. “He doesn’t love me.”

“Margaret, you knew David would not love you when you married him.”

“But I hoped,” she added and screwed up her face as she fought to find the correct words. “I hoped he might fall in love with me eventually. He threw Alfie Stevens over for me, after all, but he does not even pretend to love me. In fact, he recently made it plain that I disgust him.”

“Do you love him?” Will asked and was relieved when she shook her head.

“For a while, I managed to convince myself that I did. But I do not. It was nothing more than a futile effort to try and overcome the bitter regret I feel at having agreed to marry him. I had hoped David and I would have grown accustomed to each other over time – become companions and more – but I know now it was a forlorn hope because there is nothing between us except hate and mistrust. David simply wanted this house and social status and I have realised just how much I miss Fred and our baby and how I shall be alone and childless in this marriage for as long as I live. Please, Will. Tell me you miss Fred, too?”

Tears stung his eyes and he nodded. “I miss Fred every day – and I will continue to miss him every day for the rest of my life.”

Margaret gave him a wobbly smile, rested her temple on his shoulder and he put an arm around her, wondering when she had last been afforded some kindness.

“Margaret, please leave this house for your own wellbeing.”

“And go where?” she asked miserably. “Neither Mother nor Elizabeth approved of this marriage and—”

“What on earth are you doing? Get away from my wife.”

Will and Margaret jerked apart and he got off the bed. David, with Will’s father behind him, was standing at the bedroom door.

“We’re-we’re not doing anything,” Margaret stammered before he could speak. “Today, I have been rather… upset and I did something I now very much regret.”

“What was it?” David asked.

“Margaret slapped Dr O’Brien when he called here a short time ago,” Will interjected and, out of the corner of an eye, saw Margaret give him an incredulous glance.

“Why would Dr O’Brien call here?” David added suspiciously.

“I called to number 30 earlier today and matters became rather heated,” Margaret explained. “I behaved atrociously and a short time ago Dr O’Brien called here to inquire after my state of health. It was then that I behaved atrociously to him.”

“In that case, you should go downstairs to the hall where he is waiting with Isobel and apologise to him.”

“I shall,” Margaret replied and scurried from the room.

“Do you often choose to sit on the beds of ladies who are not your wife?” David demanded and Will tensed.

“Only ones who have realised their husband will never even like them and simply married them for material gain.”

“Will,” his father snapped.

“You can’t even pretend to be a husband to her, can you, David?” Will ignored his father. “You can’t even befriend her – take an interest in anything she enjoys – take her out for meals – or to the theatre – because all you wanted from this charade of a marriage was this house, a medical practice and as high a social standing as you could grab with both hands. Soon, society will wonder – if they are not wondering already – why you are never seen socialising with your wife.”

“You don’t socialise either. And I would thank you and your wife not to interfere.”

“That is because my wife and I are not desperate to achieve a higher social status. And we are ‘interfering’ because very soon, your wife’s health will breakdown completely.”

“Just like your mother’s has,” David sneered and Will made a grab for his throat, only for his father to push him away.

“Enough.” His father placed himself between them. “Do not mention my wife in that way ever again,” he ordered David, who flushed.

“I apologise,” he replied quietly.

“I am ashamed to say that Margaret has been neglected lately,” his father continued. “That shall be remedied, Will, I can assure you.”

“Remedied in what way?” Will asked. “Her family need to know she is ill so they can give her the help and support she needs – and if you won’t tell them – I will.”

“Don’t make threats.”

“It’s not a threat, Father, it’s a promise. Mrs Dawson is currently in Wicklow – no doubt you have the address. I shall call here on Friday evening and if I discover that David has not gone there and afforded Mrs Dawson the courtesy of informing her face-to-face that Margaret is ill, I shall travel to Wicklow on Saturday and tell her myself. Now, I think it would be best if Isobel, Bob and I saw ourselves out. Good evening to you both.”

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Photo credit: “Portret van een onbekende man met hoed” by Felix Friedrich Busenbender and Woodbury & Page, Rijksmuseum is in the Public Domain, CC0 / A derivative from the original work

Meet A Forlorn Hope’s James Ellison

Please note this post contains SPOILERS for The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Series books one to three. If you haven’t read them yet, click/tap on the banner to catch up!

Fifty-eight year-old James Ellison is Will Fitzgerald‘s solicitor. James was in partnership with Ronald Henderson for thirty years until Ronald’s sudden death in late 1880. Unknown to James, Ronald was gay and died in a brothel in Dublin’s red light district known as Monto. James ensured that a scandal was averted and only scant details of Ronald’s death appeared in the newspapers. James’ eagerness to avert a scandal was not only out of respect for his friend and business partner but also because he was in love with Ronald’s widow, Martha, Isobel Fitzgerald’s mother.

James’ only son died aged fourteen of consumption and when his wife died, James expected to be alone for the rest of his life but when Ronald introduced him to Martha shortly before their marriage, James fell in love with her instantly despite knowing nothing could come of it. When Ronald died and Martha discovered he had married her solely for companionship, James had to put his feelings aside and assist her with the settlement of Ronald’s estate.

But James couldn’t keep away from Martha and Alfie Stevens, Isobel’s brother, noticed how often James was calling to number 55 Fitzwilliam Square. Realising James was courting her mother far too soon after Ronald’s death, Isobel went to James’ offices and asked him what his intentions were towards her mother. James told Isobel that he and her mother were in love, they would be extremely circumspect and when a year had passed since Ronald’s death, they would marry.

James and Martha married in December 1881 at St Peter’s Church and James moved into number 55. He continued to practise law alone from his offices on Westmoreland Street.

When Will and Isobel discovered Will’s father, John, had persuaded Fred Simpson’s childless widow, Margaret to enter into a marriage of convenience with Alfie’s former lover David Powell, it enraged them and they retaliated by denying John access to his three grandchildren.

When A Forlorn Hope begins, over a year has passed since the marriage and when John meets Will and Isobel in St Stephen’s Green, he threatens legal action if they continue to deny him access to young John, Ben and Belle. Will and Isobel ask James for assistance but will they want to hear, agree to and comply with his legal advice?

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

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

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

Will managed to swallow his anger at his father for most of the afternoon as he made house calls. Closing number 30’s front door at just before half past four, it rose again and he shook his head as Isobel came out of the morning room.

“Young John has made a friend and I may have made one, too,” she announced with a smile and kissed his lips.

“Oh?” he replied, hanging his hat on the stand and placing his medical bag on the hall table before following her into the morning room while she told him about the Pearsons. “Her husband lost an arm?”

“Yes. His right arm.”

“Where was he stationed with the army?”

“India, where he and Marianne got married, and then Egypt.”

“And they are moving into number 7. Well, well. I’m glad the house won’t be standing empty for much longer. What is Daniel like?”

“Small and blonde and I don’t think he had ever seen ducks before.”

Will smiled, hearing voices in the hall. “How was Mother?” he asked just as the door opened and Zaineb, one of their house-parlourmaids, showed a worried-looking James Ellison into the room.

“Gorman said you asked that I call and that it was a professional matter.”

“I’m afraid it is,” Will replied, nodding his thanks to Zaineb and the maid left the room. “Please sit down, James, and we’ll explain.”

He and Isobel sat on the huge reddish-brown leather sofa while James sat in one of the armchairs and listened intently while Will recounted the meeting with his father in St Stephen’s Green.

“And he said, ‘If you and Will continue to deny me that right, I shall have no choice but to speak with my solicitor,’” the solicitor clarified.

“Yes.” Will nodded.

“And did you reply?” James added.

“I told him not to dare threaten us. Then a few minutes later, Isobel saw him go into the offices of Hugo Blackwood & Son – Hugo Blackwood is his solicitor. James, does my father have a legal right to visit his grandchildren?”

“Well.” James sighed. “He is the children’s grandfather and you have been denying him access to them for over a year…”

“So what do you propose we do?”

“You and Isobel have two choices. The first is to grant your father visitation rights before he has the opportunity to take the matter any further. The second is to do nothing for now. Wait and see what your father does. His going into the offices of Hugo Blackwood & Son this morning could have been a bluff as he may just have been doing as you are doing now and seeking legal advice. The problem is that the longer he is denied access to the children, the more likely it is that he does instruct Hugo Blackwood to take legal action against you both.”

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Photo credit: Portret van Jules Verne by Félix Nadar, c.1880 – c.1886, Rijksmuseum is in the Public Domain, CC0 1.0 / A derivative from the original work

Laudanum: The Aspirin of the Nineteenth Century

In an era before aspirin, anti-depressants or effective sleeping pills, narcotic drugs played a huge part in Victorian life. Called the ‘aspirin of the nineteenth century’, laudanum was a popular painkiller and relaxant and was available to purchase without a prescription in any pharmacy.

Laudanum contained approximately 10% opium combined with up to 50% alcohol. Due to its bitter taste, it was mixed with many ingredients including spices, honey, chloroform or ether, wine, whiskey or brandy. Depending on the tincture’s strength and the severity of the patient’s symptoms, an average adult dose ranged from ten to thirty drops.

Many laudanum tinctures were targeted at women and were widely prescribed by doctors for problems with menstruation and childbirth and even for nervous afflictions such as ‘the vapours’ which included hysteria, depression and fainting fits.

Laudanum was extremely addictive and addicts enjoyed highs of euphoria followed by deep lows of depression along with slurred speech and restlessness. Withdrawal symptoms included aches, cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea but it was not until the early 20th century that it became widely recognised as addictive.

The 1868 Pharmacy Act attempted to control the sale and supply of opium-based preparations by ensuring they could only be sold by registered pharmacists and they had to be clearly labelled as a poison. This was largely ineffective, however, as there was no limit on the amount the chemist could sell to the public. Twenty-five drops of laudanum could be bought for a penny, making it affordable to all classes of society.

Because of the demand, every pharmacy stocked laudanum but for inexperienced pharmacists, this could prove to be dangerous. Cutting opium fresh from a damp lump rather than waiting for it to dry out, or carelessly weighing it could result in a stronger batch. In 1899 aspirin was developed, a far safer painkiller, beginning an era of better-regulated medicines.

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

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

Read an excerpt from Chapter Five… 

“Has no study been made into the detrimental effects of laudanum?” {Isobel} asked. “Or is it too useful to the medical profession and also to husbands in keeping their wives docile?”

“No and yes,” {Alfie} replied simply before grimacing. “For a study to be made, the researcher will need evidence from a dependant and who would wish to admit to a stranger that they are – or were one? You’re right, laudanum is too useful but there are mutterings that it is too widely available and too easy to obtain but—” He shrugged. “It is a vicious circle – more dependants would have to come forward and explain how they obtained it and where from for something to be done…”

“…And that is not likely to happen,” she concluded and Alfie shook his head.

There was one other cab standing outside the gates to the cemetery when they got out of theirs.

“This is the first time I have come here and not been frozen,” she said as they walked up the Avenue.

“But this time you can barely see anything.” Alfie laughed and she gave him a dig in the ribs. “Ouch. What was that for?”

“I am supposed to be in deep mourning,” she reminded him, pulling a tiny handkerchief edged with black lace from her sleeve. “Look – I even brought this useless thing with me.”

“Mother gave you that handkerchief.”

“I know. It’s lovely to look at but utterly inadequate. Will has wonderful handkerchiefs – ones you can actually get your nose into,” she added and Alfie had to stifle another laugh. “I shall pretend to dab my eyes with this if we meet anyone.”

“Is it possible to walk a circuit of the cemetery?” Alfie asked.

“I don’t know, I’ve only walked directly to graves and back to the entrance. Can we walk to Fred Simpson’s?” she asked suddenly. “Will and I only come here on Fred’s anniversary and I would like to see if the grave is tidy while I am here.”

“Of course we can.”

“It is a little further on and along a path to the right,” she said, lifting the veil a little.

They walked on and turned right, only for Alfie to pull her behind a large pedestal adorned with a praying angel.

“What is it?” she whispered fiercely as she crouched beside him, having to retie the ribbon holding the lace veil to her hat.

“Margaret Powell is at the Simpson graves,” Alfie replied and Isobel peered around the side of the pedestal, lifting the veil and draping it back over her hat so she could see clearly.

Margaret, dressed in black, was kneeling at the graves where her first husband, Fred, their baby son, Nicholas, Fred’s mother, Maria, and Maria’s husband, Duncan, were all buried. Ida Joyce, Margaret’s lady’s maid, was standing a few feet behind her.

“…Give me yours,” Margaret was demanding and Ida walked forward and held out a handkerchief. Margaret snatched it from her and bent over the grave. “This is filthy.”

“What is she doing?” Alfie whispered and Isobel slowly straightened up and looked out from behind the praying angel.

Margaret was busily polishing a glass globe which encased red porcelain roses. Isobel had bought the globe to place on the grave to commemorate the first anniversary of Fred’s death. The globe was as clean as could be expected but Margaret continued to polish it vigorously, a lock of her blonde hair escaping its pins and falling across her face.

“Mrs Powell,” Ida began but Margaret ignored her. “Mrs Powell, perhaps, we should return—”

“I want to have this globe sparkling before we leave,” Margaret interrupted and Ida rolled her eyes.

“Poor Ida,” Alfie murmured as Isobel crouched beside him again. “To go from being Grandmother’s lady’s maid to Margaret Powell’s.”

“Mrs Powell, the small patch of green you can see is moss or some such like on the inside of the glass,” Ida told Margaret remarkably calmly. “It is a result of the globe being here in all weathers. Thanks to you, the outside of the glass is sparkling now.”

“But the inside is not,” Margaret replied, picking up the globe and, before Ida could stop her, throwing it away. Isobel clapped a hand to her mouth as the globe landed with a smash on a neighbouring grave, the glass and porcelain scattering all over it. “That is much better,” Margaret continued, sitting back on her heels to survey the Simpson graves. “I will not have filthy adornments on the graves of my husband and son.”

“No, Mrs Powell,” Ida responded in a voice which shook a little. “Mrs Powell, the graves are tidy now and the cab is waiting.”

“Yes.” Margaret got to her feet, wiping her hands clean with Ida’s handkerchief, then dropping it on the path. “I am delighted with how the graves look now. We shall visit again soon.”

And with that, Margaret strode away towards the Avenue. Ida quickly picked up her ruined handkerchief, shoved it up her sleeve and ran after her mistress.

Behind the pedestal, Isobel exchanged an incredulous glance with Alfie.

“When did you see Margaret last?” he asked.

“Well over a year ago when I brought the box of David’s belongings from the surgery on Pimlico to number 1. She certainly wasn’t like… that. Alfie, we can’t leave the other grave in such a condition,” she said, glancing at the shards of glass and porcelain glistening in the sunshine.

“But we have nothing to put the pieces in.”

“We can leave them beside the grave.”

They got up, crossed the path, and carefully began to tidy the grave. They cleared the area as best they could and she went to the Simpson graves noting how the gravestone was beginning to weather already.

“What will you tell Ben about Fred?” Alfie asked. “He has Fred’s name so he is bound to be curious eventually.”

“Will and Jerry have hundreds of stories about Fred – Fred at Wesley – Fred at Trinity – Fred being Fred – he will not be forgotten,” she said, lowering the veil. “I don’t like seeing the Simpson graves bare but if Margaret’s mental state means she is simply going to throw away anything she disapproves of then what can we do?”

Alfie squeezed her hand then took her arm and they walked back to the Avenue.

“I’m sorry,” he said with a sigh. “I had hoped our jaunt would have been rather more enjoyable than this.”

“You brought me to a cemetery,” she teased. “But, thank you, it was very thoughtful of you.”

“And very enlightening,” Alfie added and she replied with a sombre nod.

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Photo credit: Empty bottle for opium tincture, London, England, 1880-1940. Credit: Science Museum, LondonAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Photo credit: An unscrupulous chemist selling a child arsenic and laudanum. Wood engraving after J. Leech. Credit: Wellcome CollectionAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Photo credit: An ad for laudanum in the Sears catalog: Mike Mozart via Flickr. Attribution CC BY 2.0
Photo credit: WMS 3339, For cholera: ’30 drops of laudanum. Wellcome CollectionAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Photo credit: Interior of typical victorian (pharmacy). Credit: Wellcome CollectionAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Photo credit: Laudanum poison 100ml flasche.jpg This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Cydone. This applies worldwide.

The Westmoreland Lock Hospital

Dublin’s Westmoreland Lock Hospital was established in 1755 by George Doyle for the treatment of venereal diseases. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many hospitals would not admit patients suffering from venereal disease leading to a need for a dedicated hospital.

The name Lock Hospital dates back to early leprosy hospitals, which were known as ‘lock’ hospitals derived from the French word loques which were the rags used to cover the leper’s lesions. Later ‘Lock Hospitals’ were specifically developed for the treatment of syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection.

The Westmoreland Lock Hospital was first located on Rainsford Street in Dublin. The hospital opened with 300 beds but over time this was reduced to 150. It changed location on several occasions before relocating to Townsend Street in 1792. The hospital was named in honour of John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmoreland who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland at the time and who sponsored the move to Townsend Street. The building consisted of a centre, containing the officers’ apartments, and two wings with additional buildings for the reception of patients. The move to Townsend Street was significant as it signalled a shift in the importance of acknowledging and treating venereal disease.

From 1819 men were no longer admitted to the hospital. Instead, they received treatment for sexually transmitted diseases at Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital or Dr Steevens’ Hospital. The Lock Hospital continued to treat women, many of whom were prostitutes. High levels of prostitution in Dublin, especially in the red light district known as Monto, were the result of the presence of large British army barracks in the city. Syphilis and gonorrhoea were rife among soldiers but their spread was blamed on women and prostitutes in particular.

An 1854 Select Committee on Dublin Hospitals reported that of the 6,550 unmarried women admitted to medical institutions in the city with venereal disease in 1850, at least half were believed to have been infected by soldiers. The Westmoreland Lock Hospital’s patient registers for the 1860s showed that most of its Dublin inmates lived in streets adjacent to army barracks, especially the Royal (now Collins Barracks), Ship Street and Beggar’s Bush barracks.

In 1881, Lieutenant Colonel Tucker of the 80th Foot, based at the Royal Barracks, wrote to the assistant adjutant at Kilmainham protesting at the level of venereal disease in his regiment. He said that 284 of his men, 43% of the unmarried men under his command, were then in hospital with venereal disease. According to Tucker, his men could not walk in the vicinity of the barracks, “Without being accosted by troops of largely diseased women.” It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Tucker that his men might equally have been spreading venereal disease amongst Dublin women.

Unlike Cork, Cobh (Queenstown) and the Curragh, Dublin did not come under the jurisdiction of the Contagious Diseases Acts, which allowed any woman suspected of being a prostitute in the vicinity of a barracks to be checked for disease and kept without consent at a Lock Hospital. The Westmoreland Lock Hospital never had the power to hold women against their will.

Tucker’s letter, with others from senior army officers and military surgeons stationed in Dublin, was sent in November 1882 by the adjutant general on behalf of the commander of forces in Ireland to Dublin Castle urging the extension of the Contagious Diseases Acts to the Dublin metropolitan area. But, except for an undertaking to look into enlarging the facilities at the Westmoreland Lock Hospital, the government rejected the proposal and in April 1883, the operation of the Acts in both England and Ireland were suspended.

The number of women treated at the Westmoreland Lock Hospital during the year ending 31st March 1881 was 772 and they were segregated by religion and by marital status. Many married women infected by their husbands were admitted, sometimes with infants also infected with disease, and were kept away from ‘common prostitutes’.

Unlike other Dublin hospitals, the Westmoreland Lock Hospital was largely ignored by the public and had few voluntary subscribers or donations from charitable organisations because of its ‘distasteful’ patients and illnesses. Dr Rawton Macnamara, senior surgeon to the Westmoreland Lock Hospital, told a parliamentary select committee in 1881 that none of the other major Dublin hospitals would admit venereal disease cases except for Dr Steevens’ Hospital. The Westmoreland Lock Hospital was supported by a government grant of £2,600 per annum but it only enabled less than half of the 150 beds to be occupied.

When Ireland gained independence in 1922 and the British army left Dublin, Catholic organisations began to force the closure of the brothels in Monto. As a result, the sex industry declined and many remaining ‘fallen women’ were sent to the infamous Magdalene Laundries. In 1946 the Westmoreland Lock Hospital was renamed St Margaret of Cortona but due to a continuing drop in admissions and the building having fallen into disrepair, the hospital closed its doors for the last time in 1956 and was demolished.

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

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

Read an excerpt from Chapter Two…

“Please don’t allow the other woman to simply walk back out onto the streets.”

“We’re not the feckin’ Shelbourne Hotel, you know?” {the constable} replied and {Isobel} shot him an irritated glance before peering back into the cell.

“I don’t think it’s just the drink that’s wrong with her.”

“A bit of an expert, are you?”

“My husband is a doctor,” she explained. “And I have seen enough of his patients to conclude that Maggie is not mad but is most likely suffering from syphilis.”

“Ah – Jaysus – syphilis?” Constable Flynn’s eyes bulged in a mixture of horror and disgust. “Could she have given it to me or the other lads?”

“Not unless you were all intimate with her during the early stages of the illness. Were you?”

“No, we were not,” he stated with clear offence.

“Then, please, Constable, you’ve been kind to her. Do her another kindness by bringing her to the Westmoreland Lock Hospital on Townsend Street. They care for women with venereal diseases there and it’s not too far away. Please?” she begged. “Let her be cared for properly there so she doesn’t have to live on the streets?”

“The Lock Hospital?”

“Yes. Please?” she begged again. “I’ll gladly pay the cab fare.”

“I can’t take money off you.”

“Then, I will hail a cab and pay the cabman directly. Please?”

“Aragh, all right. One less unfortunate off the streets can only be a good thing. Let me have a word with Sergeant O’Keefe.”

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Photo credit: By Unknown author – Scan of a photograph of the Westmoreland Lock Hospital, Public Domain, Link

Dublin’s Coal Holes and Coal Cellars

Coal cellars are a common feature of Georgian and Victorian era houses. They were built with a brick vaulted roof under the footpath and accessible via the servants’ hall in the basement of the house and some cellars extended out well under the street. Coal holes were installed so coal (and turf {peat} and wood) deliveries could be poured or shovelled into the cellar from the street. The holes are between twelve to fourteen inches in diameter, small enough to keep all but the smallest of burglars out, and are generally circular so the lids can’t fall through the hole. The cover sits into an iron rim set in the pavement and is locked with a chain attached to an eye inside the lid and is fastened from beneath.

Coal hole and doorway under the street on Mountjoy Square, Dublin.

The majority of Dublin’s cast iron coal hole covers were made between 1760 and 1830 in foundries such as Tonge & Taggart on Windmill Lane, South City Foundry on Bishop Street, Sharke’s on Church Street, Hammond Lane and T. Saul & Co on Leeson Street Upper – all long gone. The covers were cast with lines and/or patterns to stop people slipping on them in the rain and often included the name of the foundry. The casting involved a wooden or metal master cover being forced into a box of sand. The master was removed, producing a mould into which the molten iron was poured.

An ornate coal hole cover from Mountjoy Square, Dublin, Ireland, still set in its original granite.

The pavements of Dublin’s Georgian and Victorian squares and streets still contain a unique collection of street furniture. Later, when other European cities were installing modern replacements made of concrete, aluminium and pressed steel, Dublin was forced by economic necessity to retain its beautiful heritage of cast iron covers.

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

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

Read a snippet from Chapter Seven… 

Taking one of the ridiculously small cucumber sandwiches, Isobel went and stood to one side of the window so she couldn’t be seen. Ely Place Upper was deserted and she glanced at the round cast-iron coal hole cover set into the pavement near the kerb. Deliveries of bagged coal were poured into the cellar below and she knew all too well from her time as a servant that it created a cloud of fine black dust if the coalman didn’t give enough warning to close the cellar door. The cramped coal cellar at number 68 – where she had often been sent to fill a scuttle – was cold and damp no matter the time of year and this one was likely the same.

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Photo credit: Coal hole and corresponding door underneath the street: Gavinmc (talk | contribs) / Public domain
Photo credit: An ornate coal hole from Mountjoy SquareDublinIreland, still set in its original granite. The original uploader was Gavinmc at English Wikipedia. / Public domain

Meet A Discarded Son’s Miles Greene

Miles Walker Greene

Miles Walker Greene was born in 1835, the only son of Lewis Greene and his wife Matilda (Tilda) and is a twin brother to Isobel Fitzgerald’s mother, Martha. Tilda had not known she was carrying twins until she gave birth. Martha was born first but Miles took a long time to be born.

All was well at first, and Lewis and Matilda were delighted to have an heir to the Greene Hall estate. Soon, however, it became evident that Miles was not developing like other children. Miles was examined by the Greene’s doctor and he was deemed to be – in the terminology of the time – a ‘simpleton’ or an ‘idiot’.

Tilda blamed herself and could not bear to even look at her son and when she claimed he was beginning to frighten Martha, Lewis sent Miles away to St Patrick’s Hospital in Dublin – an asylum where he could be cared for properly. Lewis watched his year-old son being driven away in a carriage down the drive then let it be known that Miles had died and a large funeral was held for him.

Miles becomes a chamber boarder at St Patrick’s Hospital with his own apartment and a servant – Peter O’Connor. The annual fee, plus Peter’s wages, as well as an allowance for furniture, clothes, shoes and other sundries is always paid promptly but there is no other contact whatsoever with the Greenes. Miles is a gentle soul who loves reading and amasses a huge collection of books, most of which Peter purchases for him as Miles does not leave the hospital grounds.

When Lewis’ doctor informs him that he has lung disease and it will kill him, he resolves to go to Dublin and see Miles. Tilda does not want to go but Lewis insists and he rents a house on Fitzwilliam Square. Isobel spots her grandfather in the congregation at her mother’s wedding to solicitor James Ellison and that evening Lewis confesses a secret – one which has been kept for over forty years. His son is alive and he wants to see Miles one last time before he dies.

This presents a huge conundrum. What, if anything, has Miles been told about his parents and family? How severe is Miles’ mental illness and how will he react when he is told that his mother does not wish to be reunited with him but that his father, who sent him away, does?

Greene Hall

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

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

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Read an Excerpt from Chapter Two…

Will had one urgent house call to make on Wednesday afternoon but met Isobel and his father at number 67 at half past three and they took a cab to St Patrick’s Hospital. Isobel went straight to Miles’ apartment with a copy of Wuthering Heights and a tin of mince pies, while Will and his father went to the medical superintendent’s office.

“Miles Greene has the mental capacity of a fifteen-year-old boy,” Dr Harrison told them. “He is not violent or aggressive – never has been – even when he sometimes struggles to express himself – and if it were not for the fact that his parents did not want a ‘slow’ or ‘simpleton’ child, he could have lived with them perfectly well and not be tucked away here.”

“So, Miles is capable of living in an ordinary home?” Will asked and Dr Harrison nodded.

“Miles likes everything tidy, orderly and just so. I believe he could live a happy life in a quiet home with some supervision. Can you give him a home, Dr Fitzgerald?”

“No, I’m afraid not,” Will replied. “My wife and I have three young children but Miles could be accommodated in my wife’s mother’s home. Except—” He sighed. “My mother-in-law is currently away on honeymoon and she has always believed her brother to have died at a year old. The news will have to be broken to her and to her new husband when they return and the possibility of giving Miles a home discussed.”

“And Miles’ parents?” Dr Harrison added.

“Mr Greene is too ill to visit him and Mrs Greene continues to want nothing to do with her son,” Will explained.

“I see that it is a delicate matter all round.”

“Yes, it is.”

“Well, discuss the matter and let me know the outcome. If Miles can be given a home, the hospital shall need written consent from Mr Greene for Miles to be released from our care into the care of his sister and brother-in-law.”

Will and his father left the office and as they approached Miles’ apartment, Will could hear laughing and on opening the door saw Isobel performing an elaborate curtsy to her uncle.

“I have just taught Miles how to waltz,” she said. “Miles, come and meet Will’s father. Miles, this is John Fitzgerald. John, this is Miles Greene.”

“I’m very pleased to meet you, sir.” Miles shook Will’s father’s hand. “Isobel tells me you are a doctor, too.”

“I am retired from practising medicine,” he clarified. “I now edit the Journal of Irish Medicine.”

“Dr Harrison reads that periodical, I have seen a copy on his desk.”

“Good. So, you have mastered the waltz?” he asked and Miles smiled.

“I wouldn’t say that, sir, but I now know all the steps. Thank you for visiting me.”

“You are very welcome, Miles.”

“When will you visit me again?” Miles turned back to Isobel.

“In the next few days, I promise,” she said, reaching up and kissing his cheek before leaving the apartment. “Well?” she asked as the porter showed them out of the hospital grounds. “Is Miles capable of living away from here?”

“Yes, he is,” Will replied. “But remember, Isobel, one thing at a time – it needs to be broken gently to your mother how ill her father is and then that Miles is alive – and she will need time in order to digest the news.”

“Yes, and I am dreading telling her – and James.”

“You won’t be alone,” he said, lifting her hand and kissing it. “Alfie and I will be with you. And we must not interfere – the final decision must be hers and James’.”

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Cover photo credit: Wilhelm Roentgen (1845-1923), German physicist, received the first Nobel Prize for Physics, in 1901, for his discovery of X-rays in 1895: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com and Portrait of a man in a top hat and morning suit holding a cane: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com
Cover photo credit: Florence Court, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland: phb.cz/Depositphotos.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet A Discarded Son’s Martha Ellison

Martha Ellison

Isobel Fitzgerald’s mother, Martha, was born in 1835 and is the only daughter of Lewis and Matilda (Tilda) Greene of Greene Hall, near Westport in Co Mayo, Ireland. She grew up an only child, believing her twin brother, Miles, died of whooping cough at a year old. She had a typical landed gentry upbringing, living in the nursery on the third floor of Greene Hall with a nursery maid and nanny until the age of twelve. The nursery then became the schoolroom and Martha had her own governess.

Martha was ten years old when the Great Famine began and she admits to Isobel that she was wholly oblivious to the tenants on the Greene Hall estate dying of starvation, being evicted from their homes and land and leaving the estate forever. Little wonder, with her secluded upbringing, Martha defied her parents and ran away from home to marry the first man to turn her head.

That man was the Reverend Edmund Stevens who was curate in the local Church of Ireland (Anglican) parish of Ballyglas. Upon his marriage, Edmund is given his own parish – Ballybeg in Co Galway – and a son, Alfie, is born ten months after his parents’ marriage and Isobel is born in 1857. Edmund ruled his wife – and later his son and daughter – with an iron fist, but while he controls his wife, he cannot completely control his children. Alfie has always wanted to become a doctor and refuses time and again to follow his father into the church and is beaten time and again. Isobel falls pregnant following a seduction, ruining all of Edmund’s plans for her to marry well, and she is whipped, disowned and thrown out of the Glebe House.

Edmund dies suddenly of a heart attack in January 1880 and Martha and Alfie leave Ballybeg and move to Dublin. Martha believes Isobel has gone to Dublin and Alfie seizes the opportunity to study medicine at Trinity College. Martha now needs her own solicitor to administer Edmund’s estate and she is introduced to Ronald Henderson. Within a few months, they are married and Martha is mistress of a grand home at 55 Fitzwilliam Square.

Martha is reunited with Isobel in November 1880 but her joy is short-lived. Ronald dies of a heart attack in a brothel in Monto, Dublin’s red-light district. She then discovers that not only did he own the brothel, but he had been there with a man. Poor Martha doesn’t think she will ever recover from the betrayal. She had believed herself to be in love with Ronald but Ronald had married her solely for companionship.

Solicitor, James Ellison, is a widower in his fifties and was Ronald’s business partner for thirty years. He settles Ronald’s estate but continues to call to number 55 on one flimsy pretext or another and appears to be courting Martha. Isobel confronts James as it is only a couple of months since Ronald’s death. James admits he and Martha are deeply in love, he knows they must be circumspect, and that when a year has passed since Ronald’s death, he will marry Martha.

A Discarded Son begins on Martha’s wedding day. Can Martha’s marriage to James Ellison be third time lucky for her?

Martha Ellison

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

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

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Read an Excerpt from Chapter One…

As soon as they returned to number 55, Mrs Ellison insisted on speaking to her in private and, reluctantly, Isobel followed her mother into the morning room. Closing the door, she looked at the hearth. A fire had been set that morning but not lit and the room felt unusually cool.

“You may now tell me the truth,” Mrs Ellison began. “Where are my father and mother living?”

Isobel grimaced. Was she so bad a liar these days? “I don’t—”

“The truth, Isobel,” her mother interrupted crisply.

“They have rented a house here on the square – number 7,” she said and Mrs Ellison went straight to the window and looked out at the street. “And you will call on them when you return from London.”

“No. I want them both here – now.”

“Mother, no,” she begged. “You have been looking forward to this day for such a long time don’t allow them to ruin it.”

“They are my parents,” Mrs Ellison replied, her voice rising.

“The same parents who cut you off when you married Father and who are now suddenly here in Dublin for your marriage to a gentleman they approve of.”

That made her mother flinch and Isobel hoped she hadn’t gone too far.

“I want them both here – now,” Mrs Ellison repeated quietly, walking to the rope and ringing for a servant.

“Very well.” Isobel reached for the doorknob.

“And I want you, Alfie, James and Will here when they arrive.”

Letting her hand drop to her side, Isobel walked to the window turning momentarily to the door as the butler came in then watched a ginger cat squeeze between the railings surrounding the Fitzwilliam Square gardens before disappearing from view.

“You rang, Mrs Ellison.”

“Gorman, please, send someone to number 7 and ask that Mr and Mrs Greene join Mr and Mrs Ellison for luncheon and to meet their families. Oh, and this means there will be two extra for luncheon.”

“Yes, Mrs Ellison.”

“And ask my husband, son and son-in-law to join myself and my daughter here.”

“Yes, Mrs Ellison.”

The butler left the room and Isobel pulled a face, only turning around again when the door opened and James, Alfie and Will came in.

“I have sent for my parents,” Mrs Ellison announced and Isobel met Will’s brown eyes for a moment. “And, no, Isobel does not approve of my decision but I want them both here on my wedding day.”

There was no response, Mrs Ellison gave a little shrug and the five of them waited in a tense silence until voices were heard in the hall and the butler came into the room.

“Mr Greene,” Gorman announced, the elderly gentleman walked in and Isobel peered behind him. Where was his wife? Why wasn’t she here? And why hadn’t she accompanied her husband to St Peter’s Church?

“Martha.” Mr Greene went to his daughter reaching out his hands. “Oh, let me look at you.” Clasping her hands, he stood back with a smile. “Oh, how I have missed you.”

Isobel clenched her fists and banged them against her thighs in frustration as her mother burst into tears. How could she be so forgiving?

“And I have missed you.” Her mother smiled through her tears. “Oh, Father…” Holding him to her, the two cried unashamedly.

Isobel glanced at Will who returned a helpless expression while Alfie began to shuffle uncomfortably and James examined his hands.

When the two finally stopped sobbing, Mrs Ellison wiped her tears away with her fingers and looked over her father’s shoulder.

“I must introduce you to my family, Father. This is James Ellison – my husband.”

James joined them and greeted his new and unexpected father-in-law with admirable calm politeness.

“Alfie?” his mother called and he shuffled forward. “My son, Alfie, is a medical student at Trinity College.”

“A budding doctor, eh?” his grandfather commented.

“I have wanted to be nothing else,” he replied.

“And this is my daughter, Isobel, and her husband, Will,” her mother continued and she braced herself as Will took her hand, led her to them and her grandfather inclined his head politely.

“Your concern for your mother is commendable, Isobel.”

“I do not wish to see my mother upset – especially on today of all days.”

“But I am not upset,” her mother protested with an almost hysterical laugh which made her cringe. “I am absolutely delighted to have my father here today.”

“Where is Grandmother?” she asked on behalf of them all and he gave her a little smile, no doubt having expected her question.

“Resting,” he answered simply and she didn’t believe him for a second.

Quickly realising she wasn’t going to reply, her mother gestured to Will.

“This is my son-in-law, Dr Will Fitzgerald.”

“Are you a Dublin man?” Mr Greene inquired.

“Yes, I am,” Will replied. “I was born and brought up on Merrion Square.”

“Isobel and Will have twins – a boy and a girl – Ben and Belle – who are five months old,” Mrs Ellison went on. “And they are raising Will’s nephew, John, who is almost four.”

“I am a great-grandfather.” Mr Greene smiled and shook his head. “Good gracious me. I may be as old as the century, but this news makes me feel utterly antiquated.”

“I think we should go upstairs and introduce Mr Greene to our guests,” James suggested and his wife nodded.

“And luncheon will be served soon.”

They went up the stairs to the pleasantly warm drawing room where Mrs Ellison introduced her father – wheezing after the climb – to the guests. Will’s mother, in particular, was astonished, Sarah having assumed her friend’s parents were both long dead.

“You don’t seem at all happy to finally meet your grandfather, Isobel,” Will’s father commented and she sighed, taking his arm and leading him to a relatively quiet corner.

“My grandparents cut Mother off when she ran away from home to marry my father just days after her twenty-first birthday and yet here they both are in Dublin – twenty-five years later.”

“Your grandfather has the pallor and laboured breathing of a very ill man,” he said as they observed Mr Greene now leaning heavily on her mother’s arm and she nodded.

“Grandfather is dying and my mother does not know – and will not know – until she and James return from London.”

“Of course. They live in Co Mayo, don’t they?”

“They did, but not anymore, apparently. They are renting number 7.”

“Here on Fitzwilliam Square?” John Fitzgerald’s eyebrows shot up.

“Yes. I think their move to Dublin and my grandfather’s ‘sudden’ appearance at the church were very carefully planned, despite his words to the contrary,” she said as Will came to them.

“James seems rather stunned, what do you think of all this?” his father asked.

“Poor James is walking on eggshells,” Will replied. “He did not expect to acquire parents-in-law. I agree with Isobel that Mr Greene’s ‘sudden’ appearance has taken careful planning, so I am rather… wary.”

“Well, do not agree to be your grandfather-in-law’s doctor whatever you do.”

Will shot his father a sharp look. “I’m sure Mr Greene already has a doctor.”

“My namesake didn’t look too happy to be wearing a skirt.” John swiftly changed the subject.

“He wasn’t happy,” Will confirmed. “He hated his ‘dress’. But when I left him at number 30 with Zaineb, he went running up the stairs ahead of her for his short trousers immediately.”

A quarter of an hour later, they all sat down to the wedding luncheon – a place setting for Mrs Greene having been added and then quickly taken away. Isobel glanced at Will’s estranged parents, placed opposite each other at the huge dining table. Living separately – although under the same roof at number 67 Merrion Square – John and Sarah had behaved impeccably at Ben, Belle and young John’s joint christenings and could put on a show of togetherness when required.

Isobel was seated between John and one of James’ brothers and, although she spoke politely with both men, she couldn’t rid herself of the shock and anger of her grandfather’s unexpected arrival. She had rarely thought of either her paternal or maternal grandparents over the years. Her father’s parents had both died long before Alfie and she were born and she had never expected to meet her mother’s father and mother.

Mr and Mrs Ellison were to leave by cab at five o’clock. It would take them to the North Wall Quay passenger terminus and the boat to Holyhead in Wales. From there, they would travel to London by train. Isobel went upstairs with her mother and helped her to put on an exquisite three-quarter length ‘going away’ coat and hat made from the same gold and emerald green satin as the wedding dress.

“Promise me one thing,” Mrs Ellison said as Isobel opened the bedroom door. “Promise me you won’t row with your grandfather while James and I are in London. I know you are not at all happy at his rather sudden appearance.”

“I cannot promise you that, Mother,” she replied truthfully.

“In that case, I would like you to keep away from him – and your grandmother.”

Isobel’s jaw dropped. “Keep away?”

“Yes, Isobel, keep away. Yes, they hurt me deeply – cutting me off when I married your father – and I appreciate your wish to protect me from any further distress. But until I have the opportunity to sit down with them and determine whether their move to Dublin is temporary or permanent and what either could mean for us all, I would like you to keep away from them – please?”

Isobel gave a little shrug. “I can only promise you that I shall not call on them. But if they call on me…” She tailed off intentionally and her mother sighed but nodded.

“Yes, it is natural that they would wish to see their great-grandchildren.”

Is it, Isobel wondered. Today was the first occasion Mr Greene had set eyes on his grandchildren, never mind his great-grandchildren, even though he has no doubt known of us all and where we live for quite some time.

“And now it is time for you to go,” she said, hugging and kissing her mother. “Have a lovely time in London.”

“I’ll try.”

They went downstairs and she kissed James goodbye. He smiled before giving her a firm nod, silently telling her he would ensure his new wife enjoyed her honeymoon.

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Cover photo credit: Wilhelm Roentgen (1845-1923), German physicist, received the first Nobel Prize for Physics, in 1901, for his discovery of X-rays in 1895: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com and Portrait of a man in a top hat and morning suit holding a cane: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com
Cover photo credit: Florence Court, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland: phb.cz/Depositphotos.com
Photo credit: John Singer Sargent – Mrs Henry White – Irina via Flickr.com / CC BY 4.0

Meet A Discarded Son’s Alfie Stevens

Alfred (Alfie) Stevens was born in 1856 at Ballybeg Glebe House, Co Galway, Ireland son of the Reverend Edmund Stevens and his wife Martha. His sister, Isobel, was born the following year. Theirs was not a happy household. Edmund Stevens ruled his wife and children with an iron fist. Alfie has always wanted to be a doctor but his father wanted Alfie to follow him into the church. When Alfie refused time and again, he was beaten time and again. Alfie also bravely stood between his father and his mother and sister on many occasions and took the beatings so they wouldn’t have to.

Alfie is gay but kept his sexuality a secret from everyone but Peter Shawcross, the son of a neighbour, who is also gay. When Alfie and Peter were caught together by Peter’s brother, James, he blackmailed Alfie into making sure Isobel is left alone with him. James seduced Isobel and when she told him she was pregnant, he left Ireland for America. Isobel was forced to tell her father who whipped her, disowned her and threw her out of the Glebe House.

Naturally, Alfie blamed himself but when his father dies suddenly of a heart attack in January 1880, he and his mother seize the opportunity to move to Dublin in the hope of finding Isobel and so he can study medicine at Trinity College. His mother marries solicitor Ronald Henderson and they move into number 55 Fitzwilliam Square but Ronald dies a few months later. His mother’s hysterical reaction to discovering her husband died in a brothel he owned and that he had been there with another man, makes Alfie swear to himself never to tell her he is gay, too.

Alfie and his mother are reunited with Isobel and, shortly afterwards, Isobel marries Dr Will Fitzgerald and they move into number 30 Fitzwilliam Square. At Trinity College, Alfie meets David Powell, who is also a medical student but in his final year, and they fall in love. When Will and Isobel accidentally find them together, Alfie makes them promise never to tell anyone.

When Will needs to employ another doctor at the Merrion Street Upper medical practice, Isobel suggests David even though he is less than a year qualified. Will takes him on and David proves to be an excellent doctor and even assists in the births of Will and Isobel’s children.

When Alfie and David are attacked outside a club for gay men and Will’s father hears a delirious Alfie calling out for David, he puts two and two together and is furious. Isobel persuades John to turn a blind eye and he reluctantly agrees. But can John Fitzgerald be trusted to keep Alfie and David’s relationship a secret?

954px-Long_Room_Interior,_Trinity_College_Dublin,_Ireland_-_Diliff

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

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

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Read an Excerpt from Chapter Two…

Isobel was shown into number 55’s morning room at just after three o’clock the following afternoon. The room was empty and she turned to the butler with a frown.

“Is my mother not at home?”

“Mrs Ellison – and then Mr Ellison – have gone to call upon Mr Greene,” Gorman told her. “Mr Stevens is upstairs in the library.”

“Oh, I see. Thank you.”

The butler closed the door after him and Isobel grimaced as she went to the window, wishing her mother had not called to number 7 so soon. Hearing voices in the hall, she glanced at the door as it opened and Alfie came in.

“Why didn’t you go with Mother and then James to number 7?” she asked.

“Because until James asked me – and then we asked Gorman – where Mother was, we didn’t realise she had gone out,” he replied. “I thought it best that James go after her to number 7. We had been discussing Miles. James has asked me to become Miles’ legal guardian. I had expected for it to be James but he explained why he should not. And why it should be me.”

“You sound as if you don’t want to do it.”

“I will do it—” Alfie stopped abruptly and spread his hands helplessly. “But James has told me he wants the Greene Hall estate to pass to me and not Miles when the time comes. Yes, it would be better not to have Miles be made a ward of court but, even so, I can’t help but think the Greene Hall estate should be his – not mine.”

“Alfie, we shall all be on hand to help and advise you.”

“Isobel, I will never be married – I will never have a son…”

“And neither will Miles.”

“But, unlike Miles, I shall be expected to marry and – when I don’t – my bachelor status will be commented on.”

“You will be a doctor with a busy Dublin practice with no time for marriage. There are plenty of bachelor doctors—”

“Who probably all have a ‘secret friend’ as I do.”

Two cabs stopped outside and Will got out of the first. Seeing her at the window, he smiled and she waited for him to be shown into the room.

“Mother and James are at number 7,” she told him before he could ask where they were and he rolled his eyes before peering past both her and Alfie at the street. “Have you asked the cabmen to wait?”

“Yes, and I hope your mother won’t stay too long – not because of the cabs – but because seeing your mother again will be upsetting for your grandfather. I wish she hadn’t called on him without my being present and I wish she hadn’t called on him until after visiting Miles.”

“Mother went first without telling James and I and James had to follow her,” Alfie explained and Will swore under his breath. “Is Mother going be too emotional for Miles?” Alfie added. “Especially as Miles needs a quiet home?”

“I need to speak to James and – oh – there they are now.”

Her mother and James were crossing the street, her mother waving her hands in the air in an agitated manner as she spoke to him while James simply shook his head before stopping and holding his arms out from his sides then letting them drop.

“Let’s go outside.” Will opened the door and then the front door for her. “James?” he called as the three of them left the house and James held up a hand to acknowledge him.

“I’m sorry, Will, but Martha took it upon herself to call to number 7, despite my having told her to wait until this evening.”

“Do I need to call on Mr Greene?” Will asked.

“No, he is as well as can be expected. Despite having to deal with the unexpected caller.”

“My father was delighted to see me,” Mrs Ellison announced proudly.

“Did you or he mention Miles?” Isobel inquired.

“I had to,” her mother replied and Isobel’s heart sank. “James told me the hospital requires written consent from my father for Miles to come and live here – which I now have,” she continued triumphantly, holding up an envelope.

“Did you see Grandmother?” Isobel added as Will opened the door of the first cab and James helped his wife inside and she sat down.

“Mother was ‘resting’. Whether she does or does not wish to see me is entirely up to her but Father – oh, Will – that contraption – the face mask – the oxygen cylinder…”

“Your father needs it,” Will replied. “To be blunt, Martha, your father cannot now live without inhaling oxygen and he must not be upset or agitated unnecessarily and I would have preferred that you had not called on him this first time without my being present.”

Mrs Ellison flushed at Will’s stern tone but raised her chin defensively. “So James told me – but he is my father – I had to visit him.”

“And he is my patient – and I am trying to ensure he receives the best of care – please consider his needs in future and not your own.”

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

Buy A Discarded Son: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Three for

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Or read A Discarded Son: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Three FREE with 

download

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Amazon ASIN: B07FDB3B3W

Paperback ISBN: 9781723286810

Fitzgeralds Series ASIN: B07W4WRWGM

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Cover photo credit: Wilhelm Roentgen (1845-1923), German physicist, received the first Nobel Prize for Physics, in 1901, for his discovery of X-rays in 1895: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com and Portrait of a man in a top hat and morning suit holding a cane: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com
Cover photo credit: Florence Court, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland: phb.cz/Depositphotos.com
Photo credit: Cabinet card young man – Photographer: Wilber, Chardon Ohio – Property of LOST GALLERY and website owner. Used under CC BY-SA 4.0
Photo credit: The Long Room of the Old Library at Trinity College, Dublin by Diliff – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0