Film Scenario B

SHEELA-NA-GIG

PRELIMINARY NOTE: The Treatment which follows might be best developed in the format of a Mini-series, although it could be trimmed for Feature Film. In light of the astonishing decline in the standing and reputation of the RC Church in modern Ireland, the story has acquired striking relevance, even topicality. That said, its theme is far from being simply anti Catholic. In the middle of the nineteenth century when the famine stricken land was at the lowest pitch of its fortunes, the Catholic church – hardly thirty years since Catholic Emancipation – had such great sway over the people that some dedicated priests and nuns would have used their power with the utmost charity and Christian dedication; while others, were ready to snatch at power and abuse it.
Bearing in mind the remarkable appeal which film adaptations of 19th century novels have had in Britain, it is likely enough that the romantic strain in this story might have had the same appeal in Ireland during the recent economic boom. And yet many Irish people might have been in a mood to shrug off romantic Ireland as 'dead and gone... with O'Leary in the grave'. That phase may have passed. Time to look back in wonder and take stock?
If the reader is impatient to get stuck straight into the story, go straight to Page 6. Read the prefatory notes later.

SHEELA-NA-GIG
or
THE TONGUES Of ANGELS
or
THAT O'MARA WOMAN

PREFACE:

Why the alternative title, THAT O'MARA WOMAN? That is how those who wished to dismiss this crusading woman as vexatious and presumptuous might have spoken of her.

Kitty O'Mara, an Irish woman of the 1840's, able to throw off the yoke, grasp the reins and steer the course of her own destiny! It might, I expect, be asked if I have not let my fancy fly too high and even, with an eye to currying favour with the cause of modern Feminism, posed an improbable state of affairs. If pressed to justify the 'reality' of a woman such as Kitty O'Mara, I would have to allow that, if I have stretched the story to the very limits of plausibility, it might be because Kitty's social status, rather than her sex, would have hampered her crusade.

There were models for 'that O'Mara woman'. In figmenting Kitty, my mind, has mused on those brave women who, sometimes under the aegis of the church, founded charitable orders and missions and dedicated themselves to the education of women. Nanno Nagle, founder of the Presentation Order, flitted through my thoughts; as did Caroline Chisholm, that female Moses who, with bonnet and shawl led her troupe of destitute women into the promised land of Australia.

Then there are the women poets of Ireland who, far from shirking political action, issued a call to arms: Ellen Downing, a fierce proselytiser for Young Ireland, in love with a Young Irelander who, once fled to America, forgot her and left her to pine away; Mary Kelly ("Eva"), cousin of John Blake Dillon and an impassioned contributor to The Nation. When her fiancée, Kevin O' Doherty, offered a pardon if he were to plead guilty, asked her what he should do, Eva urged him to stick to his guns: she would wait. And she did. Oscar Wilde's mother, Jane Francesca Elgee, who, when Charles Gavan Duffy stood in the dock, charged with treason, sprang to her feet in the gallery and proclaimed herself the author of the 'calumnious' article Duffy had published in The Nation. If Ireland never did actually have a Kitty O'Mara, it is not impossible that such a woman could have existed in Ireland during the 1840's.

Would that mid-century Ireland had produced a woman novelist of the calibre of the Bronte sisters or George Eliot! But, assuming that they had known much about it, would even those great English novelists have been prepared to face unflinchingly the terrible story of Ireland in the 1840's? Would any novelist in The British Isles? There were obvious limits prescribed by the mores of the time, for even Dickens would not have felt free to write about the intimate life of a prostitute, as would Dostoevsky in the next generation. In England, and in Ireland too, Social Realism, 19th century mode, did not dare to draw aside what it deemed to be certain sacrosanct veils. Indeed, it is only in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries that writers come to feel that no subject is too terrible to be 'off limits. '

As for Irish women writers, Lady Morgan did not venture near the territory of The Irish Famine. Who else was in the running? Mrs Hall, while not shirking to write on humanitarian causes, never essayed to plumb the depths of human misery and degradation brought on by the Famine. Maria Edgeworth? By the 1840's, she was in the autumn of her life. In Castle Daly, Annie Keary certainly did evoke the ghastly scene. Of all writers, only John Mitchel ventured into the lower depths. But Mitchel was no novelist.

There are few writers, male or female, who might have even contemplated writing so ambitiously. Lever, Lover, Ferguson, Mangan, never essayed a novel an ability to encompass the most terrible catastrophe of their time.

One writer might have been equal to it. W. B. Yeats, Patrick Kavanagh, Ben Kiely, among others, have acknowledged William Carleton to be the greatest Irish novelist of the nineteen century and the nearest thing to a Social Realist novelist in Ireland during the period of the Irish holocaust. In The black prophet, Carleton described vividly the physical horrors of a famine that had struck Ireland a few years before 1847, and was a precursor of the Great Famine

Did he lack the moral courage to enter the arena? At the height of The Great Famine, Carleton was pre-occupied with gathering signatures to back his petition for a pension from the Bri tish Government. It is tempting to think that this might have deterred him from making the descent into the lower depths. Some years earlier, Carleton whose early ambition had been to become a priest, had renounced Catholicism and even been prepared to contribute to Anti-Papist literature. It is his work, Denis O'Shaughnessy going to Maynooth which inspired the foundations of my scenario; and the man himsel f also flitted through my mind as I 'developed' the character of Dinny O'Shaughnessy; for, prompted by considerations of material advantage rather than by conscience, Dinny switched his religious allegiance.

But I ought not to suggest that The tongues of angels presumes to cross the threshold and descend into the lower depths. Certainly the sheer human misery of the Irish people during the middle and late 1840's is glimpsed peripherally, but the story is not about the Famine. Nor is the story of The Young Irelanders and the Rebellion at the Widow MacCormack's cabbage patch anything other than a background to the pilgrimage of Kitty, Dinny, Peadar.

Chance is allowed to play a part in the story, just as it does in most nineteenth century novels, but The tongues of angels is firmly rooted in the social realities of Ireland in the mid-ninteenth century. Having said that, I will round this off wi th a bold volte face and say that, for all its Social Realism, there is in The tongues of angels a wanton Romantic strain. Were it otherwise, the story could not claim to speak with a recognisable nineteenth century voice.

POSTSCRIPT. The provisional title, Sheela-na-gig, was the pseudonym Kitty adopted to write her provocative articles in The Nation. For those not familiar with these extraordinary stone figures, a number of Sheela-na-gigs are held in The National Museum in Kildare Street Dublin: they are statuettes of a reclining woman, with a magnified, engulfing vagina. Grasping the labia majorae, she folds them back in what seems to amount to a grotesque invitation to copulate. Fertility symbols perhaps, or, more simply, a bold proclamation by a woman of her sexuality. I confess to having doubts about the name as a title. And, certainly, it is implausible that an Irish woman would have ventured to use it in the mid nineteenth century. I like the sound of it, though.

NOTE: COSTS. The prospect of an expensive re-enactment of the Ballingarry Rebellion is bound to affright some readers. Rest easy. This 'rebellion' was no more than an absurd scuffle in which hardly more than a hundred men 'besieged! a few policemen who had taken refuge in Widow MacCormack's farmhouse at Farrenrory. It still stands, by the way.

CUTS: Easy enough to taper, or streamline, the story. l've refrained from cutting, so as to leave options and possible new avenues of development open. The following cuts might be made:
Kitty's spell with the itinerant players.
Dinny's Aisling of himself as an ordained priest. Oisín , the cock-eyed wonder colt.
Maire and Sonny McGee and the Father Matthew sequences. Helen Seaton Miles.
The session of the House of lords, with the Nolle Prosequi. The sub-plot to smear the name of Daniel O'Connell.

THE TONGUES OF ANGELS
TREATMENT for a Mini-series for television: four segments, each of one hour

BACKGROUND: FAITH OF OUR FATHERS. Ever since the Reformation, in the face of adversity, persecution and the loss of the most basic human rights, the sacred and inalienable blood right of the true Irish man or woman was thought to have been consecrated by his or her steadfast adherence to the Catholic faith.

By the end of the eighteenth century most of the Penal Laws had been relaxed. With Catholic Emancipation in 1830, all human rights had been restored to the 'native' Irish, 'The Gael' - with the notable exceptions of entitlement to the lands which had been seized by the Planters, and the right to their own parliament.

Catholics, provided they have sufficient financial means to qualify, are now not only entitled to vote but may be elected and take a seat in The British House of Commons. Gone the days when a Catholic priest, a furtive 'outlaw' on the run, clad in tatterdemalion vestments, celebrated Mass on a remote hillside, conjuring up, in a brief spell, the wondrous presence of Christ in the Eucharist; the priesthood has become a prestigious vocation: scarcely a Catholic family in the country does not aspire to have at least one son a priest, one daughter a nun.

Although the action of The tongues of angels is later set against the background of The Great Famine, the most appalling episode in Irish history, and the subsequent abortive uprising of The Young Irelanders at The Widow MacCormack's Cabbage Patch, these events are not in themselves the essential stuff of the drama: nor is the behaviour of the absentee Anglo-Irish landords. The main focus of the action is concentrated on the clergy.

How will a young man or woman with a 'vocation' respond to these new circumstances, not to say, enticements and temptations? How, when the great calamity strikes, discharge the solemn responsibilities of their mission?

For many, Nationalism and Republicanism are hardly to be thought of independently of 'The faith'. There are some priests - especially those close to the folk traditions inherited from the hedge priests - who look with suspicion on the seminary of Maynooth (set up in 1791) - see it as a conspiracy to subvert the ancient, liberal, Celtic Christianity of their forefathers which sanctioned clerical marriage and concubinage: to them, the fact that Maynooth has been infused, even adulterated, with the stern, Puritan principles of Jansenism, stamp it as a foreign import, alien to the Celtic soul. Can the newly established church reconcile these strains? .

None of the principal characters in The tongues of angels can be said to hold fanatical views, but on the periphery of the story are characters whose Nationalist views have mutated into extremist forms and attitudes. Might it not be that this 'new' Catholicism is tainted with Romanism? Has Republican-Nationalism had its teeth drawn, been tamed, sedated, emasculated by English 'benevolence'? and even: Is the seminary of Maynooth an outpost of Westminster? Daniel O'Connell, the Liberator, the enemy within?

If not the argument which the characters and amusing story horse-dealing. of The tongues of angels, this is the climate through move as the story develops. It begins with a very mild and amusing story of a clerical 'lapse' and (literally) a bit of horse-dealing.


SHEELA-NA-GIG
or
THE TONGUES Of ANGELS
or
THAT O'MARA WOMAN
Synopsis/Treatment

VOCATIONS
Montage -: The pomp and ceremony of The Roman Catholic Church: St Peter's dome; bishops, archbishops, cardinals in conclave... giddily kaleidescopic views of frescoes of the Sistine Chapel... peasant women prostrating themselves before Michelangelo's Pieta. Golden trumpets are raised ... with full panoply, the Pope is borne in solemn procession up the aisle of St Peter's Basilica towards the great, gilded, marzipan canopy before the altar. The trumpets sound ... nuns of different orders - some with the black cowl, others in white, are transfixed; several in tears.

Maynooth in 1843. Students in clerical garb strut along the main street, the Fitzgerald castle in the background. One buys a flower from a flower girl. Another girl jostles against a student, and looks at him winningly. He returns the smile, pauses, seems to hesitate, and then goes on his way. In the background we see the girl accost another group of students.

Students passing through an archway into Pugin' s great quad. Clerics, a few bearded, converse. One expounds a fine point of theology to a student. A couple of servant girls, heads cast down, pass by. One allows herself to steal a glance at a fine looking specimen of young manhood.

Within the grounds of a convent, several nuns are seen in various pursuits: tending a flower bed; in conversation; saying the rosary; dozing on a bench. A bonnetted girl, with the variegated skirt and shawl which proclaim her as a native of Galway - she is, in fact, from the Claddagh - follows behind a nun who is heading briskly for the main entrance. Arriving at the foot of the steps, she turns peremptorily, as though to bid the country girl to catch up with her. The Galway girl hastens forward.

Ballynakilty. County Galway. Farmyard. Pigs being dragged through the mud. Stallion being brought to a mare. A cock chasing hens: it mounts one. Several children sluicing potatoes at a large trough. Raised voices from the barn in the background.

To have a priest in the family is the consuming ambition of old Denis O'Shaughnessy (Denis Mor): his son Dinny, aged 18, is his 'whiteheaded boy'. Once Ireland had been a land of scholars as well as saints. Denis Mor, remembering his grandfather's tales of being educated in the shade of a hedge with friends keeping a sharp watch for the redcoats, is determined that his son's venerability as an anointed man of God will be matched by his academic accomplishments. Dinny is being groomed for Maynooth and is proving to be a scholar of distinction.

In the barn, Dinny, on a raised platform, or perhaps astride of a stack and wielding a fork, is holding forth with a virtuoso display of rhetoric in a mock War of Words, which alternates dizzily between the format of an R.C.Catholecism and an examination on the texts of Virgil and Catullus. Latin phrases are tossed, tumbled and hurled about with delirious abandon. His father, old Denis, listens eagerly and occasionally flings back a challenging phrase at his son in this verbal match, sometimes emphasising a point by pitching a bale of hay onto a pile.

Two or three of the very young members of the O'Shaughnessy brood (there are fifteen children in all) huddled around the skirts of their older sister, Maire, are enraptured. Also present are old Denis's close friend, Padraic Murray, and Mike Lawder.

AISLING: DINNY'S VISION OF THE PERKS AND PRIVILEGES OF THE PRIEST

Young 'Father' O'Shaughnessy is astride of Oisín. Two curates ride at his rear. A thrush warbles. Peasants, going out into the fields, stop and raise their hats and caps. A young woman actually genuflects. Dinny, in a wide-brimmed black hat, acknowledges the various shows of deference with a benevolent smile and brief gestures of condescension... He is greeted by a prosperous Catholic landowner and his wife on the steps of their manor house. .. He hears confessions... a pretty girl confesses: he is aware of the rustle of her skirt; even, in spite of himself, catches a glimpse of the upper reaches of her bosom; is tempted to look at her face through the grille, but manages to resist the temptation.

He wakes up in a sweat. Blesses himself.

THE O'MARAS

Eoghan O'Mara, a pious widower, is fiercely possessive of his daughter, Kitty, and has taught her to be punctilious in her religious devotions. Someone straying in the precincts of the little O'Mara cottage tucked into a fold of the Ferny Glen, might chance to catch the strains of the monotonous insistent litany of the Rosary: Eoghan' s dark, rumbling chant - almost a growl succeeded by his daughter's fervent, yet somehow tripping, lilting responses. No time in the year is more fervently anticipated than the day when Father Finnerty will come to bless the O'Mara hearth with a 'Station.'

Kitty is a voracious reader and, with the aid of a manual, has even taught herself more than a smattering of Latin. Dinny often passes a diverting hour with her; they even vie with one another in translating certain 'problematic' passages from Ovid's The Art of Love. Eoghan learns of their meetings. He warns Kitty: 'There's more crossing that young feller's thoughts than you'd find in the penny cathecism and the Holy Scriptures.'

'Dinny,' she replies, 'is a scholar. His tongue can reel off the Latin like it was a mill-wheel turning over the words and them spraying the air like splashes of liquid sunshine.'

'Yer head's spinnin', girl. Come down out of it.'

But Kitty is no simple prototype of the Irish comely maiden. Dinny has come to realise that in certain fields of learning, Kitty is more than a match for him. At first irritated by this, he cannot withhold a growing admiration, respect and affection for Kitty o'Mara.

TEMPTATIONS OF THE FLESH

Old Denis has failed to grasp that, while Dinny has been dazzled by the prospect of qualifying for the perks and privileges which go along with being a priest, it has remained a distant, even romantic goal to toy with in his fancy: his son has never committed himself to the proposition with firm resolution. Dinny, by no means a natural celibate, is a warm blooded, dashing young fellow, the darling of the local girls, with whom he has enjoyed many a flirtatious dalliance. With Kitty O 'Mara, however, things have gone rather deeper. Dinny is seriously troubled: is he, in spite of himself, in love with Kitty?

On occasions, they have allowed themselves to talk in their native Irish, although they know that this is supposed to run counter to their commitment to the New Education and might be frowned upon. In sheer devilment, just for the hell of it, one day they go through certain ancient Irish rites which culminate in a wild dance where they imagine themselves to be plighted to one another in the eye of the great God, Lugh. 'But that was all in devilment, was it not? Dinny, was it not?' she gasps when, exhausted with laughter and a kind of detumescence, they collapse on the bank and hurl their garlands into the stream, to be borne away by the rushing current.

OISIN, THE COCK-EYED WONDER COLT

By a neat bit of chicanery, with a splendid young colt as the prize, Denis Mor secures the local parish priest's support and, through the priest's agency, Bishop Murphy's recommendation that Dinny be admitted as a student at the seminary of Maynooth. God's way is now open to him.

THE PARTING

On the eve of his departure for Maynooth, Dinny comes to Our Lady's Well to bid good-bye to Kitty. In her despair at his rejection of her (and unbeknown to him) she too has committed herself to God, and will take the veil and enter the order of the Carmelites. On learning this, Dinny's blood rebels and gets the better of him; he is ready to recant, pledges undying love to Kitty. Too late, she says. His change of heart has come too late. Dinny pleads with her. She swoons in his arms. When she revives, they are overcome by an overwhelming tenderness which, almost imperceptibly and without deliberation, culminates in a fumbling, impulsive sexual union. Afterwards, she asks, 'Was that. .. ? What passed between us?'. 'Nothing. Go to sleep, aroon.' Kitty closes her eyes and falls asleep. At this point, her father, Eoghan, comes upon them. Finding Dinny cradling his daughter in his arms, he lays into him with a cudgel. Dinny calms him, assures him that he has has had a change of heart and is ready to take Kitty for his bride.

BRIDEGROOMS OF THE CHURCH. BRIDES OF CHRIST

The lovers hardly admit to each other what has happened. Did they merely dream it? And yet ... Kitty finds that there is blood on her skirt and shift. Both of the lovers shirk a further meeting. Matters are out of their control and they allow the parents to decide the course of their lives. Nor is Kitty quite convinced that Dinny is in earnest about his love for her: she has come to recognise his vacillating ways and the streak of opportunism in him.

Although Eoghan does not realise that his daughter's virginity has been taken by Dinny, it is enough for him that she has so far compromised herself that there can be only one solution. When he puts it to Denis Mor that his daughter's honour can only be vindicated by marriage, Denis howls in disbelief at this 'blackmail': 'This blackguard, O'Mara, has trumped this up so as to get his own back on me because, fifteen years ago, I refused to let him pasture an ailing cow on my lands lest it spread the contagion among my own beasts. He's not the first O'Mara to try to buy his way into the O'Shaughnessys. The fellow's a blind ignoramus. I know his game.' Denis and two of his sons turn on Eoghan and hound him off their farm.

Far from coming to the defence of Eoghan, Dinny stays in the background and watches. He decides to take the easy way out and keep his father in the dark:

Maynooth beckons. So be it. Dinny will take 'God's way.'

THE OPEN ROAD
THE FOXES HAVE THEIR HOLES AND THE BIRDS THEIR NESTS

At Maynooth Dinny shines: a bright future predicted for him, the President singling him out as a prospective bishop.

Peadar Long, a young man of radical inclinations and some political interests, becomes Dinny' s bosom friend, although the two are often at odds in their opinions: Peadar being critical of the Jansenist strain in Catholic teaching. Will their differences result in a personal rift? Peadar has doubts about his vocation: 'It's not just a matter of never being able to lay a hand on a woman. In time, with God's help, I think I might be able to manage that - but does it not strike you, Dinny, that everyone here seems ... well, a bit stuck up, strutting about the High Street like they was cock o' the walk. Not a care in the world, so long as they don't flunk it at the end of the term. Once they've taken the cloth, they'll never want for a meal, a roof over their heads. As for girls, so long as they keep their hands off 'em - and that's no hardship for some of the lads we know - there'll be no want of a female housekeeper to ministrate to them: from a drop of the crathur to the choicest, mutton, chicken, carrots and cabbage brought them as dues and offerings. Christ, who spent so much time on the open road, on the mountain-tops, or on the sea of Gallilee, might think those hedge-priests of fifty years ago closer to him than these popinjays.'

Dinny laughs at this heavy earnestness; charges his friend with inconsistency: 'Beware! The sin of Pride! Yesterday you'd have it we were all expected to behave like bloodless plaster saints and that went against the grain of the Irish temperament. Now the real trouble, you say, is we'll be corrupted to perdition by living the lives of lords. I see what it is. You've been tramping the glens of Wicklow. Become a Wordworthian: The world is too much with us! You're a hard man to please, Peadar.'

Peadar laughs: 'Touché. But, seriously: What does Christ demand of us?'

LIFE IN THE CONVENT
No sooner has Kitty entered the convent than she clashes with the reverend mother, Mother Conceptua, who suspects her of the cardinal sin of Pride and disapproves of her wide-ranging tastes in literature: these might be leading her into treacherous, not to say, sinful, waters. Shakespeare? A Protestant! Kitty's desire to read the Scriptures first-hand, instead of at once remove, she not being content with the selections culled and approved by the fathers of the church, arouses suspicion.

Kitty submits. One day she strays into a remote outhouse in the convent grounds: it proves to be the convent laundry. There she finds several girls of her own age scrubbing and ironing. One of the nuns discovers her there, is appalled and reports the matter to the Reverend Mother. Mother Conceptua grills Kitty: 'Those girls are doing penance! For what? Do I have to tell you? For the most dreadful of all sins, the sin which causes such immeasurable pain to Our Blessed Virgin, the Sin against Chastity!'

Mother Conceptua finds her in the library at a time when she was supposed to be immured in her cell at prayer. A blazing row ensues: 'Time enough for you to read the works of Saint Thomas Aquinas when I give the word.'

The last straw! While she is in chapel, a search of Kitty's cell is made. Mother Aidan, commissioned by the Mother Superior, turns up a 'lewd and libidinous' stone carving of a naked woman, making a gesture of what seems to be 'a brazen invi tat ion to immorality'. It is a Sheela-na-gig which Kitty has picked up in the ruins of the mediaeval monastery. She is cast out of the convent, the oaken doors slammed in her face.

THE OPEN ROAD
Kitty takes refuge in a derelict cabin where she surprises a wandering beggar. In a ruined abbey she comes across a skeletal hermit: a half-demented monk who has lost the faith. He spurns her offer to share bread with him: 'Kindness! I've had more of it than's me due. Kindness will be the bane of the country, Naomh Padraic's got a lot to answer for. Leave me be.' 'With God,' she asks? 'God,' he, croaks, 'tis God Himself's the one I'm tryin' to shake off, woman! He was hot on my heels last night. But I thought no place he'd be less likely to set foot in than one of the shells Cromwell left his curse on. Is it God who's set you trackin' me?'

She survives on watercress and on the carcass of a rabbit left behind by a fox who had just killed it and flees from her in fright. She comes across a band of tinkers who, to a fiddle, bodhran and tin whistle, are dancing, singing and cavorting. At sight of her, they break off. Sullen faces. No welcome there.

Kitty lands up in a band of strolling players. The actress playing Ophelia has been stricken with a severe bout of croup and has been taken in to be nursed by her grandparents. Who will take her place? Kitty, who knows much of the text of Hamlet by heart, puts herself forward to play the part of Ophelia. Indeed, if put to it, she boasts, in a moment of sheer exhilaration at this new turn in her fortunes, she might even be ready to play the Prince of Denmark himself if called on to do so. She plays Ophelia and is admitted as a permanent member of the troupe. Is this the way for her?

GOD'S WILL?
It is four months since Kitty saw Dinny. There can be no doubt of it now: she is pregnant. At a roadside shrine she prays to Mary, the Virgin Mother. The Virgin Mother's lips seem to move; a tear to trickle down from her right eye. For Kitty this is a sign. She makes her way back to Ballynakilty and her father. This, surely, is God's Way. Pressed by Eoghan, her father, she will not name Dinny as the father of her child. If she did, she knows it would wreck his blossoming career. Moreover, she is far from sure that he would welcome the news. Her father assumes it is one of these 'play actor fellows' who is responsible and attempts to marry her off to a widower. She will have none of it. Shunned, outcast - even her father has been found wanting ­she leaves the village. On the edge of a lake, she is seized with labour pains, gives birth to what she believes to be a still-born baby. Hearing footsteps and the sound of an old woman crooning to herself, she panics and flees from the scene.

The baby is discovered by Wise Old Biddy Hynes. She slaps it hard. The babe is breathing. She takes it back to her cabin. Was this child meant to live? Ancient wisdom and lore tell Biddy there is but one sure way of discovering God's intention for this 'wee man child': she must cast its cradle on the waters. If the waves of the sea bring it back ashore, then she can be assured that, not merely is it God's Will that it should live, but that the child may be destined to be a holy man. On a windy night she puts the babe to the trial of Eternity. The bobbing tub is swept back to shore. God has spoken: This is a charmed child. Biddy swears to nourish and rear the babe.

DINNY LECTURES AT MAYNOOTH. APPROVING NODS FROM THE ELDERS

LAND TENURE
Land clearances. With the abolition of the forty shilling franchise, most tenant farmers have lost the right to vote, with the result that the landlords have nothing to gain by cultivating their support. Increasing number of evictions. The workhouses are full. More will have to be built, the labour provided by some of the wretches who will quarry the stones .

THE O'SHAUGHNESSY BOYS
In Ballynakilty, Old Denis feels that, now his plans for Dinny are coming to fruition, a curse seems to have been laid on the rest of his brood. Brian is pressing for assurance that he has been nominated to inherit the farm. After all, is he not the eldest son? There are reasons, political reasons, why this cannot be, says his father. It is only by the grace and favour of Lord Somers, the landlord, that, in spite of the clearances, he will be able to hold on to the tenancy of his farm: Lord Somers, sensing that big things lie ahead for Dinny, would not like to fall out with the family. Best then that Dinny be nominated as the inheritor. 'It's keeping a roof over our heads I'm thinkin' of. You don't want to emigrate do you? Or is it a life with scalping Red Indians, you fancy; or hobnobbin' in the stinkin bowels of New South Wales, with the cooler-kissers, catchfarts, scabbadoes and hap-harlot snufflers dredged up from the streets of Dublin and London?'

Brian wants to marry: what will his prospective bride, Brigid, have to say to this?

A WHITEBOY IN THE MAKING
Then there is Denis's youngest son, Kieran, who has been mixing with this hotheaded lot,The Whiteboys: 'there's trouble brewing there;' The boy revels in the faction fights on pattern days and is looking forward to the time when he will be old enough to wield a shillelagh. When he learns that, because of the clearances, his best friend, Tommy Dines and his family are being forced to emigrate to America, the die is cast. Kieran relishes the ceremony of strapping on the mask and donning the long white gown of The Whiteboys ­it is only too clear to Old Denis what is brewing in the boy when he catches him strutting and posing in front of the cracked mirror they picked up out of the ditch from the rubble left after Whelan the Wrecker and his boys had levelled the cabin on Dunmore Hill. Kieran agrees to accompany his father to one of Daniel O'Connell's monster rallies on the Hill of Tara. He is far from won over: 'What would the thousands under the sods have to say if they heard that old geyser spoutin' and tellin' us to take it all lyin' down, like mongrel curs?'

THE O'SHAUGHNESSY GIRLS
'And Young Eilís! Our coming up in the world is goin' to her head! honobbing with those young blades from the Castle.' Denis Mor's wife, Maeve, sees nothing untoward in this. After all, says she, her people, the Maguires, were born to the high life. It's only fit and right that in these changing times, Eilís should come into her own and enjoy the social station which is her birthright. 'Ah, you always had too much of a taste for the castle ways,' says her husband. 'And why not? Didn't they treat me well, when I was in service?'

Then there is Maire. Maire is in love with Sonny McGee. Old Denis and Maeve refuse to consent to her marriage. Maire travels to Maynooth to get the blessing of her beloved brother, Dinny. Surely he will understand. She finds him much changed: 'What's come over you at all, Dinny boy? There's a light gone out o' your eyes. Have you forgotten the days when we used to ride Oisín ... ' He is utterly opposed to the match with Sonny McGee. Sonny 's father's tenancy is shaky to say the least: after all he is only a conacre man. Moreover, his father is a well-known sot, and, to make matters even worse, there is consumption in the family on the mother's side, The O'Reillys. Sonny's future is as an itinerant labourer, nothing surer than that. Dinny positively forbids her to keep company with this spalpeen. She tells him he's letting Maynooth go to his head: what right has he to forbid her to marry. Returning to Ballynakilty she finds that Sonny is now turning towards the men of violence, and has been attending meetings of the Whiteboys.

THE WILL Of GOD?
Spuds. The leaves are withering overnight, the tubers turning to a black mush. 'Is this a curse? What have we done to bring this down on our heads?'. The advice of most of the priests is to intensify their prayers? Beseech the Lord -to forgive your sins ... implore the intercession of the Blessed Virgin.

Galway city, Father Matthew arrives at one of the city's workhouses. The wretched, starving inmates cluster about him, imploring his blessing. Later, he is seen, not from afar as at a public meeting, but giving his personal benediction. 'This man has the common touch, as did Jesus himself, he is truly a man of God. '

Sonny and his mother drag the father, Con, to a meeting. Later, Father Matthew gives Sonny's father his personal blessing. Sonny is arrested for having taken part in a raid, and sentenced to be transported to Australia. In desperation, Maire turns to her father. Old Denis pleads for him with the magistrate. He is reprieved: Sonny and Maire will be allowed to emigrate to America. Sonny's father and mother go to Cobh to bid farewell to Sonny and his bride, Maire. They watch in horror as they see them board one of the coffin ships. Most of those going aboard seem to be cripples or cot cases.

AT THE BIG HOUSE
On vacation from Maynooth, Dinny has an unexpected call from Lady Aurea Figgis Hyde's gillie. Lady Aurea has heard of the mark this young man is making for himself as a scholar and novice. A widow, lonely, eccentric and capricious, Lady Aurea wishes to be instructed in the Roman church. On her mother's side, the O'Briens, she tells him, she has Catholic roots and this is why she has always been drawn to Catholicism. Now, in the autumn of her life, she would like to know God's will for her. Her only son is reported to have been lost at sea and this has devastated her. Who now will inherit the estate on her death? God forbid that it should be his cousin, the obnoxious Lord Mount Severn. And, talking of the fellow, a word of warning: I'd heard he's been inviting your young sister, Eilís, up to the castle. No good will come of that.

From day to day Lady Aurea takes Dinny into closer confidences: does he not know how the lord of the manor used to exercise his droits de seigneur on the tenants: 'O, it went on until twenty years ago. Indeed, between you and me, there are parts of the country where it still goes on.'

THE YOUNG IRELANDERS
Kieran joins the Young Irelanders. He is ashamed of the smooth, play-safe, fence-sitting ways of his brother, the man who will soon be graced with the title Father O' Shaughnessy, and who warns him against violence. 'But is not this violence, this wanton starvation of our people? .. It may be God's will ... Do you you mean - are you seriously suggesting that God has decided that the Irish people, having sinned, need to be taught a lesson and this holocaust all around us is that lesson?'

PEADAR'S VOCATION?
Peadar Long, having spent two years at Maynooth as a student, frets that he might be corrupted by this privileged life. Was it for this that our forefathers fought? In spite of Dinny's efforts to dissuade him, Peadar goes back to his old mentor, the aged hedge priest schoolmaster, Marty Gallagher. What should he do? 'You ask me that, you ask me who served Christ in the hard weathers what you should do? What's God's way? There's only one answer, boy, and Christ forgive me for sayin' so - no, rather will Christ sanction and bless my words: Give up the church, for it's no longer a true Church while the likes of the Maynooth men have got it by the vitals. They've lost the way.'

DUBLIN: 'SURVIVE AS BEST YE CAN, WOMAN'
More evictions. Transportation. Kitty goes to Dublin. She is referred to a workhouse in north Dublin. Outside Conciliation Hall, she is stirred as she watches members of the Repeal Association, and some of the Young Ireland (Confederation) dissidents filing in to listen to Daniel O'Connell. She goes in. There is a fierce exchange of opinions. Some of the hotheads walk out, among them the dashing Thomas Meagher Of the sword. For a moment he catches her eye and smiles. As she walks away, along Burgh Quay, she is taken for a prostitute, and accosted. She is befriended by Ellen, a prostitute, who assumes that Kitty too is 'on the game'; goes back to her room in Gardiner Street with her. There is a knock on the door. It is a customer. Kitty is horrified, persuades her new-found friend to join her in a crusade to reform and assist vulnerable young girls and to find homes for the unwanted babies some have given birth to.

THE OTHER MARY: THE MAGDALEN
How will Kitty find the means to survive? She and Ellen will run a ... laundry, yes a laundry where the girls who work for them will not be penalised but work for a share in the small profits. She now adopts a nun's habit, as does her friend. All of their work will be done in the service of the Blessed Mary Magdalen. Those of the girls who work in the Magdalen laundry will be encouraged to take the veil. But the new order, of which she proclaims herself the founder, has yet to receive official accreditation from Rome; and Kitty dearly wishes to be under the wing of the Mother Church.

THE VOICE OF ROME. THE O'MARA WOMAN
A synod. Bishops and the Papal Nuncio consider this 'outrageous' application. 'Who does this presumptuous woman fancy herself to be? Another Joan of Domremy?' ... 'This O' Mara woman may have her peculiar ways but it yet may prove to be that she is inspired by the Holy Ghost. Posterity will surely count it a blot on the record of the Church were we to turn her away in a crisis like the present. It is not as though she will have any truck with these hothead radicals, the Young Irelanders. I believe this woman to be of the stuff of which saints are made.' This provokes a vociferous dissent.

Kitty is visited in her laundry by a monsignor. Accompanying him are two bright young novices. The first is Peadar. The second, she is told, has been delayed (having been called to the bedside of his ailing father). When the young man arrives it proves to be Dinny. He has a whispered exchange with her, but there is no more to it than that.

A HUMBLER WAY TO SERVE GOD?
Peadar decides to become a Christian Brother, goes to Waterford where, in the converted bakehouse, Brother Ignatius Rice founded the order. He is inducted. These 'Brother's', not 'Fathers', are dedicated, humble men, who have chosen their calling knowing that it carries no cachet of rank or status such as attaches to Maynooth. He settles to the hard, downright business of dinning knowledge into the heads of these peasant kids whose fathers and mothers don't even know the alphabet. In time he becomes uneasy as he sees some of his fellow brethren administering punishment with an excess of zeal which strikes him as unhealthy, even cruel. The argument of his fellow Brothers seems to be: 'A hundred and fifty years ago your forefathers were doomed to illiteracy and serfdom. You, boys, are privileged. If you want to make your way in the world, become a doctor, a lawyer, Education is the password.' But what of the hereafter,' asks Peadar? 'Is this all Christ would have expected of us? Merely to groom the young so that they might prosper in material wealth? Lay up for themselves treasures on earth? Surely Ignatius Rice had higher aspirations for his flock than this?'

SHEELA-NA-GIG
For Kitty, 'Christian forbearance', in the face of the growing horrors of the Famine is more than she can stomach. Her opposition to violence snaps, but she still insists on her right to wear the veil. In her heart, she is still a virgin, with equal devotion to the Holy Mother and to Mary Magdalen. She now writes for The Nation magazine, adopting the pseudonym of Sheela-na-gig. The editor is astonished to find that these scorching articles have been written by a woman, and a nun at that' Kitty is willing to face imprisonment. When the editor is brought to trial, she springs to her feet in the public gallery and proclaims her authorship of the offending article.

Her friend, Ellen, the reformed prostitute, has fallen in love with a young doctor and is often at his side as he attends to patients. She too is inflamed with a holy rage. She dreads that her past may come to light. A patient on the operating table, a former 'customer', recognises her. The doctor, on learning the truth, breaks off with her. Ellen commits suicide by jumping into the Liffey. A strictly orthodox priest will only allow limited rites at her funeral and the body must not be laid in consecrated ground.

THE CALL FOR ACTION. VIOLENCE?
There can be no more doubt about it: like a funeral pall, a dense cloud that will not be pierced by a mote of sun, or shifted by wind, a curse seems to have been laid on the country. Go where you will, in the heart of the town or in the church, on the mountain side or on the open plain, the stillness and heavy pall-like atmosphere of death: Famine!!! Is this God's way??

Daniel O'Connell: The revolutionary Young Irelanders argue that his hold over the Irish people is insidious, destructive. The old man and his cronies have sold out to Westminster, they argue. Judases! 'So long as they are given remunerative appointments - "placing" it is called - in London, they will be acquiescent in the virtual extinction of hundreds of thousands of their own kin.' There is a growing realisation that the hunger is so acute and widespread that it has become a Famine.

By fair means or foul, Daniel O'Connell must be pulled down from his pedestal. Thomas Meagher - Meagher of The Sword - openly advocates violence, but has limited support. Dirty work behind the scenes. Tactics: a plot to discredit the old man not merely by exposing his temporising and graft but by a calculated 'smear' campaign. Strike at this seventy year old man where he is at his most vulnerable: for Old Dan is known to be besotted with this seventeen year old girl, Clare de Lacy. He must be 'monitored'.

'But surely we do not have to stoop to such a low stratagem as spying on him. To dishonour The Liberator would blemish our cause.' 'That is fastidious claptrap. The end justifies the means. Our people are starving. Tell them of your scruples. Old Dan has feet of clay. The people must see him for what he is.'

Kieran O'Shaughnessy, now a hardliner, is in the thick of this debate.

THE PRIESTS: SOME HONEST TO GOD, OTHERS 'FAT CATS'
Never were the Irish people more in need of their pastors, they flock to the Mass and many of the priests are prepared to endure hardships, share them, fight to see their parishioners housed and fed. A few of them, in spite of episcopal disapproval, entertain rebellious sentiments. Not so Dinny. He is an O'Connellite and is convinced that all this wild rhetoric will come to nothing, worse than nothing: 'You'll set back the clock by thirty years.'

Arguments: No, it's not just the English landlords, it's our own middle­men too. Some of them are screwing their own kind. Well, what can you expect? In a time like this, it's every man or woman for theirselves. And what would Jesus Christ have had to say about that?

LORD MOUNT SEVERN. LADY AUREA. HELEN SEATON MILES
Ballynakilty: Lord Mount Severn, a rake, utterly unscrupulous about using the local girls for 'sport', has his eye on Eilís. Another sport: he and some of the young blades, his guests at the castle, taunt and humiliate the local lads. One of them is provoked to a ferocious retaliation and, with the lashings of his tongue - some of it laced with phrases in Irish - gives them more than they bargained for. Bystanders, who of course know just what the boy is saying, egg him on with cheers. For this impudence, the young blades from the castle toss the lad off the bridge into the stream. Leaning over the parapet of the bridge, they jeer at him as he is borne downstream by the surging current, The lad drowns. Efforts are made to hush this up. But the Whiteboys and the Ribbon men get wind of the truth, and plot revenge.

Lord Mount Severn's sister, Helen Seaton Miles, is a keen collector of local folklore, a great champion and proponent of the Irish language, and doing all in her power to stop the language from being snuffed out. She does not, however, have the slightest sympathy with the Repeal movement, much less the Young Irelanders. When Lord Mount Severn finds he is in danger of being arrested, he comes to his sister and asks her if she will provide an alibi. In high indignation, she flatly refuses to be a party to a crime, a murder. 'Whose side are you on in this?' he demands furiously.

Lord Mount Severn 'has had his way' of Eilís on the night of the day of the boy's drowning. When Old Denis learns this, he challenges the earl to a duel. 'Absurd!,' scoffs Mount Severn. 'How could I ever fight with the likes of you, man! A peasant!' Old Denis grapples wi th him. In the struggle he has a heart seizure; is taken home and put to bed. Dinny is sent for: 'It's all gone wrong, Dinny boy.' Half paralyzed, the old man from now on must be confined to his bed. Dinny remains the light of his life.



KITTY AND PEADAR
Although beset by doubts, Peadar continues to function as a Christian brother. He has become a regular contributor to The Nation and he and Kitty are drawn to one another. They sense that there is a flaming sword between them: it is Dinny. How absurd. 'Dinny is no better than a pawn of The Establishment. He has borne a charmed life, never known hardship. And yet ... and yet ... we both love the man.' 'I'll tell you this,' says, the old hedge school-master, Marty Gallagher, 'if yer man's ever to come to anything, he has a Purgatory here on earth due him before the gates of Heaven will open for a feller the likes of Dinny. That O' Shaughnessy makes a mockery of those days we kept the fire burning on the shaggy hill of Aughty. '



DROITS DE SEIGNEUR
On a visit home, Dinny is again summoned by Lady Aurea Figgis-Hyde. She still seems intensely interested in Catholicism, sounds him out on fine doctrinal points, until he begins to wonder whether she is contemplating conversion to Catholicism. She confides in him that he reminds her of her son who was lost at sea on a voyage to Rio de Janeiro. Eventually, he realises that she would actually like him to inherit the estate, rather than the obnoxious Lord Mount Severn. But how could he? 'Well,' says she, 'you might have a blood right.' 'I don't understand.' 'You believe, do you not, that there's an ancient right been denied you. The time might be at hand when you should stake your claim.'

Her husband, Lord Hyde, practised the droits de seigneur on some of the tenants: 'You mean ... my mother? .. My God, if Da knew I wasn't his own flesh and blood it'd blow his mind.' But, even if this were true, as a natural, i.e. bastard, son, Dinny would not be entitled to inherit. How could he be?

Ah, but there was a secret marriage between my late husband and your mother ... 'Solemnized? By who? You mean ... but in that case, his marriage to you would have been bigamous' ... 'That's right...' 'So that, even if your son had lived, and there had been a showdown, he would have been ... a natural son, while I would have been legitimate?' ... 'That is true.'

LORD OF THE MANOR
Dinny returns to Maynooth, much troubled. And tempted. Soon he will be due to be ordained. He allows himself to be ordained and soon after, very becomes an apostate, declares his conversion to the Church of Ireland and assumes the title.

Instated as the Lord of the Manor of Kilmakerrig, Dinny has become a stern landlord, preaching industry and thrift. He discourages his half brothers and sisters from close familial association, but extends them some concessions; and he can certainly promise that they will be spared the threat of eviction.

Old Denis is close to death but the truth has been kept from him. Since Maeve is indeed Dinny's mother by blood, he is, he says, bound to see that she is well cared for but he has no wish to see her again.

ROME
A Catholic mission is despatched to Rome. Under discussion will come the Vatican's attitude to Irish Nationalists and Republicans: the mission seeks guidelines and instruction as to whether certain ringleaders ought to be excommunicated. And then there is the vexed question of the O'Mara girl and her pretensions.

PEADAR AND KITTY: EXCOMMUNICATION?
Peadar Long, having left the order of the Christian Brothers, now edits his own Nationalist newspaper, The Felon. This brings him into closer contact with Kitty, who writes for The Nation. She submits an article to him which Charles Gavan Duffy, editor of The Nation, has rejected, judging it too likely to incite violence to be printed. Kitty joins the staff of The Felon. As members of the Young Ireland movement, Peadar and Kitty are frowned upon by the Church fathers. There is even a threat of excommunication. Both Peadar and Kitty are opposed to the idea of the new university colleges being established under the auspices of the Catholic church. This can only be divisive.

THE LORDS
Lord Mount Severn is charged with murder. At a secret session within the House of Lords, it is decided that, given the state of emergency in Famine-stricken Ireland and the inflammatory potential of this case, there are sound political reasons for invoking the right of a lord to be exempt from being charged. The Lords, consequently, decide on a Nolle prosequi. This is enough to entrench Kieran even deeper in his commitment to the wing of the diehard Men of violence in the Young Irelanders.

REBELLION?
At a hectic meeting of the Repeal Association, Thomas Davis, The Celt, who like many others in the society is a Protestant, makes an ecumenical plea for the kind of university colleges which would have had the approval of Wolfe Tone: ' ''Our charter not to favour Catholics, but to grant equal rights of entry to people of all religious persuasions.'' Those are the words of Tone and that is the way ahead, and though it be not be the way favoured by some of our more zealous Romanist prelates, it is surely God's Way.' Daniel O'Connell leaps to his feet to denounce Davis for his 'Anti Catholicism.' So unjust is the charge, so far from the truth, that the frail, sensitive Davis, after trying to find words to rebut it, breaks down and bursts into tears. Ferocious exchanges follow. The argument changes course. 'This issue of education,' says the firebrand, John Mitchel, 'important though it will be in the future, is a secondary one and must be put out of mind. Thousands, nay hundreds of thousands of our countrymen and women are, at this moment, dropping dead by the wayside and in the ditches. Ireland, from Mizen Head to the far tip of the Inishowen, seems doomed to be one vast charnel house, and here we are tearing into each other like a pack of savages, and making a laughing stock of ourselves in the eyes of the Carthaginians (by which he means, The English). You know what they'll be saying: "Give these Irish their own Parliament and they'll turn it into a kennel of yapping curs." And this, mark you, when the doughty champions of Freedom right across the face of Europe from the Channel to the Balkans, from the Mediterranean to the Baltic are up in arms. Let us make one with them!'

FAIR MEANS OR FOUL
One of the Confederate diehards is assigned to make the acquaintance of Clare de Lacy, the seventeen year old girl who has captivated Daniel O'Connell, and to worm out of her details of just how intimate the relationship might be. The girl falls in love with the spy. Peadar is revolted at these tactics. 'I am as appalled as anyone at the holocaust of our countrymen and women but have we lost all touch with principles of moderation and common decency. Is this God's Way?'

A TRULY CATHOLIC CHURCH
The intransigence of Archbishop Hale on the issue of Catholic universities is the last straw for Peadar, and he breaks with the Church. One day he'll return, he says, - when the Church has discovered its soul again. Kitty persists in wearing the veil, and calls herself a secular nun. No, she will not break with the church, she wishes to see it reformed from within. Restored to the open-minded Celtic church it was before Malachy sold out to Rome. 'Ah, you're out of your wits woman! That was seven hundred years ago.'

They discuss marriage. But how, asks Peadar, can she even contemplate marriage while remaining a nun, even if a rather unorthodox nun. 'Yes, it's true enough that priests in Ireland were once allowed to marry, but there's no precedent for extending that licence to women who took the veil.' 'Then it's up to us to establish a precedent,' says she. 'But anyway, since the church does not recognise me as one of th elect favoured by the Holy Mother, I am not in their eyes a nun at all, and so we can get married. And by a Catholic priest too,' she says mischievously. So the way ahead would seem to be clear. What is it that's holding them back? 'Well, we both know, don't we?' It's Dinny, of course.

Their marriage is arranged. At the critical moment in the wedding ceremony, Biddy Hynes walks into the church and, from the back, cries out her objection. At her side is a little boy, four years old. The child is, of course, the son of Dinny and Kitty. The marriage ceremony is called off. What will Kitty do? Should she now - for the sake of the child - propose to Dinny that they marry? No, she cannot bring herself to do that.



DINNY'S LUCK CHANGES
Dinny insists that he has a right to look after his son, Christy, and brings before the magistrates the record of Kitty as a dissident and potential lawbreaker. He is awarded custody. Dinny acts as to the manor born. The boy, Christy, pines for his mother. He is being reared to become a gentleman, and, accordingly, given riding lessons. When Christy is killed in a fall, Dinny is in despair. Not only had he come to love his son, but the boy was his heir to the title and the estate.

Ah, but was he? asks the wily, unctuous chief steward, James Fortescue. 'When sorrows come they come not single spies but in battalions, My Lord.' Had he not heard the news? Surely he would have been the first to be informed? 'What news?' 'Why, of His Lordship's return to our shores.' 'His Lordship? What do you mean, His Lordship?' 'Sir Roger, sir. Yes, sir, alive and well. Praise be to God.'

But though, against all expectations, Lady Aurea's son, Sir Roger, has returned, surely there can be no doubt that he, Dinny, is the rightful inheritor of the title and estate. For was not his mother truly wed to Lord Hyde? Not so. The ceremony was carried out by a hedge priest, never ordained at Maynooth, and therefore has no force in law. 'There must be a score of Lord Hyde's bastards within a twenty minute's ride and who's to say you're more the gentle man than anyone of 'em.' Dinny is evicted. Henceforth he will be shunned by both Catholic and Protestant.

DENIS MOR
Old Denis Mor, half paralyzed, lies on his death-bed. The truth of his disgraced son's apostacy has been kept from him. He cannot die in peace, he says, until his lovely boy, his favourite son, Dinny (for the truth of Dinny's parentage has been kept from him) comes to give him the last sacraments. Dinny comes. Maeve now realises that Dinny knows Old Denis not to be his father but neither son nor mother dare acknowledge the fact in the few words they exchange; the tension in the glances, half reproachful, half beseeching they exchange is eloquent enough of the uneasy truce struck between them. Dinny leans over Denis Mor's pillows to catch the last wishes and prayers of this rugged old bear of a man for the young man on whom he has bestowed such fierce, overwhelming love; Dinny 'avick', who has been the light of his life and who he always believed to be destined for great things.

When the old man breathes his last, Dinny still can find no words for his mother. He takes to the road. Becomes an itinerant. On Slieve Aughty he encounters Marty Gallagher, now reduced to a scarecrow, saying Mass by a cairn on the hillside, two old cailleachs making up the full complement of his congregation; 'Unless,' remark two young ruffians Dinny meets as he climbs the hillside, 'you except a couple of March hares that pricked up their ears and stopped to listen to his holy ravings, thinkin' they'd struck someone madder than theirselves.'

YOUNG IRELANDERS
Anthony Balfe is a spy for Lord Clarendon. He attends Young Irelander meetings and, afterwards, reports to Lord Clarendon, the Viceroy, on the plans for a rising. John Mitchel is arrested and hustled out of Dublin before there can be time to organise an escape from Newgate for him.

THE ROCK Of CASHEL.
Co. Tipperary. Chosen by the rebel diehards among The Young Irelanders to be the site of their new provisional government. At an emergency council, Peadar and Kitty find they are on opposing sides. 'If we fail to strike now,' she argues, 'the people will lose all faith in us. Our country is bleeding to death. Delay any longer and no-one will have energy left to wield a pitchfork, much less a pike or a blunderbuss.' Peadar believes this course will be disastrous. 'At least,' says he, 'wait till the harvest is in.'

SLIEVE NA MAAN.
Co. Tipperary. Thomas Meagher addresses a monster rally. In Carrick-on-Suir, Peadar' s young brother, Aengus is captured and 'dispatched' at once. When he learns this, Peadar hesitates no longer; takes up arms.

At Mullinahone the raggle-taggle mob, with their pitchforks, cudgels, fowling pieces, and other makeshift weapons listen, bemused, to two priests arguing with one another on the following lines:

PRIEST 1: I tell you this: If you and your lot fire these poor bloody scarecrows wi h the idea that, just because they've got right on their side, they're likely to see justice done, you're as good as leading them into an ambush.
PRIEST2: Fighting is not God's way, you say. And if we don't take up arms, what then? God won't step in. He never does. God - if he's there - helps those who help themselves.
PRIEST1: You dare to defy Rome. In that case you are a heretic!
MAN 1: Not two score years since you fellers came into your own and already they're callin' us a priest-ridden country! Turn to God. Maybe he's not there. I tell you this, if we take up arms and are defeated, that's one proposition proved beyond all reasonable doubt... That he's not there. Or, if he is, we know who he's in league with.
MAN2: 'Tis Old Nick himself, you mean, is it not?
PRIEST 2: I say 'To Hell with Maynooth and those palavering front men ­ dummies for the British Government. To Hell with Rome too. I speak in the tongue that Padraic himself spoke when he came back to these shores to show us God's way: His breastplate! There's my sermon for the day: Christ before me, Christ beside me ... '

THE ABORTIVE RISING AT BALLINGARRY
The disastrous, no, farcical, rebellion at the Widow McCormack's cabbage patch', two miles out of Ballingarry.
Peadar, slightly wounded, and on the run, takes refuge with Kitty in a cottage at Mullinahone. 

AS THE 'WILD GEESE' FLEW, SO WE ...
Kitty and Peadar flee to the west, hoping to escape to America. There, in the Burren, they are put in touch with someone who is reputed to have assisted rebels on the run. It proves to be Dinny. Disgraced and shunned by both Catholic and Protestant, after it has been discovered that he had no right to the title of Lord Hyde, he has become a fisherman-hermit, fossicking among the sands and pebbles of Galway Bay for shellfish and occasionally, very occasionally, for in these terrible times, people hardly care about nourishment for the brain when their bellies cry out to be filled - giving lessons to local children. Now, face to face with his dearest friend and his former lover, he says to Kitty: 'I was never worthy of you, I've betrayed you, my religion, my country, even my own son I deprived of a mother. I might have been a true priest, I might have been a fisherman as Peter, Andrew, and John were fishermen.' Dinny has Young Ireland contacts in Galway city who will
arrange for their escape.

They share a bottle of poteen. Says Dinny: 'The two of you would be rightly wed, would you not? If you're to travel together to America and share quarters, I'm thinking the captain might be easier of mind if he knew you to be man and wife in the eyes of God. Who better to make an honest woman of you, Kitty, than I?' Dinny gives her the ring, or talisman, they exchanged before the grotto at Ballynakilty when they made their solemn vows. 'It was a tie sealed and consecrated by our own spilt blood, we said, did we not? And yet, in the eyes of Our Mother Church, we knew very well that it was not the Holy Roman Church alone that we called on to bless that union. The Church we had in mind was a more ancient one stretching back before Jerusalem. A church that might have recognised there are times when old ties must be broken while new ones cry out to be sealed. '
'But who,' asks Peadar, 'could wed us?' 'No bother about that,' chuckles Dinny, 'we've not far to look for a Catholic priest. I was ordained you know. And no-­one ever took the trouble to get around to stripping me of my holy office.' And there, with a dolmen in the background, the solemn rites of a Christian marriage are performed. But, at the end of the ceremony, Dinny performs another rite, 'just to make sure that the divine one, whoever he or they may be, and of whatever persuasion, is satisfied.' A hoop of slender, intertwining branches threaded and woven with leaves of hazel, alder and yew, is placed about the waist of bride and groom, after which they circle a ring of standing stones. Peadar then removes the garlanded hoop, places it on a slab and sets it alight. With hands clasped in a gesture of Christian prayer, the wedded couple and the celebrant watch as it smoulders, kindles, flares and a plume of smoke - their sacramental offering - ascends into the heavens.

To arrange plans for their escape, Dinny rows across the bay, rather than avoid detection by taking a land route, and sends word that Kitty and Peadar are there waiting to be picked up by a frigate and so make their escape to America. Returning to New Quay, Dinny beaches his currach, comes ashore and leaves a note for Peadar and Kitty under the cabin door. He returns to his currach, rows out to Aughinish and gazes out to sea until he can make out the frigate heading for New Quay.

As Peadar and Kitty board the boat, they look about desperately for signs of Dinny, but he is nowhere to be seen. The captain warns them it would be dangerous to delay departure. They must set sail at once. As the frigate heads out into the open sea, we see Dinny on the strand at Aughinish watching the boat as it dips over the horizon. He raises his arms high in a broad gesture, both renunciatory and magnanimous, and walks out into the waves - as though inviting them to breast him, embrace him, enfold him - until he is almost submerged. As the waves lap over his shoulders, in an ecstacy, he scoops up handfuls of water and dashes them over his face and head in a rite of cleansing penance and a renewal of baptism. Then he is seen no more.

AMERICAY! HERE WE COME
Fluttering flag: Stars and Stripes!

Kitty rummages in her bag. Takes out the Sheela-na-gig and holds it up. It is safe and intact. She smiles secretly. Peadar looks on indulgently. But he does not understand


SOME LOCATIONS: Rock of Cashel. Well, and ruined churches at Saint Mullens on the river Barrow, Co. Carlow. Cistercian abbey at Graiguenamanagh, Co. Kilkenny. Saint Canice's, Kilkenny. Hill of Tara, Co. Meath. Slieve na Maan, Co. Tipperary. Dublin: Four Courts; Green Street courthouse; Conciliation Hall, Burgh Quay; docks at North Wall; The Rotunda; Co. Galway: abbeys at Claregalway and Kilconnell; mediaeval wall at Athenry; Coole Park lake; Lough Cutra lake; Kilmacduagh; dolmen near Ballyvaughan: wharf at New Quay; shore of Aughanish. 'Cleft that's christened Alt' at foot of Knocknarea, Co. Sligo.

LOGOS: Turoe stone, near Bullaun, Co. Galway. Interlocking weaving motifs from stone crosses at Monasterboice, Co. Louth. 'Janus' slab - Castle Island, Lower Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh. Vertical shaft from cross at Ahenny, Co. Tipperary. Stone circles at Glandore, Ardgroom, Co. Cork. Sheela-na-gigs from National Museum, Kildare Street, Dublin. And yes, round towers.

















































Short Synopsis

SHEELA-NA-GIG
or
THE TONGUES OF AN GELS

THE TONGUES OF ANGELS is a story about love and the various forms it can take: sacred and profane. It tells of the crises when, by chance or design and logic, one love clashes with another. The wellspring of the story I have elaborated and developed may be found in William Carleton's light-hearted DENIS O'SHAUGHNESSY GOING TO MAYNOOTH.

The priest's vow of celibacy: is an overwhelming love for God compatible with carnal, sexual love? When might love for one's country justify the taking up of arms? Is sacrificial love, in the end, often destructive of its original generous impulse? As Yeats put it:

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O, when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part ...

Love for one's family. Love of power and rank - that is to say, Love of Self; Love for the human race, for the poor and wretched. Love of the Virgin Mary. Of the Sweet Christ! When challenged, which of these lamps will burn brightest for the three central characters in this story of Kitty O'Mara, Denis O'Shaughnessy and Peadar Long. Will one lamp burn so brightly that it sucks out the life-giving oxygen from the other and snuffs it out?

In the early 1840's, the majority of the Irish people, having enjoyed the fruits of Catholic Emancipation for more than ten years, and thrown off most of the shackles imposed by the Penal laws a hundred and fifty years earlier, would, soon, in 1847, face the supreme test of Christian love.

Young Dinny O'Shaughnessy, his father's white-headed boy, is being groomed for the priesthood. A bright scholar with prospects of becoming a brilliant one, dashing, already blessed wi th the gift of the gab, he seems destined for the seminary of Maynooth. Dinny, who has made many a girl's heart beat faster, has often enjoyed a light-hearted dalliance with a smitten colleen. With Kitty O' Mara, things have gone deeper. The two have much in common. Intellectually, she is his peer.

Dinny has to chose. The promise of a privileged life at Maynooth and the possible perks of high office, win out. Kitty, who is at heart, more genuinely religious than her lover, doubts whether he really loves her, ponders the fallibility of romantic love and even suspects that the streak of opportunism in Dinny may have more to do with his decision than any deeply entrenched religious dedication. She will follow Dinny's example; perhaps, in her heart, of hearts, she seeks to serve as an example to him. Kitty will take the veil of the Carmelites and become a bride of Christ. The possibility of her being pregnant has either not crossed their minds, or been dismissed. After all, in that one brief, fumbling spasm when they surrendered to impulse it was hardly ... a 'consummation'. No, God would not play such tricks with us.

At Maynooth, Dinny strikes up a friendship with Peadar Long, a fellow student, who is much more conscientiously committed to his vocation than is he. Peadar worries that, already they may be moving away from the truly religious life: 'The world is too much with us.' But what is the true religious life? What does Christ expect of us? They argue about this. The two friends seem destined to follow different paths ... to God? Sometimes their arguments become heated anough to threaten a permanent rift. But no, the friends recognise that they strike fire off one another, and even find their differences stimulating, exhilarating. Dinny is 'on the way', already his teachers recognise that this lad has the makings of a bishop. Whereas Peadar ... ? Whither Peadar?

Kitty soon falls out with the reverend mother at the Carmelite convent. Her intellectual earnestness, and the scope of the study she has embarked upon, is suspect. She strays 'out of bounds' and stumbles on the laundry, tucked away in the far reaches of the convent grounds, where 'fallen women' are scrubbing and pounding away at the tubs. While she in chapel, Mother Aidan searches her cell and discovers a 'lewd and libidinous Sheela-na-gig which Kitty has picked up in the ruins of the mediaeval monastery. So shocked is Mother Conceptua that she banishes Kitty from the convent.

Kitty is 'on the road'. After a spell with a troupe of travelling players, finds she is pregnant. She returns to her father in Ballynakilty. When he tries to marry her off with an ageing widower, she takes to the road again. By the edge of a lake, and seized with labour pains, she gives birth to what she believes is a still-born child. Old Biddy Hynes finds the babe, slaps it hard. It is breathing. She will rear the child.

The family seems to be breaking up. A curse on them for their pretensions, for their presuming to 'come up' in the world? Some of the O'Shaughnessy children are trading off the reflected glory of their brother, the star pupil at Maynooth. Two of the lads are fired by the ideas of the Whiteboys and Ribbonmen. One daughter is putting on airs and hobnobbing wi th young blades from 'The castle'. Lord Mount Severn has an eye cocked at her, a gossip remarks. Daughter Maire and her husband, Sonny McGee, are threatened with Transportation to Australia. Influence is brought to bear for a reprieve and they sail for America.

Increasing number of evictions. The workhouses are full. Hunger! The potato blight.

Taken to one of Daniel O' Connell's 'monster rallies' Young Kieran O'Shaughnessy scorns The Liberator's doctrine of Parliamentary Persuasion.

Spuds. The leaves are withering overnight, the tubers turned to a black mush. 'Pray. Implore the intercession of the Blessed Virgin.' 'Is this The Will of God?'

Dinny is home on vacation. At 'The Big House', Lady Aurea Figgis Hyde, having heard of this remarkable young man, 'summons' him. On her mother's side, the O'Briens, she tells him, she has Catholic roots. Now, in the autumn of her life, she wants to know God's Will for her. She is deeply impressed with this young man; tells him of the practice of droits de seigneur. 'By no means extinct,' says she. She warns him about the possible intentions of Lord Mount Severn towards his sister, Eilís.

Kieran joins the Irish Confederation, The '82 Club, becomes a zealot of The Young Irelanders, some of whom are calling for armed rebellion. Kitty goes to Dublin. At Burgh Quay, she chances on a meeting at Conciliation Hall, where the dashing young dissident Thomas Meagher makes a stirring speech challenging the Daniel O'Connell doctrine of 'peace at any price. '

Outside the hall, Kitty is taken for a prostitute. She is befriended by Ellen Ryan, a prostitute, who thinks that Kitty too is 'on the game.' Kitty persuades Ellen to come off 'the game.' They set up a 'Magdalen' laundry, where the 'fallen' girls who work there will take a share in the profits. Far from being an apostate, Kitty sees herself as a crusader, a reformer, wishes to remain under the aegis of Mother Church, to found an order of nuns, and even to receive official accreditation from Rome.

Peadar decides that priesthood is not for him. He will enrol as a Christian Brother, knowing that it carries no cachet of rank or status such as attaches to the priesthood. But even there, in Waterford, he is troubled. The essential aim of these teachers seems to be to train the visions of lads on the worldly sights men set their heart upon. Is Education merely to be a passport for success in the world? Is this what Christ would expect of us? Some of the brothers seem to take a positive pleasure in inflicting physical punishment.

For Kitty acquiescence, 'Christian forbearance, they call it,' in face of the veritable holocaust of The Famine, is more than she can stomach. Her opposition to violence snaps, but she still insists on wearing the veil. She contributes articles to Charles Gavan Duffy's The Nation.

Ellen has fallen in love with a young doctor. When he learns that she had once been a prostitute, he turns away from her. She commits suicide by jumping into the Liffey.

Some of the Diehards of The Young Irelanders plot to bring down 'Old Dan', by fair means or foul. The old man is known to be besotted with a seventeen year old girl. He must be 'monitored.'

The rakish Lord Mount Severn and some of the young blades he has invited to The Castle taunt a local lad. A brawl threatens. They toss him from the bridge into the running waters. He drowns. The matter must be hushed up. And yet there are so many witnesses ...

When Old Denis Mor learns that Lord Severn has had his way of Eilís, he challenges him to a duel. The challenge is scornfully rejected. The two men grapple. Old Denis has a heart seizure. Half paralysed, the old man must now be confined to his bed. Dinny remains the light of his life.

Kitty and Peadar, now both writing for The Nation are drawn to one another. There is a flaming sword between them: Dinny.

Lady Aurea confides in Dinny. Her only son, Roger, has been lost at sea on a voyage to Rio de Janeiro. Dinny realises that she would actually like him to inherit the estate rather than the obnoxious Lord Mount Severn. But how could he possibly ... ? Well.. her husband, Lord Hyde, practised his droits de seigneur on some of his tenants. And on certain young women who happened to be in domestic service here ... your mother was one ... even had Roger survived, you would be the rightful heir.'

Dinny allows himself to be ordained. Soon afterwards, very soon afterwards, he becomes an apostate, declares his conversion to The Church of Ireland, and assumes the title. Instated as the Lord of the Manor of Kilmakerrig, Dinny becomes a stern landlord, preaching industry and thrift. While discouraging his half brothers and sisters from close familial association, he grants them concessions; and he can certainly promise that they will be spared the threat of eviction.

Old Denis is close to death, but the two shattering truths have been kept from him: the son, who is not his son, is a renegade. Dinny is bound to see that his mother is well cared for, but has no wish to see her again.

At the Vatican, the policy towards Irish Republicanism, and in particular, The Young Irelanders, is debated. On no account can the Church support any call for open rebellion. A mission from Dublin seeks guidelines as to whether certain ringleaders ought to be excommunicated. And then there is the vexed question of 'that O'Mara woman and her high-flown pretensions. Her "Joan of Arc delusions!'"

Peadar Long, having left the order of the Christian Brothers, now edits his own Nationalist newspaper, The Felon. This brings him into closer touch with Kitty, who writes for The Nation. Both are opposed to the idea of the new university colleges being established under the aegis of the Catholic church. A divisive provision, they argue.

Lord Mount Severn is charged with murder. At a secret session of the House of Lords, it is decided that, given the state of emergency in Famine-stricken Ireland and the inflammatory potential of this case, Nolle Prosequi, the right of a lord to be exempted from being charged, will be invoked.

At a hectic meeting of the Repeal Association, the charter for the new university colleges is debated. Thomas Davis, The Celt, idol of the Young Irelanders, and a Protestant, cites the ecumenism of Theobald Wolfe Tone: 'We must transcend cankerous sectarianism'. The Liberator, Daniel O'Connell, accuses Davis of Anti-Catholicism. The debate changes course: the firebrand, John Mitchel, a Presbyterian, urges that this issue be set aside for the present: 'Thousands, nay hundreds of thousands, of our country men and women are at this moment dropping dead by the wayside and in the ditches ... the doughty champions of Freedom right across the face of Europe from the English Channel to the Balkans, from the Mediterranean to the Baltic, are up in arms. Let us make one with them. '

Peadar is revolted at the smear campaign against Daniel O'Connell and protests: 'Have we lost all touch with principles of moderation and common decency? In God's name, I ask: Is this God's Way?'

Peadar and Kitty decide to marry. But how, asks Peadar, could she, a nun for Heaven's sake, marry? Kitty, mischievously, counters this argument with what might be called Jesuitical craft, 'Since the Church does not recognise me as one of the elect favoured by the Holy Mother, I am not, in its eyes, a nun at all, and so, darling Peadar, the way is clear. We can be married. And by a Catholic priest, of course.'

At the critical moment In the marriage ceremony, old Biddy Hynes comes into the church. At her side is a little boy, four years old: the child, of course, of Dinny and Kitty. Biddy cries out her objection to the marriage. The officiating priest is bound to abort the ceremony.

Dinny, claiming custodial rights to their son, Christy, brings his case before the magistrates, citing Kitty's record as a dissident and potential lawbreaker. He is awarded custody. Determined to rear the boy as a gentleman, Dinny insists that his son be given riding lessons. Christy, timid and frightened, is killed in a fall. Dinny is in despair. Not only had he come to love his son, but the boy was heir to the title and the estate.

Ah, but was he, asks the wily, unctuous chief steward, James Fortescue: 'My Lord has not heard the news yet? Sir Roger, sir ... yes, alive and well. He has returned. Praise be to God! '

For all that, surely there can be no doubt that he, Dinny, is the rightful inheritor of the title and the estate. For was not his mother truly wed to Lord Hyde? Not so! the ceremony was carried out by a hedge priest, never ordained at Maynooth, and therefore has no force in law. 'There must be a score of Lord Hyde's bastards within a twenty minute's ride and who's to say you're the gentleman more than anyone of 'em.' Dinny is evicted. Henceforth, he will be shunned by both Catholic and Protestant.

Old Denis Mor, half paralyzed, lies on his death-bed. The truth of his disgraced son's apostacy has been kept from him. He cannot die in peace, he says, until his lovely boy, his favourite son, Dinny (for the truth of Dinny's parentage has still been kept from him) comes to give him the last Sacraments. Mother and son hardly dare exchange a look as they wait for the old man to take his leave of the world. Dinny leans over Denis Mor's pillows to catch the last wishes and prayers of this rugged old bear of a man for the young man on whom he has bestowed such fierce, overwhelming love: Dinny 'avick', who has been the light of his life and who he always believed to be destined for great things. As Dinny goes through the motions of this black farce, and administers the 'Last Sacraments', he drops a cruet to the floor. Both mother and son start. Was this a gesture from the hand of God Himsel f, protesting at this black version of Extreme Unction administered by an imposter?

When the old man breathes his last, Dinny can still find no words for his mother. He takes to the road. In a spirit of self mortification, becomes itinerant and then, a virtual hermit.

Plans are afoot for Rebellion. Peadar and Kitty find themselves on opposing factions. Says Kitty, 'Do you believe Famine to be milder than the sword? A horror of blood letting appears to be the feminine virtue in Ireland. No lady is too delicate for the culinary preparation of casting bullets. No hand is too white to make up cartridges. And it's now or never!' Says Peadar, 'Now or never?? Not now, for God's sake. Their bellies empty, the peasants are in no state to take up arms - that is, if ever we find the arms to give them. Wait, at least, till after the harvest!'

Priests too are violently at odds, some holding fast to Church policy; one or two calling to arms: 'For ours is a holy rage. If ever there were a just war then this, by God, is it!' Peadar's young brother, Aengus, is· Captured and, at once, 'dispatched.' Peadar hesitates no longer Supports the call to arms... The disastrous, no, farcical rebellion at Balligarry, in Co Tipperary, mocked by The London Times as 'The rebellion at the Widow MacCormack's cabbage patch.'

Peader, slightly wounded, takes refuge with Kitty in a cottage at Mullinahone. They flee to the west. There, in the Burren, they are are advised to get in touch with a hermit who is reputed to have assisted rebels on the run. It is Dinny. He has Young Ireland contacts in Galway city, who will arrange for their escape to America.

They share a bottle of poteen. Says Dinny: 'The two of you would be rightly wed, would you not? If you're to travel together to America and share quarters, I'm thinking the captain might be easier of mind if he knew you to be man and wife in the eyes of God. Who better to make an honest woman of you, Kitty, than I.' Dinny gives her the ring, or talisman, they exchanged before the grotto at Ballynakilty when they made their solemn vows. 'It was a tie sealed and consecrated by our own spilt blood, we said, did we not? And yet, in the eyes of Our Mother Church, we knew very well that it was not the Holy Roman Church alone that we called on to bless that union. The Church we had in mind was a more ancient one stretching back before Jerusalem. A church that might have recognised there are times when old ties must be broken while new ones cry out to be sealed.'

'But who,' asks Peadar could wed us?' 'No bother about that, I chuckles Dinny, 'we've not far to look for a Catholic priest. I was ordained you know. And no ­ one ever took the trouble to get around to stripping me of my holy office.' And there, with a dolmen in the background, the solemn rites of a Christian marriage are performed. But, at the end of the ceremony, Dinny performs another rite, 'just to make sure that the divine one, whoever he or they may be, and of whatever persuasion, is satisfied.' A hoop of slender, intertwining branches threaded and woven with leaves of hazel, alder and yew, is placed about the waist of bride and groom, after which they circle a ring of standing stones. Peadar then removes the garlanded hoop, places it on a slab and sets it alight. With hands clasped in a gesture of Christian prayer, the wedded couple and the celebrant watch as it smoulders, kindles, flares and a plume of smoke - their sacramental offering - ascends into the heavens.

To arrange plans for their escape, Dinny rows across the bay, rather than avoid detection by taking a land route, and sends word that Kitty and Peadar are there waiting to be picked up by a frigate and so make their escape to America. Returning to New Quay, Dinny beaches his currach, comes ashore and leaves a note for Peadar and Kitty under the cabin door. He returns to his currach, rows out to Aughinish and gazes out to sea until he can make out the frigate heading for New Quay.

As Peadar and Kitty board the boat, they look about desperately for signs of Dinny, but he is nowhere to be seen. The captain warns them it would be dangerous to delay departure. They must set sail at once. As the frigate heads out into the open sea, we see Dinny on the strand at Aughinish watching the boat as it dips over the horizon. He raises his arms high in a broad gesture, both renunciatory and magnanimous, and walks out into the waves - as though inviting them to breast him, embrace him, enfold him - until he is almost submerged. As the waves lap over his shoulders, in an ecstacy, he scoops up handfuls of water and dashes them over his face and head in a rite of cleansing penance and a renewal of baptism. Then he is seen no more.

Fluttering flag: Stars and Stripes! Kitty rummages in her bag. Takes out the Sheela-na-gig, holds it up. It is safe and intact. She smiles secretly. Peadar looks on indulgently. But he does not understand.


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