The Unquiet Land

a novel by Ron Duffy

Synopsis

The newly ordained Father Padraig returns to his home village of Corrymore as its new priest. The mission he has set himself in addition to his parochial duties is to save the souls" of the proud, pagan fisherman Finn MacLir and his daughter Caitlin by converting them to Christianity. Finn MacLir had rescued Padraig from an abusive life in Scotland and adopted him, a nine-year-old orphaned epileptic, as his son. Padraig's mission fails with Finn, who will never accept any religion, and Finn dies the adamant unbeliever that he always was.

With Caitlin Padraig meets with more success but at a price. His attention to the beautiful woman's spiritual well-being reawakens the old love he once felt for her and fans the jealous anger of the man Caitlin is about to marry: the honest but hot-tempered farmer Michael Carrick. When Padraig and Caitlin spend a night together, Michael gives Padraig a beating that almost kills him.

The beating of the priest is blamed on Protestant Unionists, an understandable reaction at this time when Ireland is in the throes of a bitter Civil War. The British government has proposed a parliament for Eire, another for Northern Ireland and a Council for the whole island. This solution to the Irish Problem" satisfies no one. The Republican movement is split between those in favour of the proposal and those against it, and a Civil War, known for its barbarity, breaks out.

Corrymore is caught up in the turbulence of the times. One of the villagers is Flynn Casey, a fanatical Republican who fought in the 1916 Rebellion in Dublin. He is married to Caitlin's saintly twin sister Nora, but refuses to leave the village, even though his presence there will bring reprisals from the brutal British forces, the Black and Tans. Warned by one of his spies that The Tans" are coming to get him, Casey goes into hiding. The Black and Tans raid the village looking for him. Their leader, the sadistic John Hackett, rapes Nora, who is three months pregnant with her second baby, then throws a grenade into the house. Nora is killed but her three-year-old son is saved.

Casey goes on a rampage of revenge. He shoots Jim Patterson, a member of a staunchly Unionist family, who betrayed him to the Black and Tans, then slaughters and burns the dead bodies of a party of Black and Tans whom he has lured into an ambush in a village south of the border. Among the dead is John Hackett.

Meanwhile Padraig has prepared Caitlin for conversion to the Catholic Church. He is to marry her and Michael but at the last minute, standing in front of the congregation, he is seized by a severe epileptic fit, blamed by some on the severe beating he had received. Another priest performs the ceremony.

Caitlin is pregnant when she goes to the altar. Her baby is born on a wild December night in a difficult Caesarean delivery performed by the young medical student Clifford Hamilton, no other doctor being available. At the age of two Caitlin's daughter, Nora, shows the first signs of epilepsy. Was she Padraig's daughter? Or was her epilepsy caused by brain damage during her difficult birth? Caitlin fought the greatest fight of her life in convincing Michael that he was not sterile, that Nora truly was his daughter, that her epilepsy was the result of her difficult birth.

The simple-hearted Michael struggles to come to grips with the situation. He loves Caitlin. He always has and always would love her. Yes, she had slept with Padraig once, but as a result of that, if it was the result of that, Michael and Caitlin now have a child, a beautiful little girl, the joy of his life. Left to him, if he really was for some reason unable to father children, they would not have Nora to brighten their lives. Yes, perhaps it was all for the best in the end. A great weight is lifted from Michael's mind, and he feels more at ease with himself than he has for months.

About the Author

Born and raised in Northern Ireland, Ron Duffy has travelled extensively in both western and eastern Europe, mostly by bicycle, with working sojourns" in Norway, Austria and England. Adventuring over, he settled to studies, and obtained a BA in Geography from Queen's University in Belfast. As a student there he became involved in the activism that led to the start of the Troubles" in Northern Ireland in 1969. That year he emigrated to Canada where he took an MSc at the University of Calgary and studied for his PhD at McGill University in Montreal. In Montreal he started a long career as a university lecturer in Geography.

His writing career began when he started publishing mostly travel and history articles in numerous Irish, British and Canadian newspapers and magazines. In 1988, McGill-Queen's University Press published his book, The Road to Nunavut: The Progress of the Eastern Arctic Inuit since World War II. The popular Canadian author Pierre Berton in particular liked this book and used excerpts from it in his own coffee- table book Winter.

As a student and then a university lecturer in Montreal and Calgary, creative writing gave way to preparing lectures. Duffy continued to write more creatively, if less productively, in his spare time, and now that he has retired from lecturing he is writing full time. Two of his novels, Crossed Lives and The Janus Web are available as ebooks. He is currently working on a historical novel based on the life of the Irish highwayman Redmond O'Hanlon.

Duffy is married, has two sons, and now lives in Surrey, British Columbia, with his wife, Joanne, and two Jack Russell dogs.

Praise

"I am delighted with your latest contribution to the world of fiction, The Unquiet Land. The subject matter is not the easiest to address and I commend you for tackling its complexities."

– Dr. Robert Scace, Calgary, Alberta

"It took me only two days to read The Unquiet Land. I really enjoyed the book. Many fascinating details about Ireland and the struggle."

– Susan Waters, Fairfax, Virginia
Past President, Calgary Wordfest

"I enjoyed reading The Unquiet Land and compliment you on such wonderful writing."

– Lorna McComb, Millisle, Co Down