20 October 2016

Excerpt Thursday: LIBERTY BOY by David Gaughran

This week, we’re pleased to welcome author DAVID GAUGHRAN with his latest release,  LIBERTY BOY, set in Ireland.

Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the story. One lucky visitor will get a digital copy of LIBERTY BOY – this giveaway is open internationally. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win. The winner will be contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb…

Dublin has been on a knife-edge since the failed rebellion in July, and Jimmy O'Flaherty suspects a newcomer to The Liberties - Kitty Doyle - is mixed up in it. She accuses him of spying for the English, and he thinks she's a reckless troublemaker.

All Jimmy wants is to earn enough coin to buy passage to America. But when the English turn his trading patch into a gallows, Jimmy finds himself drawn into the very conflict he's spent his whole life avoiding.

**An excerpt from LIBERTY BOY**

“The poor people of Ireland are rising fast. You will shortly be as well off as the English who have meat and bread and ale, and so will you if you be quiet. But you will get nothing by rioting except starvation and the gallows.”George Nugent Reynolds, Address to the Common People of Leitrim.

It was the kind of morning that made him wonder if God hated the Irish. Rain hoored down from the sky, helped on by a biting wind from the east, soaking those gathered in front of St. Catherine’s Church. The market traders would normally have been delighted to see such a crowd here on a Thursday morning, halfway down the long, wide stretch of Thomas Street. However, these people weren’t here to haggle or to barter but to howl and spit and rent the air with their screams.
They were here for a hanging.
Jimmy O’Flaherty stood apart from the throng, leaning against the exterior of McCann’s alehouse at the top of Dirty Lane, in full view of the spectacle that was about to unfold, gazing forlornly at the place where his stall should have been. The stage erected in its stead was bare, apart from the scaffold that loomed over an imposing wall of red-coated soldiers beneath. There must have been a hundred of them there, casting baleful glares at the assembled Dubliners from behind their guns and bayonets.
To Jimmy’s left, in the direction of his flat on the corner of Meath Street, a whole company of cavalrymen were ready to charge should there be a surge towards the scaffold when the prisoner arrived to meet his fate. Their faces were curiously blank. Jimmy decided they must be officers: men who relied on codes and regulations to trample common folk, rather than gauche personal animus. But the level of caution was no surprise; the Castle had much to contend with today.
The whole of Thomas Street had turned out and many more besides. Not just the United Irish crowd and their sympathizers either—Jimmy could see a vicar in amongst them, remonstrating with a mounted officer who had been liberally using a cudgel to beat clear a path for his charge. On the other side of the swarm was Paulie Grogan, a fellow trader who normally cursed the rebels to any who would listen, but he too was enraged by this very public execution.
It wasn’t that surprising, Jimmy supposed. In this part of Dublin, at least, Catholics and Protestants lived cheek-by-jowl. Dissenters too. It had been that way in The Liberties since the Huguenots arrived from France a hundred years before, fleeing persecution of their Calvinist ways. A few returned home after the Edict of Versailles, but most stayed. And those who did felt sympathy for their Catholic brothers as they suffered under the Penal Laws.
Wolf-whistles greeted a sergeant who climbed the stage, his lip curling slightly as he surveyed the scene, St. Catherine’s Church squatting behind him. He barked out an order, and his phalanx of men shifted left. A cabbage sailed through the air, landing just short of sergeant’s mud-spattered boots. Half a dozen soldiers pushed into the crowd, not caring who felt their bayonets, and hauled out a boy who couldn’t have been more than twelve or thirteen. Jimmy wondered how they’d spotted the diminutive cabbage-thrower in all that tumult, until he realized they likely didn’t care whether they had the right person. It was about keeping order. By any means necessary.
Weeks of reprisals and riots had followed the failed Rising at the end of July. It was clear that the Castle was hoping to flush out the rest of the traitors, turn Thomas Street on its head and turn neighbors into informants, but that only served to galvanize support for the cause. It was a lesson the English never learned, Da used to say. Rebels were far more popular after they swung at the end of a rope. Sure, Robert Emmet couldn’t get three hundred to turn up to his rebellion, and there were easily three thousand here this morning. There would be ten times that again by the time they finally got around to hanging the rebel leader himself, Jimmy figured.
He’d been apoplectic when he heard that the executions would take place here on Thomas Street. Business had only just begun returning to normal. Usually, hangings took place at Gallows Hill, near Kilmainham Gaol, beyond St. James’ Gate at the western edge of the city. The odd execution still took place up by Misery Hill at the Liffey-mouth, especially if it was a pirate—the corpse displayed for all docking vessels to see, vermin crawling over one another in a race to pick the bones clean. But Robert Emmet’s base had been here in The Liberties, and his doomed rebellion was launched from this very street. It was a brutal show of strength by the Crown, a reminder to the people who really ruled this city. And they would keep hanging until the jails were emptied of rebels.


David Gaughran is Irish and lives in Dublin, where it rains every day and conversation is a sport. He is the author of the historical adventures Liberty Boy, Mercenary, and A Storm Hits Valparaiso, as well as bunch of other stuff too. Visit DavidGaughran.com to find out more, and to sign up to his mailing list.

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