“September will Tell” will be launched at The Community Centre, Tarbert on Saturday 11th March At: 8.00 p.m. The occasion will feature a dialogue between Mary Lavery Carrig and the author, Kevin Hurley.
(Proceeds from the first 50 copies to a nominated local cause).
Etain O’Connor is a teacher, hence popularly known as Mistress O’Connor. A different teacher. One of the last of the traditional, so-called hedge-school teachers who had kept education alive among the dispossessed people of Ireland throughout the 18th and early 19th century. Then, this had been a prescribed activity, subject to severe penal measures, before being repealed in 1782. Now, in 1831, the taint of illegality long over, hedge-schools were still flourishing. By now too, Etain, highly accomplished, has followed in the footsteps of her gifted but wayward father. Though well established by 1831, fortune begins to play capriciously with her. In the wake of a singular outing to cross-road dancing she is raped. Returning home after a brief respite, she encounters the nouveau, hereditary local landlord, Giles Craig, who, later, comes to her rescue during her faltering attempt to forestall a faction fight. A subsequent, chance encounter results in their lovemaking plein air and then in the most unlikely and passionate affair over much of 1831 and ’32.
But it is the proposal in 1831 by Stanley, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, to establish a national system of primary education that mainly problematizes life for Etain. Whereas this should have been a cause for celebration she is cast down by the clause which notes that applications by the ‘resident clergy’ at local level will find most favour. This threatens to undo Etain in every regard as the local priest has habitually denounced her due to her unorthodox world view, her resistance to religious conformity and her utterly independent frame of mind. Her regard for the landlord also begins to falter as his utilitarian plans start to impact. A succession of events soon crowd upon the page, the uplifting intermingling with the unsettling. Etain is ultimately left to ponder the challenging options framing the outcome of change flooding from the centre within a world that is increasingly chaotic.
While the novel draws on the infrastructure of the village of Tarbert and its hinterland, it is otherwise a work of absolute fiction, especially in regard to the characters involved.