1691: A Novel by Joe Joyce
English | 2020 | General Fiction/Classics | ePUB | 3.1 MB
It’s May 1691 and the decisive year of the war in Ireland is about to get underway. The armies of the English King James and his Dutch usurper King William are on the move again, resuming where they left off for the winter.
The Jacobites have been pushed westwards beyond the River Shannon following their defeat at the battle of the Boyne the previous year. But they’re far from beaten.
Through the personalities of two opposing generals, the Irish Patrick Sarsfield and the Scottish Hugh Mackay, 1691 brings to life the coming sieges and battles that shaped the future of Ireland for centuries to come.
The friendships and feuds, conspiracies and alliances, strategies and tactics are explored in a highly readable fictional account that’s true to the historical record of a fateful year.
A scatter of scared crows squawked in the sky, upset by the boom of the welcoming cannon. They began to settle back on the towers of the castle as Major General Patrick Sarsfield strode down Great Street towards the harbour at the head of his entourage. A group of small boys raced out of a lane to catch up with him, their dirty faces pale and pinched after the winter. They fell into step alongside, stretching their bare-footed strides to try and match his cavalry-booted ones.
‘Tá siad annseo,’ one of the cheekier boys said.
Sarsfield gave him a ‘tell me something I don’t know’ glance.
‘We’ll beat the rebels now,’ the boy continued in Irish.
‘Of course we will,’ Sarsfield said.
They wheeled right by St Mary’s cathedral, down to the harbour. A fresh breeze blew up the river from the estuary, bringing with it the promise of summer’s warmth as well as the new beginning of the French fleet’s arrival. A frigate flying the white ensign of the kingdom of France was moored at the quay, its crew lined up on deck above the cannon portholes on either side of a gangway sloping ashore.
A second frigate was coming in between the harbour’s pincer mouth, its crew on the yardarms beginning to roll up its sails as its momentum carried it towards its berth. A cannon at one side of the pincer fired another welcoming blank and the breeze blew away the cloud of grey smoke with casual ease. Away to the right the crows rose into the sky again with raucous complaints.
Sarsfield and his entourage stopped twenty yards short of the gangway and waited. He stood a head taller than most of his subordinates, his wide-brimmed hat exaggerating his height. The dark ringlets of his wig hung down to his shoulders, framing his narrow face and dark, searching eyes. A shoulder belt held a sword on his left hip and he wore a three-quarter-length red tunic with a white band around his neck creating a loose cravat.
One of his followers shooed away the boys with a swish of his scabbard and they retreated to stand in front of a group of the townspeople silently watching the second frigate coast up to the quayside. Two more ships approached the mouth of the harbour and the tops of the masts of more were visible, like a flight of falling stairs, over the flat land where the river turned towards the Atlantic.
‘Where’s Lying Dick?’ one of the officers behind Sarsfield muttered.
‘Trying to find four men strong enough to carry his sedan chair down the hill,’ another sniggered.
A chuckle of derision rippled behind him like a physical movement.
‘Or to carry it back up again,’ the first officer shot back, adding momentum to the derision.
‘Not now,’ Sarsfield ordered from the side of his mouth and the ripple died away.