Back from the Wars: Excerpt From 'The Lockwoods of Clonakilty'

Hello all:

I am usually hesitant to read a book unless I know a bit about it. Assuming many of you have a similar habit, I post here a few lines from the first chapter of The Lockwoods of Clonakilty. One of the major themes in the book (besides some sword-play and derring-do) is a wounded soldier’s return to his family, and his family’s adjustment to having him home. I hope you like it; comments are always welcome!

Chapter One

Lieutenant James Lockwood’s wound was mortal. That, at least, was the opinion of the Assistant Surgeon who extracted the musket ball from the lieutenant’s chest at Waterloo. It was the opinion, too, of the Belgian surgeon who briefly tended the lieutenant two days later, in a cow shed where Lockwood lay in agony with twenty other wounded and dying Allied officers. It was certainly the opinion of the surgeons at the Divisional Hospital in Brussels, and then of the Army Surgeons at Kilmainham Hospital in Dublin.

It was not, however, Lieutenant Lockwood’s opinion. He had promised his wife that he would come home to her, and he had done so.


The baker whose shop stood at the foot of Mill Street in Clonakilty was not an especially kind man; that afternoon his mood was spoiled by the rising price of firewood. But he was fond of his daughter, so when she called to him from the front door of his shop he dusted the flour from his hands and joined her.

“Oh, Papa! Come and see the great chaise of the world! Four of God’s own chestnuts, and the glorious carriage! Two post men, and a redcoat with his gun sitting on top! Oh, Papa, may I wave to the passengers, and them so high and proud?”

“Well, now, daughter, let a man see. Ah, well, now, of course you might wave, and I will join you, so. Do you not recognize dear Mrs. Lockwood from up the Scartagh Lane?”

“Oh, it is she! How beautiful she looks! Hello! Mrs. Lockwood, hello!”

A chaise and four was a rare sight in Clonakilty, and as it rattled up the street several other townspeople came out to see. Some waved; some chose not to.

“Papa,” asked the baker’s girl, “who was that big man sitting beside the beautiful Mrs. Lockwood? Him, with the whiskers and the paleness?”

“That, a cuisle, was Lieutenant Lockwood, home from the wars. Mrs. Lockwood has been gone this month and more, nursing him in the great soldiers’ hospital in Dublin. And here they are, both home, joy. The Lieutenant is the father of your friend Joseph, and his brother and his sisters. It was he who was wounded at the great battle where the Saxon King’s men threw down the army led by Bonaparte, the King of the World.”

They were speaking in Irish, but Ireland was changing, and the girl typically spoke much more English than Irish. She thus needed to ask, “What does ‘lieutenant’ mean, please, Papa? Is Joseph’s papa a nice man? And is it good to be ‘wounded’?” She had hope in her voice. She liked happy endings, and her friend Joseph Lockwood had promised to kiss her some day.

A chaise and four, from a print titled “The Elected M.P. on His Way to the House of Commons” by James Pollard, 1817.

The baker looked up at the sky and muttered, “Rain again.” He then patted his daughter on the cheek with his floury hand and said, “A lieutenant is an officer, a great man in an army, a grah. And you’ll know that while Joseph’s mama is a fine Irish Catholic woman, an O’Brian, his papa is a Saxon, and while not a bad man to my knowing, a Saxon he remains.”

Years before, the baker had served in the British army. Thus wise in such matters, he did not address his daughter’s last question, but only muttered to himself as he returned to his work, “And wounding? The war might hurt a man inside as well as out, and not all are granted the healing.”

In the next chapter, James Lockwood, who had been away for three years, begins the long process of settling into life in quiet Clonakilty:  

In the ensuing days, James made it a point to ask each of the children to come sit with him for a few minutes every day to slowly become reacquainted. Mary and Cissy, who had been much older than the boys when their father had gone to war, quickly fell back into their old roles, comfortable and cherished. Months before, on a winter afternoon when she tearfully realized that she could no longer remember the details of her father’s face, Cissy had begun a watercolor of a soldier of the Inniskilling Regiment. She was at last able to present the painting to her father, to universal praise.

The boys, Joseph and Richard, took longer to grow comfortable in speaking with their father, only really coming to life when he expressed his interest in the fort that they had built in the woods, with promises to inspect the works at the first opportunity. Stories of Portuguese, Spanish, and French castles ensued, the boys entranced. Their father told them of the great medieval castles he had seen, with details of their towers, keeps and dungeons. Lieutenant Lockwood, however, remained silent. He would share no details of sieges, of Badajoz in the hellish darkness, of trenches, revetments, and the nightmare quality of violent death in narrow rock-strewn breaches, or of Waterloo and the shattered bodies of thousands.

Brigid had long worried over how the delicate Lucy would react to the appearance of her father, the father whom she had never met. She was quite correct in her apprehensions, as the little girl would tearfully, frantically, cling to her mother’s skirts at the sight of the very large man with the whiskers and the loud voice. Only after two weeks did an afternoon come, a shy, peeking afternoon, when Lucy Lockwood went exploring on her own and discovered, amazed, that her Papa kept a small bag of sweets under his pillow, sweets that he would slyly share with her, silent and secretive, the only sounds being confidential whispers and the occasional thump of Sergeant’s tail on the floor. Lucy would have been distressed if she had seen her Mama, who stood stock-still at the top of the stairs with her hands to her face, blinking back tears as she intently listened to her husband and her little girl ruin their dinner.  

Hoping all here are well, and happy………Mark

Views: 311

Tags: Arts, History of Ireland, Literature, Military History

Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on October 27, 2015 at 9:55am

Much like the soldiers of war anywhere -- time spent adjusting is the preserve of the elite of their era's . When men went to war 1939 ; they came back , scared for life , emotionally and physically. Much the same as all the soldiers of today's terrible wars.... 


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