Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Reading at Pincher Creek Municipal Library with author Edward Noel Doherty

Author Edward Noel Doherty at Pincher Creek Municipal Library
Toni Lucas

Author Edward Noel Doherty recently published 'Sunday, Bloody Sunday', a fictionalized account of living in Ireland in the 1940s to 1972. He held a reading at the Pincher Creek Municipal Library on Thursday, December 11 to a group of over a dozen people. "It's the first of a trilogy, I finished it last year," he said of the first book. "The timeline of the whole series is 1940s in northern Ireland, going until 1998. That is the full length of the trilogy. It's based on young men growing up in Ireland, and the religious and political challenges that they faced. Then as they grow into adulthood, the troubles become a major feature of northern Ireland, troubles that were to last for 30 years. This book shows how those troubles affected those young men, until Bloody Sunday, which was January 29th, 1972."

Doherty said that the people are fictional but the historical events are real.

Doherty moved to Canada from Ireland in 1967, and visits Ireland almost every year. "I followed it very closely. It is a very personal book. I tried to bring people's lives into reality in the series, so it is not a dry history story, but a story about people first and foremost."

Speaking of the trilogy he said "The stories go from childhood, through adolescence to adulthood, and the thirty years of horrific events that occurred over the 30 years of this conflict."

Doherty identifies with one of his characters who is a teacher. "I taught for 30 years in Fort Macleod, I was the principal of the G.R. Davis School for 28 years." In 1968 Doherty retired and then traveled to more exotic areas, living in Beijing and the Middle East. He currently lives in Lethbridge. "Southern Alberta has been my home since 1967. It didn't take me long to realize that southern Alberta was were I wanted to be."

Doherty thanked the library, staff, and audience, and then launched into a reading from the second book in the series, which is still in progress. He had the first book available for purchase for those who attended.  The working titles for the second book are 'A Terrible Decade' or 'A Dirty Decade'. "It was quite a nasty decade, on both sides," said Doherty, referring to a ten year period following 1972.

Spoilers ahead.

The reading centered around a family named Stokes and a schoolteacher. The teacher got to know two of the Stokes children well. Theresa and Pious Stokes went to school after their gypsy family gave up travelling and settled in Londonderry. The family faces discrimination, and are an unwelcome addition to the neighbourhood. "Even in a decent suit from St. Vincent, Eddie (the father) still had the look of a traveller about him," said the author. The father dealt in junk, and kept a pitbull. These also did not endear him to the neighbours. Theresa became the defender of the younger Stokes children, earning the nickname 'Toughboy'.

Her young brother Pious smelled of the cattle stock feedlots at the docks where he worked. "They paid him a man's wages, and he earned every penny of it," said the author in a strong voice with a soft Irish lilt. The struggles of keeping these students in school, and to teach these two offered unique teaching challenges. The teacher finds a book on cattle drives, records himself reading the book, and gives the books, tapes, and a recording machine to Pious to help him learn to read. This is truly a triumph, as Pious makes great strides from illiterate to a functional reader.

Sadly, twelve year old Pious is knocked into a cattle pen when a bomb is detonated at the docks, and he is trampled to death by the panicked cattle. Unsure of his reception at the wake, the teacher goes to the family home to be welcomed. Theresa asks to keep the book and recording gear as it was one of her brothers favorite possessions. Later she writes him to let him know what she has achieved with her life, and lets him know that her own child loves the tapes and book. The character of the teacher talks about how he learned humility and tolerance from the family that disappeared shortly after the death of their child.

The selection offered insight into the human condition, the strife that was rampant in Ireland, and the characters were sympathetically believable.

'Sunday, Bloody Sunday' is available from Amazon.

According to Doherty the second book in the planned trilogy should be available sometime in the summer of 2015.

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