Fenian’s Trace

Sean P. Mahoney



Chapter One
Captain Dinny’s Horn


Could there be a grander place in all the world? When the sun is splittin’ the stones across the whole west of Ireland, and yer lolling atop a cask of the black stuff set on the bow of a barge floating softly into the heart of Limerick, with near the whole of the city going mad for yer arrival?

If one’s better, I’d trade it for there. For it was in that very spot I first saw the lads, the two of them basking in the youthful glories of a summer adventure.

I’d say the faint melody from the distance that delivered them there was nearly all they’d talked of since that poor mucky horse had her swim in the winter. Every day after, whether in the hot murk of the forge or off on the high meadow, the two kept a keen ear out for the deckmen’s shrill horns sounding their warning for the lock-keeper: hold her open or get her that way. They learned well enough which calls belonged to which boats, but they knew only one could trumpet a song just for them. Just one that carried the promise-maker. It was that boat they waited on.

They both swore to Christ they heard their clarion call on a late April morning, even over the rain lashing the roof of the small McCabe forge. Even over the unfortunate fullering of an axehead.

Only but twelve, Rory was already strong enough to hoist the smaller sledgehammers and deliver a blow bang on, at least on the more simple jobs they took in. He was a ginger bull of a boy, the spit of Liam at the same age, but a real messer as well, all bold energy and cheek. Nevertheless, and much to his father’s gratification, he was indeed showing a precocious feel for the subtle rhythms and tempo crucial to becoming an adept striker. Liam held his hopes for his son right alongside his patience.

Also twelve his own self, and the chalk to Rory’s cheese in nearly every way, Conor had a dextrous and steady hand for the iron, with a faculty for the finer bends and subtle twists that might someday produce true artwork, if there was any call for such niceties. There was not. Most needed horseshoes or hoes. Nails and bolts and the routine repairs of the bent axle or the bockety wheel. But Conor’s crafty promise was unique to Liam’s experience. The lads had their days in the forge since they were walking, but certainly Liam had never taught them anything of finesse … and he couldn’t credit his own good stock as the source of it. Conor O’Neill was only his son in every other way but birth.

Liam McCabe shaped his iron better than any smithy in the parish. You wouldn’t get a debate on that. At near fifteen stone, he wielded the hammer and tongs on the heavy metal without a bother and deftly worked the more intricate settings with equal prowess. He’d shown a knack for innovation in his younger days, some had even accused him of a wanton flourish, but he rarely conceded due cause anymore and by all accounts had managed to stifle it well down into naught. Deliberation was his first rule – one of few, all steadfast. If the lads were to glean anything from him, whether off his gruff instructions or through daily observations alone, that would be his wish. Never a blind alley.

Fenian’s Trace Description:

FENIAN’S TRACE is the story of two young men raised as brothers in the west of Ireland during the early 1900s. Though they choose different paths when the rebellion comes, they both take a fancy to the spirited and alluring Maria upon her homecoming from America.

It’s told by a gruff old Limerick publican named Mr. Clancy, who refuses to let his gentle inebriation or any distractful facts trouble his tale. It’s a story of secrets and sacrifice, fathers and sons, loyalty and love.

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