The passion for Irish Independence runs through this story of an Irish teenager in 1919 and does rise off the pages to make the reader feel as if they were present. Colm Conneely’s father is heavily involved in gunrunning and other illicit activities, and has regular visits from the police. Colm himself is desperate to join the Volunteers but is not quite 14, which is when his father has promised to speak to him about it. In the meantime Colm has a dream of going to America with his fiddle to earn his living. He does become involved in a robbery and also a big illegal meeting where his dream is realised, but a visitor to his home shakes all his belief in his background.
This is a stirring tale, very much told from one side with the British seen to be the enemy much as they were, and still are seen to be in some parts of Ireland. But the feel of a movement is there and the emotion that means. The reader can feel why Colm is desperate to be a Volunteer, as everyone he knows, apart from Mrs. Dobbs in the Post Office is involved. Anne Murtagh paints a picture of rural Ireland, with small farms and villages, peat fires and tea always on the go, much as it was in many small rural communities, but here the dream of a united Ireland amid the poverty dominates lives. Colm’s love for the man he believes is his father and his desire for his approval, is palpable and the reader feels for him when his world is torn apart, but the story ends with hope for his friendship with Alice and the future which awaits him. I was very much reminded of Geoffrey Trease’s story about Garibaldi in 1848 A Thousand for Sicily which also brings a revolutionary movement vividly to life. JF