A LAND
WITHOUT WOLVES

“...vividly and poetically evokes the strange and contradictory world of late 18th-century Ireland...delving into a criminal underworld of thievery, brothels and secret societies alongside philosophical and political musings...a novel highly attuned to its historical context in both its sentences and its understanding of what was possible, ‘thinkable’, at the time.”

Claire Hennessy, Author of Like Other Girls

“…instantly enjoyable...an immersive experience...[t]he phraseology is constantly beguiling...an extraordinary debut from a contemporary writer…” Peter O'Neill, Poet, Translator, Editor, & Critic

“…a compelling way to present a period of Irish history filled with darkness and heartbreak; MacTíre [is] a constantly engaging persona…a character who refuses the call of both sides…” RF 5-Star Review

Historical Musings in 18th Century Ireland

In the midst of rebellion are legends wrought, and Mogue Trench knows of a tale never told. What better time to relay it than as the rope awaits.

The Highwayman Joseph Mac Tíre knows of hardship - at the hands of Redcoats and Republicans alike - so Ireland's political struggle has less appeal than mentoring an orphan in the ways of the underworld.

Yet the world has a way of catching up to men whose hearts know only darkness - men who hunt, and kill, and howl in rage.

But sooner or later, they howl no more.

Daniel’s writing is poetry in motion, historical and socio-political introspection at play with adventure within and speculation on a somewhat esoteric (and often misrepresented) spatial and temporal landscape.

This tale of a highwayman refusing to bend to the will of partisan political action and questioning the motivations of the players involved is perhaps relevant in many contemporary contexts. Amidst the unfolding tale are many points of reflection worth taking on board.

- TG

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CONTEXT

“A Land Without Wolves…reflect[s] on a volatile period of Irish history in an honest assessment of what was lost and gained by the rebellion. Daniel Wade demonstrates…a nuanced understanding of the reality of the historical context…” RF Review

Daniel Wade's debut novel is an engrossing work of Historical Fiction set in late 18th Century Ireland. It is a tale written with a passion for words and great literary works of historical significance.

Amidst the backdrop of rebellion brewing against the British Crown, Joseph MacTíre schools the orphaned Mogue Trench in the ways of the underworld and the life of an outlaw, while philosophies of freedom are tried and tested and literature is devoured.

 

But the past has a way of catching up with men like Joseph MacTíre; and the future is ever a harsh Judge.

EXTRACTS

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“If what they say is true,” the hangman murmured behind him, “then may God damn ye soon as he sees ye.” Breath steaming out in silvery plumes, Mogue Trench glanced up at the noose. Outlined by the glare, it looked withered and egg-shaped, a maw of agape nylon gently swaying from the traverse beam in the dawn breeze like a hypnotist’s pendulum. He couldn’t help but wonder how many necks it had snapped over the years.

MacTíre’s breath was drawn in, and his ears were pricked for hoof beat thuds, the hollow commotion of a carriage. He lay on his stomach, the stony margent damp against his skin, even with the gloves he wore. Even under the moon’s full scrutiny, he stayed hidden, his cheek and jaw swiped by the damp air. The tide’s salty aroma stung his nostrils. He didn’t mind the cold; in fact, he barely noticed it anymore. There had been a time when the damp chill would slowly infest his bones, leaching his body of all warmth, but years of sleeping under the stars had now numbed him to such sensations.

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For days after Tintern Abbey’s central tower caught fire, the flames could be seen for miles around, a great spiralling pillar of smoke mushrooming angrily at the winter sky. It glowed through the night like some hellish beacon, warning whomever saw it to keep away rather than come closer. Naturally, many people’s curiosity proved greater than their caution.

He now wished to know it all, to trawl through his newfound and roughly devised curricula with the fervour of a catechumen: the truth of an institution’s purpose, the faculties of men all proving equal, regardless of birth or circumstance or level of prowess, the strange harmony of the sciences. His mind was a tool as useful and as germane as a blade or a sickle. He came to see himself as a citizen of nowhere – not of Ireland, or England, or the Empire, nor any place neatly marked and tabulated on a chart and curbed by countless borders and imagined boundaries – nor as a subject to any king or potentate, or any man who might declare himself vested with powers of rule.

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HISTORICAL FIGURES

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The Rebel Schoolmaster & The Covert Academy

Peadar Ó'Doirnín

Peadar Ó Doirnín (1704 -69), poet, ‘poor scholar’, hedgeschoolmaster, Armagh native, journeyman pedagogue, harpist, songwriter, spailpein, satirist, composer of the lyrics of the classic folk ballad Mná na hÉireann (Women of Ireland) and the inspiration behind the small-but-crucial character Ó Doirnín.

 

Writing primarily in the Irish language, Ó Doirnín kept what was then known as a hedgeschool in Armagh - an illegal, informal and covert school aimed at providing a rudimentary education to the children of the subtenantry (Brian Friel’s classic play Translations is set directly inside one).

 

The repressive Penal Laws - imposed by parliament on direct orders from Westminster - maintained a stranglehold on Irish society at the time, stripping Catholic citizens of their fundamental rights to work and to be educated on the same level as their Protestant and Presbyterian counterparts. As a result, hedgeschools flourished, essentially operating as quiet but effective forces of subversion against colonial rule.

 

As a Gaelic-language poet, O Doirnín was described by one British Army officer as 'a person ill-disposed to the King, a favourite of the Pretender, who stirs up the people to rebel by his treasonable compositions'. Indeed, the catalyst for insurrection is arguably language itself, and throughout history poets have been at the forefront of revolutionary movements.

Moreover, his criticism of the clergy and their hypocritical stances on alcohol indicate he had a problem with authority and corruption in general - in 18th century Ireland, this was gaining noticeable momentum. 

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Pimpin' Peg and the Empire's Underbelly

Peg Plunkett

Margaret Leeson, aka Peg Plunkett or Pimpin’ Peg - sex worker, brothel madam, renowned beauty, peerless wit, abuse survivor, icon of hedonism and one of Georgian Dublin’s most surpreme figures. Her brothel on Pitt Street (now Balfe Street, just off Grafton Street at the site of The Westbury Hotel features as a prime setting in A Land Without Wolves.

 

A native of Westmeath, and having endured much abuse at the hands of her older brother Christopher, she fled to Dublin at age 14 to make a living, eventually working her way up into more upper-crust tiers of prostitution, which, at the time, was very much a normalised aspect of Dublin life.

As a result, her flash houses ranked among the most exclusive in Dublin and the women who worked for her among the most sought-after and high-priced within the Empire.

 

Orgies, masquerades, opium, alcohol, and general well-heeled debauchery were very much the order of the day, with Leeson’s customer base consisting primarily of ‘men of property’ - merchants, lawyers, Anglo-Irish landlords, bankers, members of parliament and high-ranking lords, all of whom paid to keep their reputation safe from scandal.

Going from her memoirs, Margaret was seemingly fearless and indifferent to such rigid structures of class and gender. On one occasion she attended a masquerade ball garbed as Diana, the goddess of virginity. When her brothel was vandalised by a gang of Pinkin’ Dindies - a well-known street gang consisting of upper-class thugs - she successfully sued their leader for damage. On yet another occasion, she defiantly rode alongside the carriage of the Prince Regent, against the advice of her friends, justifying her action by saying: “I think part of the road was for my use, as well as for that of the King, and if you English are servile and timid, we Irish are not.”

 

Her death of venereal disease in 1797 - a result of gang rape - signaled an end to a unique and revealing aspect of Dublin history. In her own words, “I shall leave nothing behind me but the traces of my own infamy.”

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The Wearing of The Green & Ironmonger's Feud

James Napper Tandy

James Napper Tandy (1737-1803): Dubliner, merchant, agitator, Church of Ireland Member, proto-trade unionist, Defender, United Irishman, artillery commander for the Dublin regiment of Irish Volunteers and immortalised by the classic rebel ballad ‘The Wearing of the Green.’

As a member of the Dublin Corporation, representing the Merchants’ Guild, he took a dim view of the systematic corruption within the organisation, and of Westminster’s oppressive trade restrictions. This made him a marked man for the British authorities.

After his expulsion from the Irish Volunteers (due to his staunch opposition to the Duke of Leinster), Tandy joined the United Irishmen, impressed by their radicalism.

He aided Theobald Wolfe Tone in establishing a Dublin branch of the organisation, just prior to its official establishment in Belfast. Following the outbreak of war between Britain and France in 1793, the organisation, largely due to its sympathies toward the French cause, was forced to go underground.

Tandy attempted to ally the United Irishmen allied to the Defenders, an organisation aimed at protecting rural labour interests. He later fled Ireland after his seditious pamphlet ‘Common Sense’, eventually arriving in France in 1787, just in time for negotiations for enlisting French aid in the Irish cause.

 

His role in the disastrous ‘French’ invasion of Ireland, landing in Donegal with French troops aboard the corvette ‘Anacreon’, saw him arrested and sent to Kilmainham Jail.

 

He was condemned to execution by the British authorities, but thanks to international law, was spared. He became a Brigadier General in the French Republican Army before dying in 1803.

 

‘I wanted to get poor Pat a job one time. Mon fils, soldier of France. I taught him to sing The boys of Kilkenny are stout roaring blades. Know that old lay? I taught Patrice that. Old Kilkenny: saint Canice, Strongbow’s castle on the Nore. Goes like this. O, O. He takes me, Napper Tandy, by the hand.’ - James Joyce, Ulysses.

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The Lady from Hell and Colonial Theatre

Elizabeth Sugrue

Éilis Uí Shiochrú or Elizabeth ‘Lady Betty’ Sugrue (1750 - 1807), widow, evictee, the hangwoman of Roscommon, provincial executioner - Ireland’s only recorded female executioner.

According to Sir William Robert Wilde (Oscar’s father), she was 'middle-aged, dark-eyed, swarthy complexioned but by no means [a] forbidding-looking woman.'

Following the death of her husband and subsequent eviction from their home, Sugrue and her eldest son Padraig moved to the town of Roscommon, a journey which cost the life of her youngest child. After her son reportedly abandoned her in the mid-1770s, she became a landlady.

Reputedly possessed of a savage temper, rumours began to swirl about her that she was butchering her guests and was eventually arrested on charges of murder and robbery of one of her tenants (believed to be her estranged son). This offense drew a huge curious crowd; along with 25 other condemned, Sugrue was led in shackles to the gallows.

Sentenced to hang just outside the Old Gaol in the market square of Roscommon town, she managed to save her own neck by volunteering to hang her fellow prisoners when the appointed executioner failed to show, due to illness.

For years afterward, going by the moniker ‘Lady Betty’, she was installed as a permanent resident in the Gaol, occupying a room where it is said that she made a pictorial record in charcoal of all the faces of the condemned that she launched into the void.

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Tintern Abbey and The Rake at The Gates of Hell

Sir Vesey Colclough

Sir Vesey Colchough (1745-1794), baronet, MP and later High Sheriff of Co. Wexford, drinker, womaniser, Anglo-Irish rogue, delegate for the 1783 Vounteer grand national convention, book-lover, prefect in the Friendly Brothers of St Patrick, rabble-raiser and inheritor of Tintern Abbey. He and his abbey appear in their dissolute glory in A Land Without Wolves.

 

Despite styling himself as ‘Sir’ Vesey, it was believed he had not paid sufficient funds to maintain his baronetcy.

 

As a baronet, he ranked in the minor end of nobility - in fact, his baronetcy had been extinct at the time of his inheriting it. In parliament, he frequently stood in opposition to government policy, and was regularly censured for his conduct. He associated with ideologue Richard Musgrave, regularly sparring with him on matters literary (something he also waspishly engages in with the novel’s protagonist, Joseph MacTíre).

 

In the late 1770s, he raised an amateur troop of Volunter militia, ostensibly to protect his holdings from Whiteboys - organised bands of Catholic subtenants - and their often violent activities. As a result, he styled himself ‘Sir Vesey’, despite having no military experience.

 

His reputation as a profligate waster of money and a philanderer were due in no small part to his adding Gothic windows and battlements to Tintern Abbey, as well as abandoning his wife, Katherine Grogan, shortly after putting himself in debt as a result, and setting up house with his mistress. He died in Tintern Abbey, the place allegedy a ruin by the time of his death. According to Gabriel Bereanger, who visited in 1789:

 

“... the tower of it is made a dwelling; the rest is uncovered and waste, offices being built against it.

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Bold Robert Emmet and The Hanging Judge

Judge John Tohler

John Tohler, the 1st Lord of Norbury, lawyer, politician, arch-conservative, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas for Ireland, opposer of Catholic emancipation, lackey to the British Crown and known to many Dubliners as 'the Hanging Judge' - he plays a small but crucial role in the novel.

A callous and deeply hated figure in his day, Tohler exemplified extreme incompetence and corruption as a justice of peace.

He was known to preside over especially unruly courtrooms, with the public galleries often jammed with punters hoping for some free entertainment.

Often this chaos was of his own doing; his habit of falling asleep during hearings, cracking jokes (often while passing a sentence) and impromptu and rambunctious recitations of Milton and Shakespeare from the bench ensured a trial more closely resembling a pantomime, a circus or even a full-scale riot on his watch.

Tohler gained his nickname through his readiness to hang defendants without hearing the evidence against them, frequently for the most minor offences.

As Attorney General he conducted the prosecution of the leaders of the 1798 Rebellion, including the Sheares brothers, with a sadism that shocked even his most hardened legal peers. The following year he ensured that martial law was imposed on Ireland via a bill investing the lord-lieutenant with discretionary power to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act.

He later oversaw the trial of Robert Emmet after the failed rebellion of 1803, reportedly berating the rebel hero at every opportunity during his famous speech from the dock. Daniel O'Connell lobbied to have him removed from office, and eventually succeeded.

Following his death, it was widely rumoured by the people of Cabra, where he lived, that a phantom black dog was seen stalking the streets surrounding his house - many asserted it was Tohler's ghost, damned to wander his old haunt as punishment.

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Bareknuckle Dublin and The Lightning of Israel 

Daniel Mendoza

Daniel Mendoza, bareknuckle boxer and English prize-fighting champion from 1792-95, features in A Land without Wolves in a small role. An efficient and skilled fighter, he revolutionized the sport, gaining it newfound respectability amongst the ruling class. His pioneering of the straight left and the guard brought a new energy to the sport, as well as what is now known as the uppercut (then known as ‘the Mendoza’).

 

Throughout his career, gained as many as thirty-four wins, thirty of which were achieved by knockout. His book The Art of Boxing, one of the earliest on the sport, became the go-to manual for the techniques and stratagem of self-defense.

 

As a Jew, he did much to battle the prevailing anti-semitism in Britain at the time (his nickname was the Lightning of Israel, owing to his swiftness in the ring). James Joyce referenced him in the ‘Ithaca’ chapter of Ulysses, ranking him alongside Mendolssohn, Spinoza and Lassalle as exalted figures of the Jewish people.

 

His celebrity at the time is comparable to the later fame of Ali, Frazier, Tyson, and Mayweather. In 1792, he fought an exhibition bout in Dublin, at Astley’s Amphitheatre. Support for him in Ireland was widespread. According to his memoirs, his time in the Irish capital was much enjoyed. In his own words:

“No people are more hospitable and generous than the respectable part of the Irish nation; their liberality and kind attention to strangers are well known and universally acknowledged. I should feel the greatest regret, if in mentioning the instances of ill conduct of some of the vilest part of the community, I should be supposed to be casting any illiberal reflections on the Irish in general: on the contrary, I am happy to avail myself of this opportunity of declaring that, during my residence with them, the generous reception I experienced from numerous persons of all ranks, demands my most grateful acknowledgments, and will never be forgotten by me.”

DANIEL WADE

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Daniel Wade is a poet, playwright, novelist and scriptwriter from Dublin, Ireland. In January 2017, his play The Collector opened the 20th anniversary season of the New Theatre, Dublin. His spoken-word album Embers and Earth, available for download on iTunes and Spotify, launched the previous October at the National Concert Hall.

 

A prolific performer, Daniel has featured at many festivals including Electric Picnic, Body and Soul, and the 2019 International Literature Festival (ILFD). In January 2020, his radio drama Crossing the Red Line was broadcast on RTE Radio 1 Extra, and later won a silver award at the New York Festivals Radio Awards for Best Digital Drama.

 

He is also the author of the e-chapbook Iceberg Relief, published by Underground Voices in 2017. Daniel was the Hennessy New Irish Writing winner for April 2015 in The Irish Times, and his poetry and short fiction have appeared in over two dozen publications since 2012. His most recent collection of poetry, 'Rapids', is available from Finishing Line Press here. Daniel is currently enjoying an Artist's Residency at the Pavilion Studio, Dublin.

Learn more about Daniel at danielwade.ie

Author photo by Graeme Coughlan

https://www.graemecphotography.com 

OCTOBER 16TH '21

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INTERVIEWS

Daniel speaks with Annie from The Write Review. You can find Annie on Facebook here.
Please note that this interview carries a warning for language used.

ARTICLES

Here, on the Phlexible Philosophy website, Daniel discusses the figure of the highwayman in 18th century Irish thought.

Click on the wolf to follow the link.

A Land Without Wolves

ARTWORK

A Land Without Wolves Full Cover

This wonderful cover art was produced by our Creator Creature, Gaia.

 

After some back and forth between The Gatekeeper and Daniel, we settled upon this composite image incorporating important scenes from and elements of the novel. Once again, Gaia did not let us down:

  • The Highwayman Joseph Mac Tíre waits to attack the approaching carriage

  • The gallows displays its latest victim - could this be Mogue Trench?

  • In the foreground, the banner of a rebellious Ireland hangs among the British dead
  • In the trees to the left of the scene, the redcoats advance...

  • ...while overlooking the scene, the enigmatic Tintern Abbey hides in the mist

Click below to visit Gaia's dedicated TDStudios page