1798 A Rebel Romance by Paul McNulty


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      ACT ONE

      SCENE ONE

      Pipe music plays as the audience assembles (Liam O’Flynn, Seán Ó
      Duibhir A’ Ghleanna, John O’Dwyer of the Glen).

      Monday, 27 August 1798, Castlebar, Co Mayo, Ireland.

      CECILIA Lynch sits at a document-laden table in the upstage right
      corner of the parlour of Greevy’s Hotel overlooking the main street.

      A framed copy of a gold harp against a green background hangs above an
      upstage centred platform (about 2 m. square by 30 cm. high). It bears
      the inscription Éirinn go Brách (Ireland Forever).

      A storage cabinet lies along the surround, stage right, carrying a
      tray with refreshments. Two chairs lie along the surround, stage left.


      CECILIA wears a modest green dress. Her auburn hair is tied back. On
      hearing the sound of cannon fire, she mimes the opening of the down-stage window

      She looks to her right but is distracted by a knock.

      CECILIA:  Who’s there?

      SHERIFF BROWNE enters. He wears a red jacket, white cravat, white
      shirt, beige breeches and black shoes.

      CECILIA:      What is it?

      BROWNE: I need to see Mr Moore.

      CECILIA:      He should be here soon.

      BROWNE: From the battlefield?

      CECILIA:      Maybe so.

      Sound of pounding feet.

      CECILIA returns to the window. A platoon of redcoats are rushing
      north.

      CECILIA:  What’s going on, Mr Browne?

      BROWNE: Rushing to battle … to put an end to General Humbert … and
      your Mr Moore.

      CECILIA:      Humbert will prevail, I’m sure of it.

      A louder burst of cannon fire is heard.

      BROWNE:      Even if Humbert wins the battle, he will lose the war.

      CECILIA:      Not if the people rise-up to support him.

      BROWNE:      Which is where you come in, Miss Lynch?

      CECILIA:      Me?

      BROWNE: Inciting your Friends of the Enlightenment to join the
      rebellion.

      CECILIA:      Nonsense!

      BROWNE: You’re just a front for the United Irishmen.

      CECILIA:      No! We just want to improve the rights of women … all
      women … Mrs Browne would be welcome to join.

      BROWNE: Ladies have no business in politics.

      BROWNE walks towards the framed picture.

      BROWNE:  Éirinn go Brách, Ireland forever. Huh! The battle cry of
      the United Irishmen. You’re encouraging your members to support Humbert?

      CECILIA:      I’m encouraging them to demand their right to education
      … and to the same rights enjoyed by men.

      BROWNE: Objectives supported by the United Irishmen.

      CECILIA:      Would you deprive Mrs Browne and your daughters of such
      rights?

      BROWNE: Mrs Browne and my daughters are quite happy with their station
      in life.

      BROWNE paces.

      BROWNE: But your rights will be stripped away … unless you change
      your tune. Dublin Castle has just declared martial law. You and Mr Moore will be charged with
      treason … unless—

      CECILIA:      Unless what?

      BROWNE: Unless you pack your bags and go home.

      CECILIA:  Never! The tide of history is with us. People want democracy
      and freedom. Have you forgotten 1776 and the French Revolution?

      BROWNE: Pho!

      JOHN Moore enters. He wears a dark green jacket, a white cravat, a
      bloodied white shirt, dark breeches and a sword hanging from his waist.

      CECILIA rushes into his arms.

      JOHN:      What’s going on here?

      CECILIA:  Sheriff Browne has threatened me with treason.

      JOHN:    How dare you.

      JOHN draws his sword.

      JOHN:  On what basis? Whom has she betrayed?

      BROWNE: His Majesty, George III … seeking to replace him with a
      republic.

      JOHN laughs.

      JOHN:  Nonsense. Cecilia is merely trying to improve the rights of
      women.

      BROWNE: But what is your objective Mr Moore?

      JOHN:  To improve the rights of all Irish people … through
      liberty, equality and fraternity.

      BROWNE: Through violence?

      JOHN:  Only because you scorned our efforts at reform.
      BROWNE: I understand … but I must warn you.

      BROWNE paces.

      BROWNE: You will be arrested and charged with treason. I merely urge,
      in your own best interest, to retract now.

      BROWNE pauses.

      BROWNE:  Otherwise, I must take action.

      JOHN:  That won’t be necessary. Humbert is about to capture
      Castlebar.

      BROWNE:  Reinforcements are on their way to / the battlefield.

      JOHN:  Your reinforcements are too late. Humbert has outfoxed the
      British army.

      BROWNE: More troops are on the way. Humbert has only a small army and
      limited artillery.

      JOHN:  Our army is growing all the time. We now hold the cannons
      abandoned by the British as they retreated. So … my advice to you,
      Mr Browne … in your own best interest … is to leave Ireland before
      you are charged with treason.

      BROWNE:      Huh! You’ve taken leave of your senses. The gentlemen of
      the county are opposed to rebellion. Even if you capture Castlebar, you’ll never hold on to
      it. All you have is one thousand Frenchmen and your raggle-taggle pikemen.

      JOHN:  Get out before I lose my patience.

      JOHN replaces his sword in its scabbard.

      BROWNE: I have given you fair warning.

      BROWNE storms out.

      CECILIA:  The nerve of that man. But you’re bleeding, John.

      JOHN:  Just surface wounds.

      CECILIA:  I’ll dress them for you.

      JOHN removes his upper garments.

      CECILIA dresses his wounds with hot water, alcohol and bandages.

      CECILIA:    What’s it like on the battlefield?

      JOHN:  Chaotic! … absolute madness … carnage … the ground
      littered with bodies. I saw your brother Michael, charging on horseback,
      followed by a volunteer with a pike.

      CECILIA:      My God! Mama told him not to get involved. Are they all
      right?

      JOHN:  They were fine as the tide of battle turned in our favour.
      Humbert is confident of victory.

      CECILIA:  Let’s hope so … after all the waiting.

      CECILIA looks out.

      CECILIA:  My goodness! … they’re boarding up windows … Mr
      Greevy and others.

      JOHN:  That’s why Humbert ordered me back to Castlebar … to
      prepare for his arrival. I must welcome him and his army and arrange for
      their billeting. Mr Greevy will accommodate Humbert and his officers.

      CECILIA:      And the soldiers?

      JOHN:  They shall rest on Lord Lucan’s cricket pitch whether the
      good Lord likes it or not.

      CECILIA:  The good Lord indeed.

      CECILIA laughs.

      CECILIA:  Hush! I can’t hear anything now.

      JOHN:  It reminds me of Paris … an eerie silence … and now …  listen.

      JOHN rushes to the window.

      COMMANDER: (Offstage) British soldiers, retreat   now!

      The Redcoats stampede through the town.

      PEOPLE:    (Shout and chant offstage.) Stab them all … stab’em
      all … staball …

      JOHN:  I never thought I’d see the day … when the British army
      ran away.

      CECILIA:      Is that General Humbert, I see, wearing a … funny hat?

      JOHN laughs.

      JOHN:    A shako hat, my dearest.

      CECILIA:      Actually … it’s quite elegant … with a blue plume on
      top.
      JOHN   voice quivering.

      JOHN:    My time has come. I’ve never been so nervous.

      PEOPLE: Sing offstage. The Men of the West, (The Clancy Brothers and
      Tommy Makem.)
      Killala was ours ere the midnight,
      and high over Ballina town;
      our banners in triumph were waving
      before the next sun had gone down.
      We gathered to speed the good work, boys,
      the true men anear and afar; /

      CECILIA and JOHN: (Sing with the people)
      And history can tell how we routed the
      Redcoats through old Castlebar.

      CECILIA and JOHN: (Repeat singing while moving down-stage) …
      And history can tell how we routed the
      Redcoats through old Castlebar.

                BLACKOUT

      ACT ONE

      SCENE TWO

      General HUMBERT enters the parlour of Greevy’s Hotel, a sword
      hanging by his side. He wears a red cloak over a blue jacket, blue
      breeches and black boots. His red and black shako hat is topped with a
      blue plume over long dark hair brushed back behind his ears.

      CECILIA curtsies.

      JOHN motions HUMBERT down-stage centre to face the people.

      HUMBERT raises his arms.

      HUMBERT: Following the capture of Castlebar, I am happy to announce
      the formation of the Government of the Province of Connaught within the declared Irish
      Republic.

      JOHN:  This is wonderful news. We must celebrate … but first … General Humbert and his
      officers shall rest. Later this evening, the United Irishmen will host a Victory Ball in The Linen
      Hall … until then ...

      JOHN moves upstage.

      JOHN:  General Humbert, allow me to introduce my beloved, Miss
      Cecilia Lynch.

      HUMBERT:    Enchanté, Mademoiselle Cecilia. Congratulations on
      founding The Friends of the Enlightenment … a remarkable achievement.

      CECILIA curtsies.

      CECILIA:  I was inspired by the seven thousand women who marched on
      Versailles.

      HUMBERT:  Just as important as the storming of the Bastille.

      CECILIA:      That march encouraged three of our members to stop dragoons
      from reaching Castlebar thus weakening the British defence.

      HUMBERT:        You must name these brave women.

      CECILIA:      Bridget Brennan, Louisa Larkin and Regina Ryan.

      HUMBERT:        Please introduce them at the Victory Ball.

      CECILIA NODS.

      CECILIA:  You have filled our hearts with hope for the future.

      HUMBERT:      I could not have done so without the Irish.

      HUMBERT paces.

      HUMBERT:  A quick word before I meet my senior officers. Now that we
      have a Government of Connaught, I need to appoint its President.

      JOHN:  Captain Teeling and Father O’Kane are eminently qualified
      for the position.

      HUMBERT:      Indeed!

      HUMBERT paces.

      HUMBERT:  H’m. However, I need these men in the field as we march
      eastward on Dublin.

      HUMBERT pauses.

      HUMBERT:  What do you think, Mademoiselle Cecilia?

      CECILIA:      I h-hadn’t thought about it. H-have you someone in mind?

      HUMBERT smiles.

      HUMBERT:  Indeed I do.

      HUMBERT:  Turns his gaze upon JOHN.

      JOHN:  It c-can’t be me. I h-have no experience of governance.

      HUMBERT:        But you knew you were under consideration.

      JOHN:  Even so, more qualified United Irishmen are available to
      you.

      HUMBERT:      But not with your unique legal and linguistic skills, your
      experience of the Revolution in Paris and your leading position in Mayo. You are the
      most appropriate man for the job.

      JOHN:  I don’t know what to say.

      CECILIA:      Congratulations, my darling. (RUSHES TO HUG JOHN)

      HUMBERT:        Splendide! I shall announce your appointment at the
      Victory Banquet tonight. You must maintain complete secrecy until then.

 

[end of extract]


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