EilĂ­s Dillon author photograph

Eilís Dillon
Bold John Henebry
London, Faber, 1965
Herder, Freiburg, 1966, translated into German by Eva Korhammer


John Henebry starts life in a small town in Cork. At twenty-two he is appointed stationmaster on a branch line in County Mayo. On the day he learns of his wife's fatal illness, he wantonly insults the squire of Gorestown; as a consequence, he loses his job and his house. Grief-stricken and bitter, he goes off to Dublin, where he prospers, marries again, builds a great business and becomes a pillar of Dublin society. The contrast with his humble beginning is striking, but he retains his revolutionary fervour. He is a success - but is it the success the old rebel really wanted? In this ironic and complex novel, Henebry's personal story is intertwined with the satisfactions and disappointments of Ireland's history in the mid-twentieth century.

Bold John Henebry, cover design by Charles Mozely..Bold John Henebry, German edition

WHAT THE REVIEWERS SAID:


"A rich family chronicle ... Ireland, its politics and conflicts, come across strongly and the smaller world of Henebry's family is evoked with precision and great tenderness." (Sunday Times)
"Another of Eilís Dillon's sensitive portrals of Irish life earlier in the century ... A solid, satisfying, gently skilful book, worth reading for its tenderness and humour." (Robert Nye, The Guardian)
"The writing is brisk, immediate and forceful, readily combining fact and fiction, ideas and events, passing easily across the years and drawing oneinto a world that combines puritanical attitudes wth occasional fiery action. A book that is solid in the best sense..." (Isabel Quigly, Sunday Telegraph)
"A realistic and moving study of the rise of a self-made man, who amasses a fortune and reaches a high place in Dublin society, yet is haunted by a feeling of inadequacy in all his personal relationships." (Focus, October 1965)
"She has a gift for narrative that leaves the reader asking for more. The pace is breathless and the wisdom and understanding deep. [...] A minor masterpiece." (The Tribune, London)
"Written with vigour and intelligence [...] an admirable picture of the political ferment in Ireland." (Catholic Herald)
"As a piece of character building, Miss Dillon has rarely plumbed so clearly the tangle of relationships between a father and his children ... an astonishing performance." (Sunday Independent)

Bold John Henebry also received one notable hostile review, which will be featured as part of the Education and Research section of this site.

From the opening chapter....

Mr. Gore was of middle height, thin, white-haired, and with a certain air of importance in his bearing that was the chief reason for his success in gaining the outward respect of the poor people. His arrogance should have been pitiable by general standards, because of the small justification he had for it, but no one in Gorestown saw it like that. Mr. Gore was wearing an ancient tweed suit. It was English tweed, bought in London on his last visit there fifteen years before. This set him apart from ordinary people just as much as did his name. Also, everyone was continuously aware of the fact that in all his land there were only five acres of bog, that he owned a fine stone house with a gate-lodge, that he had a plough and horses, and a reaper and binder for the harvest. He was well known to have a carpet on his bedroom floor. He had been married to a thin, faded gentlewoman from the neighbourhood, but she was dead many years. Her land had been added to his, and it had included a salmon river which was worth a fortune in itself.
"Station-master," said Mr. Gore, in a high, querulous tone, prancing a little on the balls of his feet with temper, "I'll report you for this. I'll report you to the Directors of the railway. You saw me coming. You signalled the train out. I told you to hold it. I'll report you for this!"
John looked at him with hatred, and said deliberately:
"Go to hell, you old bastard!"
In the ordinary course of events
, Mr Gore might have recovered his reason when he had relieved his feelings by abusing the station-master. Unfortunately, however, John had accidentally hit on the one description of him which could not be borne. If John had called him a bully, a spy, a skin-the-goat, a gombeen man or any of the numerous terms of abuse which he might have used, it would not have been so disastrous.

 

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