Annie M. P. Smithson

Life
1873-1948, b. Sandymount, Dublin; ed. partly in Liverpool; midwife and [chiefly] district nurse; Catholic from 1907; contrib. short stories to The Cross; took part in siege at Moran’s Hotel during the Civil War; a favourite contributor to Ireland’s Own; secretary of Irish Nurses’ Organisation, 1929; republican in sentiments though Protestant by birth; Her Irish Heritage (1917) is patriotic and sentimental; other titles include By Strange Paths (1920); The Walk of a Queen (1922); For God and Ireland (1931); Wicklow Heather (1939); By Shadowed Ways (1943); The Marriage of Nurse Harding (1951). Myself and Others (1944) is autobiographical; bur. Rathfarnham. See Irish Book Lover 24. IF DIB DIW DIL ATT OCIL

[ top ]

Works
Novels (Selected), Her Irish Heritage (1917); By Strange Paths (1919); Carmen Cavanagh (1921); The Walk of a Queen (1922); Nora Connor, A Romance of Yesteryear (1924); The Laughter of Sorrow (1925); These Things: The Romance of a Dancer (1927); The White Owl (1927); Sheila of the O’Beirnes (1929); Traveller’s Joy (1930); For God and Ireland (1931), stories; Leaves of Myrtle (1932); The Light of Other Days (1933); Wicklow Heather (1939); Margaret of Fair Hill (1939); Wicklow Heather (1939); The Weldons of Tibradden (1940); Katherine Devoy (1941); Tangled Threads (1943); By Shadowed Ways (1943); Myself and Others (1944); The Village Mystery (1945); Paid in Full (1946); The Marriage of Nurse Harding (1951) [var. 1935]. Several titles reprinted by Mercier Press, 1989-1990.

[ top ]

Criticism
James Cahalan (Irish Novel, 1988, p.86), bibl.; commentary in Diane Tolomeo, ‘Modern Fiction,’ in Recent Research on Anglo-Writers, ed. James K. Kilroy (MLA 1983).

See also brief remarks and quotations in Benedict Kiely, Drink to the Bird (London: Methuen 1991), p.117f. [‘gentle lady and sentimental novelist’; quotes ‘And so we leave Margaret Meredith. In a few days she will be Margaret O'Sullivan. But she will always be Margaret of Fair Hill to her husband and to all those who love her.’

[ top ]

References
Ireland in Fiction, ed. Stephen Brown (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), lists only Her Irish Heritage (Talbot Press 1917), ‘to the memory of the men who died in Easter 1916’, 269pp., [dealing with 2 years before Rising [Claire Castlemaine, dg. of Irish Catholic mother and English agnostic father, comes into her inheritance of patriotism and religion; Mary Carmichael works in slums and St Columba’s Home for district nurses; humour as well as pathos]; IF2 lists By Strange Paths (Talbot Press 1920), 365pp. [Patsy Howard, dg. worldly woman who marries common Englishman after death of first husband, moving to England, and returning to Ireland after schooldays; back to England to train as nurse, engaged to high Church curate, both becoming Catholic, he enters a monastery; she returns to Ireland and marries old friend Jim Cartaret, a Sinn Féiner]; Carmen Cavanagh (Talbot Press 1921), 352pp. [hardships of district nurse in Donegal]; The Walk of A Queen [prize novel] (1922); Dublin, between Frognoch releases and Treaty; Michael Ryan and twin Desmond [Desmond Ryan], IRA officers, shadowed by Yvonne Delannay, fascinating British spy, Desmond Samon to her Delilah; foiled by eavesdropping charwoman and Desmond’s sister’s intervention; Desmond substitutes himself for his brother in Mountjoy and suffers death penalty]; The Guide and other stories (CTS 1922), 12 stories [working girls, nurses, converts]; Nora Connor, a Romance of Yesteryear (Talbot Press 1924), 222pp. [late Victorian, complicated plot; Nora, of well-to-do family secretly marries aristocratic Duke Percival; circumstances, machinations, desperation[?]; reunited; Mrs Donnor, parvenu; aunt Delia, who hates snobbery]; The Laughter of Sorrow (Talbot Press 1925), 280pp. [1860, Rathfarnham, murder of Roger Courtney, his bride losing her memory and reason; Clementina, in the next generation is saved from a dislikeable marriage when the spirit of her great-grandmother indicates a way out]; These Things, The Romance of a Dancer (Fisher Unwin, 1927), 376pp. [old aristocrats in poverty in noble mansions, and vulgar people; Madame McGarry son marries Limerick barmaid and shortly dies; their weakling son marries landlady’s dg. in Dublin, studying medicine; McGarry breeding comes out in their daughter, famous dancer, marries Spanish grandee, her cousin and heir to McGarry lands]; Sheila of the O’Beirnes (Talbot Press 1929) [first person; ancestral home nr. Bray; 18 yr.-old girl with Irish Catholic father and English Protestant mother; dislike of being sent to English school; runs away from home and is taken up by gypsies; runs away from school after mother’s second marriage; national character contrasted]; Traveller’s Joy (Talbot Press 1930), 263ppp. [Finola Kilroney, old-fashioned girl, alone after aunt’s death with wicked and sinister cousin Mary O’Brien; escapes family home, formerly Traveller’s Joy Inn in Kilkenny to Dublin, and falls in with happy-go-lucky O’Dells, &c.] ; For God and Ireland (Talbot Press 1931), 10 stories, 215pp. [1. ancestors return from other world to prevent girl marrying Englishman; 2&3. stories of 1798 Rebellion; 6. Irish young people in Paris, love story; 7. grim tale of girl who finds her lover, pretending to support Republic, is a British spy, and she betrays him to her party; 10. magic and superstition in Donegal]; Leaves of Myrtle (Talbot Press 1932) [Myrtle Seagrave, in west of Ireland household, in dilemma when her proposed marriage to Dr McDonald prevented by return of his wife, supposed drowned; later engaged in Dublin to Dr Timothy Farrell; on death of MacDonald’s wife, she is encouraged to find solution by enfant terrible she lodges with]; The Light of Other Days (Talbot Press, 1933), 292pp. [Dorothea Stone and Anthony Fitzmaurice finally unite though hereditary enemies due to ancient duel; respectively Protestant and pro-English, and Irish Catholic]; The White Owl (Talbot Press 1927), 283pp. [witchcraft, transmitted in female line of Kilkenny family from Dame Kyteler]; Margaret of Fair Hill (Talbot Press 1939), 282pp. [Margaret Meredith, raised in Fair Hill Hose by stuffy ascendancy aunt, escapes loveless marriage plans and meets Capt. Denis O’Sullivan of Irish Army]; Wicklow Heather (Talbot Press 1939), 250pp. [Tony O’Shea, Catholic female orphan, lives in Protestant household of grandfather in Wicklow, struggles to keep her faith, her example leading to general conversion, her grandfather leaving a will in favour of those who convert; romance also]; The Weldons of Tibradden (Talbot Press 1940) [1870-1916, three generations of Weldon family, centred on Mrs John (Faith) Weldon, brought as a pretty wife to Tibradden Cottage and later running shop in Capel St; reduced to poverty by Clayton & Isaacs; her dg. elopes with an artist, and her son marries a Protestant; in 1916 she betrays her grandson]; Katherine Devoy (Talbot Press 1941), 331pp. [Katherine, orphan, runs away from Limerick grand-parents’ house to Dublin; singing talent discovered; marries scamp who dies from drink; Harold Sinclair, childhood friend, becomes Catholic, then priest; prayers bring about her conversion; happy in faith, settles at Dublin mountains]; Tangled Threads (Talbot Press 1943) [nurse forced to work for employer in west, in charge of supposedly mentally-afflicted niece; defeats uncle’s plans to get her fortune, but entangles lovers in further difficulties]; By Shadowed Ways (Talbot Press 1943), 262pp. [Kilkenny farm, 1920-40; Black and Tans shoot Mrs. MacMahon; dg. Bride in shock; marries worthless farmer, who was one of party that shot her mother; attempting to re-enter the house, he meets her mother’s ghost; run over by car rushing out; Bride recovers from breakdown and enters convent]; Paid in Full (Talbot Press 1946), 269pp. [Nora Tiernan, dg. solicitor who gambled and committed suicide, meets Harold Hashing, who turns out to be son of family her father ruined; dilemmas about telling the truth; he breaks off; she is reduced to beggary, after sacking through intrigue of her office-enemy Rose; rises to happy ending]; The Marriage of Nurse Harding (Talbot Press 1951)., 296pp. [Colonel Hendon killed and dg. Anne injured in accident, 1901; Victor, her brother, falls in love with her nurse, Nora; he marries dg. of another county family rather than give guarantees required of non-Catholic; Anne runs away with gardener’s son, their son becomes communist; Victor’s Republican son takes part in 1916 Rising and Civil War brings tragedy to all, Victor and Nora surviving to unite]. SEE ALSO Attic additions, supra.

Ann Owens Weekes, ed., Unveiling Treasures: The Attic Guide to the Published Works of Irish Women Literary Writers: Drama, Fiction, Poetry (Dublin: Attic Press 1993), writes that she trained as nurse in London and Edinburgh; returned to Ireland, 1901; sent to Ulster, where she experienced problems of nationalism and unionism; became Catholic and involved in republican movement at age of 34 [i.e., in 1907]; volunteer for Sinn Féin in 1918 election; taught care of wounded to Cumann na mBan in Civil War; arrested, imprisoned, and force to retire from Queen’s Nurses Committee; worked privately for poor in Dublin; 19 novels, best-sellers; presented young Irishwomen as pure, honest, courageous, and men as noble; coincidence and preposterous [plays large part in her work; in Nora Connor, the heroine’s requires her husband to keep the marriage secret and while he is away at foreign war, she bears ‘shame’ of pregnancy alone; end line, ‘Why, there is nothing to forgive, beloved’ - “vintage Smithson”. NOTE BIBL, adds. The Village Mystery (Parkside 1945); Paid in Full (1946; rep. Mercier 1990), and retitles; The Marriage of Nurse Harding (1935 [?sic]; rep. Mercier 1989). Other reps. are The Irish Heritage (1917; rep. Mercier 1988); By Strange Paths (Talbot Press/Unwin 1919); The laughter of Sorrow (Talbot Press/Simpkins, Marshall 1925); The Walk of a Queen (1922; rep. Mercier 1988).

Katherine Devoy; Wicklow Heather; The White Owl; Her Irish Heritage; Leaves of Myrtle; Margaret of Fair Hill; Nora Connor; Travellers’ Joy; Paid in Full (Talbot Press, Dublin 1930-1960) [De Burca Cat 18 90].

Her Irish Heritage and By Shadowed Waters [2 vols. in 1] (1958) [Hyland 214].

[ top ]

Notes
Harriet [Constant] Smithson, the actress who married Berlioz, was dg. of a Waterford theatre manager (see Peter Kavanagh, Irish Theatre, 1946).

A character in Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa reads Annie Smithson.

[ top ]