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The Heir of Kilfinnan A Tale of the Shore and Ocean   By: (1814-1880)

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The Heir of Kilfinnan, by W.H.G. Kingston.

The book opens with our hero, Dermot O'Neil, out fishing in a small boat that he usually went with his widowed mother in. The catch being good he went up to the nearby castle, the abode of the Earl Kilfinnan, where he easily sells his fish, and is asked to come back with more the next day. Being a good looking and well mannered 12 year old, he wins the admiration of the Earl's daughter and her cousin, who offer to teach him to read. When they go back to London they get the local Protestant minister to take him on, much to the annoyance of Father O'Rourke, who does not like his Catholic parishioners to be able to read.

Eventually the boy goes to sea. At some point in his career he decides to give up his Irish name, and takes an English one, Denham. Several incidents in which he distinguishes himself occur, and he is given the chance of becoming a midshipman, from which rank he duly rises by examination to Lieutenant. Meanwhile the Earl has obtained a position in the West Indies of Lieutenant Governor of one of the islands, since he had been finding it hard to make ends meet from the revenues of his estates in Ireland. There are occasions on which Denham has to call on the Earl and his family, but is not recognised.

Time goes on. The Earl's son and heir dies of an illness and is much lamented: he had been at sea pretty much as an equal in promotion with Denham. The Earl's time in the West Indies is up, and he and his family return to Ireland. Denham's ship visits Kilfinnan Bay, and he walks on shore, where it is possible he may have been recognised by O'Rourke and by a demented woman, who is not as mad as she seems.

After several more exciting events, which we will not spoil for you, the Earl dies, and to everyone's surprise Denham is not only revealed as our original young acquaintance, Dermot, but the lawyer states that Dermot's father was in the line of succession to the Earldom. This makes Dermot the new Earl. Cheers all round, but who wants to be saddled with a derilict castle and a bankrupt estate?

A beautifully written book, one of Kingston's best. It is very hard to see why it is so little known.



The following tale contains materials for a full sized novel, but my readers probably will not object to have them condensed into a single modest volume.

The scene of a considerable portion of the story is laid on the coast of Ireland, where the peasantry mostly speak the native Irish, and I have therefore translated what my characters say into ordinary English rather than into the generally received brogue, which would be, coming from their lips, as inappropriate as Spanish or Dutch.

When English is spoken, it sounds somewhat high flown, but is certainly purer than the language of the same class in England. Thus, my hero talks more like a well educated young gentleman than a humble fisher lad. If that is considered a defect, I hope that it may be redeemed by the stirring incidents with which the tale abounds, and that old and young may alike find as much amusement as they expect in its perusal.



The west coast of Ireland presents scenery of the most beautiful and romantic character. Here grey peaks rise up amidst verdure of emerald green; trees of varied hue come feathering down close to the water; yellow sands line the shores of many lonely bays; dark rocks of fantastic shape extend out into the ocean, while deep blue lochs mirror on their bosoms the varied forms of the surrounding heights. On the south west part of the coast a wide bay is to be found. At the extreme southern end, up a deep loch, a castle, the seat of an ancient family, reared its towers high above the waters. The bay came sweeping round at some places with a hard sandy beach; then, again, the ground rose, leaving but a narrow ledge between the foot of the cliffs and the waters... Continue reading book >>

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