‘Long ago I learned to stop questioning my beginnings…until my youngest son was born. A slave, who spends fourteen hours a day working on a sugar plantation, has little time for anything apart from servitude’
The opening lines to Chapter One from a book that could not but have an impact on you. The Tide Between Us is a novel by Irish Writer Olive Collins and is another incredible publication just released by Poolbeg Press.
I was lucky to feature Olive on my weekly Wednesday Feature where she explained the Jamaican Connection to the island of Ireland which you can read HERE. A fascinating post!!
Today I bring you my review of this heartbreaking tale of a young Irish boy, who was taken away from his home and family in Co. Kerry,and forced to become an indentured slave/servant on an island in the Caribbean.
This is Art O’ Neill’s story…
1821: After the landlord of Lugdale Estate in Kerry is assassinated, young Art O’Neill’s innocent father is hanged and Art is deported to the cane fields of Jamaica as an indentured servant. On Mangrove Plantation he gradually acclimatises to the exotic country and unfamiliar customs of the African slaves, and achieves a kind of contentment.Then the new heirs to the plantation arrive. His new owner is Colonel Stratford-Rice from Lugdale Estate, the man who hanged his father. Art must overcome his hatred to survive the harsh life of a slave and live to see the eventual emancipation which liberates his coloured children. Eventually he is promised seven gold coins when he finishes his service, but he doubts his master will part with the coins.
One hundred years later in Ireland, a skeleton is discovered beneath a fallen tree on the grounds of Lugdale Estate. By its side is a gold coin minted in 1870. Yseult, the owner of the estate, watches as events unfold, fearful of the long-buried truths that may emerge about her family’s past and its links to the slave trade. As the body gives up its secrets, Yseult realises she too can no longer hide.
There are some novels that give you goosebumps as you read, those novels that really hit home with you. The Tide Between Us is one such novel for me.
Maybe it’s because I am married to a Kerryman. Maybe it’s because I spent many a Summer in the seaside village of Ballyheigue, not too far from the Stack Mountains that are mentioned in this novel. Whatever the reasons I have become completely enthralled by the story of these children that were taken to the other side of the world as forced servants.
Art O’ Neill was deported to the sugar plantations of Jamaica in 1821 as an ‘indentured servant’, taken from his home in the townland of Mein, Knocknagoshel, Co. Kerry. His father is wrongly hanged for a murder he did not commit, leaving Art angry, upset and an easy captive for the slave ships. With 200 other boys and girls, they set sail off the coast of Cork, from Kinsale, to a new and hard life in the sweltering heat of the Jamaican fields.
Art carries revenge in his soul, a revenge so poisonous, he carries it with him every day of his life. With the advice of an older Irish man, Art learns to survive through the hardships and struggles of life on this island far away from home.
Art’s story and those of all those poor Irish children, the majority who never set foot on Irish soil again, just broke my heart. It’s not that long ago, a part of our history I was truly unaware of…
Olive Collins wraps a wonderful mystery around Art’s story, as the reader is taken forward to 1991. A skeleton is discovered on the grounds of Lugdale Estate, in the shadows of the Kerry Mountains in North Kerry. Art O’ Neill was born in the vicinity of this estate, where the present owner Yseult, now in her eighties, lives.
Yseult carries secrets from the past that she hoped never to see surface again, but with the Garda presence now on her lands, it’s not long before Yseult has to make some decisions and face up to her family’s tragic story.
Olive Collins has written an absorbing tale that combines both fact and fiction in this beautifully told story. The Tide Between Us is a must read for all who have a passion for historical fiction. For me it is the story of Art O’ Neill and what he endured that completely stirred up my emotions, my feelings of pride for those Irish boys and girls who were taken from our land.
Jamaica is an island that now claims 25% of it’s population to be of Irish descent. Through Olive’s research she discovered that ‘There are words spoken in remote parts of Jamaica with a clear Irish lilt and there are songs sung reminiscent of the struggles that continued in their homeland while they laid roots in their exotic new home, Jamaica.’
The Tide Between Us is an emotional and truly poignant story that you will get swept up in, as you imagine the traumas and horrors of our past. With vivid descriptions that will melt your heart and bring tears to your eyes, this is a quite a disturbing tale, but also a tale of homecomings and atonement.
Purchase Link ~ The Tide Between Us
Olive Collins grew up in Thurles, Tipperary, and now lives in Kildare. For the last fifteen years, she has worked in advertising in print media and radio. She has always loved the diversity of books and people. She has travelled extensively and still enjoys exploring other cultures and countries. Her inspiration is the ordinary everyday people who feed her little snippets of their lives. It’s the unsaid and gaps in conversation that she finds most valuable.
Her debut novel, The Memory of Music, was an Irish Bestseller.
Twitter ~ @olivecollins