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Day and Night Love Sang
My heart at thy dear voice
Wakes with joy, like the flow’r
At the sun’s bright returning!
Doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly leaned back in his chair at the packed Ballybucklebo Bonnaughts Sporting Club hall. Not a sound could be heard but the soaring voice.
Flo Bishop, standing behind the microphone on the small stage, let her magical contralto caress the notes of Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix” from the opera Samson and Delilah. The song was better known in English as “Softly Awakes My Heart.” As she sang, her eyes were fixed on those of her husband, Bertie Bishop, who, after he had helped his wife onto the stage, joined O’Reilly’s table. The man’s eyes were overflowing with adoration, and O’Reilly clearly recalled how some months ago, when his brother, Lars, had helped Bertie draw up his will, Bertie had told the two men how he had fallen in love with the sixteen-year-old Flo McCaffrey at a cèilidh in a church hall many years ago.
O’Reilly let the notes flow over him and marvelled at the purity of sound coming from the throat of the rotund wife of the equally spherical Councillor Bertie Bishop. Bertie was one of the prime movers behind using the Ballybucklebo Bonnaughts Sporting Club on Saturday nights for social events like ballroom dancing, hops, and cèilidhs. Bringing the two already tolerant country communities closer together in Ballybucklebo seemed important given the recent outbreak of sectarian troubles, some violent, that had been going on across the six counties for more than a year. Tonight, Saturday, July 5, 1969, the Bonnaughts were hosting the first of what was hoped would be a regular series of talent contests.
Bertie’s lips were moving, and O’Reilly knew the man was silently mouthing along.
Oh, bide here at my side!
Promise ne’er thou’lt depart!
O’Reilly glanced around the table, struck suddenly by the other love stories there. Kitty and he had celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary two days ago. She caught his eye and smiled. It would have been a longer getaway, but he had promised to attend here tonight.
Was it really thirty-eight years since a young Dublin medical student had fallen for a Nurse Kitty O’Hallorhan from Tallaght and in 1935 had left her to pursue his all-consuming interest in his work? She’d taken herself off to Spain during the Civil War to work in an orphanage and he’d lost track of her. Thanks to his partner, Doctor Barry Laverty, he and Kitty had met again, and the long-cherished embers of their love had burst into fresh flames. Barry sat across from him now, holding the hand of his wife, Sue. Five years ago, he’d been besotted with Patricia, a young engineering student who’d won a Cambridge scholarship, left Ulster, and broken Barry’s heart. He’d been devastated, but some months later had fallen for Sue, paid court, and married her. Now they were expecting.
As winds o’er golden grain
Softly sigh roving by …
Next to Barry was his former classmate, the surgeon Mister Jack Mills, who sat close beside his fiancée, Doctor Helen Hewitt, although O’Reilly knew the engagement was still a secret. When would they make their plans public?
The party was completed by Lord John MacNeill, Marquis of Ballybucklebo, and his sister, Myrna. Both were widowed and O’Reilly wondered if they were thinking of their lost loves, perhaps moved, as he was, by the obvious bond between Bertie Bishop and Flo.
He returned his gaze to Flo, took a pull on his pint of Guinness, placed it on the table, and stuck his pipe back in his mouth. He thought of the aria’s final words, but in the original French, which his father had insisted he and his brother Lars learn and which O’Reilly had polished with some French cruiser officers while serving in Alexandria on HMS Warspite during the war:
Ah! respond to Love’s caresses,
Copyright © 2020 by Ballybucklebo Stories Corp.