1.3.2 "The Crow"

A sad, poignant story of misunderstanding, bitterness and blame.

 

Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 12:8

 

This story, which centres on our almost desperate desire to leave something to mark our lives upon this earth, is told as a history recounted by Dave, of the time when he, as a child, was taken by his mother to a hospice where he met a dying and embittered old Irish priest known as Mad Father Patrick, who told him about the school days and subsequent rise of a local councillor, Reginald Monday, and of his (Monday's) involvement in the construction of a dam which flooded a valley. Father Patrick's increasingly mad tale is told with a blend of biblical quotations, philosophical musings and wild fantasy, but how does it end and just why is he so bitter?

 

An adult fantasy story for those who like to think about what they are reading.

 

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Background Information.

Sometimes ideas come in a flash and this story was one such. No, I am not going to tell you the details of this, because the story builds towards and concludes with the germ that sparked it.

 

Given the narrated story's bizarre, indeed mad nature, I needed a slightly mad narrator and one of my favourite characters Mad Father Patrick came into being. However the main background thread of the story is that of life's transient nature, what each of us achieves in it and whether this actually counts for anything - “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.” from Ecclesiastes sums this up beautifully.

 

Given that life is all about change, I chose a dramatic one and they don't come much more dramatic than the flooding of a valley - a complete obliterating of all that was there - and linked with that, who is held responsible for it, and is the blame that is heaped upon them justified? Hate and bitterness harm the person harbouring same, so I ended up feeling quite sorry for Father Patrick.

 

The saint referred to in “The Crow” did actually exist (and played a major part in the Synod of Whitby in 664 A.D.) and his stone chair is still to be found in the Abbey he founded and is known as the Frith Stool, or Peace Stool - Frith possibly being a corruption of the Norwegian, Fred (pronounced frayd) meaning peace. The village names of Forfelderley and Fordringsfulham have also been taken from Norwegian - with a little Anglicisation of the spelling! And if you don't know how St John of Nepomuk died and hence what he is the Patron Saint of / protector against, well, there is some homework for you!

 

 

Sample Chapter

Chapter 1

“This all goes back to when I was a lad,” said Dave. “No, not the construction of the dam. Goodness me, I am not that old! But it was when I was a lad that my dear mother took me to see Mad Father Patrick. He was in a hospice and I'm guessing that she thought it might be good for me to meet a dying man. Well, that's the only reason I can think of for her taking me along, as I still can't now and I couldn't then see how my visiting him was of any benefit whatsoever to Father Patrick. He was well into his eighties and appeared to me to be a bit off in a world of his own and although I didn't know it at the time, he only had a few months to live.

But I am getting a touch ahead of myself.

The lake, which you guys were walking beside at the weekend,” Dave said to Susan and Peter, who had been talking earlier about a walk they'd done beside it, “though perhaps we should more correctly call it the reservoir, was needed to supply water both for drinking and industry to the large industrial cities south of here. Technology and industry were deemed the way forward into the brave new world of the day. These new industries required people and so created employment. But the people had to live somewhere, so new homes had to be built. Indeed new towns had to be built, which also created employment, and both the industry and the people to run it required water, which is where the building of the dam fitted into this government master-plan. And finally, as an added bonus, the building of the dam and the infrastructure to get the water from where it was to where it was required also created jobs. The whole grand scheme was a politician's dream; no wonder they all went for it big time. Nothing could stand in its way!

The valley here was about as far from the capital as you could get, so as long as the politicians got their dam, they were not going to be unduly concerned about wiping out a few peasants' farms and livelihoods - they (the peasants) would be rehoused and adequately compensated, so what was the problem? However, the politicians realised that what they needed was someone local, a man on the ground - someone who was distant from them and who by nature of being that, put sufficient distance between them and the local population - who could manage the moving of the residents from the valley, line-up the local contractors and local materials suppliers so that the big boys could come in and get the job done with minimum hassle. In other words, do all the dirty work. And the man they found for the job was Mr Reginald Monday.

Reginald Monday was actually born in the valley and by that time was a partner in a local legal practice and a parish councillor. So who better to undertake the task of relocating those whose homes would be effected? Effected for the benefit of the entire nation; for The Greater Good! He had the legal expertise and would know the people, so they would look up to him, have respect for him and take what he said with the gravity that it deserved. As a result of taking this unenviable middleman role Reginald Monday went on to make himself one of the most famous, or, as I was to find out because it very much depended on your personal perspective on all this, one of the most infamous sons of the valley.

From the photos I found of him I wouldn't say that he was exactly a handsome man. His features were too hard for that, but he certainly had a presence about him. His complexion was pale, almost grey in colour. A large beak-like nose was set plumb in the centre of his face, and beneath that he had narrow dark lips on a pinched mouth and a pointed chin. His hair was magnificent; a rich glossy raven black mane, which he combed back over his head. It didn't require too much imagination to see why he was known as The Crow.

He was born in the valley to very poor parents and brought up in the tiny hamlet of Forferderley. He attended the local school in the nearby village, Fordringsfulham, where the records suggest he was a quiet, withdrawn and shy, but hard working and intelligent pupil. There he also sang in the choir of the St John of Nepomuk Church. According to the vicar of the day, a Father Patrick, it is recorded that he had a good voice. And that is about all the official records tell us about his childhood.

Just after his twentieth birthday he married a Miss Sandra Leach, the daughter of a Mr Sebastian Leach who ran a legal practice in the nearby town. The marriage, in the Abbey of that town, was it would seem made in a bit of a hurry. Obviously the records do not state that it was a shotgun marriage, but there is something about the wording of what I have read which suggests that this could have been the case.

The newly wed couple bought a house in the town, he having obtained a well enough paid job in her father's legal practice of Rookham, Limace and Leach and indeed, in due course, became a partner in that firm. He became involved in local politics and took a place on the local parish council, and there is a hint that he may have joined the local Masonic Lodge, though this is not clear.

However, relatively soon after having her first baby, Mrs Sandra Monday, together with her young baby, died tragically after falling from the top of of the Black Crag Force, a local waterfall, both of them landing on the rocks below and possibly drowning in the pool at the base of the waterfall. According to the local newspaper which reported the incident, Reginald had made a valiant attempt to save them, having firstly had to climb down the rocks at the side of the force and so putting his own life in grave danger in the process, and was apparently devastated at the loss of his young wife and child.

Such an incident might have stopped a lesser man, but Reginald Monday poured his energies into his work, much of which was of a social and charitable nature. He was instrumental in the building of houses and schools, especially for the poor. Although according to the report I read, he enthusiastically championed the idea of constructing the reservoir, it has occurred to me since that the newspaper reporter may have confused Reginald Monday's enthusiasm for his work, for enthusiasm for the dam project per se, as the two are not quite the same!

It stands to reason of course that he could not have organised the entire construction of a dam by himself and that a whole government department at the very least must have been involved, but many local people held him personally responsible for obliterating the valley, robbing them of their farms and livelihoods, depriving them of their land which they had tended for generations, and so on and so forth. Of course he wasn't popular, even though it was through his efforts when he was a councillor that such good compensation packages were secured when the dam was constructed.

Later he went on to become an M.P. and then a minister in the government.

You'll appreciate that what I have given you is very much a potted history of what I had previously picked up at school when we were first told of this in class, and of what I have subsequently learnt and read between the lines of the official government version. Fairly boring stuff. The version I heard from Mad Father Patrick was - how shall I say? - a little more interesting!

To purchase this story click here.

 

Reviews.

*****

"The Crow is an absorbing tale of poverty, success, dramatic change in a rural community and the powerful lure of leaving your mark on the world. One of the author's excellent collection of 'tales round the fire' from the group of friends at the Red Grouse pub, this one really grabs you with its imagery. I loved the similarities with the stories of Noah and particularly the temptation of Jesus. This was a great little read."

(See full review by Hector's Girl on Amazon and Caroline on Goodreads)

 

*****

" I really enjoy this author's work and this is the best of the bunch. Providing you can get your head around the Irish accent this short story is original, well told, eminently readable and with a lovely twist. I highly recommend this one. "

 

(See full review by George G on Amazon)

 

 

*****

"Another brilliant short story by Leslie WP Garland. In this tale, as the synopsis states, we hear from Dave who has a conversation with an old priest who tells him a conflicting story to the one that he'd learnt at school just previously. Through Dave's conversation with Father Patrick we are left to ponder whether or not we should just believe one side of a story, blend both sides until we can make a truth, does someone's own grief or bitterness deny them from seeing the truth in front of them and so much more. Again, Leslie's writing is so realistic and full of details that one has to wonder if these are stories or are they actual pub tales ... "

 

(See review by Deborah Sampson on Amazon and Goodreads)

 

****

"An entertaining and intriguing story. Super characters and highly enjoyable. I will certainly look out for more of this author's work."

 

(See full review by Amazon Customer on Amazon)

 

****

"Again I am drawn to another Red Grouse Tale: Leslie W.P. Garland's The Crow. This is the short story about mad Father Patrick telling his version about Reginald Monday, a child so poor that he gets teased by the other children for not having shoes. Mad Father Patrick is kind to the child and attempts to help him by buying him a pair of shoes and teaching him in the ways of righteousness.  This is a nice story about success, about change and those who use corrupt ways to get what they want. It's also about those that don't want their environment disturbed, the place they call home to be taken from them. Sadly, with time everything changes. "

 

(See full review by Becky Zales on Amazon and Goodreads)

 

 

To purchase this story click here.