Freedom Books and Plays


In 1906 Otway, now in full manhood, attended the greatest event of the Irish Social year, the Dublin Horse Show. Held in early August, it was, and remains to this day, an international gathering which revelled in a week of racing and dancing, encouraged by the best food and drink the country could provide.

Muriel Bourne, the daughter of a stern English family, was the guest of a former school friend, in one of the many large house parties. Here Otway and Muriel, “paired” by a shrewd hostess, met and fell in love. Their romance was helped by glorious July evenings in lavish Edwardian hospitality. In the Ireland of that era, life for the fortunate was designed only for pleasure.

How different was the atmosphere of Muriel’s formidable home when she returned boasting of her romance.

“To an Irishman? My dear girl, you cannot be serious. Unreliable, like all Irish, and surely impecunious.”

No amount of explanation and re-assurance by Muriel could move the solid phalanx of opposition, and when two weeks later Otway arrived, dashing and impatient, to ask for Muriel’s hand, he was to feel the cold steel of Victorian England. The usual obstacles were raised: youth, money, temperament. When after desperate days of pleading, Otway received the dreaded ultimatum – a trial period of two years without contact – he left spilling Irish tears of mingled pain and anger, vowing that he would kill himself and that the Bournes could carry the blame with them to their graves.

With difficulty, a few letters passed between the lovers and in the following spring Muriel was sent on a world cruise accompanied by a dictatorial and socially conscious governess.

Otway, enraged and frustrated, certain that Muriel would meet scores of suitors on such a long voyage all of them eager to nurse her broken heart, nursed his own broken heart by falling in love with a daughter of a distant relative.

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