FLAMES OF FREEDOM
By John Waller
Cast - eight or ten actors
(In order of appearance)
1. Mrs Murphy: The housekeeper of Merlin House.
2. Conn O’ Tool: The gardener of Merlin House who becomes a volunteer.
3. Alec Casemond: The master of Merlin House.
4. Meli Casemond: His English wife.
5. Robbie Casemond: Their 12 year old son.
6. Martin Mc Carthy: A Headman for Colonel Kernahan and leader of the local unit of the IRA.
7.1 Mrs O’ Tool: Ed and Conn’s mother and a widow.
7.2 Army Secretary
8.1 Kevin Killeen: IRA leader from Dublin.
8.2 Ed O’ Tool: Conn O’ Tool’s older brother.
8.3 Roberts: A volunteer (Black and Tan).
9. Colonel Kernahan: English colonel and owner of Ardmore House..
10. Captain Johnstone: Leader of the First Rynah Unit (Black and Tan).
The play is set in a large Victorian house in rural Ireland.
Scene 1: The hall of Merlin House, morning in August 1920.
Meli: Welcome home dear. I thought you were fighting the Turks? You could be one yourself. Brown and bald.
Alec: Now there’s a welcome for you. You’re as beautiful as ever.
Scene 2: The library of Merlin House, same afternoon
Meli: The British were bombing the Afghans because they wanted their independence. He said the Afghans rose up when they heard about the Amritsar Massacre so their villages were bombed. He told me that it was cheaper than sending in the troops; but the Viceroy said all it would do would be to increase the bitterness against us. Harry agreed, he said the Afghans wouldn’t forget.
Martin: It’s the British who’ll forget.
Martin: It’s hard not to be moved by the words. It’s as if Yeats’ calling out at me from the page-
Meli: You know Caitlin Ni Houlihan caused huge unrest when it was first staged; people say it was the cause of the 1916 rising-
Scene 3: On the bank of the river – a few minutes later
Robbie: Did you know swans stay together for life? It was in my book on birds. If we were swans…we could be friends for life?
Conn: Robbie, you are going away to school – you’ll make new friends.
Conn: Martin, what do the Volunteers have to do?
Martin: We have to stop the Black and Tans from coming to these parts. We block the roads and blow up the bridges, and we burn down the barracks.
Scene 4: In the O’Tool’s kitchen – that evening
Mrs O’Tool: Conn, sit now by the fire and be easy, there’s a mist on the bog that will drench your bones and with that chest of yours-
Conn: Ah! Whist! It’s hot in here and the walk will do me good.
Scene 5: In the bog cavern – later
Martin: Come Kevin; tell us what you know about this new legion of rats that’s been unleashed into our country.
Kevin: The city’s full of them. Some has black pants and tan jacket.
Scene 6: In front of the barracks – an hour later
Kernahan: Rats! Bastards! (Shouting out) We’ll get the lot of you.
Scene 7: In the bog cavern – early next morning
Robbie: (Thinking) But you could die-
Kevin: (Lying back down) I could lad- that I could.
Robbie: I can go….and come back… can get you things…I can get you water and food….and….and maybe a blanket!
Scene 8 – Hanging out the washing – an hour later
Mrs O’Tool: Doesn’t help he’s out till all hours and his chest not good! He’ll be an old man before he turns 18.
Mrs Murphy: That’ll all change too when the Master sends young Robbie to school.
Scene 9: In the potting shed of Merlin House – soon after
Conn: A chicken?
Robbie: Yes- he’s cold Conn and he’s probably starving…and I took Daddy’s water bottle so he can have a drink…and I have a horse blanket’ (both the bottle and the blanket have ‘AC’ written on them)
Scene 10: In the military HQ – later in the morning
Alec: They want the Irish to surrender, but they won’t. Soon there’ll be internment, just as there was with the Boers. Peace will only come by talking.
Kernahan: Churchill reckons to crush Sinn Fein, he’ll need a hundred thousand new special troops and police. He’ll have the country laced with cordons of block houses and barbed wire.
Scene11: The library of Merlin House, same afternoon
Meli: Lloyd George (Pause) he needed men to fight his war. He looked to Ireland. He said to the men of Ireland that if they came forward and fought for Britain then they would be allowed to rule themselves.
Robbie: And he lied- Gosh!
Scene 1: The kitchen of Merlin House – 13th December 1920
Mrs Murphy: (Darker) Driven from their homes…burned out of it. Wandering around now homeless, and there’s nothing we can do-
Scene 2: In the military HQ – later in the morning
Alec: All those years away, France, Belgium, Palestine it all seemed like a game…an adventure off somewhere else- not here…not my home. Now to see people dying under the brute force of degenerates, men with no honour or ideal…not fighting a war…not interested in peace…just here to see how much destruction they can cause, and women they can rape…filthy dirty degenerate bastards…
Johnstone: (In a Cockney Accent) I’m sorry we disturb you that much governor!
Scene 3: The hall of Merlin House – that evening
Johnstone: Good evening, I think our invitation must have gone astray. My lads would like to join your party. Share in the Christmas festivities an’ all.
Meli: You are welcome.
Scene 4: In the potting shed of Merlin House – early next morning
Meli: (looking at his shoulder) My God, Martin, you’re in a bad way. Conn’s right. You need a doctor.
. . . . .
Meli: One of the Tans died this morning from his wounds.
Conn: ’Tis deep out of the ground they came and isn’t that where they belong anyhow?
Scene 5: In the O’Tool’s kitchen - later
Mrs O’Tool: They will hurt you (Her voice quivers) and they will hurt you more, and when they do I will know (Gestures her heart) and I will protect you. (Takes his face in her hands) Whatever you do don’t give into fear. We all die anyway Conn boy. It is how we die is important -for it’s the very mark of how we have lived, and spent our time on this God given earth.
Scene 6: In the military HQ – later
Conn: Mister, whatever your name is, why didn’t you just stay at home in your county? (JOHNSTONE clenches his first in fury. Slowly he rises and walks towards CONN.)
Johnstone: How dare you? (Brings the palm of his right hand across CONN’s face. CONN responds with a smile tinged with patronage) Who shields you lot of crawling traitors? Your precious Captain Casemond, is it? (Pause as JOHNSTONE changes his tone)
Conn: Wouldn’t any man, any human being, be doing the right thing to protect his own from the like of you?
Scene 7: In the bog cavern – that evening
Johnstone: (Going closer) And look there’s blood on it. This must be where he lay (Kicks straw causing the metal bottle to clang) What’s this? (He picks up the water bottle). ‘AC’ (Pause) Casemond! (Pause which grows into a sure smile) And against this evidence, Captain Alexander Casemond is going to have a lot of explaining to do. That arch hypocrite and two-faced traitor, who posed as a gentleman and a loyal subject to King George! The man who had worn the officer’s uniform, is now certainly befriending, shielding and probably is himself a member of this bloody band of murderers. Come on Roberts let’s get up to that house-
Scene 8: In the potting shed of Merlin House – minutes later
Robbie: Conn, what’s happened to you? You’ve changed...full of… hate.
Conn: Robbie, this is war. You are too young to understand.
Robbie: (Angrily) I’m not. (Pause) I know about your war. About the Black and Tans being murderers. Killing Kernahan would be murder too.
Scene 9: The hall of Merlin House – a few minutes later
Mrs Murphy: From the gutter you came and there you will return when this dark night is over…there is a storm coming and you will be its victim…I tell you that…this county knows her kind and you are non the like- be gone from here you filthy pup!
Johnstone: Torch it! Now!
. . . . .
Conn: He…didn’t he come in to get me a blanket and food!
Meli: Oh God! Where is he?
Conn: I don’t know- I’ll go in…take her outside, for God sake the women is choking.
Scene 10: Outside of Merlin House – a few minutes later
Meli: You’re upstairs getting a blanket for Conn-
Robbie: No. I..I was but I stayed away. I waited by the lawn when I saw the lorries and the head lights. I hid in the bushes-
. . . . As the lights fade the image of a Cygnet taking off can be seen on the back projection on the up stage wall. We watch it fly free into the air as the lights fade down.
Examples of back projections
Fordson, Cork, 1926
Bombing the Afghans
The Burning of Cork - the morning after