This is a book, now available on archive.org, set in Dublin during the First World War. It is about a family of American cousins from Fitzwilliam Square and a little girl called Kathleen Macgillicuddy (‘Wisp’ for short), from Jeffers Court, Cuffe Street.
Wisp is a dote. She is fourteen years old. She earns her own living selling flowers on Grafton Street and running errands for local shop keepers. In her spare time she runs a school for local children with copybooks sewn together with wool. She is also a dreamer with a touch of genius. (“Don’t you know how to pretend, just think of things and make up the tales? That’s rare fun if you do be lonesome like, miss“).
Wisp has her very own squat on the top floor of Jeffers Court; a single room with a hole in the roof open to the sky which she calls her Fairy Cottage, and one of the saddest moments in the book is when she comes home to find it torn down.
The American kids are nice too, without being patronising. They tutor Wisp in secret. They buy her presents from Switzers. They smuggle her into their box for the Gaiety pantomime. If they could, they would have smuggled her into Mitchells (the nicest coffee shop in Dublin) also. At one stage they all go out for a picnic to Dalkey Island and get marooned.
And they love Wisp to bits, as do I. She’s impossible not to. And, when revolution comes to Dublin, she saves their family, by being her very own Dublin street-kid self.
Such a lovely book! I wish there were a sequel. I want to read about Wisp grown up, and beautiful, naturally, and her future interactions with Foggy, the good-hearted butcher’s boy and Keith the stuffy Anglo-American prince who refers to her as ‘that little slum child’? Which one will she choose? Or neither; or no one at all? I must know :-( .
Team Foggy for the win btw; any man who cuts, at your request, a hole in the roof of your tenement so that you can see the stars from your bed, is surely a keeper…