Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tea and Green Ribbons by Evelyn Doyle

Fighting for His Kids (Irish Week)

Tea and Green Ribbons is a memoir by Evelyn Doyle based on the true struggle of a father attempting to get his kids back from the church-run industrial schools in Ireland during the 1950s.  Dessie’s wife ran away with her lover, leaving him with six small kids. Who knows, maybe she suffered from ephebiphobia, a fear of teenagers. Maybe she was a planner, and decided to get out while the going was good before the real suffering started. Left with no other options, Dessie temporarily placed the kids in state-run convents so he could find work.  The convents were alternative care facilities designated for orphaned kids or kids whose parents were unable to care for them. 

Dessie then went to England in an effort to find work so he could raise money to support his kids. Months later he returned to a position back in Ireland, but when he tried to claim his daughter, he was told he could not legally take her out of the convent.  In order to be released, both parents had to apply to the court.  It didn’t matter that their mother had abandoned them.  They didn’t even know where she was. And so his two-year legal battle began.

Through courage and tenacity, he kept appealing to the courts until it reached the supreme court of Ireland. The fact that he had an English, Protestant “housekeeper” ready to take care of the kids, didn’t help his cause.  There was great animosity towards the English. He might just as well have lined up an axe murderer as a babysitter.  Evelyn herself did not like her new “mammy” as her dad called her and was told not to let anyone know Jessie was more than a housekeeper.  This complicated matters as well as the fact that the longer the kids stayed in the industrial schools, the more familiar and acclimated they became to their new homes.  They made friends who would be difficult to leave. The end of the book details the court scenes in what had become a very high-profile case.

I was touched by this father’s determination to get his kids back against the odds.  It’s a remarkable story. Although the end court scenes seemed to be a bit lengthy, they are essential to the book, and the book was definitely worthwhile. This book was made into the 2002 movie called “Evelyn,” starring Pierce Brosnan, Aidan Quinn, and Julianna Margulies.

What’s your favorite book set in Ireland? Enter a comment or email me at and I will post your answer.

Happy Reading,

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