The cover of the novel Six Counties Seven Sins features a photograph of the entrance door of Lisbane Church, located on the shores of Strangford Lough at Saltwater Brig. Lisbane Church was the model I used when creating fictional Béalbéar Church, where the final scene (among others) of the novel is set. As in the novel, the actual church is indeed only opened once a year on All Soul’s Day; however, in reality it is not the priest of Dunshane Cross who holds the key, but rather the barman of the adjacent The Saltwater Brig pub and restaurant.
Lisbane Church was featured in the 1991 Irish movie December Bride. Here is the trailer:
When writing the novel I strove to include as many sins as possible, not only the seven deadly ones. Of all these sins, the one which leads to the downfall of the protagonist is the sin of aspiring to achieve godhead. This occurs in the converted Anglican church, where we find the holy house transformed into a drug den. Mind altering substances constitute a desire to be god-like. This is in essence the same sin which led to the original fall of Mankind.
The novel is based on Crofton Croker’s short tale about the holy man who is lured from the monastery and off into the wood by the sweet singing of a little bird. He reemerges from the wood to find he has been dead for over an hundred years. How many brushes with death have you known? For my part, I have come within an inch of death perhaps a dozen times in my long life; some were medical emergencies, others were near-accidents, including the one that claims the protagonist’s life. I have often wondered in retrospect, when of an immaterialist state of mind, if perhaps I had died from one of those accidents, perhaps my soul had moved on to a self-deceptive mode of denial in an attempt to finish my unfinished business in life. This is not a new idea, but it is an interesting one.
On page 240 of the story, Pól’s letter home to his mum closes with some thoughts on the nature of reality. He cites Father Peadair as saying, “Our reasoning has a fundamental flaw, says he (Father Peadair ). Conventional wisdom has a misguided notion with regard to the true nature of reality, says he. History is not linear. The Hindus have it pegged. Life is a circle or perhaps a ball. ”
This notion of looking backward is part of many religions, including that of the pagan Celts. This principle is manifested in Celtic art knot artwork. It is widely believed that the civilization presented in the Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge and the book itself can be traced back to Greek civilization. Aristotle himself presented an argument in regard to first cause, saying that if the motive cause (one of his four, all of which are mentioned in the novel) of a chain of events is traced back to its alleged source, eventually one must reach something which caused an event but was not caused by any event itself, the source of which is often referred to by theologians as the unmoved mover or the prime mover. What Father Peadair proposes is that there was no first event, that reality (which to him as an immaterialist is the mind of the supreme being) has always existed and has no beginning nor end but rather weaves around without beginning or end. This theory does not reject the concept of causality, as did David Hume and others; it subordinates cause and effect to a role within a weaving chain that itself has no beginning nor end.
The Unwritten Rules vignette begins thus:
“In Chapter 10 of Saga of the Six Counties, Charles Francis Xavier Aloisius Mac Magnanimous, III, Esq. recounts how Sir Lawrence of Coldburg promised fealty to a certain Savage, only to betray him. Sir Lawrence later argued that his intentions were noble; however, what a man says he will do and what a man indeed does are often incongruent.”
The reference to the fictitious Sir Lawrence of Coldburg is a critical allusion to the moral theory of American psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg.
Every Saturday night, the Bourke Boys hold a sing song session in Brendan’s Byre. They wear butcher-like hats fashioned from birch (birk), thus their name the Bourke or Birk Boys. They are an allusion to Child Ballad #79, The Wife of Usher’s Well. In that ballad, the wife sends her three sons off to sea where they soon perish, only to return to her as apparitions wearing hats of birch bark.
From the ballad:
“It fell about the Martinmass,
When nights are lang and mirk,
The carlin wife’s three sons came hame,
And their hats were o the birk.”
“It neither grew in syke nor ditch,
Nor yet in ony sheugh;
But at the gates o Paradise,
That birk grew fair eneugh.”
The letter home from the story which was posted some time past is intended to be a humorous play on words, a misunderstanding of the historic “facts” Nick relates to Will in regard to the bull of Pope Adrian IV empowering Henry II to conquer Ireland, due in part to Nick’s flawed grasp of history and further complicated by the fact that Nick and Will have overindulged in alcohol during the course of their discussion. Will is under the impression that the bull is of the bovine variety. In the excerpt from the letter quoted below, I bolded the incorrect names and also added in parentheses their true references.
“Old Nick also mumbled on about Pope Hadrian (Adrian) the Fart (Fourth) from the Temple of the Flatulation (Church of the Flagellation), who donated to Ireland a papist (papal) bull with a ring in its neb (Adrian is said to have also handed Henry II an emerald ring as a symbol of his sovereignty over Ireland) and how John Sorcery (John of Salisbury) passed the ring minus the bull along to Henry the Sickened (Henry the Second) and he to Strongblow (Strongbow) and he in turn to de Corset (John de Courcy)…”