A Lost Tribe
By: William King
A Lost Tribe is a novel that charts the role of the priest in Ireland, from his exalted position to one of an endangered species. The seminarians at St Paul’s watch the opening of Vatican II, transfixed by the procession of bishops ‘vested in flowing robes’. Seduced by the power emanating from Rome and inspired by the vision of the Vatican Council, these young men sacrifice their instincts to a life in the priesthood.
The dream collapses when the Irish Church becomes unwilling to evolve with a rapidly mutating world and unable to wield the power it once had. As people begin to think for themselves, the priest no longer exists as the final arbiter of right and wrong, the moral stronghold of the community. Unable to cope with the pressures of ministry and no longer fulfilled by their call, many abandon their vocation to seek a new life.
Mac, a spirited young student, is disillusioned with the inadequacy of his seminary training and is expelled for a tryst, while timid fellow priests share remedies for the collective loneliness of their vocation. King’s daring novel offers an insight into the conflicted life of the priest in Ireland struggling with the demands of a self-selected lifestyle and the isolation of clerical celibacy. A Lost Tribe is a poignant study of an altered society.
William King was born in Kilflynn, County Kerry, in 1945. He studied at University College Dublin and Holy Cross College, Clonliffe, and is parish priest at Rathmines. He is the author of novels The Strangled Impulse (1997, 2014), Swansong (2001), Leaving Ardglass (2008) and Is That All There Is (2013).