The Canal Bridge
By: Tom Phelan
‘… a lad could be sent to any place in the world, to any spot in the empire on which the sun never set, an empire with huge mountains and lakes with no bottoms to them; waterfalls a mile high; rivers a hundred miles across where they floated into the sea …’
Ireland 1913, on the eve of the First World War. Matt Wrenn and Con Hatchel, inseparable friends, join the British army in search of escape, adventure, the wonder of exotic lands, and the security of regular money in their pockets. To some they are making something of their lives; to others, they are traitors to Ireland.
As they sail to their first posting in India, they find themselves diverted to France- to the fields ‘made liquid by the blood and guts of boy soldiers’. For four years Con and Matt become part of the terrible savagery of the Somme, Ypres and Passchendaele. Back home in the Irish Midlands, Con’s sister and Matt’s sweetheart, Kitty, recalls their carefree childhood on the banks of the local canal, and hopes for a future after the war. But as the lads battle for survival amidst the horror of the trenches, the Easter Rising begins to cast divisive shadows across the country.
A visceral, lyrical evocation of the physical and emotional devastation of the First World War, The Canal Bridge is a compelling story of friendship, love and tragedy that lingers long in the memory.
TOM PHELAN is author of the novels In the Season of the Daisies, Iscariot and Derrycloney. He was born and raised on a farm outside Mountmellick, County Laois, and he now lives in Long Island, New York.