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Orange Lily

The novel Orange Lily, originally published in 1879, is set in the area surrounding the small village of Carrowdore in County Down, Northern Ireland. Its eponymous heroine, Lily Keag, is a farmer’s daughter whose love for her childhood sweetheart, Tom Coulter, is thwarted by a class divide that few would have dared cross in nineteenth-century Ulster. She was dubbed ‘Orange Lily’ partly because of her reddish hair, but also because of her father’s position as Master of the ‘Ballyboly’ Orange Lodge. But beyond the story of the trials and tribulations of the star-crossed lovers is a wealth of social and linguistic history of the region, including the hierarchy from the ‘big house’ down, customs, beliefs, traditions, and Ulster-Scots vocabulary.

May Crommelin (1849-1930) was born at Carrowdore Castle and spent a good part of her formative years there. She travelled widely and wrote numerous novels and travel books, as well as short stories and articles for magazines. Her sympathy with the Orange dimension of local folk-culture is perhaps surprising, coming, as it does, from a ‘gentry’ perspective, and from an author who circulated among Victorian London’s literati (her sister was married to the poet laureate, John Masefield). But the Crommelin ancestors had been French Huguenots who first fought with King William III in 1690, and then settled in Ulster under his royal patronage, as May Crommelin was always proud to remind the world.

This new edition, edited, introduced and glossed by Dr Philip Robinson, also includes the short stories The Witch of Windy Hill and An Old Maid’s Marriage.


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