A Wistful Eye: The Tragedy of a Titanic Shipwright


A professionally produced book, The Wistful Eye is a fascinating and enjoyable story with a lot of research included, as it not only encompasses Kelly’s family history but also the local, national, and international events of the early twentieth century.

The story follows Kelly’s ancestor through the trials and tribulations of Belfast’s poorer Protestant areas. William Henry Kelly, his wife Belle, and their small family are beset by tragedy and hardship—some of their own making—until one final tragedy changes William Henry’s life forever.

He is a skilled caulker, working on the White Star Line’s fleet at Harland and Wolff’s shipyards where the Titanic was built. Their surviving children have left home and begun their own lives as adults, making their way as best they can in the hard times of pre-war Ireland.

More tragedy strikes and William Henry is imprisoned. The story then follows world events through snatches of newspaper clippings. I felt that the author didn’t seem to have much material with regards to William Henry’s imprisonment, because there’s little to write regarding the day-to-day boredom of incarceration, so weaving news reports of a rapidly approaching Great War was a clever way of embedding historical facts in the story.

I found a few errors—two of the main characters’ names were misspelled, (Beasant/Besant; Belle/belle) and the word ‘now’ was overused in places—but if there were more than a few, I didn’t notice because the story was engaging. Another proofread to catch these small slip-ups would help, but this was a thoroughly enjoyable read with some facts about Irish history that I was not aware of.

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(UK) £7.99

(UK) 9781781760116




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