Cursed! Blood of the Donnellys
Keith Ross Leckie
In the midst of the feuds and famine of Tipperary, Ireland in 1846, Jim Donnelly and Johannah McGee fall passionately in love. She is the beautiful daughter of an affluent estate manager, he the rebellious son of dispossessed peasants. With her father's men in pursuit and a sizeable price on Jim's head, they board a ship set for Canada to start a new life and put the troubles of the old country behind them.
Thousands of miles away in rural Ontario, they find the feuds and vendettas of Ireland are very much alive. Jim must make a place for his young family not just with his back, but with his fists.
Fifteen years later, the Donnelly family have become one of the most powerful in Lucan Township, loved by some and hated by others. Jim and Johannah's sons are notorious as both fighters and lovers and torment the townspeople, swinging shillelaghs, burning barns and seducing daughters.
But certain citizens of Lucan have had enough. At midnight on February 3, 1880, a mob of thirty armed men in women's clothing and carnival masks ride out for the Donnelly farm. Sustained by whisky and the blessings of the local priest, their goal is to wipe the Donnelly family from the face of the earth. Yet there is an eye witness and during the trial that follows, it becomes clear that in small town Ontario of the late 1800s, order is valued above truth. (From Douglas & McIntyre)
Keith Ross Leckie is a Toronto-based author and screenwriter who has worked in the film and television business as a dramatic scriptwriter for more than thirty years.
- The CBC Books 2020 summer reading list
- Keith Ross Leckie revisits the infamous 19th-century murder of the Black Donnellys in his novel Cursed!
"What I wanted to do with this novel was to bring this whole story to a younger and a more contemporary audience. I think what has been done about the Donnellys in the past was very melodramatic and two-dimensional in terms of showing what they were like. I wanted to get deeper into the characters.
I think what has been done about the Donnellys in the past was very melodramatic and two-dimensional in terms of showing what they were like.- Keith Ross Leckie
"My writing in the past has been primarily in dramatic television and I love historic fiction. The Donnelly story was one that I've thought about for so many years.
"When I was 11, my father — who grew up on a farm just west of London, Ont. — took me to Lucan. We went into a general store and he asked the proprietor about the Donnellys.
"The proprietor said, 'We don't talk about the Donnellys.'
"There was this level of hostility that I sensed as an 11-year-old that really had me intrigued. Many years, decades later, here I am writing a book about it and enjoying it. I'm trying to figure out where that tension came from."