By Annika Kilkenny
“Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through”, Jonathan Swift.
Kilkenny author, Donal Cadogan, takes inspiration from his roots in A little book of Alice Kyteler as he delves deep into the darkness that is tied to the unexplainable occurrences of 14th century Ireland.
The author’s fifth publication follows Alice Kyteler, a local woman in the mediaeval town of Kilkenny, through her downfall at the hands of the Bishop of Ossory, Richard Ledrede. Cadogan mentions that we are fortunate to have, as a primary source document, an account of the events that had unfolded seven hundred years ago.
However, this source stands with strong bias against Alice Kyteler and her once reputable name.
The author writes that there are other sources from this period in time pieced together by historians that help flesh out and expand our understanding of the events that took place. Because of this, this “little book” contains an account of Alice Kytelers life as a wealthy business woman through efficient and factual execution.
Donal Cadogan illustrates the lifestyle, the socio-economic relations and the inner workings of an heiress who seemed to have freely found her way to the centre of Kilkenny’s most influential and powerful social circle in an intriguing stylistic approach.
Through use of topical subdivision, Cadogan depicts Alice Kyteler’s story through an account of her four marriages, an objective introduction to Richard Ledrede and Petronella De Meath along with the process of accusation and proceedings carried out against Kyteler.
I found that this categorising of subjects in which there stood a common theme was easy to consume whilst keeping us effortlessly engaged with the story at hand.
The author also considers the aftermath of the incidents that occurred as a result of the harsh accusations placed on Alice Kytelers’ name.
Tied into the seams of this telling book abundant in rich Irish history, we are additionally shown thorough clarification of significant topics that are mentioned within the core story. These enlightening reports included information on ‘Women and property in mediaeval Ireland’, ‘The Templars’, ‘Avignon Papacy’, ‘Jurisdiction’ in relation to where Ledrede held power over Kyteler and, finally, ‘Witchcraft’. With the implementation of defining these vital talking points, the book became immediately unchallenging to follow and appreciate.
Cadogan’s narration of a tale that Kilkenny holds close to its heart was educational, efficient and an effortlessly enjoyable read.
Although we sit in sadness to learn that Richard Ledrede’s cobwebs caught small, but equally as valid and important flies, we can only wonder where the wasp that stands as the skeleton of this story had ended up.
Is it possible that she remained hidden under Ledrede’s nose?
Or even above him, on a broom. ?
NOTE: The Kilkenny Observer came across a very interesting programme of ‘Witch Hunt’ a three act play produced by Fr Seamus McEvoy at The Presentation Convent in Kilkenny in 1968. The play told the story of Alice Kyteler.
Cast included: May Walshe, Nicholas Halley, Angela Moylan, Mary O’Mahony, Gerard Dooley, Joseph O’Carroll, Donal O’Brien, Tony Patterson, Michael Shine and Bob Morrison.
A little book of Alice Kyteler by Donal Cadogan is available in Kilkenny bookshops.