Writing under the pen name Kate Black, Angela Doyle’s novel Under The Clock looks at the lives of a lesbian couple at a time when society was not as accepting as it is now. By turns touching, thought-provoking and humorous, the book is an encapsulation of Angela’s talent and an insight into the human condition, but its publishing also stands as a testament to the love and tenacity of Angela’s partner, Colette Byrne.
Angela and Colette were partners for over 12 years. In 2009, while the couple were planning their wedding, Angela passed away. Before she died, Colette made three promises to her love; that she would take care of her cat, Charlie, take care of their dog, Milly, and get Angela’s book published.
Charlie lived to a fine age, passing in 2017 at the age of 19 and Milly enjoyed a long and happy life. Keeping her promise to have the book published would prove to be more difficult. But Angela had obviously known her well, because Colette did not give up.
The book had been a constant in their lives. When they met, Angela was already writing it and she would continue to work on it throughout their relationship. Colette explained, “She dedicated it to me and gave it to me in 2003 for my birthday but it was simply a manuscript. She sent it to a publisher who told her to pare it back a bit. She put it away and said ‘maybe someday’.”
A while after Angela’s passing, Colette began the journey to get her partner’s words into the world, sending the manuscript on to publishers. “During the intervening years kept coming back to it - my promise to her that would publish it. I was getting rejections, some said ‘You can vanity publish it (pay for it to be printed yourself) and it would cost about 12 thousand’. I said ‘She’s worth 12 million but don’t have 12 thousand’.”
While the struggle with publishers continued, help was on the way from a source close to the author’s heart. Angela was a proud Mayo woman and Colette would find in the county’s lesbian community champions in helping her realise her goal.
“I was washing dishes in the kitchen one day and heard Ray Darcy on the radio saying something about a self-published book. By sheer coincidence, that day was going to see the women in Mayo. It was in my head, so when met up with them brought up the subject of the book.” The women were adamant that they had to band together to get Under The Clock published. This was a story about their community. “This was a story about us.”
“Cynthia (Silva) said ‘a friend of ours might be able to help – Dora Murphy’. Cynthia gave me her number and phoned her.” Dora offered to format the book and help push things forward. Colette explained, “She was so sensitive, she was wonderful. It wasn’t a commercial thing for her, it was a commitment to our community.”
While only a few names are mentioned here, it’s important to note that the book’s acknowledgements section contains mentions of many folk who were indispensable in its journey including Colette’s youngest son, Conor Fallon, who was responsible for the cover design.
As the book continued its journey, Colette in turn continued to keep Angela in mind. “I remember standing in my kitchen one day, it was the beginning of June, and looked up at the sky and said ‘Angela, would you ever get that book out’. Suddenly, on gay Pride weekend, 2018, Conor texted me and said ‘It’s up on Kindle’. I was so pleased it happened.”
The journey had taken nine years.
Angela’s novel will have a public reading in Books Upstairs on May 19. Colette’s nephew, Brendan Courtney, will be on hand to greet attendees and Ann Marie Keenan is doing the reading. Colette is understandably emotional about events. “This is her legacy, this is her voice. What she’s left is a beautiful sociological story about the west of Ireland in the mid ‘90s, with a relationship between two women. I know I’m biased, but think it’s beautiful.
“A friend of hers said to me - ‘I just had to keep putting it down as kept crying because kept hearing her. I heard her voice.”
The content of the book was almost ahead of its time when Angela first wrote it, as Colette continues, “At the time, that was a very brave book to write. It’s out now and I’m just so proud of her. She was wonderful, she was vivacious, she was funny, she was wise. And now people will hear what she has to say.”
The public reading of ‘Under The Clock’ will take place in Books Upstairs on May 19 where copies will be available to buy. It can also be purchased through Amazon.