By Hook or by Crooke

The Harry Johnson Chronicles are well under way.

Book one, By Hook or by Crooke, is complete, but waiting that final edit, so it’s sitting on the shelf for another two weeks until I’m allowed to twiddle and fiddle with it once more.

The distance, I find helps.  It allows the glitches to grow more obvious to my scanning eyes, and close focus is virtually impossible now the story is so familiar to me.

It opens with a small historical preface of the area in which the book is set, and where, by all accounts from locals in the area, the above phrase originates.  From here we then enter the novel properly, so any thoughts on the opening page are welcomed.


Above: Gaultier View: the bend in the River Siúr from above Faithlegg, looking out to Passage East, and beyond to Hook Head

By Hooke or by Crooke

‘By Hook(e) or by Crooke’ etymologically originates in the Middle Ages, according to some sources, and refers to an ancient aspect of English Forest Law.  The forests were owned by the King, and interference with them in anyway, from common grazing, foraging, assarting, or harvesting any kind of wood, were all strictly regulated.  A man could often only gather what wood he could reach on the trees ‘by (use of his apple picker’s) hook(e) or (his shepherd’s) crook(e)…

 In the south-east of Ireland, two villages sit on opposite banks of an estuary, no more than a few miles apart.

 The first, a hamlet named Hook(e), retains a very old, but still functioning lighthouse, and boasts its origins as a protector of seafarers to the fifth century, when monks from Dubhán’s Monastery made their way to the headland tip, to light warning bonfires for seafarers of the time.

 The second village, Crooke, further into the estuary, has witnessed a multitude of invading forces.  From the early Vikings in 852, to Richard de Clare (‘Strongbow’), and Henry II, the first self-styled Norman ‘Lord of Ireland’, followed by John Lackland, that notorious money-grabber of Sherwood Forest lore, through to the largest invasion force ever to sully Ireland’s shores, accompanying the last of that Angevin line of Norman Kings, Richard II, in 1377, Crooke has played a pivotal role.

 Later, it is believed that Cromwell, on his way to seize the hitherto ‘untaken’ city of Waterford, uttered the promise that he would do the deed ‘by Hook or by Crooke’ … he did indeed proceed to land in Hook, and advance to Crooke.

 Etymology being what it is, nobody can say for certain what the origins of the phrase truly are, but as apple pickers and shepherds no longer concern themselves with the nuances of Forest Law, the denizens of Hook and Crooke perhaps will carry the phrase safely into the future and make of it their own.


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