Ned Hickey: A Hero of Two Revolutions by John O'Neill by John O'Neill - Read Online

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Ned Hickey - John O'Neill

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A hero of two revolutions

A script-novel adapted by




by William Nolan


Smashwords Edition

Copyright © John O’Neill 2012

Published December 2012 by:

John O’Neill


Formatted by Peter Harris at the New Leaf Network bindery,

Kaiwaka, New Zealand. Cover design by Peter Harris.

Editing, book and cover design,

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This story is written for readers who love to dream, to imagine - scenes, faces, settings and yet do need a story on which to hang their vision of how the earth moves for ordinary humans in extraordinary times or circumstances.

It is not a screenplay in the approved format required by the production units of the film industry, the minimalist offering on which is let loose the horde of specialists who turn out a film which may have little in common with the original.

Neither is it a novel in the conventional and perhaps outworn form in which the author defines every thought, action, scene to impress her visions on the acquiescent and passive reader.

Each format has its place but there is space between for those who would enjoy creating their personal special mental images on and between the story. It then becomes theirs in a way that is encouraged not barred. The flesh with which you, the reader, clothe the skeleton is uniquely you.

There will be as many Ned Hickeys, Betsy Mahers, Robert Proctors, Sir Philip Butlers, Thomas Jeffersons as there are readers. I look forward to hearing from all of them and you via my blog. Enjoy.

John O'Neill

Kaiwaka, NZ

December 2012


By John O'Neill

Adapted from the novel They First Arose

by William Nolan


FX. Sounds of horse traffic on cobbled streets. Distant fife band music. Holiday atmosphere.

Large period desk in window light. Candles, inkwells, quill-pens. Camera from POV (Point of View) of seated man, scans desk. Examines the newspaper - Philadelphia Courier, July 4, 1826. Notes headline - 50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE. Passes on to an opened letter. An old man's hand picks up the letter.


(off-screen (OS) as camera scans the letter)

Monticello, Virginia. June 29, 1826.

My dear Hickey,

On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, I recall all the gallant and noble men who made that declaration a reality. Many have gone to their reward, as I will shortly, but you, I understand, remain in vigorous good health. May you long retain it for surely health is our greatest blessing with the possible exception of freedom. This scribbled message will convey to you my deepest appreciation of the service of which you and few others are aware and heartfelt thanks of

Thomas Jefferson

Postscript. I am told that you and your good wife will be feted on Independence Day at the City Hall of Philadelphia. May it be an occasion to rejoice in your life's achievements which deserve to be recorded as an inspiration to those who follow. Perhaps you can be persuaded to see to it?


Ned falls into reverie, remembering and reliving the course of the life which has brought him to this point.


I've spent the last twenty years trying to forget. Now he wants me to go over all the ancient history. Posterity won't give a damn, of course, but maybe it's time I rattled old bones if only for my own understanding. But, where to start?

He opens a drawer, takes out an old cross and holds it in the palm of his hand, idly and unconsciously stroking it with his thumb.


1770, it must have been, almost 60 years ago, when I first left home....



NARRATOR (VO)(contd) ...

Thirteen years old and out into the world to work my way. There was little choice then and none at all for my father, the poor destroyed man. He had no hope left for himself but tried to give me the chance that had been denied him.

Proctor, an elderly but sprightly tenant-farmer, is busy amid a heap of rough-cut stones, building a wall for a new out-house. A man and a boy approach his gate and enter. The man is of middle age, tall, thin and melancholy. The boy is almost as tall but gangly and dressed in clothes long outgrown and with no shoes.


Well, if it isn't James Hickey. How are you, James, and who have you traveling with you?


I'm well indeed, Mr Proctor, and this is my son Ned I spoke to you about. Say hello to Mr Proctor, Ned.


I'm pleased to meet you, sir.


You look a likely lad, Ned. Had some schooling, your father tells me. But how about work? Have you been out working yet?


I help me father at times when he gets work at Ballintemple, building the new walls around the estate for Lord Butler.


Do you indeed? Maybe you can help me then to lift this brute of a stone I need to finish the course and make a corner? I was set to build a ramp and slide it up but maybe the two of us?

Ned sets himself, crouches, lifts the rock up and rests it on his knees. Then, with a smooth lift up to his chest and lowers it into its place on the wall. His father smiles. Proctor gapes.


It looks like you've got the job, lad. If we're all agreed you'd better come along and meet Mrs Proctor.


I'll be leaving you, son. Work well for your new master. I have no doubt he will be more than fair with you. Sure, we'll see you on the Sundays.

James turns to walk away. Then, on an afterthought, he comes back. He takes a worn wooden cross on a leather necklace from his pocket and gives it to Ned.


This is all I have left of your poor mother. She would have wanted you to have it.

He pats Ned on the shoulder and takes his leave. Ned stuffs the cross in his pocket in some embarrassment. Proctor leads Ned to the door of the farmhouse where his wife Rebecca is waiting with their servant-girl.


Rebecca, this is Ned Hickey who will be working for us. Will you see to him and set up a bed for him in the tackroom, seeing that it is the driest place we've got? And maybe you might find a pair of boots big enough? And maybe an extra shirt? And a trousers?


Anything else you can think of, Robert Proctor?


No, no, I don't think so. Have I forgotten something? Yes, indeed I have. Ned, this is Betsy Maher who, small and all as she is, does a power of work around the place and allows Mrs Proctor all the time she needs for her prayers and good works.

He winks cheerfully at