How could it happen that an Irish writer who wrote 40 novels between 1912-1948 does not appear in our Dictionary of National Biography? (This is a rhetorical question….)
Mrs Victor Rickard, formerly Jessica Louisa Moore, was the author of over forty popular novels and other non- fiction works. One of her books, The Story of the Munsters is a tribute to the soldiers of the Royal Munster Fusiliers who took part in the Great War. UCD Special Collections holds a copy of this book which describes various engagements of the regiment and the heroism of the soldiers.
The writer’s husband, Victor Rickard was an officer in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers. He died at the battle of Aubers Ridge in May 1915. The book is dedicated to him. Some of the chapters had been published in the magazines New Ireland and The Sphere. The book contains wonderful illustrations which depict the harsh reality of war.
One of these images is that by the artist Matania which shows Fr. Francis Gleeson giving general absolution to the 2nd battalion of the Munster Fusiliers at Rue Du Bois on 8th May 1915. Colonel Victor Rickard, the writer’s husband, features in this painting. He was killed the following day.
“Father Gleeson mounted, Colonel Rickard and Captain Filgate were in the centre and in that wonderful twilight Father Gleeson gave a General Absolution. There are many journeys and many stopping place in the strange pilgrimage we call life, but there is no other such journey in the world as the journey up a road on the eve of battle and no stopping place more holy than a way side shrine. The men who prayed there were, very few of them, the men of the original Battalion. Gaps had been filled again and again, and most of the Munsters who fought the next day were newly come from Ireland and new to that life. Lads from Kerry and Cork, who, a year before had never dreamed of marching in the ranks of the British Army.”
‘I rode on my horse. Gave Absolution to Batt. during rest on road opposite La Couten Church between shrines of “N.D. de la Bonne Mort” & another shrine we have another rest. The men will sing Hymns esp. “Hail Glorious St. Patrick”. I go further up – near the trenches & bid goodbye to all. So sad!!’
This copy has a pasted in dedication to and photograph of Patrick Donaghy who was a member of the Royal Munster Fusiliers who died on 7th March 1919 – presumably from injuries sustained during the war.
In the preface to the book, Mrs Victor Rickard thanks Clement Shorter, the editor of The Sphere in which she had published some extracts from the book. The library of the same Clement Shorter was given to UCD Special Collections in memory of his first wife Dora Sigerson. It is possible that this book came from this Sigerson-Shorter collection. Dora Sigerson was also a poet and writer, who thankfully has made it into the Dictionary of Irish Biography.
Mrs Victor Rickard is not completely forgotten. She is featured on Wikipedia and on a blog about crime fiction. Her patriotism is mentioned in a 2015 book entitled Irish literature and the First World War: culture, identity and memory by Terry Philips. When she died in 1963 the London Times described her as ‘a women of swift and incisive wit’. However, given the volume of her work over such a long period of time, it remains a mystery as to why she is not more renowned today.