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The 13th Apostle: A Novel of a Dublin Family, Michael Collins, and the Irish Uprising

The 13th Apostle: A Novel of a Dublin Family, Michael Collins, and the Irish Uprising

by Dermot McEvoy




The story—both romantic and terrifying—of how a handful of men, armed with nothing more than handguns and guts, forced the greatest nation in the world from their shores.

On Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, the first great revolution of the twentieth century began as working-class men and women occupied buildings throughout Dublin, Ireland, including the general post office on O’Connell Street. Among the commoners in the GPO was a young staff captain of the Irish Volunteers named Michael Collins. He was joined a day later by a fourteen-year-old messenger boy, Eoin Kavanagh. Four days later they would all surrender, but they had struck the match that would burn Great Britain out of Ireland for the first time in seven hundred years.

The 13th Apostle is the reimagined story of how Michael Collins, along with his young acolyte Eoin, transformed Ireland from a colony into a nation. Collins’s secret weapon was his intelligence system and his assassination squad, nicknamed “The Twelve Apostles.” On November 21, 1920, the squad—with its thirteenth member, young Eoin—assassinated the entire British Secret Service in Dublin. Twelve months and sixteen days later, Collins signed the Treaty at 10 Downing Street, which brought into being what is, today, the Republic of Ireland.

An epic novel in the tradition of Thomas Flanagan’s The Year of the French and Leon Uris’s Trinity, The 13th Apostle is a story that will capture the imagination and hearts of freedom-loving readers everywhere.

Skyhorse Publishing, as well as our Arcade, Yucca, and Good Books imprints, are proud to publish a broad range of books for readers interested in fiction—novels, novellas, political and medical thrillers, comedy, satire, historical fiction, romance, erotic and love stories, mystery, classic literature, folklore and mythology, literary classics including Shakespeare, Dumas, Wilde, Cather, and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626365612
Publisher: Skyhorse
Publication date: 02/04/2014
Pages: 592
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 2.00(d)

About the Author

Dermot McEvoy was born in Dublin in 1950 and immigrated with his family to New York City four years later. He is a graduate of Hunter College and the author of of three novels, THE 13TH APOSTLE, OUR LADY OF GREENWICH VILLAGE, and TERRIBLE ANGEL. He is also the author of IRISH MISCELLANY and THE LITTLE GREEN BOOK OF IRISH WISDOM. He is a frequent contributor IrishCentral.com. He lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Read an Excerpt


"Johnny Three," an ancient, gravelly voice said. "It's time to come get me. Now." Then the phone went dead.

Eoin Kavanagh III — known as Johnny Three to everyone — knew it was his grandfather's way of summoning him back to Dublin for the final farewell. "I have to go to Dublin," Kavanagh said to his wife, Diane. "I think I should go alone."

"I'm coming," his wife said, and Kavanagh was smart enough not to argue this time.

When the flight from New York landed, they headed to the old man's house in Dalkey. "I don't like this," Johnny Three remarked to his wife as their taxi swung to the southside of Dublin Bay.


"It's October 16th."


"Michael Collins's birthday," replied Johnny. "You know the old man."

"He's picked his death day," Diane exclaimed, shocked.

"Yes, he has."

When they arrived at the house, Bridie, his grandfather's longtime housekeeper, opened the door. "I shouldn't have," she said, then repeated, "I shouldn't have."

"Are you alright, Bridie?" asked Johnny Three as Diane took the distraught woman by the arm.

Johnny Three heard a ruckus from the bedroom above. He knew that his grandfather, the original Eoin Kavanagh, would not go out quietly. "Bless my ancient HOLE," he heard his grandfather say.

"I shouldn't have called the priest," said Bridie as a curate, purple stole flying about him, came running down the stairs.

"He's incorrigible," the harassed man said as he removed the stole and kissed the cross on the back.

"Thank you, Father," said Bridie.

"Incorrigible," said the priest to Johnny and Diane.

"Contrary," corrected the grandson.

"Whatever!" the priest said as he exited the house.

Johnny chuckled at the priest's distress and hit the stairs, followed by his wife. "How are you, grandpa?"

The old man looked up, and his eyes brightened as he surveyed his only grandchild. "Not good," he said, motioning the couple toward his bed, which had a panoramic view of Dublin Bay and Dalkey Island.

The younger Kavanagh reached down and kissed his grandfather on the forehead. "Did you make your peace, grandpa?" he said.

"Peace my arse," said Eoin. "Bloody priests never change." The grandfather shooed his grandson away and motioned for Diane to come to him. "How are you, dear?" he said as he kissed her hand and then patted her gently on her round Presbyterian rump.

"Oh, grandpa," she said and started to cry.

"There, there," he said and patted her bottom again as he looked at his grandson and smiled. Johnny Three turned away so his wife wouldn't see him smile. Death was banging on the door, but the old rebel kept petting Diane's caboose.

The old man was crazy about Diane Kavanagh. Even after bearing three children, she was still a remarkably beautiful and fit woman. She had gorgeous brown hair, dancing blue eyes, and one of the most remarkable bottoms God had ever created. "How did an eejit like you end up with a woman of that caliber?" he liked to chide his grandson.

"She fell in love with you," he replied with some truth, "but she married me."


"Yes, son."

"Should I follow your wishes?"

"Yes," said Eoin. "To the letter." He looked intently at his grandson. "I have a surprise for you."

"You're leaving me the house?"

"Who else would I leave it to? You're the last real Kavanagh."

"How about the Church or the State?" A negative smile gave the answer. "What's the surprise?"

"You'll see." With that, the old man serenely laid his head on the pillow and closed his eyes.

"Is he?" asked Diane with concern.

Johnny Three was a little more cynical. "I wouldn't bet on it," he said.

Suddenly Eoin's eyes shot open, and he urgently motioned the grandson to his side.

"Yes, grandpa."

"Fook," he said, suddenly having trouble forming words.

"Fuck?" repeated Johnny.

"Fook Eddie de Valera."

The old man was defiant to the end. Then, by a blink of his eyes, he asked his grandson to come closer. "How did he do it?" he said in a whisper.

"Who?" said Johnny.

"How the fook did Mick Collins pull it off?"

"I don't know, grandpa."

"Neither do I, son." A single tear rolled down Eoin Kavanagh's cheek. "My God, I loved that man." His eyes slowly closed.

"Oh, Johnny, he's gone." Johnny took his wife in his arms and hugged her as hard as he could. "He's gone," she said again. With that, Diane heard the loudest laugh she had heard in a long time. Johnny Three was doubled over. "What are you doing?"

"I'm giving the old man," he said, catching his breath, "the sendoff he deserves."

* * *


Johnny Three read the Irish Times headline and smiled. He handed it back to the army officer the Taoiseach, the Irish prime minister, had sent over to set up the viewing in the rotunda of Dublin's City Hall.

Eoin Kavanagh lay in a simple box. He was dressed in his Volunteer's uniform. The man hadn't gained a pound since 1916.

"Can I have a moment alone?" Johnny asked the officer. He straightened the tricolor on the bottom half of the coffin and looked at his grandfather. The old man still wore a beard, and his head of Paul O'Dwyer-esque white hair — the closest thing to an Irish halo — was still full. He had insisted on being viewed in the City Hall because that was where his boss, Michael Collins, had lain in state after he was killed in 1922. You couldn't mention the name of Eoin Kavanagh without people saying that he was The Big Fellow's personal bodyguard — or perhaps something more. Sometimes, with an unsettling gleam in his eye, Eoin would refer to himself as "Mick's Thirteenth Apostle," never elaborating. The old man knew his place in history, and even in death, he wanted to be sure he got all he had coming to him — right down to the twenty-one gun salute at Glasnevin, where he would be buried in the army cemetery, right next to General Collins.

"I think I need a drink," said Kavanagh to the officer. "I'll be back in a while." Johnny went down the front steps of the City Hall into Cork Hill. He swung into Palace Street at one of the Dublin Castle side gates and headed down Dame Lane, which would take him across South Great Georges Street and into Dame Court. He and the old man had walked this narrow street many times as Eoin told him how he and Collins would often case English touts to the gates of the Castle itself, then retreat to the Stag's Head for a drink.

At night, the Stag's Head was a madhouse, but, in the daytime, it was serene — one of the most beautiful Victorian pubs in Dublin. Johnny Three was first brought there by his grandfather during his summer visits in the late 1960s and '70s.

* * *

The death of Jack Kennedy had taken a lot out of the old man — for a while. It was like losing Collins again. Eoin Kavanagh was the only member of Congress to travel with Kennedy on his trip to Ireland in 1963. They had sat with the Taoiseach, Seán Lemass, and regaled Kennedy with stories of 1916, the War of Independence, and being Michael Collins's personal bodyguard. Although Kavanagh and Jack Lemass had been on opposite sides in the Irish Civil War, they had remained friends, even after Kavanagh left Ireland in 1922 and went to America. During World War II, Congressman Kavanagh served as Lemass's personal intermediary with Eoin's long-time friend, Franklin Roosevelt, during Ireland's "Emergency." Kennedy had marveled at the close relationship between Lemass and Kavanagh and noticed that the Congressman never uttered a word to President de Valera, Lemass's mentor, who was sitting on the same dais. It brought a smile to Kennedy's face — he knew all about the Irish and their grudges.

After Kennedy died, Lemass had phoned. "Come back to Ireland," he told his old friend. And he did: Kavanagh ran for the Dáil as an independent in the South Dublin district he had been born in and ended up sitting in the opposition aisle to his friend, the Taoiseach. "You're nothing but a troublemaker," Lemass laughed after Eoin Kavanagh was sworn in as a Teachtaí Dála (TD): Deputy to the Dáil, the Irish parliament.

"Jack," Kavanagh deadpanned, "how could you t'ink such a thing?" (Eoin had known Lemass even before he Gaelicized his first name, for political reasons, to Seán. To Eoin, he would always be plain old Jack.)

And a troublemaker he was. In 1971, after Lemass died, Deputy Kavanagh began running guns to the North after internment without trial was instituted by the British government. When Liam Cosgrave became Taoiseach in 1974, he was indicted. He refused to resign his seat in Dáil Éireann and stood trial, where he proudly declared his guilt — and was found innocent by a jury of his delighted peers. "This is a great day for Ireland," Kavanagh declared on the steps of the Four Courts, where he and his wife of fifty-two years stood before the assembled media, "and a bad day for Liam Cosgrave and those other Fine Gail eunuchs who are trying to turn the Irish government into the subservants of the British imperialists! What a bunch of pussies! Mick Collins would be appalled!" When infuriated, the New Yorker in Eoin Kavanagh had a tendency to surface with a bang. Mrs. Kavanagh looked straight into the gutter, hoping her feminist friends back in New York would not see the smile on her face.

Johnny Three had been with him when he crossed paths with Eamon de Valera for the last time. It was at a function at the Gresham Hotel in O'Connell Street in June 1975, just months before Dev's death. The two old antagonists had literally bumped into each other at the reception. De Valera, blind as a bat, was as sharp as ever. "Eoin Kavanagh," he said, looking down at the diminutive Kavanagh, "I see young, respectable Cosgrave doesn't like you." Dev had had his own run-ins with the father, W.T. Cosgrave, during the Civil War.

"Well, Chief," said Eoin, "neither did his old man!" De Valera laughed, enjoying his first conversation with Kavanagh since 1922. "God be with you, Eoin Kavanagh."

De Valera wasn't going to get off that easy. "Chief," Eoin said.


"Mick was right."

De Valera looked down with unseeing eyes through his thick glasses and sighed. "Perhaps," he responded. "Perhaps."

"God bless, Chief," were the last words Eoin Kavanagh said to his former antagonist.

De Valera slowly moved through the room on his way out. "Look," said Eoin to Johnny Three. De Valera had extended his supine hands to the side, like the Blessed Virgin Mary, so people could touch him. "Look at that old bastard work the room!" said Eoin with genuine admiration. "Goddamn it, Johnny, Jack Kennedy couldn't have done it better." Eoin Kavanagh appreciated political talent when he saw it.

* * *

Diane joined Johnny Three at the Stag's Head. "Man, you look good," he said as he rubbed her hip, sliding his hands across the back of her black mourning dress.

"Poor grandpa," said Diane, "and you're feeling me up."

"Funerals make me horny," said Johnny. "It must be something to do with stiffs."

"You Kavanagh men are all alike!"

His cell phone rang. It was the City Hall. The Taoiseach had arrived for the trip to the Pro-Cathedral for the funeral mass. "Time to go, honey. Bertie's waiting for us."

Diane and Johnny retraced their steps back along Dame Lane to the City Hall. When he got to the coffin, Bertie Ahern, the Taoiseach, was waiting for him.

"My condolences," said Ahern in a flat Northside Dublin accent.

The old man never could stand Ahern. But like him or not, Eoin Kavanagh had insisted the Taoiseach and the American ambassador show up. He figured it was the least they could do. The Irish president and head of state, Mary McAleese, would also join them at the Pro-Cathedral for the funeral. Johnny Three introduced Diane, then told Ahern: "My grandfather would be proud that the Taoiseach of a free Irish nation had the time to attend his funeral. Let's get moving."

Johnny watched as they closed the lid on the old man for the last time. The soldiers hoisted the narrow pine box on their shoulders and slowly marched out of City Hall and down the front steps, then carefully lowered the casket and placed it in the old-fashioned, horse-drawn glass hearse for its short trip to the cathedral on Marlborough Street. The black horses snorted and snapped their heads, making their funeral plumes dance a spastic jig. The old hearse was Eoin's idea, perhaps remembering the Dublin of his youth, when his Mammy, younger brother, and infant sister had prematurely made this same, sad trip to Glasnevin Cemetery.

Johnny Three and Diane climbed into the trailing limousine with the Taoiseach and the ambassador. Slowly they followed the hearse as it made its way down Dame Street. Citizens stopped in their tracks, stood at attention, and removed caps as the old rebel began his final journey. Johnny looked around for a banshee, without success.

First they came to South Great Georges Street, and it reminded Johnny that his great-grandfather's barber shop, set up by Michael Collins himself, was only a few blocks away on Aungier Street. To the left, they passed Temple Lane, where his great-grandmother had lived before she married in 1900. Further up was Crow Street and building number three, where Eoin had worked in Collins's intelligence office, compiling the dossiers that would culminate in the assassination of the British Secret Service in Dublin in November 1920.

Suddenly there was a dry lump in Johnny Three's throat, and the color left his face. Diane asked if he was alright, and he shook his head. Then he knew what it was — the body of Eoin Kavanagh was slowly drawing him back to another time: a time of sickness, revolution — and freedom. As he followed his grandfather's casket, he was slowly, but ineluctably, being transported back to his grandfather's time — the terrifying rebel Dublin of 1916.


Easter Monday April 24, 1916

The hacking cough of his mother woke Eoin Kavanagh from his holiday sleep.

Morning was Eoin's favorite time of the day. He knew it was the only time you could talk to God, and when He might have time to listen. But that persistent cough kept interrupting his conversations of late.

Another hack. Eoin winced.

The cough was getting worse by the day. He had seen his mother spit blood into a dish rag just the other day and then toss it in the dust bin, turning to see if anyone had caught her. She didn't know he'd been watching. She had lost so much weight — gone were the round hips and the full bust.

She was disappearing before his eyes.

It was the consumption, he had heard the neighbors whisper. Rosanna Kavanagh was being consumed by it, whatever it was. Although Eoin was only fourteen, he was no fool. He knew his mother was a goner, and it broke his heart.

It was his brother Charlie's fault. It really was. If he hadn't died last year, maybe Mammy wouldn't have gotten sick. Diphtheria was the word they'd used for Charlie when all was said and done. He died down the lane at the Adelaide Hospital. Dead as a doornail, and they had trouble breaking the Glasnevin turf in January as they laid Charlie in his lonely grave. But Eoin knew that Charlie would not be lonely for long.

The last couple of years had been hard on all the Kavanaghs. Gone were the happy, prosperous days at 40 Camden Row. Bad times had caused Da to lose his hairdressing business, and it was now a move a year as the finances continued to crumble. Handouts from the St. Vincent de Paul Society, neighbors, and relatives had barely kept the family afloat. His father prayed for the odd haircutting job, just to make a few bob. They had gone from the comfort of Camden Row to Golden Lane and the terrible, filthy Piles Buildings. More truth than mirth in that terrible name.

Eoin heard that the buildings had been named after a "Lady Pile." He didn't know if it was truth or only the locals having a laugh. "We're stuck at the bottom," was his father's joke, which always embarrassed his pious mother. But the joke was on them, with six Kavanaghs crammed into two small rooms. A cold-water scullery the size of a closet completed the flat. The water closet was outside on the landing, shared with neighbors. He learned early on that a piss-pot under the bed was often a boy's best friend.

When his frustration overwhelmed him and he couldn't take it anymore, Eoin's father would declare, "These buildings are a sore on the arse of St. Patrick's Cathedral!"

Eoin couldn't understand it either. There, just across the road, was the jewel of the Church of Ireland, St. Patrick's beautiful Protestant cathedral. He had seen all the fine carriages and automobiles arrive at Christmas carrying their precious cargo of handsome fur-lined women and top-hatted gentlemen. We are here, thought Eoin, and they are there. And there was no in-between. Eoin rose and wondered why it was so quiet. Usually there was roughhousing with his younger brother, Frank, and the screams of the kids, Mary and young Dickie. It was as if the children knew that Mammy needed quiet.


Excerpted from "The 13th Apostle"
by .
Copyright © 2014 Dermot McEvoy.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

PART 3 1917,
PART 4 1918,
PART 5 1919,
PART 6 1920,
PART 7 1921,
PART 8 1922,

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