Siobhan O'Hara (not her real name) was born in Crossmaglen, Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland in August 1924. Her father came from County Mayo in the West of Ireland. She lived in Hampshire, England from 1946 to 1986 when she returned to Ireland and now lives in the Irish Republic.
Although the names of all important characters have been changed the book is a series of anecdotes covering a period of the author's life as a child in Crossmaglen from the time of her illness with rhuematic fever at the age of six, until the family moved to a fishing village in County Louth in the Irish Free State when she was eleven years old in 1935.
It evokes the atmosphere, traditions, customs and characters of the area, seen through the eyes of a child, in the comparatively carefree days between the two World Wars, shortly after the partitioning of Ireland and the establishment of the Irish Free State just to the South. The new border created opportunities for smuggling for those of an adventurous nature, but also cut across both family and long established natural trading ties.
A picture is given of Irish rural life, as it was nearly 70 years ago when radio was in its infancy, cinemas had not reached Irish country towns and television was almost unheard of. People made their own fun and kept to many old traditions. For all but the well off the main method of transport was either a bicycle or on foot. Many young people would cycle up to 20 miles to dance the night away to a small local band in a country hall lit by Tilley paraffin lamps.
There was an abundance of characters in Irish rural life at this time, not the least of whom was Kathleen, the main character of the book, who combined a natural pugnacity with an inquisitive and observant nature. She used her time while convalescing from Rheumatic Fever to investigate life around her. Possessed of strong, stagy tendencies, she loved to dress up and show off. Frequently she ended up in scrapes, which severely dented her over-developed sense of personal dignity. As the eldest daughter in a family of seven children, she was very conscious of her duty to the family. Coupled with her inability to resist a challenge, this sometimes drew her into confrontations with grown-ups, which she was not one to shirk. From an early age she was an incurable romantic and matchmaker.