Plausible tale links Hawaii and Ireland


POSTED: Sunday, July 19, 2009

Honolulu's mayor receives a request in the mail by a town councilman of Kinsale, Ireland, to send an adviser to the coastal village in County Cork on how to “;capitalize”; on the 1915 sinking of the British ocean liner RMS Lusitania in nearby waters, just as the Arizona Memorial had become a piston of Hawaii's economic engine.

The mayor's choice was obvious: Kapala Patrick Dolan, who has a drop of Irish blood from his deceased Hawaiian father and the full dose in his mother, nearing her 80th birthday in Kinsale.

Kapala Dolan, the central character in this debut novel, “;Humble Honest Men,”; by Lanikai octogenarian writer and historian Bob Dye, already had agreed with his hapa-haole buddies that his name be put forth as ambassador to Ireland. Hawaii's senior “;Senator Dan”; had agreed to recommend the presidential appointment. Kapala would plan an international symposium on the sinking of the Lusitania and meet at a Kinsale pub with the council president, Francis F. Flynn, and others whom Flynn had put together as Humble Honest Men to help organize it.


Adding to Kapala's legitimacy in such a role, his maternal grandparents are known to have been among the 1,198 people killed by the German attack on the Lusitania, denounced as “;The Outrage.”;

“;It changed the course of world history,”; Kapala tells a U.S. embassy official greeting him at the Dublin airport, “;and should be considered—as is the Irish Famine, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Holocaust—as a Great Event.”;

The diplomat was skeptical: “;In my view, the sinking was more tragic than great.”;

NO ONE IS more equipped to tell such a tale as Dye, who divided his time for a dozen years between Lanikai and a large house he had bought on Kinsale's Compass Hill, overlooking the mouth of the River Bandon.

Dye became fluent in both cultures, describing in detail the Irish foliage, cuisine and beverages. His use of Irish expressions causes a few bumps along the way but does not deter from the book's progression from a whimsical beginning and humorous interludes through shocking and tragic turns.

Kapala's rival for becoming ambassador is Wesley “;Wishbone”; T. Merrill, a wealthy friend of the senior senator from Massachusetts. Merrill proposes to vitalize Kinsale's tourism by turning the historical Old Head of Kinsale, a slim, cliffed peninsula that had become a popular picnic site, into a golf course. Kapala was to lay a wreath on a new memorial on the peninsula, which is seven miles—the nearest point on the island—from where the Lusitania went down.

(There actually was such a controversy over the golf course proposal, and the peninsula has been known since 1997 as the Old Head Golf Links; entrance is limited to golfers and guests.)





        » By Bob Dye

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Kapala had not seen his mother since childhood, when his father halted further trips to Ireland. Returning with Kapala to Kinsale was his Polynesian wife, Lani. Friction was immediate between her and Kapala's mother, Mary Frances Dolan, who hosted the couple at what was, in real life, the author's former second home on Compass Hill.

“;I'm disappointed that I've got no grandchild to spoil, even though it wouldn't look a bit like me,”; Mary Dolan tells her son. “;Oh, I wish you'd married an Irish girl.”;

Kapala's wife is befriended by Anglican Rev. Valentine Greatdrakes, a flamboyant opponent of the “;exploitation”; of Lusitania's sinking, and Dr. Minerva Aisling Millhouse, an Irish-American scholar and author signed on to speak at Kapala's symposium. Lani becomes a member of a small group of women Millhouse has recruited to provide their “;intuition, hunches and gut feelings”; to support her own far-fetched theory about the sinking of the Lusitania.

The multiple-character tale evolves into episodes of violent and sexual surprises, skillfully and imaginatively crafted by a writer steeped in history, this time attaching fiction to fact in a compelling way.