Orange Lily by May Crommelin
For many Ulster folk, the name “Orange Lily” will conjure up the memory of a Jimmy Young sketch from the 1970s in which the original flame-haired Spice Girl, “Orange Lil”, professed her unique type of girl power in a broad Belfast accent and a union jack dress.
May Crommelin’s Orange Lily, though, is less audacious, known for her quietness, “the most esteemed quality in the north”.
In this recently re-published Victorian novel, we witness Lily’s internal struggles as she, like many Irish women before and since, weigh up the rights and wrongs of the men in her life: how can it be, for instance that Lily’s brother’s violent crime is to be overlooked when her own small offence of falling in love outside of her social rank should be so severely censured?
Orange Lily is a delightful piece of folk art that packs a series of small punches against the conventions of its time, whilst Lily Keag is the ultimate Protestant folk heroine: prim, proper and pious, yet unerringly romantic.