Mrs McKeiver’s Secrets: Part One of Margaret’s Excellent Trilogy @Mrs_McKeiver
Margaret Morgan is the author of Mrs McKeiver’s Secrets, a novel that has created a microcosm of England in the late eighteenth century. Born in 1950, Margaret lived in a rural area; her farm was two and a half miles from the village of Leintwardine, where she attended primary school. After an early retirement due to tragic diagnoses including Multiple Sclerosis, Margaret’s husband suggested she write to avoid dwelling on missing her colleagues. Instead of starting slowly and perhaps gaining experience with short stories, Margaret magnificently leapt straight into researching a period of history she knew little about, but wanted to know more.
Herbal knowledge and midwifery in the eighteenth century seemed to naturally evolve out of her research. The protagonist, Mrs McKeiver entered Margaret’s head when she first thought of a character to hold everything together in the Hills; my fictional area. Margaret considers her to be an amalgam of her mother, and her two grandmothers. Coming from Yorkshire and Lincolnshire they were fearless, strong women. One was a land worker, living until her seventies; having a home and family. She was reputed to be able to make soup from ‘the dishcloth and an onion’. The other was perhaps better off, assisting the midwife at births in her rural area in Yorkshire. One of them would beat any official with her umbrella, if she thought someone was being harangued for being poor and needy, a great sin in pre war days.
The trilogy involving Mrs McKeiver’s Secrets addresses all the problems facing rural villages in 1799; the horror of the loss of common land, the price of food, the threat of starvation and the anticipated French invasion. The Enclosures Act of 1795 has thrust the Hills into poverty, which sees everyone in need of life’s necessities. Mrs McKeiver, a traditional herbalist, midwife and healer, and Hills resident for twenty years observes as the once settled, rural community is rocked to its core. Immediately, the protagonist encourages the Reverend Reeves and local farmers to contribute food to those on Poor Relief, which the Reverend delivers. The nearby Parish House has problems of the worst kind; a predatory, dishonest overseer. She has to ‘timmer herself’ every new day – to deliver babies, make herbal remedies and solve parish problems.
The reader first meets Mrs McKeiver icing a wedding cake, or just a glorified plum pudding; next helping a desperately ill travelling salesman; and warming the house next door for a soon to be married couple. Hester and Edward are marrying due to a mysterious pregnancy – Edward is happily unconcerned. But even after twenty years experience in midwifery, this pregnancy has surprised Mrs McKeiver.