William Brosnan – Character in Divide the Dawn
“They’re comin’ now, just slow. Gatherin’ up like a giant swell, they’ll swallow ye like the great suck o’ the ocean and leave ye bathin’ in a welter o’ yer own blood and bones, all o’ ye. Oh they’re comin’, sure enough. Slow and sure o’ themselves.”
William Brosnan (b. 1864, Dublin), also known as the Tunic, is a detective with a dark past and father-in-law to eager, blackjack-swinging Patrolman Daniel Culkin. While his young wife was giving birth during the Great Blizzard of 1888, Brosnan was on patrol in Irishtown when he found a baby in the rubble of a fallen tenement. He desperately ran the baby to a hospital, where he found out his wife died during childbirth. Moments later, he was told the baby he found in the fallen tenement survived. Despondent, Brosnan came to believe that a darkness followed him. The baby he saved turned out to be Garry Barry, the grimmest, most malevolent of street urchins. Barry, Brosnan believes, is a wraith and has a role to play in the dark, pre-Christian prophecies he heard as a boy back in Ireland, “When the veil between life and death is thinnest during the storms of dawn, we are exchanged like pieces on a chessboard.” Brosnan concludes that his wife’s life was taken for Barry’s to fulfill a prophecy that has its origins in Ireland’s Great Hunger (potato famine) where “the keening songs of the banshees croon hastens an ascension, like the rising of the moon.” A single father, Brosnan raised his daughter on a patrolman’s salary until she married the eager Culkin. Since Barry was reported to have died in 1918 of injuries from a White Hand gang beating, Brosnan’s superstitious fears were allayed. But in 1919, during the “Storm of Slanting Snow,” Culkin finds Barry alive. Shaken again, Brosnan is convinced another death must be exchanged for Barry’s life and worries it’ll be Culkin. Or worse, as his daughter is pregnant.
Light of the Diddicoy
In 1915, Brosnan and Culkin show up in the Dock Loaders’ Club after Wild Bill Lovett murdered an immigrant for pulling a cat’s tail. Before the Donnybrook in Red Hook, Brosnan was forced to accept payment from the White Hand to look the other way.
Exile on Bridge Street
In 1916, Brosnan is promoted to detective for getting the conviction of Non Connors, who wrongly was named leader of the White Hand. A year later he is publicly reprimanded by the Waterfront Assembly’s Jonathan G. Wolcott and the newspapers for looking the other way while gangs run the waterfront. Brosnan and Culkin show up at the Dock Loaders’ Club and make demands of White Hand gang leader Dinny Meehan for an increase in their hush money and angrily describe how they are all going to fall prey to the Anglo-American ascendency, who has the real power in New York.