#WEP/IWSG December 2019 challenge – RIBBONS AND CANDLES.


My #WEP/IWSG post for December is a continuation of my Halloween/Deja Vu or Voodoo post, White Lady. I continued to explore the incident during NaNoWriMo so this is derived from what I wrote in November.

However, the incident is too long to conclude her, but the conclusion will be in 28 writing days – more or less. This incident in the career of Sparkle Anwyl plays a key part in Fevered Few, Book 1 of the Snowdon Shadows police procedural series.  

Rushlight Wreathes

Ghost hunting doesn’t fall into my remit as a police officer, but my inquisitive nature wanted to identify our ‘White Lady’ during off-duty hours at home. Why had the ghost appeared on the old track between Porthmadog and Tremadog on Halloween?

My tingling tattoos and the mnemonic CALENDS had stirred up this cold case investigation. C for Coach, A for Accident, L for Lady, E for Eerie N for Night, D for Dreams, S for Spirits.

With no local police records before 1857, I trawl the old North Wales papers for coach-related incidents after 1811 and the founding of the ‘new town’ of Tremadog.

Fist pump as details match.

On November 1st, 1836, Dinah Adelaide Quinlan, the seventeen-year-old daughter of a retired soldier, Major Bernard Algernon Quinlan living in Tremadog was run down and crushed under the hooves of a sporty Phaeton carriage, driven by an unknown but uniformed person that was seen leaving the battered body at Major Quinlan’s house off Isgraig. The reporter was unclear why Dinah was on foot as her family owned a Berlin carriage, but she never requested the vehicle from their coachman.

Delving further, I discover that Major Quinlan served with the British East India Company’s Madras Army in Southern India between 1790-1805. On his retirement, he acquired a substantial property in the new town, and invested in the area. A photo shows a middle-aged Major Quinlan in his uniform decorated with medals on ribbons.

If Dinah was the ghost and died in 1836, there must be a grave or family tomb. Where if the family were Church of England? Her funeral details state the church of St Cynhaearn, known as Ynyscynhaearn.

Familiarity warms my spine – my tad’s parents are buried there. A visit to the place where they rest in peace, alone, yet surrounded by the sleeping graves of more than three centuries worth of parishioners.

A click as the door of the flat opens. I look at the mantel clock – midnight. As Kama walks into the kitchen I embrace her.

“More cold research? Found anything, cariad?”

“After three evenings of digging, chellam.” I stroke her face. “Are you up for visiting a graveyard? One where our ghost might be buried?”

Kama blinks and hangs up her biker jacket, then peels off her leather pants. “I’m free on Friday – isn’t that your day off as well?”

“If crime takes a slow day – yes. Date then.”


The stone walls seem part of the white-dotted green fields beyond that were once filled with water centuries earlier. There is an atmosphere of serenity, as few other than sheep wander down the narrow track.

Slate gravestones, orphaned from their corpses, are lined up along the side benches. Tears start to trickle as we read the names and imagine past lives. Welsh and English at peace in this corner of our troubled land.

My ancestors lie in a simple family plot awaiting the next member. I shudder, fearing who is most at risk. At least, my tad is now a desk sergeant and no longer front-line like me. I shake off the fear and focus on searching.

“Major Bernard Algernon Quinlan.” Kama points at a family grave comprising a more ostentatious mounted urn surrounded by a yew and an ornate railing. “There’s not just one person in here.”

“Died in 1840 aged 73. Buried alongside his wife – and his daughter Dinah Adelaide Quinlan.” My heart tightens, and my throat constricts. “She was the first to be buried here – a tragedy. I wish we knew more. Burial records before 1837 are less organised and vary between churches.”

“Does that mean more cold research?”

“That carriage killed her – accident or murder? Cold case so I’m hooked as ever.”

Gravestones are never cold names. Gateways to memories beckon.


Kama has the addiction too – but she’s the real detective.

“This ancestry site has descendants of Major Quinlan.” She points to our desktop screen. “A direct descendant of his son posted this – Edwin Quinlan.”

“Who has a daughter called Dinah. But the family is from the West Country – Truro.” The mother lode or a red herring. “This Edwin is named after the Major’s oldest son, the dead Dinah’s brother. And Dinah occurs down the generations. Do the family know more?”

Kama opens another link. A black and white photo of a family group taken in 1840, the year Major Quinlan died. The group is in what must have been a lavish sitting room in the family home. Soft lighting comes from strategic candles and rushlights. The photo shows Major Quinlan, his son Edwin Owen Quinlan and his wife, another daughter with her Royal Navy uniformed husband.

Kama points to the son-in-law. “It’s only a photo but that man is hiding something – or am I being too suspicious?”

Rushlight – Public Domain


The tingling of my tattoos agrees with her, and I tap out a new mnemonic on my studded bracer. S-I-N.

S for Suspect. I for Inheritance. N for Naval. In Celtic folklore, there is a tale of bringing candles to the church to count sins. Was this the unknown figure that retrieved the body?

I zoom in to a mirror – reflecting a carriage and two horses outside.

“If that’s a phaeton then you may be right. Unfortunately, our suspect is dead, and the crime is more than cold. But we can resolve something.”

“What make of carriage that is and did the family own that type – although the latter will be problematic.”

Finding a photo of a 19th century phaeton that matches proves difficult as the reflection is indistinct. However, our search for records on period vehicles in Snowdonia yields a name – Raimund Virtanen, a horsebox builder who knows about 19th century vehicles.

A recent group photo of him presenting rosettes with long ribbons at a horse show suggests that he is respected – or has influential contacts.

A lead or a dead end?


Comments are welcome as usual, but for the WEP Challenge, the following applies:

Word Count 999: MPA

(FCA welcome – if you want to send one, just let me know in the comments.)

37 thoughts on “#WEP/IWSG December 2019 challenge – RIBBONS AND CANDLES.

  1. Hi Roland! Glad you survived NaNo and you used the time to proceed with your police procedural and the career of Sparkle Anwyl. I’m finding it fascinating and it will be thrilling to see what you come up with for the 28 Days prompt. I like the way he’s unravelling the cold case. I’m sure he’ll crack the case of Dinah.

    Roland thanks for posting for the WEP December challenge.

    It’s been a pleasure having you write for us. I wish you every good wish for a happy Christmas season.


    Liked by 1 person

    • I enjoy the whole WEP challenge, Denise, especially reading the other pieces. I have an idea for 28 days that will allow me to close this incident – well the cold part of it. In the previous bit, I made it somewhat clearer that Sparkle and Kama are both female.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Cold cases have always fascinated me. It’s difficult to think that such horrible things happen without anyone knowing the who or why for so long. I definitely want to know more about Dinah’s untimely death. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fascinating, cold cases always are, aren’t they? This is obviously part of a longer piece and delivers enough of a ‘hook’ to want to read more. Loved the use of the mnemonic as well – great use of the prompt. Just one thing – my impression is that practical portrait photography started in 1839, so a photograph of the middle-aged Major felt a bit implausible if he died in 1840 at 73.

    All the very best with developing this further.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is certainly part of a larger piece as I’ve found a storyline to link all the standalone shorts about Sparkle. I had to trim this incident a bit to make it fit. That is one reason that the photo bit might well be wrong – originally it was an outdoor group photo. NaNo doesn’t give time for in-depth research so with your kind pointer, I’ll dig back in my photography books.

      Liked by 1 person

    • This far back is proving a challenge, Pat as I want to retain some realism – like finding graves for a community that doesn’t have any. Yes, in reality Tremadog doesn’t have gravestones as the deceased are buried in various churchyards. Strange but true.


  4. Nice continuation of your previous story. I’m really starting to like Sparkle and her determination to solve this cold case. I can’t wait to see how you tie this into the 28 days theme. You tied in the ribbons nicely. Glad to hear you survived NaNo and that it helped with this story.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi,
    I haven’t read any of your work or at least I don’t think I have. So this cold case engaged my imagination and especially since it goes back to way back then. Good luck on building this story to completion.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What I find fascinating in your story is that although it’s a cold case the clues appear when your hero digs enough. Love many of the turns of phrase, ‘ slate gravestones, orphaned from their corpses ‘ and others. Great piece of writing and I can’t wait for 28 days. Wishing you all the best for the holiday season and for the New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the heroine’s forte, Kalpana – she has a way with her digging that uncovers the unexpected as well. This antique crime investigation exposes a modern one. Thanks for the ‘turn of phrase’ comment – I admit that some phrases are my version of someone else’s so not quite Shakespeare.


    • Yes, horrible indeed, Yolanda. I’ve talked to carriage drivers run over by vehicles as well as know people injured by horses, accidentally. Even a smaller horse standing on your foot hurts – I know. My aunt was kicked in the head and never fully recovered. Dangerous – but not as dangerous as people…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. As Bernadette wrote: definitely a lead … but to what and to what conclusion? If the cold case is old enough, answers can prove sad and empty. Hope our protagonists find that not to be the case here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Almost 200 years old, so it may prove to be more satisfying curiosity than seeing that justice is served. The tale is an integral part of my current novel, but I may not go there when I close in February…unless I think of a better excuse.


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  9. I loved the inclusion of the mnemonic to help unravel the cold case. I can imagine the amount of research undertaken to tie in with the plot line as well as the twists and turns.
    Should be interesting working with the 28 days prompt to develop the story. Have fun with it!
    Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Peaceful New Year, Roland! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad that you noted the mnemonic, Michelle as that’s one of Sparkle’s quirks – a quirk that can cause me to scratch my head a bit. Also, the mnemonic arose first at the end of my October piece – CALENDS. I’m going to need a new one for 28 days.
      Festive blessings for a Happy Christmas and a Peaceful and Creative New Year.


  10. Still an intriguing story! As Nilnanjana noted, the photo is problematic for that date, but you might be able to do something with it. Either a daguerrotype that’s intriguingly hard to make out, or a painting that does the same thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The photo has me worried, Rebecca as even a daguerrotype is not early enough – and a portrait/paintng would not have the carriage…or would it. Moral – don’t stop researching. However, this was a NaNoWriMo first draft excerpt so maybe I’m forgiven – if I resolve the problem.


  11. Niljana and Rebecca. many thanks for raising the photograph issue as I have now researched the issue. Thinking about all the paintings that I grew up looking at – and in some cases studying – I can make a painting work. If there were rumours at the time about the phaeton driver, then a clever artist can paint clues/accusations into a portrait,


  12. Pingback: #WEP/IWSG February 2019 challenge – 28 Days | Writing Wings

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