Just in case we had forgotten, there was a reminder this week that, like the protagonists in war, Hollywood demands a hero, a villain, and a happy ending. Evelyn, the latest piece of celluloid from Pierce Brosnan - alias 007 - is intended to wring from its audience tears of pity, with the guarantee that they will be replaced by tears of joy before the popcorn is finished.

Yet for Charlotte Doyle, a tiny

81-year-old Glasgow grandmother with bad nerves and a weak heart, the tears are of anger and humiliation. That's because she is the woman depicted as the villain of the piece, while the handsome, smiling hero - portrayed by Brosnan - is the man who 50 years ago beat her so severely that she feared for her life. None of this gets a mention in the movie, naturally.

The film is loosely based on a lucrative autobiography written by Charlotte's daughter, Evelyn - expected to be No 2 on the Sunday Times' best-seller list this weekend - which appears to be the latest in the successful Irish ''misery'' genre. But the veracity of this book, just like Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, is in question.

''We took legal action but decided to drop it because my mother is

too old and ill to go to court,'' said 41-year-old Ann Walsh, Charlotte Doyle's daughter by her second


The film purports to portray the events surrounding a celebrated 1955 Irish court case. It begins with the abrupt departure on Boxing Day two years earlier of Charlotte Doyle from her cheerless home in Dublin. Behind her, she leaves six cold,

hungry children under the age of eight: Evelyn and her five brothers.

Charlotte Doyle never speaks in the film but shots of her packing a suitcase and flaunting herself in a red dress imply she is a feckless woman off to meet her fancy man. Out of work and down on his luck, the children's father, Desmond, is persuaded to sign away his children. The boys are sent to a notorious church-run ''industrial school'', more like approved schools than children's homes. Evelyn goes to a convent.

Desmond is devastated when he discovers he cannot get his children back without his wife's say-so and she has flown the coup to Scotland. Without her signature, the children will be kept in church-state care until they turn 16.

Desmond battles through the Irish courts to get his children back and emerges triumphant. Happy ending, not just for Evelyn and her brothers but, according to a statement flashed up on screen with the credits, hundreds of other Irish kids trapped in these institutions.

Unfortunately, there's another side to the story altogether, which was that Desmond Doyle, played with such saccharine skill by Brosnan, was, in fact, a wife-beater whose spouse had to flee for her life. This week, the family conflict exploded into a vicious public row in both

Ireland and Scotland after Charlotte Doyle decided to speak out.

''Some people would prefer my mother to run away and crawl under a stone, but I am determined to clear her name,'' Ann Walsh told The Herald. ''This business has made her ill. It's like an old wound being ripped open.''

On Tuesday, Ann agreed to

appear on her mother's behalf on Liveline, the hugely popular afternoon chat show on RTE Radio 1, based in Dublin. In a riveting bit of radio, she described how her mother had no choice but to leave. On one occasion, she says, Doyle beat her mother unconscious and had to throw cold water over her to bring

her round.

''At the end of an eight-year marriage, she ran screaming from her house,'' says Walsh. Why didn't she take the children with her? ''It is very difficult even today for women in abusive relationships to escape with their children. She had no resources. At the time, divorce was illegal.

''The last thing I want is a mud-slinging match, but my mother is sad that this man who beat her constantly is being paraded as a hero.''

Although Desmond Doyle died in 1986, she says her mother still lives in fear. Her legs still bear the scars of his beatings. To ignore this dimension of the story trivialises the abuse suffered by women like Charlotte, she says. ''The very fact your life is being ripped open and displayed for public scrutiny is bad enough, but for it to be paraded on screen for entertainment is beyond belief,'' said Ann.

Unbeknown to Ann Walsh, two of Evelyn's brothers were on hand to provide their versions of events. A third was listening from Scotland online and phoned in. All three sons conceded their mother had been beaten. One expressed sympathy for her; the others defended their sister's book and the Brosnan film. ''He might have been an ogre of a husband, but he wasn't an ogre of a father,'' said Dermot Doyle. ''Ann is portraying our father as blacker than he was.''

Dermot and his brother, Noel, both argued it was too easy to judge their father's wife-beating. ''It was so long ago. He might have been a

better husband but lots of Irishmen in the 1950s were in the same mould. The man was the master of the house and the woman's place was in the kitchen,'' said 56-year-old Noel.

It was electric stuff. As Charlotte Doyle's offspring continued to slug it out on air and listeners queued up to comment, radio host Joe Duffy was forced to tear up his schedule.

Yesterday, Evelyn Doyle, who lives in Whitburn, West Lothian, went into battle again to reassert the veracity of her book. In an exclusive statement to The Herald, she said: ''In writing my father's story, I have gone to extraordinary lengths to protect my mother's identity. Unfortunately, Ann Walsh has attempted to stir up controversy by implying that I have lied about events recalled in my book.

''It is almost impossible to forget events that traumatise and change one's life so completely and, while I wish with all my heart that these events had not occurred, they did. I tried to be fair to both my parents in my book, and if Ann Walsh cares to read the book objectively, she will realise that all I ever wanted was that my 'mammy' would come back to us.

''I have stated on numerous occasions that I do not hold my mother responsible for what happened; she had her reasons for leaving. Nor do I ever imply that my father was a saint, but I loved him with all my heart when I was a child and I am absolutely certain he loved us, too. He never abandoned us.

''I accept that there were severe problems in my parents' marriage and while we heard loud rows on many occasions, we did not witness the violence claimed.''

Ms Doyle said she was writing a sequel called Nothing Green, which would deal in detail with her father's ''volatile and explosive nature''.

Following her flight from Desmond Doyle, Charlotte met and married her second husband, and settled in Glasgow. This marriage has lasted for 50 years and she has four grown-up children and several grandchildren.

Charlotte and her daughter aren't the only people to have been enraged by the film and the book on which it is based. Irish Soca (Irish Survivors of Child Abuse) reserves its firepower for what is portrayed as a happy ending, with Desmond Doyle scoring an important legal victory.

''The film gives the impression that thousands of children were saved as a result of this, but that isn't true,'' said director John Kelly. In fact, the resulting amendment to the 1941 Children's Act removed from the minister of education the power to release children who had been ''put down'', to use the Irish expression. And because parents weren't informed of their right to appeal against a refusal to release their children from an industrial school, the system remained in place right up to 1970.

The organisation forced Evelyn Doyle's publisher, Orion, to remove a claim from the dust jacket of her book that the ruling had enabled hundreds of children to be released from the care of church and state. Its other objection was that the film failed to acknowledge the brutality and abuse to which many of these children were subjected. Irish Soca is currently campaigning on behalf of many former inmates who claim their lives have been ruined by the violence and sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of the religious orders that ran the schools.

Patrick Walsh (no relation to Ann) was two when he was ''put down'' by his father after his mother walked out of the marriage. He spent 14 years in church-run industrial schools. ''A lot of men took their children to court, denounced their wives, and had the children sent to these schools until they were 16. They could only get them back if the mother came back and the parents jointly petitioned for their return. So it became a blackmailers' charter used by abusive husbands to force their wives to return to them.

''If the film had depicted Des-mond Doyle as he really was, nobody would have had sympathy with him. Brosnan says he made the film to bring a balance to the whole issue of abuse of children, but I believe 007 has been inadvertently caught up on the wrong mission.''