TIME FOR AN UPDATE
Dear Friends old and new. I think it’s time to bring you all up to date with happenings on the book front, and in the life of a researcher and author and happenings that have caught my eye and to which I was able to lend some little support.
First, my latest book, Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls – From Workhouse to Australia 1848-50, has been exceptionally well received, so much so in fact that a reprint is in the offing by early summer of 2018. The book – which I am delighted to say, carries testimonials from former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, historian Trevor McClaughlin in Australia, award-winning Irish author Turtle Bunbury, and radio hosts Tommy Marren (MWR) and Gerry Quinn (Irish radio, Ohio) – traces what became of the 137 Mayo girls who landed in Melbourne and Sydney. How did they fare out? How did they adjust from losing their parents, life in the dreadful, disease-ridden workhouses, and the challenges that life in Australia presented girls as young as 14 years of age.
They met with mixed fortunes, but by and large their great courage and resilience shone through all their difficulties. They adjusted. Married, Reared families. All because they were above all survivors.The majority of the Mayo girls were from Ballina workhouse (87), taking in a huge land mass stretching from West Sligo to the tip of Erris in north Mayo; 2 from Ballinrobe (25) in South Mayo, and from West Mayo, Castlebar (15) and Westport (10). I have had the privilege of working with some of the girls’ descendants, a few of whom have come to Ireland to see where their great grandmothers came from. The book also touches on other areas in the country, but principally on Connacht from where over 600 girls were sent to the colony of Australia
It is planned to have a memorial to the girls erected in Ballina later this year (2018), with an open air event involving some descendants, public representatives, local choirs, etc. Full details will be announced later.
And as Ireland is after marking 1916 and about to go through remembering the the end of WW1, the War of Independence and the Civil War, you get the inside story from this region by leafing through Ballina: One Town Three Wars & More, It covers the town and hinterland from circa 1880 to 1923 and has been described as ‘a superb social history of a town emerging from the grips of landlordism into troubled times’…and emerging with new hope. Extensively featured are WW1, The Anglo-Irish War and the Civil War, with exciting new revelations and wonderful and rare photographs. 50,000 Irishmen died in WW1, and upwards of 200 were from the immediate area. Read their stories from the trenches. But the book is much more than that: it features living conditions in hovels along back lanes, education, emigration, occupations, sport, politics…the full gamut of life in a small but ambitious Irish town.
HISTORY WRITING WORKSHOP: On another front, I continue with my research into matters Mayo, with the hope of writing another multi-layered narrative on the history of the county. More immediate though, I am honoured to have been asked to conducti a Writing History Workshop in the Hawk’s Well Theatre, Sligo, on Saturday 5th May, 2018, and am looking forward to meeting one of my idols at the event, Sligo historian and former county librarian, John McTernan. Full details http://www.hawkswell.com.events
TELEVISION: Nationwide, the popular RTE series, gave me the opportunity to feature in a programme which focussed on the history and beauty of North Mayo, and I toured Killala with presenter Mary Kennedy towards the end of 2017. The programme was aired in early 2018 and will hopefully do much to bring beautiful, spectacular North Mayo to the attention of tourists.
Around the same time I acted as consultant to a British tv company, but more than that I cannot reveal just now. All I can say is that the show will be seen by millions…and you will enjoy it!
MEMORIALS: In September of 2017 I was happy to help in having a memorial erected in Ballina, in memory of four young men from the town and adjoining hinterland who lost their lives when a wall collapsed on them during a stormy afternoon in 1902. As the year 2017 drew to a close I was honoured to be in a position to help an old Mayo exile in New York, Bill Fahey [ https://irishhungercomm.wordpress.com/about/] who has dedicated much of his life to placing memorial markers in the burial places of victims of the Irish famine which claimed over a million lives and sent two million people fleeing out of the country in search of a new beginning. When it came to the heavy lifting of placing the grave marker, the willing members of Ballina Boxing Club came to the rescue spectacularly. Thank you.
Also on the subject of memorials, in 2012, I had the great privilege of heading up an enthusiastic committee of locals in marking the bicentenary of composer William Vincent Wallace who grew up in Ballina, and his sister Eliza who was a native of the town. A concert featuring his music led to a bronze plaque being erected in the town’s Military Quarter, featuring brother and sister. Wallace travelled the world with his operas, including Maritana and The Amber Witch, and the family’s remarkable story is retold in my Amazing Mayo Stories. PLEASE NOTE: You can also purchase a DVD of the 2012 Wallace Concert in St Muredach’s Cathedral by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am a great believer in letting people who come to Ballina know something of the past history of the place and memorials are a great way of providing insights into the lives of remarkable people from the area. The latest to be acknowledged by having one of the new lanes in the town named after her is 1916 heroine Dr Kathleen Lynn who attended, under heavy British fire, to the injured and dying during the Rising in Dublin with little concern for her own safety. She, too, was a native of the area, as were Edward Whelan, one of the Fathers of the Canadian Confederation, William Joyce Sewell, who fought at Gettysburg during the American Civil War and was awarded the Medal of Honour. It has been a great honour to tell their stories, and the stories also of Monsignor James Horan and Knock Airport, Erris-born Eileen Kato, the extraordinary woman from Bangor Erris who worked at Japan’s Imperial Court; Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first female president; Jack Judge who penned “It’s A Long Way to Tipperary”, William Knox D’Arcy, the so-called JR Ewing of Mayo, Delia Murphy, the Singing Blackbird from Hollymount in South Mayo, and the village of Lahardane and its place in the Titanic sinking in 1912.
You can find all these people and all these subjects and much more by browsing through my book list on this site. Happy hunting and happy reading. And if you just happen to be in Ballina for the big annual Heritage Day on Wednesday, 11 July 2018 please make sure to stop at my book stall for a chat. And if you’d like to attend an introductory session on writing your memoirs, I am running two classes throughout the week in town. See the Ballina Salmon Festival programme for venue and dates. And if you cannot get to Ballina please note that I have a DVD in which I take you on a walk around the town and talk about its history, with some music thrown in for good measure. (See list of my stock)
A special thank you to all who have bought my books: without you writing the history of Ballina and Mayo in all its facets would not be possible.