Thursday 15 December 2016

Ireland's Haunted Heritage Examined in New Book and DVD

The Rising of Haunted Ireland by GhostÉire - front cover
A journey into the heart of haunted Ireland awaits the reader in The Rising of Haunted Ireland by Anthony Kerrigan, Sinead Houlihan and Jenifer Kerrigan, published by The Manuscript Publisher. The authors belong to a team of paranormal investigators (GhostÉire) based in the south-west of Ireland, who describe their goal as being to find spiritual and scientific reasons for the paranormal, the supernatural and similarly unexplained phenomena.

Their pursuit of this objective has taken them to locations the length and breadth of Ireland, investigating possible hauntings and supernatural occurrences. In this report of their findings, a world of whispering lighthouses, misty islands, mind-bending gaols, vanished forts and public houses where the spirits flow a little too unaccountably, all await the reader. Tales of sailors, smugglers, pirate queens, Irish rebels, Vikings and spies also punctuate the narrative.

The bulk of the presentation comprises precise, detailed, often graphic descriptions of paranormal investigations, typically undertaken during the dark and eery hours in some of the remotest and inhospitable places imaginable. Adding to the authenticity, a 98-minute DVD accompanies this 340 page volume, which is fully illustrated throughout with photos, maps, diagrams and layouts of the investigated locations.

It is a book that will serve as a concise introduction to the world of paranormal investigations: the terminology, the techniques, tools of the trade employed and the rationale that informs the view of practitioners. The material is presented in a style that should interest the skeptic as much as the believer, along with those who simply wish to draw their own conclusions. It also offers something in the way of a tourist guide with a difference – a must read for anyone contemplating a weekend break or excursion to some very interesting 'haunts', both on and off the beaten track.

Finally, this book and DVD collection is not for the fainthearted. It does come with a warning that it is suitable only for ages 16 and older, containing as it does, some strong language and possibly disturbing themes. So, if that does not scare you off, it is available to buy now, in both hardcover and paperback editions, with an e-book edition to follow soon. Further information is available from the websites of GhostÉire and The Manuscript Publisher.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

No Spare Life by Rosaleen Glennon: a journey through cancer

No Spare Life: one woman's journey through cancer by Rosaleen Glennon was launched over the weekend at the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin. As would be evident from the title, it is a book that charts the author's personal battles and the progression, from diagnosis, through treatment with chemotherapy, recovery and the renewed appreciation for life that comes with it all.

In his Introduction, author Dermot Bolger says, "The overriding emotion which resonates from these pages is a resilient, hard earned sense of hope and a starkly fresh new way of seeing things by an author who was aware that, at times, she did not know if she would live to see certain things again."

Born in Dublin, now residing in Co. Roscommon, Rosaleen had been living in Germany when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2010.
On gleaning the news after a biopsy, I went into a spin. I don't remember leaving the doctor's office on the third floor of the hospital and getting into the lift. I began to think again when the lift doors opened and I stepped out on the ground floor. I turned round three times on the spot and thought. "What am I going to do now? Does he mean I should get my affairs in order?" I almost laughed at my own thinking. I realised that we have absolutely no control. We might think we have, but we don't.

Before Rosaleen was ever a cancer survivor, "she was so many other things, including a gifted writer," says Dermot Bolger and it was through writing about the experience of what she was going through and keeping a record of her life that she was able 'to honour it – the cancer'.
I realise everybody's experience of cancer is different but I want to publish what I have written ... to share what happened to me, so that it might help other people who have had such a diagnosis as well as their families and friends. I hope it helps.

No Spare Life by Rosaleen Glennon is a collection of poetry and short prose pieces that is also very tastefully illustrated throughout, in full colour. It is on sale now. RRP €12. For more information, see the author's website.

Tuesday 29 November 2016

Google Doodles for Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)

Louisa May Alcott headshot
Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888),
via Wikimedia Commons
Louisa May Alcott – best known as the author of Little Women – is the latest literary figure to be subject of the accolade that is the Google Doodle, on the occasion of the 184th anniversary of her birth, on this day (29 November) in 1832.

Born in Pennsylvania, her family later moved to Boston and much of her life was spent around Massachusetts. Financial circumstances were such that Louisa, along with her sisters, had to seek work from an early age – as a teacher, seamstress, governess, domestic helper, and writer. It is said that "writing became a creative and emotional outlet for Alcott."

Her family were also practising transcendentalists, which brought them into the circles of famous literary figures of the day, such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller. She was also active, from an early age, in abolitionist and feminist causes.

The publication of Little Women, in 1869, secured her literary fame, though she had been writing and publishing for many years previously. It was an instant success and followed by two sequels that were eagerly received. The novel is loosely autobiographical, detailing both her own life and that of her sisters, following their passage from childhood to womanhood. It is considered a landmark work in the emergence of female literature of the 19th century. It remains a widely read classic and has been adapted numerous times for stage and cinema.

Google Doodle - scene from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott's 184th birthday

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Brightening Over Dillon's by Liam Nevin. Memoir about Growing Up in Ireland in the 1960s.

Brightening Over Dillon's by Liam Nevin
Brightening Over Dillon's by Liam Nevin is the just published volume of memoirs that offers an authentic, first-hand account of life growing up in Ireland during the decade of the 1960s. In telling this story, the author has drawn upon his own experiences and those of others too. What we get is a coming of age tale framed within the setting of a country that was also in transition, embracing modernity, rising to the challenges and opportunities that this brings in its wake.
"Conditions weren't always easy: the houses were often overcrowded, with not many facilities such as running water and central heating. School could be quite difficult, with corporal punishment a major issue. It was believed by many teachers that education could be 'beaten' into pupils. But life was happy and there was little pressure on children to have this, that and the other."

Compared to today, families didn't have much but children could play safely outdoors, making up their own games, exploring fields and woods around them, inventing adventures that filled the void. Television was only just becoming a feature in people's lives. Its introduction was generally welcomed but not without some reservation and even a certain amount of unease – a circumstance alluded in the remarks of President Éamonn de Valera, on the occasion of the launch of Telefís Éireann on New Year's Eve, 1961.

Published in the year that marks the centenary of the Easter Rising, the book recalls how the 50th anniversary was marked and observed by that generation of Irishmen and Irishwomen. Events surrounding the visit of US President John F. Kennedy to his ancestral home, in 1963, are also recorded, along with other events of the era.

The picture that is painted captures the atmosphere of that time and the hopes and aspirations of those who lived through it: a period in Irish life that might now appear remote but not so far removed that it has slipped entirely from living memory.

Brightening Over Dillon's by Liam Nevin is published by The Manuscript Publisher. It is on sale now, in print and e-book editions. RRP €12.95 (print edition) plus P&P. The e-book is available in Kindle edition from Amazon and in all common e-book formats from Smashwords, as well as other online retailers.
The Tobacco Fields of Meath by Liam Nevin

Liam Nevin is a native of County Kildare but now lives in Shepperton, England, with his wife Marlene. He is also the author of The Tobacco Fields of Meath, the widely acclaimed, fascinating account of tobacco growing in Ireland at the turn of the 20th century. It is based, in part, on private papers left behind by his grandfather, John Nevin, who was very much at the heart of the experiment. This book is also on sale and available to buy online, in print and e-book editions.

Thursday 17 November 2016

Get Your Thinking Caps On for World Philosophy Day!

Today marks World Philosophy Day, a celebration inaugurated in 2002 by UNESCO. Since 2005, World Philosophy Day has been observed on the third Thursday in November. UNESCO leads World Philosophy Day – but does not own it because, as they say. "It belongs to everyone, everywhere, who cares about philosophy".

On this day, everyone everywhere is encouraged to "to share their philosophical heritage and to open their minds to new ideas, as well as to inspire a public debate between intellectuals and civil society on the challenges confronting our society."

Events taking place this year include a programme at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris that has been devised to tie in with World Tolerance Day, which was yesterday.

Closer to home (if home for you is in or around Rathmines, Dublin that is) New Acropolis – a non-profit organisation for the purpose of advancement of education – is organising a series of free public lectures this Saturday, 19 November. The programme starts at 3pm with a talk On the Beauty of the Soul. This will be followed by further public discussions on What are the causes of the disillusion and chaos in the world? and The Irish Renaissance.

Further information is available from the organisation's website.

Thursday 13 October 2016

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016: Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan
Ill: N. Elmehed. © Nobel Media AB 2016
The Permanent Secretary of Svenska Akademien (Swedish Academy) has issued the following statement:
The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2016 is awarded to Bob Dylan
"for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".

A biography/bibliography, also posted to the official website of the Nobel Prize, says that Bob Dylan was born on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota, USA and developed a 'particular passion' for American folk music and blues during his youth. "One of his idols was the folk singer Woody Guthrie. He was also influenced by the early authors of the Beat Generation, as well as by modernist poets."

His vast artistic output is noted, including albums, films and experimental work like Tarantula (1971) and the collection Writings and Drawings (1973). His 2004 autobiography, Chronicles, is also cited for depicting "memories from the early years in New York and which provides glimpses of his life at the center of popular culture."

Tuesday 11 October 2016

New Roscommon Writing Award 2016 - now accepting entries

The New Roscommon Writing Award 2016 is offering monetary prizes that include €500 for the overall winner, whose entry will also be published in the Roscommon Herald. Four runners-up prizes of €50 each will also be awarded.

The competition is open to anyone over 18 who has a connection with Roscommon. The closing date for entries is 30 November 2016. Results will be announced in 2017 on a date and venue to be announced.

Full details, including competition entry rules, are available from the website of Roscommon County Council. You can also e-mail entries or enquiries to

Thursday 29 September 2016

Book Launch: The Unity Project by Brian Corvin. Thurs 6 October at Irish Writers' Centre

The Unity Project, the title of the recently published second volume of poetry and verse by artist and poet, Brian Corvin, will be formally launched at The Irish Writers' Centre on Thursday, 6 October starting 6:30pm.
The Unity Project by Brian Corvin
The Unity Project
by Brian Corvin

Brian’s first book, The Dream Journey, published in 2009, took him 50 years to write. This second volume has taken him just five years, which, he describes, as "progress of a kind". In The Unity Project, he sets out to complete the task that he set himself with his first outing.

The book takes its title from the long anchor poem contained within, itself inspired by the writings of Abdul Baha (1844-1921) who, over 150 years ago, put forward the view that 'the earth is but one country and mankind its citizens'. It was with the intention of exploring the ramifications of such ideas that set Brian Corvin on his own journey.
"I wrote the poem, The Unity Project, about the next step in our evolutionary development, to give voice to my beliefs and hopes for a better world," says Brian.

The conclusions that he has come to are set forward in the two volumes of poetry that have been published to date. They are also presented, in summary form, on a website that is being launched to coincide with the new publication. This, he hopes, offers a platform that can "develop and morph into a people’s power movement, which can and will work for real and fundamental change on three levels: the individual, the communal and the global."

The Unity Project by Brian Corvin is published by The Manuscript Publisher and available to buy online, in print and e-book editions. Further information is available from the websites of the author and the publisher.

Signed copies will also be available at the launch to take place at the Irish Writers' Centre on Parnell Square, Dublin on Thursday, 6 October starting 6.30pm. Make a note in your diary. Download your invitation here. For directions to the Irish Writers' Centre, see map.

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Wesport Arts Festival - 5 days of music, theatre, literature, visual art

Westport Arts Festival begins today (Wednesday, 28th September) and runs for five days, to Sunday, 2nd October, offering a strong and diverse selection of events to appeal to all ages and tastes.

As well as talks and literary readings, the festival programme of events is promising "top class music, theatre, visual art, comedy, film and craft from local, national and international artists". Full details are available from the festival website and can also be downloaded, in brochure form.

The festival also hosts an annual poetry competition. This year's competition offers its largest prize fund ever, with a first prize of €1000.

Monday 26 September 2016

SiarScéal Festival 2016 to Take Place in October

SiarScéal Festival 2016 is to take place over two days (7-8 October) in Roscommon Town. The late Hanna Greally, author of Bird's Nest Soup, will be honoured at this year's festival, which will also see the launch of a new anthology, Centenary in Reflection, produced by SiarScéal writers from Ireland and abroad.

The official launch of the two-day event will be presided over by Cllr Tony Ward, Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council. This will take place in the Fortfield Suite of the Abbey Hotel in Roscommon Town and will include readings from winners and participating schools in the Hanna Greally Literary Awards, which were adjudicated by Ann Joyce.

In the afternoon, Lunatic There I Go, a Floating World Theatre Company presentation, will offer a dramatic and spoken word interpretation of the world of Hanna Greally - a story that is guaranteed to spark an response in every audience.

The following day, Saturday 8 October, Roscommon County Library HQ provides the venue for the launch of Centenary in Reflection, an anthology of poetry, prose, short stories, charting and celebrating the events that have made up the last 100 years, following the journey of a nation re-birthed through rebellion.

Roscommon County Council Arts Officer, Mary Mullins and acting County Librarian, Mary Butler will formally launch the anthology. The evening will also see the presentation of the Ger Hanily Memorial Cup, an annual award for literary achievement that forms part of the festival. Recitals from guest authors - including Ann Joyce, Mary Branley, Mary Melvin Geoghegan, Mary Guckian, Kieran Furey - will round off the evening that will also feature an Open Mike session, for anyone else who would like to take part. Refereshments will also be provided.

Further information about SiarScéal, including the festival programme of events, is available from their website, where copies of Centenary in Reflection, along with other SiarScéal publications, are available to buy online, in print and e-book editions.

Wednesday 21 September 2016

H.G. Wells - born 150 years ago today (21 September 1866)

H.G. Wells by Beresford
George Charles Beresford
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Herbert George (H.G.) Wells was born 150 years ago today, on 21 September 1866. A prolific author and writer across genres that include fiction and non-fiction, he applied his mind to just about every field of human enquiry. He was outspoken on many issues of the day and his views were eagerly listened to – by politicians and public alike.

He is recognised (along with Jules Verne) as one of the founders of science-fiction and his contributions to this genre are mostly responsible for making him a household name. War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, The Island of Doctor Moreau are as much enjoyed today, in their original form, as they were upon publication, over 100 years ago. If that was not enough, they have been endlessly adapted for stage, screen, radio and other media. His near-namesake, Orson Welles, famously broadcast a radio adaptation of War of the World in October 1940, the response to which has become the stuff of legend.

A prolific writer throughout his adult life, Wells is, nevertheless, best and most fondly remembered for what would be considered his first work. Little more than a novella, The Time Machine was first published in 1895, although an early version of it appeared as a short story in 1888, under the title, The Chronic Argonauts. In it, Wells postulates the ultimate fate of humanity and the planet that it dwells upon, considering the ramifications of a society basing its orientation on blind obedience to, what some might consider to be the fate to which it is ordained. The views presented and conclusions drawn remain curiously fascinating today, even with the passage of time.
"Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless. There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change." - from The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (1895)

His particular skill as a storyteller was to devise themes and then use them as a larger device, to convey a sense of morality, foreboding or harbinger of things to come. It is a format that many have followed but few have emulated. His science fiction (or scientific romances as he called them) are based on a true understanding of scientific principles – something that he possessed in abundance – but also, deeply rooted in real word concerns. His other novels, such as A History of Mr Polly and Kipps, reflect his preoccupation with social class and what he saw as the restrictive, detrimental and ultimately ruinous consequences for a society based on it.

Of course, Wells himself had humble beginnings. The fourth child of parents who worked as domestic servants for most of their lives, his early education was sporadic and based on whatever his parents could afford to pay for. He served an unhappy apprenticeship in this teenage years, working 13-hour days and sleeping in dormitories with other apprentices. All of this could not but have left a mark on his personality and temperament. His adult years and his literary efforts therefore, were devoted to finding cures for various social and other ills, as he encountered them. He was an advocate of World Government and devoted much time to investigating ways that it could be realised.

In a way, just as Wells' life straddles the 19th and 20th century, so too, his thinking and his ideas encapsulate the hopes, dreams and ambitions of the period in which he lived and worked. Much of what he anticipated has come to fruition, even if not entirely in the way that he might have conceived. Still, there is much else in his body of work that may indicate 'the shape of things to come', all making for an enduring enigma.

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Centenary of the Birth of Roald Dahl (1916-1990)

Roald Dahl (1982)
By Hans van Dijk / Anefo
(Derived from Nationaal Archief)
[CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Roald Dahl, authors of novels, short stories, screenplays that have appealed to audiences worldwide and across generations.

Born in Wales, to Norwegian parents (he was named after the polar explorer, Roald Amundsen and not, as has been suggested, out of some kind of conceit not to be knows as 'Ronald'!), Dahl grew up in a household where Norwegian was the spoken language and English therefore, was effectively a second language for him.

He enjoyed/suffered the benefits of an English public school education, where he excelled at sports, being exceptionally tall (as an adult, he stood a towering 6" 6') and also honed a love of literature during these years. The stature that he would attain as a literary figure was only hinted at during his school years however. One of his English teachers observed in a school report, "I have never met anybody who so persistently writes words meaning the exact opposite of what is intended."

The Second World War would see him serve as a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force (RAF). He married twice - to actress, Patricia Neal, with whom he had five children and later, to Felicity "Liccy" Crosland, who remained with him until his death in 1990.

Dahl's literary output adapted quite well to the media of TV and cinema and it is these adaptation that have probably had most to do with making him a household name. Even people who have barely so much as picked up a book are likely to be familiar with his work in some form. His short story collection, Tales of the Unexpected, published in 1979, was adapted to a successful TV series of the same name, which ran during the 1980s - with Dahl even presenting some of the early episodes.

It is as a writer of children's fiction (including works such as James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The BFG) that Dahl most excelled, demonstrating a keen sense of childhood mischief. He is regarded by many as one of the greatest in this genre. His storytelling exhibits an "unsentimental, macabre, often darkly comic mood, featuring villainous adult enemies of the child characters. His books champion the kind-hearted, and feature an underlying warm sentiment." (Source: Wikipedia).

The centenary of Roald Dahl's birth comes a matter of weeks after the death of actor, Gene Wilder, who portrayed one of Dahl's most enduring characters in the eponymously titled, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (a 1971 film adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Dahl, however, was reportedly unhappy with the film adaptation of the script that he provided. This would lead him to 'disown' the film. Reasons suggested for this have been ascribed to a view that "it placed too much emphasis on Willy Wonka and not enough on Charlie" and also, the casting of Gene Wilder instead of Spike Milligan, who was Dahl's choice to take the role. (Source: BBC website - Willy Wonka's everlasting film plot).

It was Wilder, apparently, who came up with the idea for the titular character's dramatic entrance - pretending to be a frail old man, hobbling on a stick until making a forward somersault to the acclaim of worried but relieved onlookers. "I knew that from then on, the audience wouldn't know if I was lying or telling the truth," Wilder said many years later. There is proof, perhaps, in this anecdote, that while great minds don't always think alike, it is still no reason why can't entertain and each be masters of their respective trades.

Road Dahl was born on 13 September 1916. He died 23 November 1990 but his work truly lives on. Over 250 million copies of his books have sold worldwide.

Thursday 1 September 2016

Cape Clear Island International Storytelling Festival

The annual Cape Clear Island International Storytelling Festival takes place this weekend. It runs from Friday through Sunday (2-4 September). Ireland's southernmost inhabited island provides the location and the backdrop, consisting of stunning scenery, folklore and uniqueness of the island's flora and fauna.

The festival is now in its 22nd year, having run continuously since 1994. Accomplished storytellers from around the world are invited to participate. A programme of events is available to download from the festival website, along with other information, including how to get there.

Thursday 28 July 2016

Beatrix Potter (1866-1943)

Beatrix Potter by King cropped
By Charles G.Y. King (1854-1937)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The world of children's literature is marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of its most famous and enduring figures. Beatrix Potter, the English writer, illustrator, natural scientist, and conservationist was born on this day in 1866. Her children's tales are more popular than ever - few who are reading this will not have at least some distant childhood memory of characters such as Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck, the Tailor of Gloucester, Benjamin Bunny, Squirrel Nutkin, Jeremy Fisher, to name but a few.

Her entire literary canon consists of over 30 books, including the 24 tales that continue to captivate and delight succeeding generations of young children. And it doesn't end there. In 2015, an almost completed, unpublished manuscript was discovered among her archives. The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots is due to be published later this year, in September, by Frederick Warne & Co, the publisher of the original series of Potter's children's tales though these days, it operates as an imprint of Penguin Books.

Potter's work is most clearly influenced by an abiding passion for natural history, which was nurtured from an early age and stayed with her throughout her life. When she eventually gave up writing, it was to devote herself to farming and country living. She is credited with preserving much of the land that now constitutes the Lake District National Park in North West England. Upon her death, in 1943, she left most of her property to the National Trust.

Although she herself died childless, her writing style lends itself well to young audiences. Her deep and abiding interest in the natural sciences is conveyed in a manner that is lively, inventive and refuses to be dull, packed as it is with a sense of earthy realism.

Peter Rabbit first edition 1902a
Beatrix Potter
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Her success, both critical and commercial, is a reflection of her distinct talent as a writer and illustrator. It was also a product of a certain business sense that she applied to all of her ventures. She had a hands-on approach, both to her writing and publishing activities. Potter was one of the first authors to recognise and capitalise on the merchandising possibilities of her books, patenting and licensing a range of toys, dolls, board games, colouring books based on the characters that she created.

The first editions of The Tale of Peter Rabbit were self-published by Potter, until she found a publisher who not only saw the potential, but also shared her vision for 'the bunny book' as it was called. This finally happened in October 1902, following numerous rejections, both from publishers but also from Potter herself, who was initially hesitant about adding colour illustrations to the story.

It proved to be the right decision. Colour illustration was becoming both popular and affordable and the book was an overnight success. Today, it has been translated into 36 languages and is estimated to have sold over 45 million copies worldwide.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

George Bernard Shaw 1925
By Nobel Foundation
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Today marks the 160th anniversary of the birth of playwright, critic and commentator, George Bernard Shaw, or Bernard Shaw as he preferred to be known. During the course of a long life (he died at the age of 94), he left behind a vast literary legacy that has proved enormously influential. The term 'Shavian' has even entered the English language, to describe his ideas and manner of expressing them.

Winner of the the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 (for his play, Saint Joan) Shaw's work extended into other media and genres, including the silver screen. He provided the screenplay for the film version of Pygmalion, which garnered two Academy Awards, including one for Shaw himself. Music however was Shaw's first love and perhaps his most enduring. He began his literary career as a music critic and was well into his forties before he took up drama in a serious way, becoming, in some people's estimation, the second most important English-language playwright after William Shakespeare.

A man of prodigious talent and a work ethic that lasted up to his final days, Shaw combined it all with a spirited nature and irascible wit, which shines throughout his literary output and legacy, using comedy as a device to question conventional morality. He was also a keen political commentator and ardent campaigner in the cause of social reform. A professed and outspoken socialist, he was most closely associated, publicly and politically, with the Fabian Society - a group of intellectuals whose views can broadly be characterised as reformist and social democratic.

George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin, in 1856, to a middle-class family of Protestant ascendancy stock. He moved to London in 1876 and returned to Ireland only occasionally thereafter - on one occasion meeting Michael Collins, just days before his assassination. Although he made his home in England, where he died in 1950, his relationship with his home country remained strong throughout his life. He even took out dual citizenship following Irish independence and his initial reluctance to accept the Nobel Prize (due to unease he felt about the origin of the award and its connection with the armaments industry) was overcome by the realisation that it was an honour that would be celebrated and appreciated back home. With this anniversary falling in the centenary year of the Easter Rising of 1916, it is notable that Shaw, though scarcely a nationalist or republican, was among the first public figures to speak out against the repression and executions that followed.

Shaw was a celebrated figure in his lifetime and his death was mourned around the world, causing "the Indian cabinet to adjourn, theatre audiences in Australia to rise for two minutes' silence, and the lights on Broadway and in Times Square to be dimmed."

Source Material

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Comment: Left Behind by Rex Lee

Left Behind

by Rex Lee

In the 70's, if you were young and attached to an organisation that had a partner in the European Economic Community (EEC), the world was your oyster. However, because the whole concept of a united Europe was still in the future, we were not fully aware of the possibilities presented. We argued fiercely, as only the very young could do, secure in the knowledge that it would, time after time, produce the right prescription for our new world.

A couple of years after the second opening to the EEC, which allowed Ireland, Britain and Denmark to enter the community and a few years before the accession of Spain, Portugal and Greece, I, along with most of the members of our local Macra na Feirme club, visited the Austrian Tyrol. Austrian EEC membership would, however, have to wait two further openings.

We were impressed with Austria, with its web of autobahns and flyovers, though there was a certain incongruity in the fact that each morning, on leaving our pension (boarding house or lodgings), we would see an elderly woman pushing a wheelbarrow of manure down an autobahn. We pondered this yet failed to furnish a suitable explanation. Why had the lady with the headscarf to do what she did? Only later did we realise that a few years previously, Innsbruck had hosted the Winter Olympics: hence, all the autobahns and flyovers. Most of the population had been left behind however.

I found that the Europeans shared an interest in both myself and my colleagues. This was obvious from the many conferences I attended. My fellow countrymen and I got a very warm reception from our counterparts. They were interested in the country we came from – and in us as individuals. After centuries of separation and non-involvement with the world, Ireland had come in from the cold. These Europeans listened to our opinions and demands, even when they were excessive.

It is sad that forty years later, Britain is thinking about leaving the European Union, having been a partner with us in this great adventure. Ireland has benefited enormously and surprised many by emerging as one of the most dynamic economies of Europe, from being one of the most sluggish. We have also progressed enormously on social grounds: the position of the disabled and of women has been greatly enhanced.
Melodies at Eventide by Rex Lee

Rex Lee is an author, film-maker, activist and campaigner on behalf of disabled people. His autobiography, Melodies at Eventide, was published earlier this year by The Manuscript Publisher (ISBN: 978-0-9576729-7-0). It is available to buy online, in print and e-book editions.

Thursday 9 June 2016

Books Ireland Short Story Competition 2016

Following the success of the 2015 inaugural short story competition, Books Ireland have announced that another competition will take place in 2016, as part of their 40th anniversary celebrations.

Cash prizes are on offer, including €400 for the winning entry plus a writing course at the Irish Writers Centre and publication in Books Ireland. Entries should be no more than 2600 words and must be original, unpublished and not currently submitted for publication nor for any other competition or award. Otherwise the competition "is open to all writers of any nationality writing in English, with no restriction on style or theme."

An entry fee of €10, or €5 for subscribers to Books Ireland or members of a creative writing group applies. The closing date for entries is 31 August, 2016.

Full details on how to enter are available from the website of Books Ireland where you can also view the results of last year's competition and read the winning entries.

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Down the Decades by Mattie Lennon

A History of CIÉ captured and stored on DVD

Surprised by joy-impatient as the wind
I wished to share the transport-Oh! With whom
But thee ...
- Wordsworth

Patrick Kavanagh said that no one could write a comprehensive account of Irish life who ignored the Gaelic Athletic Association. Likewise, any attempt to chronicle events of the last seventy years would be far from complete if Córas Iompair Éireann (CIÉ) was omitted.

Almost every family in Ireland has or had somebody working in CIÉ, the semi-State body that was founded in 1945. From 1950, it brought out an in-house magazine. The Link ran from 1950 and was replaced by Nuacht in the 1990s. The last Nuacht rolled off the presses in 2003.

Thanks to a few dedicated employees, most of these publications have been rescued from the jaws of obscurity and now, they are about to share the transport publications (which include more than fifteen thousand photographs) with all on DVD.

The first edition of The Link, dated 24 November 1950, published a letter from the CIÉ Chairman:
Dear Mr. Editor, 
On the occasion of the first issue of The Link, I want to offer you my best wishes for the success of the paper. 
I feel sure that you and your colleagues who contribute, or otherwise help, will do everything that can be done to make The Link a staff paper which will, as its name suggests, bind together the members of our staff in all grades and in all places throughout the country. 
I ask every CIÉ man to become a regular reader and in this way, co-operate with you in developing a spirit of unity and good fellowship in our organisation. 
Yours sincerely 
T.C. Courtney

The Editor, Frank Finn, thanked all contributors for, "... articles, notes, news stories and pictures, which have helped me to fill this issue."

The first issue carried articles on subjects as diverse as Charles Bianconi, the pioneer of public transport in Ireland; "The Goats of Westport"; new loading gear for loading cattle onto aircraft and an advertisement from Cotts of Kilcock, "Ireland’s biggest Mail-Order store".

In June 1951, the CIÉ lost property department had a "lost go-car" on its hands and in the Small Ads section of May 11, 1952, you could have purchased a beautiful 3-plate electric cooker for £17 10 shillings. Decades of "Gleanings from the garages", "Capital News", "Notes from the provinces", "Greetings from Christmas travellers" and accounts of funny happenings within the company are all there.

When Nuacht came on stream, it was soon published in full colour and had the effect of bringing employees with a literary bent, who were shy about their scribblings, 'out of the closet'. There is now in existence, the CIÉ Writers’ Group, which brought out a collection of short-stories, poems, essays and articles entitled, There’s Love and There’s Sex and There’s the 46A (2005) with a foreword by Professor Brendan Kennelly, who described the contributors as "... writers, ... keen listeners, sharp observers, constantly in touch with the foibles of humanity and, most striking of all, they are gifted storytellers."

Five years later, they published a second collection, It Happens Between Stops. American crime-writer, Lawrence Block (who was named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1994 ), wrote the following about it:
"The quantity and quality of work produced by this group, taken from a workforce of a few thousand people, would do credit to a city of many millions."

If you worked for CIÉ and did anything newsworthy, from 'missing a free' to acting as midwife on a crowded bus, there is a good chance that you are in there somewhere. If there was a picture of, or an article about, you or yours in any of these magazines, now is your chance to re-capture the past.

Down the Decades with The Link and Nuacht is available on DVD for €10 (including postage) from:
John Cassidy,
CIE Writers’ Group,
Dublin Bus Central,
Dublin 7

reproduced from Timeline of Irish History website

Tuesday 7 June 2016

Sorry for the Silence by Ian R. Braddock

Post-Punk Reflections and an Urban Answer to the Problems of Conscience

As the title may suggest, Sorry for the Silence by Ian R. Braddock is a volume of poetry that has had a long gestation period. At the same time, it also reflects a certain kind of soul-searching that comes with finding one's voice, having one's eyes opened and the discomfort with feeling mute in the face of difficult or challenging situations. The author chooses neither to to embellish nor to mitigate and this results in candid observations that demonstrate a rare and remarkable perceptiveness, informed by a characteristic candour and honesty.
I stood in my doorway and told a story
As tall as tall can be,
Aware that in running from the children's gaze,
I know how cowardly… I am.
The very least I can give these souls
That stand in the line to die,
Is an honest account of why I won't
Not some pathetic lie.
Shame on me.
- Liar by Ian R. Braddock, from the volume Sorry for the Silence
So who then is Ian R. Braddock? In his own words, he was born in in Manchester, England, had an 'unremarkable childhood', left school at sixteen to a series of dead-end jobs and found himself moving constantly sideways in terms of a career trajectory. Personal fulfilment, such as he found, was sought out in various degrees of hedonism but also, in writing and the pursuit of knowledge. Fortunately, it was the latter that eventually won out and has borne fruit in this, his first volume of poetry, which he describes as "the completion of a jigsaw, made up of answers found in libertarian/anarchic thought over years of 'pondering'."

During these pointless years, he started to write, especially at night when he could not sleep, which was frequently. It was the timbre of words/letters that hooked him: the internal rhythms, how it flowed and so forth. These were the years that hip-hop was fresh, so called 'punk' poets were hacking to bits his perceived stuffiness of their intellectual forefathers.

Sorry for the Silence is his visible answer to the problems of conscience. It is an urban answer and it is, along with his guilt, a driving force for the worthy idea of a better world. It is a collection of poetry that will be enjoyed by anyone who is not afraid to look at the world around them, acknowledge it qualities and its flaws, viewing both with a sense of equanimity until we can discern "the dichotomy of the human predicament: the relationship between what we want, what we need and the price paid for it."

Sorry for the Silence by Ian R. Braddock (ISBN: 978-1505377460) is available to buy online, in print and e-book editions. Further information is available from The Manuscript Publisher.

Thursday 19 May 2016

Write a Sonnet Competition - Kells Arts Club

Continuing the celebrations surrounding the quarto-centennial of William Shakespeare's death, a sonnet writing competition is being organised by Kells Arts Club. Prizes of €25 and €75 are on offer and and will be presented at the Hay Festival, which comes to the town of Kells in Co. Meath from 23-26 June 2016.

Further information can be obtained from Kells Arts Club - see below. Entry forms can also be obtained obtained from Kells Public Library, Bookmarket Cafe in Kells, Blackbird Books in Navan, Antonia's Books in Trim or just download from this link. The closing date for entries is Friday, June 10. Entry is free so what do you have to lose?

Monday 25 April 2016

Poetry Day Ireland - 28 April 2016

"Poetry Ireland is presenting Poetry Day Ireland on Thursday 28 April 2016. With this year's theme of Revolution, we're inviting everyone to rebel, revolutionise and organise to make poetry inescapable and irrepressible for a day."

A number of events are planned around Ireland in celebration of the written and spoken word. The theme, say the organisers, "is more of a springboard than a rigid structure. We encourage organisers and collaborators to rebel against it, to revolutionize it and make it their own."

For more information see the official website.

Sunday 24 April 2016

The Literary Legacy of Ireland's Easter Rising, 1916

A Poets' Rebellion?

Often described and occasionally dismissed as a poets' rebellion, the Easter Rising of 1916 was, nevertheless, an event that had far-reaching significance. We are reproducing here, an article from Dublin Made Me website, which attempts to put it in a historical context while also alluding to the literary impact of those events that took place 100 years ago today.

On this day in 1916, precisely 100 years ago, an armed insurrection broke out on the streets of Dublin, heralding the start of what was originally dubbed the Sinn Féin Rebellion but would come to be known as the Easter Rising.

A week of heavy fighting ensued. The rising was eventually quashed by the superior military power of British armed forces, although strategic failures on the part of the rebels and, indeed, bad luck also played a part in ensuring the outcome. Nevertheless, while often dismissed as a military failure (or even a 'heroic failure'), the fact remains that, aside from the General Post Office, which served as the Rising's headquarters, no other rebel position fell until the order to surrender was received. Thus, while the order for unconditional surrender was issued on Saturday, 29 April (by Padraig Pearse, co-signed by James Connolly) fighting continued until the following day, as it took time for the surrender order to filter through to certain rebel strongholds.

Birth of the Irish Republic
Walter Paget [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The immediate public reaction to the Rising was one of bewilderment, confusion, even outright hostility. Yet, as events proceeded, the mood changed, almost as the leaders of the Rising had predicted it would. The words of a contemporary observer, William Butler Yeats, are often cited to convey the sense of ambiguity but also foreboding that followed in the immediate aftermath:

All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

- from Easter 1916 by W.B. Yeats, September 25, 1916
Whatever Yeats' may have had in mind about the 'change' and the 'terrible beauty' it had given birth to, in hindsight and at this juncture, we have the opportunity to see, in a more fully fledged form, just what the leaders of the Rising were driving towards. As Yeat's alludes, it was not so much the Rising itself but the aftermath and the series of event that was set in motion, initiating and making inevitable broad, sweeping, wholesale changes in the conduct of affairs between people and nations of the earth.
The Easter Rising was, arguably a catalyst for all of this. It marked the opening salvo that ushered in a new era, as the age of empire began its long, slow retreat, to be replaced by a new age of democracy based national sovereignty, backed up by universal suffrage and government based on popular rule. An age of international co-operation based on the free association of free people and nations.

All of this is presaged by the Rising's manifesto, as proclaimed on the steps of the GPO on this day in 1916. It is those words that ring clear today, just as they resonated with people at the time. The Proclamation of the Irish Republic is a literary masterpiece in its own right, not just of its time but for all time.

Easter Proclamation of 1916
By originally uploaded to the English Wikipedia by w:User:Jtdirl
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

'via Blog this'

Dublin Made Me is a website that celebrates Dublin, Ireland's capital city, "as it has been immortalised down through the years, in music, literature, art and stuff".

Saturday 23 April 2016

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Today, 23 April, is the day traditionally associated with the birth (?) and death of one of the most instantly recognisable names in English and indeed, world literature. William Shakespeare (1564-1616) of Stratford-upon-Avon breathed his last on this date in 1616. That is, four hundred years ago today and his works remain enduringly popular, just as they were in his lifetime. Not many authors, poets, playwrights can claim as much and, as if to rub salt in the wounds, he also seems to have profited from it all: his will shows that he died quite wealthy.

The Chandos portrait, which may or may not depict William Shakespeare (1564-1616).
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

That much at least, is one of the relatively few ascertainable facts about William Shakespeare, in spite of the fame that has surrounded his name over the years and, indeed, centuries. Take his date of birth for example; it is not recorded but a strong body of evidence suggests that his life came full circle on the same day. As if to add to a kind of symmetry that is almost poetic, the birth/death of the person often regarded as England's national poet also coincides with feast day associated with St. George's - often regarded as England's patron saint.

Title page William Shakespeare's First Folio 1623
An engraving by Martin Droeshout (1601-1650) described by a contemporary as a good likeness.
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Unlike St. George however, whose very existence is a matter of speculation, the personage of William Shakespeare is, indeed, testified to, even if it too remains clouded in a certain amount of ambiguity and doubt. For despite his enduring fame, an air of mystery continues to hang over his life and legacy, leading some to cast doubt over that very life and legacy. Even his authorship of the 38 plays, 154 sonnets and two long narrative poems ascribed to him have been called into question. Since his death, speculation and debate has raged, with theories ranging from the bizarre to the intriguing. Furthermore, it shows no sign of abating.

At the same time, it is this body of work that provides the only definitive proof as to who was William Shakespeare. They remain relevant, not because of what they tell us about the author but, because of what they tell us about the world that he saw. A contemporary of Shakespeare, Ben Jonson (1572-1637) observed that "he was not of an age, but for all time."

Exactly what this means is, hopefully, a theme that we will return to again and again, as people continue to enjoy his legacy, interpret it and re-interpret it anew.

Thursday 21 April 2016

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855): 200th anniversary of her birth

Charlotte Brontë, novelist and poet, senior member of the famous literary trio of sisters, was born on this day in 1816.

George Richmond [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

While not the eldest of Brontë sisters (she was preceded by two sisters who died prematurely; a fate that seems to have plagued the family), she was the eldest of the three who survived into adulthood and went on to achieve literary success. In order to do this, they felt it necessary to disguise their identities, at least initially. Charlotte gave their reasoning thus:
Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because – without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called "feminine" – we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for their reward, a flattery, which is not true praise. [source: Wikipedia]

As well as being the eldest of the three, Charlotte was the first of the sisters to achieve literary recognition, with the publication of Jane Eyre in 1847. She also survived them when both Emily and Anne, following their brother Branwell, all died within a eight month period.

The Brontë Sisters by Patrick Branwell Brontë restored
By Patrick Branwell Brontë (died 1848)
[Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In addtion to Jane Eyre, her most famous work, two other novels, Shirley and Villette, were published during her lifetime. The Professor, her first novel (which had been rejected by publishers though not without words of encouragement that obviously had the intended effect) was published posthumously, along with other writings that include Emma, an unfinished novel.

Jane Eyre title page
By Chick Bowen at en.wikipedia; Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855)
[Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

In 1854, she accepted a proposal of marriage from a family friend, Arthur Bell Nicholls (from whom she had taken her nom de plume). The couple honeymooned in Banagher, Co. Offaly. The family's Irish connections are, of course, well known. Their father, Patrick Brontë (born on St. Patrick's Day in 1777), hailed from County Down. He married a Cornish woman and while the Brontë sisters' literary output may seem intimately connected with the Yorkshire countryside, where they resided for pretty much all of their lives, they were, in fact blow-ins to that area. In the case of Charlotte, it has even been said that' she spoke with an Irish accent'.

She became pregnant shortly after her marriage but her health also started to decline. She died, with her unborn child, on 31 March 1855, aged 38, three weeks before her 39th birthday.

To mark her bicentennial year, the Brontë Society and the Brontë Parsonage Museum has organised a series of events. Furthermore, they have even put in place a "five-year programme celebrating the bicentenaries of the births of each of the Brontë siblings: Charlotte in 2016, Branwell in 2017, Emily in 2018 and Anne in 2020. In 2019, we will be commemorating Patrick and the 200th anniversary of his invitation to take up his post at Haworth Parsonage."

Thursday 24 March 2016

William Morris (1834-1896), Poet and Designer, is Honoured with Google Doodle

George Frederic Watts portrait of William Morris 1870 v2
George Frederic Watts [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Since the inception of the Google Doodle, authors and writers have figured prominently among the list of honourees. Today it is the turn of the Victorian artist, designer, poet, publisher, William Morris who was born on this day in 1834. He was also a prominent figure in the socialist movement that swept Britain, along with many other countries in the 19th century with the onset of industrialisation.

Though best known in his day for his poetry, his posthumous legacy is said to lie chiefly in his designs, which appear to have found a new lease of life in the internet age, as evidenced by Google's tribute. Accounting for that legacy, Jonathan Jones in today's The Guardian says that he "dedicated his life to inventing beautiful and useful products for the modern world ... showing that mass production – of a kind – can be beautiful."

Morris himself, perhaps summed up his own philosophy in the quote, "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." (source: Wikiquote)

His life and legacy is kept alive today by the William Morris Society, founded in 1955 in London, England with chapters today to be found around the world.

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Theatre Review: The Book of Condolences by Kieron Connolly (directed by Vincent Smith)

"It's strange the dreams you have when you're insane," declares one of the characters of the stage production, The Book of Condolences, which has just had its opening night at the Teachers' Club on Dublin's Parnell Square. That may be about as close as you will ever get to discerning an underlying 'message' or 'meaning' contained in Kieron Connolly's debut play, directed by Vincent Smith and ably supported by solid performances from all of the cast members.

Those familiar with Connolly's work (three published novels to date - There is a House, Water Sign and Harold) will know what to expect but even the cerebrally-challenging nature of the storyline and the subject (if there is one!) will be impressed by the way that it is skilfully handled and put across on stage.

A disparate group of friends (if they can be called such) meet at a funeral parlour for reasons not entirely clear. It would seem that they have come to pay their condolences except that the coffin is empty - there is no body, or maybe there is just nobody, there. In spite of the complicated plot and structure, with an obvious nod to the comedic stylings of Beckett and Waiting for Godot, by the end, the story has resolved itself into a fairly straightforward parable about learning to let go.

The Book of Condolences is performed by Monaincha Theatre and runs until Saturday, 27 February. The venue is the Teacher's Club on Dublin's Parnell Square and tickets can be bought online.

Sunday 7 February 2016

Book Launch: Melodies at Eventide by Rex Lee. A Memoir about Overcoming Disability

Melodies at Eventide by Rex Lee. Memoir.
In the days before scientific advances and the accompanying rise of modern conveniences made life easier, people born with severely limiting disabilities relied very much upon compassion, understanding and networks of support in order to make their way in the world. A soon to be published volume of memoirs, Melodies at Eventide by Rex Lee, is a personal account of somebody who overcame disability, never allowing it to limit his outlook or narrow his horizons.
Out of desperation was born the motivation to embrace the philosophy of physical and mental compensation: by finding a faculty for the one he lost or never had. Rex is living proof that this can overcome most obstacles to leading a normal and independent life. It has in his own words been 'a privileged existence'. - friend and colleague, Peter McKevitt (from the Foreword to this edition)
Rex's story is also the story of Ireland as a country striving to assert itself on the world stage, overcoming barriers and obstacles that history had put in the way. His account spans much of period following Independence. Through his own involvement and activism (including work with organisations such as Macra na Feirme and the Irish Farmers' Association) he both witnessed and played a part in the making and shaping of the Irish society that has been handed down to us today.

The book will be formally launched by Fergus Finlay, CEO of Barnardos Ireland, on Tuesday, 9 February at Kells Public Library (corner of Maudlin Street and Carrick Street in Kells, Co. Meath). The evening commences at 7pm. Light refreshments will be available and signed copies of Rex's memoir will be on sale.

Melodies at Eventide by Rex Lee is published by The Manuscript Publisher (ISBN: 978-0-9576729-7-0) and is available to buy online. RRP €12.99 plus P&P. An e-book edition is to follow soon.

Tuesday 2 February 2016

Penzance Literary Festival 2016

Penzance Literary Festival 2016 takes place from 6-9 July. Submissions are now being accepted on the 'very flexible' theme of Going Underground.
West Penwith has a history as a mining community and that is what inspired us, but what goes underground is so much more: music, espionage, counter culture, earthworms, moles and hobbits…

Guidelines are available to view online and to download. The final date for submissions is 19 February. Further information is available from the festival website and Facebook page.

Monday 1 February 2016

Bradford Festival of Literature 2016

The 2016 Bradford Literature Festival takes place from 20-29 May. The festival programme will be formally launched in March.
Bradford Literature Festival offers a distinct, diverse and dynamic blend of programming. As well as celebrating the spoken and written word in its broadest sense, the festival celebrates the UK’s literary, historical, cultural and faith heritage. The range of events aim to provide a literary offer in the heart of Bradford, reflecting the cultural sensibilities of the city’s diverse demographic; thereby acting as a bridge between different communities as well as a neutral space for dialogue.
You can keep up-to-date with the latest festival news by following online. The festival website includes information about Bradford's history and heritage, maps of the area including festival venues.

Monday 25 January 2016

Robert Burns (1759-1796) - pioneer of the Romantic movement and Scotland's national poet

PG 1063Burns Naysmithcrop
Alexander Nasmyth
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Today marks the 257th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet, also regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement and inspiration to so many, right down to the present day. Burns wrote in both the English and Scots languages.

The occasion of Burn's birthday is traditionally marked, in Scotland and other places, with a Burns Supper, first held in 1801, on the fifth anniversary of his death. Burns Suppers, we are told, may be formal or informal but typically include feasts consisting of haggis, Scotch whisky and recitations of Burns' poetry, usually commencing with his Address to a Haggis.

According to just one of the many websites dedicated to the life, work and memory of Robert Burns, "The haggis is generally carried in on a silver salver at the start of the proceedings. As it is brought to the table a piper plays a suitable, rousing accompaniment. One of the invited artistes then recites the poem before the theatrical cutting of the haggis with the ceremonial knife." - from Alexandria Burns Club (founded 1884)
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.
Fair and full is your honest, jolly face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe, or intestines:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.

Search This Site

Popular Posts

Calendar – Dates for Your Diary