Hawthorn Days

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Marita with two of the school’s Gardening Club  

This year the country side is all a bloom with white and pale pink hawthorn blossom.  It is everywhere in the fields and hedges and roadsides, the fairy tree in all its glory giving a truly magnificent snowy display. I have never seen the like of it as I traveled to Waterford  to visit The Ursuline Primary School. I got a warm welcome  there and the  students and teacher Catherine Tuomey showed me a small hawthorn  tree they  had planted there over ten years ago to remind them all of reading ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’.

The tree has grown and was just starting to blossom when to my surprise the school placed a plaque there in honour of my visit. The Ursuline School is one of the oldest schools in Waterford with amazing pupils, and even has a busy gardening club!

May is a lucky month because The Irish Public Library Borrowing figures have just come out.No surprise to discover that children’s books top the list and are borrowed more than any other books from the libraries across Ireland.

Top 20 Books Borrowed in Irish Public Libraries 2018:

  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
    2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School by Jeff Kinney
    3. The BFG by Roald Dahl
    4. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
    5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling
    6. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down by Jeff Kinney
    7. Awful Auntie by David Walliams
    8. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck by Jeff Kinney
    9. Wonder by RJ Palacio
    10. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
    11. Ratburger by David Walliams
    12. Matilda by Roald Dahl
    13. The World’s Worst Children by David Walliams
    14. Gangsta Granny by David Walliams
    15. Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl
    16. Demon Dentist by David Walliams
    17. Diary of a Wimpy: The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney
    18. Grandpa’s Great Escape by David Walliams
    19. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney
    20. Under the Hawthorn Tree by Marita Conlon-McKenna

Delighted to see there at number 20  is ‘ Under the Hawthorn Tree‘ – the only Irish book by an Irish author!  As I say hawthorns are everywhere….IMG_0492 (3) Marita and some great readers from The Ursuline Primary School, Waterford 

‘The Sophie Barat Residence’ Book Launch


Mary McGlynn , Marita and Irene Doody                 Ann O Dwyer and Marita

There was great excitement and fun in the stunning Atrium in Mount Anville School at the launch of ‘A Home from Home,’ a book about the wonderful Sophie Barat Residence

The book celebrates 25 years of this very special residence which was the brain child of Irene Doody of Mount Anville’s Past Pupils Union.  Irene saw there was need for secure accommodation that would provide independent living for past pupils of Ireland’s Sacred Heart schools who for various reasons found they were priced out of the Dublin property market or returned from living abroad, or simply wanted to live within a small caring community following changes in their lives.

With the blessing of Sister Deirdre Doyle, Mount Anville, generously donated a perfect site, which was part of the school’s old farm.  Irene and her amazing committee which included   Ann O Dwyer, Rosemary Wilson, Barbara Duffy set to work to design  the perfect  scheme of low rise bungalows with a  central  building which would house a  dining room and library and a large sitting/ meeting room . The scheme was a unique initiative and once they got planning permission they went about the huge task of raising funds to build it.

Past pupil President Mary Robinson opened The Sophie Barat Residence twenty five years ago.

I was very honoured and delighted to be able to help Irene and the Committee bring this book together to show the work and dedication and care that has gone into not only opening The Sophie Bart Residence  but  in continuing to run it so successfully .

Sophie Barat with its sunny bright bungalows and pretty plant filled landscaped garden and spaces is a joy to visit. It was lovely also to get to meet some of its residents.

Designer Helen Cody did the honours, launching ‘A Home from Home’ in front of a large crowd, many delighted to meet up and reminisce about their own  happy school  days .

Muriel McAuley and Marita               Helen, Marita , Perdita and Eve

Farewell Dinner for ‘Coming Home- Art and The Great Hunger Exhibition’


Marita , Niamh O’Sullivan and Christine Kinealy  

It is hard to believe that it is over a year since Quinnipiac University’s ‘ Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum’ in Connecticut  kindly agreed to let a large part of its magnificent Great Hunger Art Collection travel to Ireland.

The ‘Coming Home’ Exhibition opened in March 2018 Dublin Castle to great acclaim as the public flocked to see this rich and varied art and sculpture collection, which both reflected on and reminded us on Ireland’s Great Famine.

During the summer the exhibition  moved  to The West Cork Arts Centre in Skibbereen, which was  one of the worst affected parts  during the famine, and in early 2019 the exhibition transferred to Culturlann Ui Chanain in Derry.

I was very privileged to take part in a few events and talks organised around the exhibition which had a rich and varied programme of drama, film, academic seminars, talks, art and workshops.

At the Legacy Dinner held at 25 Fitzwilliam Place Vice President of Quinnipiac University, Lynn Bushnell told us of us the University’s delight that the exhibition had drawn over 120,000 visitors and had generated such an interest among all ages.

The ‘Coming Home’ Art collection has now returned to its home at Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum home in Quinnipiac.

‘The shame is that Ireland hasn’t created its own Great Hunger Art Collection to remember and reflect on Ireland’s Great Famine. We have the artists and all we need is the vision to find a proper space to house such an important collection of art works.’