‘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.’







Sarah Webb, Marita and Martina Devlin

It was lovely to get the chance to join so many writer friends at this year’s Irish Pen Award Dinner in The Royal St George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. Irish Pen Chairperson Vanessa O ‘Loughlin warmly welcomed everyone and we were reminded of the ‘Empty Chair ‘at the Dinner which symbolises writers who are imprisoned or unable to write freely in their own country.

This year winner of the Irish Pen Award for her contribution to Irish Literature is writer Catherine Dunne, a very worthy winner.  The award was presented by The Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Josepha Madigan who spoke of the importance of Irish writers like Catherine whose work is recognised both at home and overseas.

Catherine talked about her writing life and how vital it and words are to her.

Writer Lia Mills gave a lovely tribute to Catherine talking about her work, loyalty and friendship and her dedication to teaching writing and encouraging others to write.

There was lots of book talk, library talk and publishing talk and having just finished my own  book it was  great to relax and over a lovely meal  and to get to meet so many PEN friends.



Death of Eileen Battersby


The tragic death of writer and journalist Eileen Battersby on Saturday 23rd of December, following a car accident, as she went to feed her horses, touched all of us who had the good fortune to know her. This Christmas was tinged with sadness at the loss of such an independent mind and spirit who loved books and literature, writing and words and animals with a fierce and dedicated passion.

I always admired Eileen’s work and looked forward to her book reviews which always drove me to get the book and read it for she had a way of capturing the essence of a story that few writers have. Hearing that Eileen was to interview me on the publication of my first adult novel ‘The Magdalen’, filled me with trepidation for her interviews were legendary and she had a way of getting an insight into a  writer’s persona that few journalist have.

The house was in chaos when she arrived as it was the day of our daughter’s 21st birthday party but I soon found myself deep in conversation with one of the liveliest and brightest minds ever as she quizzed me about why and how I write and the books and writers that I cared about and influenced me.  We are both mad on dogs and the hours flew by as we talked about books we loved that deserved more attention. She was a champion of books and writers and as she finally disappeared down my driveway I realised just how very special Eileen was.

Over the years I always enjoyed meeting Eileen and she came along to Irish Pen dinners and also took part in a few Irish Pen debates and discussions. I particularly remember one night asking her to come along to talk about her favourite books. Asking Eileen to pick her favourites was a bit crazy of me for she had a voracious mind and an immense knowledge of Irish and international literature. She arrived with three massive bags of books which she encouraged us all to find and to read. I still laugh as ~I think of everyone furiously trying to write down everything she said.

There never will be anyone as free spirited and big hearted as Eileen. Listening to her beautiful daughter Nadia talk about Eileen at her funeral made all of us present realise that we have witnessed the passing of a very special and gifted human being.

Sacha Abercorn –Sadly December also brought the death of another special lady, my friend Sacha Hamilton, the Duchess of Abercorn. Sacha worked tirelessly to promote creativity and to foster the imagination and the love of writing, the arts and nature amongst children both in the North of Ireland and the South of Ireland.

Sacha set up The Pushkin Trust in 1987 which was named after the Russian writer Alexander Pushkin who was a relative of hers. At the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland she organised workshops and school visits that brought children together and sought to break down divisions.  Over the years The Pushkin Trust grew and grew and became even more successful. I always enjoyed being part of it and helping any way that I could whether it was with children or with teachers.

Sacha loved meeting children and their families. She cherished creativity in all its forms and often arranged for young prize winners to come to her home in Baronscourt in Omagh. Kind and gentle Sacha had a deep inner strength and conviction and her beloved Pushkin Trust has encouraged imagination and hope in so many young hearts and minds.


Happy New Year to everyone. May 2019 be a year of kindness towards our fellow man…..