National Famine Way launch of Shoe Stories story video.

National Famine Way Shoe Stories Video

It is great to see another important Famine story being told as The National Famine Way and Strokestown Park House launch the video for Daniel’s story.

At the height of the Great Irish Famine in May of 1847, twelve year old Daniel Tighe was forced to walk 165km with 1,490 assisted emigrants from the Strokestown Park Estate in County Roscommon along the Royal Canal to Custom House Quay in Dublin. Their sorrowful journey is marked by over thirty pairs of bronze shoe sculptures on the National Famine Way walking trail.  I was very honoured to be asked to write Daniel’s story and delighted that now along with the app there is now the National Famine Way Shoe Stories film about Daniel and his family, as they say goodbye to their home place and begin the long arduous walk to Dublin to board ships that will bring them to Liverpool and Canada.

NATIONAL FAMINE WAY SHOE STORIES FILM: Please join us for a live online event in conversation about Daniel‘s great journey and the making of the video on Wednesday, December 2nd at 7pm Irish time, 2pm Eastern Standard Time in North America:
Watch the film and register here:
This film and online event are hosted by the National Famine Museum, Strokestown Park and Irish Heritage Trust with funding by Dublin City Council.  

On Thursday 3rd December I am really looking forward to another online event joining West Cork readers who are reading The Hungry Road for a lively discussion about the book.

It is great to see the continuing growing interest in finding out more about The Great Hunger and I was very impressed by RTE’s new documentary ‘The Hunger’.

This two part series produced by Tyrone Production is narrated by Liam Neeson and is based on the enormous ‘Atlas of the Great Irish Famine’ which was published by Cork University press in association UCC.  The series brings all the research, history and discoveries about the Great Irish Famine to a huge global audience enabling all of us to gain a better understanding of the cataclysmic event that has shaped Irish people and our nation.

Dublin Book Festival in partnership with The National Library of Ireland

Well done to everyone at The Dublin Book Festival and The National Library for going ahead despite Covid with this year’s festival.

It is a great honour to  take part in ‘Writing History’ a podcast with Breda Brown interviewing  new writer of A Quiet Tide Marianne Lee  and myself about  all the intricacies and joys of writing history, something we both love. The podcast will go out on Thursday 5th November at 7pm.

 Here is the Link:

 Marianne and I could have talked for hours about our favourite subject and how we each approach writing; researching and building our stories while staying true to those we are writing about   

It is unfortunate that here in Ireland we are back in a lockdown phase again to try and curtail the spread of Covid 19 numbers. Like many other sectors The Arts have been badly hit with theatres, concert venues and galleries shut, and many book and literature and music festivals cancelled or curtailed. It has been a huge learning curve for most of us writers who enjoy taking part in festivals and meeting our readers.

Along with working on a new book I have spent this time learning how to make videos, do Zoom events and podcasts interviews and in the past few months have amongst other things taken part in The John Hewitt Summer School, The Dublin History Festival, and The Kildare Readers Festival, with a lovely event planned next month with West Cork Book Groups who are all reading ‘The Hungry Road’.

Recording the Podcast

 I have a huge regard for all the wonderful organizers and volunteers who have pressed ahead with these alternate form of events which are proving so popular and finding a new even wider audience reach.  

The Wild Atlantic Way


It felt so good to return to West Cork again for a few days, staying in my favourite spot the fishing village of Baltimore.  It does the heart and spirit good to watch the waves and the sea and visit some of my favourite places Crookhaven, Schull , Castletownshend and Clonakilty.

This time visiting Glengarriff we took the Blue Ferry over to the almost tropical Garnish Island, with its beautiful gardens. It is such a stunning place to walk around and enjoy. 

I dropped in to the Skibbereen Heritage Centre to say ‘hello’ and was delighted to hear that since it reopened so many Irish visitors have crossed its doors, all keen to discover more about the past.   

Skibbereen Heritage Centre

I also visited Skibbereen’s Ludgate Hub, the digital centre where they very kindly assisted me with the technical support I needed to take part in the launch of The National Famine Way Passport.

The Passport is for walkers or cyclists that follow the trail along the Royal Canal from Roscommon to Dublin following in the footsteps of the 1,490 tenants that were evicted from Strokestown Park House during the Great Irish Famine in 1847 and made walk all the way to Dublin to board ships that would transport them to Liverpool and Quebec in Canada.  I have written about one of those tenants – young Daniel Thighe for the National Famine Way App. Plinths with children’s bronze shoes mark the way – a reminder of all those that needed  shoes issued to them to enable them to walk.

West Cork has its own famine trails and memories and rich heritage, perhaps that is why I am so drawn to it. 

Garnish Island

Yeat’s Country


Rosses Point

I am just back from a lovely visit to Yeat’s Country in Sligo, a part of Ireland that I had only visited briefly before. This time I was staying in Rosses Point, a place where poet William Butler Yeats and his artist brother Jack and family spent many happy holidays when they were younger. Part of the Wild Atlantic Way the views of sea, sky and mountains are absolutely breath taking and you can immediately recognise their influence on these two artists and their work.

‘ Elsinore’, the fine house where they stayed with their mother’s relations  is only a ruin now but sits overlooking the  expanse of water with  its lighthouse and Metal Man, a  place where tides and time seem to blend, only a minute or two from two golden beaches. There is a beautiful walk that takes you along the path that the Yeat’s family must have passed so often.

In Sligo itself I visited the wonderful Yeat’s Society Building , right near the river, which has a really interesting display about William Butler Yeats and his life and family and work and their links with Sligo.  For anyone with an interest in the poet… a definite must. It also has small display of some of his brother’s art work too.

Sculpture of W. B. Yeats  and Yeats Society, Sligo

We then headed out to Drumcliff, the place where Yeats wanted to be buried in the graveyard of St Columba’s, the church where his Great grandfather had been a rector.  It is such a peaceful and spiritual spot, and the poet and his wife’s grave rests under the shadow of Ben Bulben which was his express wish. He wanted no fuss and for his body to be brought home a year after he died in France for burial in Sligo but unfortunately World War 11 intervened.It would be a few years later in 1948 before Sean Mac Bride, the son of Maud Gonne, helped to make the arrangements for the return of the much loved poet’s remains to his final resting place in Sligo.


Ben Bulben Mountain is so much a part of Sligo that no matter which direction you seem to travel in you are conscious of its gentle presence just as with Table Mountain in Capetown.

As you travel round Sligo, you soon realize just how much Yeat’s words capture the very nature, spirit and beauty of this very magical place.

                          Fairies come take me out of this dull world,

                          for I would ride with you upon the wind .

                         Run on top of the disheveled tide.

                        and dance upon the mountains like a flame.

The Land of Heart’s Desire- W.B. Yeats

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Yeats resting place in the shadow of Ben Bulben






Celebrating 30 years of ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’

Marita talks about  Under the Hawthorn Tree

It’s time to celebrate 30 years of ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree.’ It only seems like yesterday that I took out a pad and a pen and began to write a story for my daughter Mandy which was set during the dark days of Ireland’s Great Famine.’

After hearing about the discovery of three small skeletons from famine times buried under a hawthorn tree in a school field, images began to fill my head. So I began to write about three children -Eily, Michael and Peggy and their epic journey as they set off on a quest to find their grandaunts, across a famine ravaged land.

Thank you to all my readers here in Ireland and all across the world, both young and old, and to all the wonderful teachers who have introduced my work to their students.

Special thanks to all the librarians and libraries, and children’s book organisations who have year in year out supported my books and done so much to promote the joys of reading. Thank you to all schools, colleges and universities and book fairs and festivals that have made me so welcome over many years, in so many places.

Thanks to my agent, my translators, my talented illustrators Donald Teskey, Anne Yvonne Gilbertand PJ Lynch, and of course my publishers both here in Ireland and  overseas and to all those who have adapted my work for use on stage, radio, and film. Huge credit is due to all the amazing booksellers, distributors and printers who bring books and readers together.

I will always be grateful to the wonderful team at O’Brien Press here in Ireland, my editor Ide Ni Laoghaire, and publisher Michael O’Brien for first reading and publishing ‘Under the HawthornTree’ and for being part of this very special journey.