Christmas is coming and hopefully there will be lots of lovely books wrapped up under the Christmas tree in my house, just waiting to be read.

However there are some children, who may never get such a gift, never actually own a book all of their own. Children who don’t have access to books at home and schools with empty book shelves

Children’s Books Ireland champions every child’s right to experience the joy of reading, regardless of their circumstances. Donate €12 today to a child who needs it and help bring the joy of reading into more young lives.

C.B.I’s ‘GiftABook’ appeal’ will ensure that a child somewhere in Ireland will get that very special gift of a book of their own to hold look at and read.

Everyone deserves the magic of a good book this Christmas!  

Donate to: childrensbooksireland.ie #GiftABook  

Jack B Yeats ‘Painting and Memory’ Exhibition

Donnelly’s Hollow. J.B. Yeats

The Jack B Yeats ‘Painting and Memory’ Exhibition, in the National Gallery of Ireland is a must see exhibition for everyone with any interest in Yeats and his work.

This is a unique chance to see 85 of his paintings many on loan from private collections and overseas galleries and museums, and follow his development and change as an artist. It is hard to believe that he created some of his finest and most innovative work, 594 paintings between the age of seventy and eighty years of age.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of his birth and Donal Maguire and Brendan Rooney have curated an outstanding testament to his creativity and genius, love of life and painting.

As I wondered around this world class exhibition I felt that I got an extraordinary sense of the man and the joy he got from his work as an artist.I found it very moving and can’t wait to visit the exhibition again.  

The Exhibition runs until 6th February 2022 but all visits must be pre-booked.  Children under 18 years of age go free.  Do not miss this chance to see such a memorable collection of work by Ireland’s finest artist.

Staircase in the National Gallery of Ireland

Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum has closed in U.S

Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum

It is desperately sad and disappointing to hear of the closure of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum in Quinnipiac in the U.S , which houses the world’s greatest collection of Great Irish Famine related art and artefacts and sculptures reflecting on the greatest tragedy in Ireland’s history.

Only three years ago that ‘Coming Home’- Art and the Great Hunger’ a part of this important collection, on loan from the Great Hunger Museum and Quinnipiac University, was exhibited in Ireland.

From March 2018-to March 2019, the ‘Coming Home’ exhibition visited Dublin Castle, Skibbereen and Derry. It attracted huge crowds who crowds flocked to see this amazing collection, moved by the memorable and inspirational works interpreting our history

I was involved in a few events as part of the exhibition and was often asked why this collection was in America and why we in Ireland did not have our own Great Irish Famine collection!

Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum’s valuable collection was first created by the vision and generosity of Murray Lender and his brother Marvin and Quinnipiac’s former University President, the innovative John Lahey.  As the collection has grown and been added to over the years, Irelands’ Great Hunger Museum was opened to house and display it. However now with changes in the University’s management unfortunately The Great Hunger Museum‘s doors have finally been shut.

Robert Ballagh

The danger is that this collection will be broken up and sold, dispersed and scattered between other universities, galleries, museums and private collectors both in the U.S and across the world. A campaign to save Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum and the collection is under way.

My hope is that The Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage and Tourism and the Irish Government   will have the good sense and offer a permanent home to Ireland’s Great Hunger Collection here in Ireland.  This historic collection could if necessary be rotated and shared between the US and Ireland.

 If not it is high time Ireland and her people began to gather a lasting Great Irish Famine collection of our own for all ages to visit.

Launch of ‘Heroes of Ireland’s Great Hunger’

Kindred Spirits by Alex Pentek. Middleton Co.Cork

It was a great privilege to take part only a few days ago in the virtual launch of ‘Heroes of Ireland’s Great Hunger’ by the Irish consulate in New York on 2nd September.

Launched by Vice Consul Sean O’Aodha, there were 19 of us contributors to the book speaking from all over the world.

With so many also attending the launch it truly was global occasion.

This ground breaking volume edited by Professor Christine Kinealy, Jason King and Gerard Moran examines the role of the many heroes from all walks of life, the men and women who helped and assisted the starving and sick during the long years of the Great Hunger often risking their own health and life to alleviate the suffering of strangers.

‘Heroes of Ireland’s Great Hunger’ features heroes, from Ireland, Australia, Canada, England and America whose contribution and work helping others have been forgotten or overlooked but are now getting the recognition they so deserve. I was very honoured to be asked to contribute a chapter on Doctor Daniel Donovan, the’ Famine Doctor’ from Skibbereen whose incredible story and Diary of a DispensaryDoctor’ made me sit down and write my Famine novel ‘The Hungry Road’.

I happened to be down in Cork for the launch and only earlier that day visited Middleton to see Kindred Spirits, artist Alex Pentek’s striking steel sculpture of nine giant feathers reaching to the sky.

This sculpture acknowledges our thanks to the Choctaw Nation for their kindness to our ancestors in 1847 during the Great Famine. Despite being  dispossessed of their own sacred  lands and sent  on an enforced march ‘ The Trail of Tears’ , to Oklahoma on which many died,  the Choctaw Nation sent $170.00 to help the starving  victims of famine in Ireland .

Le Anne Howe and Padraig Kirwan write of this generosity of spirit in the book. 

‘Heroes’ is published by Quinnipiac University Press and Cork University Press.

Borris Festival of Writing and Ideas 2021

Excitement is growing at the prospect of taking part in a real Festival, an actual live event this weekend in the beautiful setting of Borris House, in the village of Borris in County Carlow.

I will be talking history and how it informs and shapes us in the Roundhouse Marquee on Saturday 21st August at I.45 pm with fellow history lover and writer Turtle Bunbury.

There is a fantastic line up events over the three days of the weekend Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd August, with President Michael  D Higgins, Marian Keyes, Professor Luke O’Neill, film director Jim Sheridan, Sebastian, Barry, Liz Nugent  and so many others taking part.

There will be live music, tasty food, great conversation and plenty of debate, all the things we have missed over the past year and half. Well done to Vivienne Guinness and Hugo Jellet and their team for putting together such a brilliant programme…exactly what we all need!