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.
On Saturday as Dublin sweltered, it was straw hats and sunshades for The Bloomsday Garden Party at Aras an Uachtaran, where everyone got a warm welcome from President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina. There were bands playing as everyone mingled and chatted and strolled around the magnificent gardens, with plenty of entertainment as we lolled under shady parasols.
Then it was full afternoon tea served in the marquee on the lawn as we listened to Joycean inspired opera and readings including a brilliant section of Ulysses read by the president’s wife Sabina. There was more poetry, prose and music with the President joining in with a poem of his own. The Stunning set everyone’s feet hopping before heading back outside.
Afterwards we dallied listening to some mellow jazz in that most beautiful of gardens.
Sunny Dublin was at its very best this week and I was over the moon to get along to the Hans Zimmer concert in the 3 Arena.
Zimmer is an extraordinary composer who creates such mood and atmosphere and tells story with his music and film scores. He talked about his work, the directors he has worked with, and the inspiration for many of his projects. He and his incredible musicians, orchestra and choir gave us everything from Gladiator to The Lion King, and Batman to Interstellar. A packed audience of all ages gave a well- deserved standing ovation to one of the greatest composers of modern times.
On Bloomsday itself I was at ‘The Dalkey Book Festival’ where in the Big Marquee overlooking the water, North Korean writer Hyeonseo Lee talked with Michael Breen about the difficulties of growing up in North Korea. She talked candidly about her family and the day to life they lived under a harsh regime where everyone is under suspicion and watched. A wonderful writer and speaker she explained to the large crowd about the title of her book, ‘The Girl with Seven Names’- which is how she has somehow managed to try to protect herself and her relations from the regime as she escaped to China and eventually to South Korea.