Shadowed Women Art Exhibition

IMG-20160729-WA0001It was an honour to open talented textile artist Ciara Harrison’s Exhibition ‘Shadowed Women’ in Limerick’s Hunt Museum. Ciara’s portraits of the seven widows of the 1916 Easter Rising have an ethereal and almost ghostly quality.

Her charcoal drawings and embroidered layers in black cotton organdie, although seeming fragile, give a unique perspective to these often forgotten women. The portraits include sisters Grace and Muriel Gifford, Maud Gonne, Kathleen Clark, Agnes Mallin, Aine Ceannt, and Lily Connolly.

IMG-20160729-WA0002‘Shadowed Women’ was commissioned by The Little Museum of Dublin and is on view at The Hunt Museum until the end of August. Downstairs in The Hunt Museum, artist Robert Ballagh’s 1916 Centennial Reflection Exhibition ‘A Terrible Beauty’ is also on show until 28th August 2016.

Both exhibitions are well worth a visit over the summer in this wonderful museum!

From Limerick, I travelled down to the Ardmore Pattern Festival in Waterford, which this year is celebrating its 10th Anniversary. The sun was shining and huge crowds turned out for the week of varied events.

Saturday morning started with a big gang of young readers coming along to meet me at the school, with their books, ideas and questions.

Later on the venue was the 300 year old St Paul’s Church, which was the perfect setting to discuss and talk about history, 1916 and my book Rebel Sisters to a wonderful group of history enthusiasts and book lovers.

Book Clubs – Rebel Sisters

Book Club IllustrationIt is great to see Rebel Sisters become such a big Book Club choice. It is a great honour to have so many book clubs all over the country reading and discussing my new novel based on the lives of the Gifford sisters. Rebel Sisters was also a Sean O’ Rourke’s RTE Radio Show Book Club choice.

There is a huge interest in the changing lives of women of the period leading up to 1916 and the complexities of Irish history which would see a family like the Giffords, loyal to the crown and empire, torn apart. As their brothers enlisted to fight in the Great War, Muriel, Grace and Nellie found themselves instead caught up in plans for the Nationalist rebellion.

Writing a book about three young women who were so deeply involved at the very heart of the 1916 Rising was certainly a very big subject to take on but I am so please at the huge interest in the book and the fact that it has encouraged so many readers to delve further into the events of 1916.

I had a lovely time speaking at a big Book Club lunch held in Elm Park Golf Club in Dublin where I had the chance to meet lovely readers from different book clubs, who had lots of questions and insights into the book.

Thank you to all my wonderful Book Club readers!

Arbour Hill

Arbour HillArbour Hill Cemetery was part of the Arbour Hill Military Prison. Following the execution of the fourteen leaders of the 1916 Rising by firing squad over a number of days from the 3rd of May to the 12th of May 2016 in Kilmainham Gaol, their bodies were immediately moved by truck to Arbour Hill for burial.

General Maxwell had ordered the digging of a large pit, a mass grave in Arbour Hill to hold the bodies of all those he intended executing. Although all the families of the executed leaders each requested the remains of their loved ones for burial, General Maxwell refused. He feared that their funerals would attract and arouse sympathy and support and that the rebellion leaders’ graves would become places of pilgrimage. So instead, in the early hours of the morning, with few witnesses, their bodies were buried together in a quicklime pit. A sympathetic sergeant major however put a numbered brick at the head of each of their bodies and kept a list of their names.

Years later, the Irish Republic converted the military cemetery to a place of remembrance for those that had died for Ireland. A low mound surround on a granite terrace forms the official grave of the 1916 leaders, bearing each of their names written in concrete. Behind the graves is a wall with a cross and The Proclamation of The Irish Republic – written in both Irish and English.

Arbour Hill is free to visit and is situated only a short walk away behind The National Museum at Collins Barracks -along the quays. The museum, which is situated in a magnificent large old British Military Barracks, is well worth a visit and has a large selection of 1916 items on display.