St Brigid’s Day and Herstory!

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St Brigid’s Day on 1st February has always been a special day as here in Ireland we celebrate the first day of spring and new life and fertility and creativity.   I usually try to follow tradition and get my hands on some rushes or reeds to make a simple St Brigid’s cross, our national emblem. However St Brigid’s Day and the coming days will have special focus with the launch of HERSTORY, as all across Ireland from Dublin to Derry, Wexford to Kerry as buildings and monuments will be illuminated over the weekend with portraits of inspirational Irish women, who have left their mark in history, along with a wide variety of events all across the country.

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Marita  with Caroilin Callery

Attending the launch of HERSTORY in Dublin’s Epic Museum it did my heart good to hear about this fantastic new creative project founded by Melanie Lynch of HERSTORY and RTE, Dublin’s Epic Museum and Underground Films, all of them coming together to finally bring recognition of brave intelligent women from all strands of life, science, art, dance, aviation, medicine who have made an invaluable but often over looked contribution to the world.

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Melanie Lynch, Jessica Traynor,  Dee Forde and Dr Norah Patten  

This is all part of an exciting new project  which is spearheaded with the launch of RTE Television’s  HERSTORY , a six part documentary about incredible Irish women , many who have been forgotten which starts on Monday 3d February. RTE Junior will also show six animated films for younger viewers about inspiring Irish women. ‘Blazing a Trail’ an exhibition about many of these amazing heroines is running at Epic.

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Hawthorn Days

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Marita with two of the school’s Gardening Club  

This year the country side is all a bloom with white and pale pink hawthorn blossom.  It is everywhere in the fields and hedges and roadsides, the fairy tree in all its glory giving a truly magnificent snowy display. I have never seen the like of it as I traveled to Waterford  to visit The Ursuline Primary School. I got a warm welcome  there and the  students and teacher Catherine Tuomey showed me a small hawthorn  tree they  had planted there over ten years ago to remind them all of reading ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’.

The tree has grown and was just starting to blossom when to my surprise the school placed a plaque there in honour of my visit. The Ursuline School is one of the oldest schools in Waterford with amazing pupils, and even has a busy gardening club!

May is a lucky month because The Irish Public Library Borrowing figures have just come out.No surprise to discover that children’s books top the list and are borrowed more than any other books from the libraries across Ireland.

Top 20 Books Borrowed in Irish Public Libraries 2018:

  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
    2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School by Jeff Kinney
    3. The BFG by Roald Dahl
    4. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
    5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling
    6. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down by Jeff Kinney
    7. Awful Auntie by David Walliams
    8. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck by Jeff Kinney
    9. Wonder by RJ Palacio
    10. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
    11. Ratburger by David Walliams
    12. Matilda by Roald Dahl
    13. The World’s Worst Children by David Walliams
    14. Gangsta Granny by David Walliams
    15. Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl
    16. Demon Dentist by David Walliams
    17. Diary of a Wimpy: The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney
    18. Grandpa’s Great Escape by David Walliams
    19. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney
    20. Under the Hawthorn Tree by Marita Conlon-McKenna

Delighted to see there at number 20  is ‘ Under the Hawthorn Tree‘ – the only Irish book by an Irish author!  As I say hawthorns are everywhere….IMG_0492 (3) Marita and some great readers from The Ursuline Primary School, Waterford 

Blazing a Trail…Irish Women Who Changed the World

IMG_3928What an amazing launch in Dun Laoghaire’s Lexicon Library for Sarah Webb’s wonderful new book Blazing a Trail…Irish Women Who Changed The World.

Sarah and talented Illustrator Lauren O’Neill have shone a light on 28 amazing intelligent, hardworking, pioneering Irish women who have influenced people both at home here in Ireland and across the world.

In terms of design, Blazing a Trail is visually stunning and an exhibition of Lauren’s illustrations from the book is currently on display at the Lexicon.

Sarah has done a huge job in compiling, researching and finding out more about these incredible women some of whom I’m ashamed to admit I was not even aware of.

From Maureen O’Hara, Sybill Connolly, Eileen Grey, Nellie Cashman, Aleen Cust, the list I promise is truly varied and this is a book that deserves to be read by girls of all ages.

Ossian Smyth Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and Librarian Marian Keyes helped to launch the book alongside O’Brien Press Editor Aoife Walsh.  There was a great surprise when a few members of Sarah’s talented young writers group, complete with wigs and costume, entertained us with dramatized scenes from the lives of three of these remarkable women.   What a brilliant night and what a brilliant book!