Taking a break from a busy book schedule it was great to escape to the stunning beauty of the Florida Keys and chill out in Key Largo, Islamorada and Key West. Everywhere we travelled was paradise,surrounded by water and nature, so it was the perfect place for a great holiday.
In Key West I visited the home of one of America’s greatest writers Ernest Hemingway –a literary hero of mine ever since I first read ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ when I was a teenager. Hemingway was a winner of both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1953) and the Nobel Prize in Literature (1954).
I am always curious and fascinated by great writer’s homes as they provide a glimpse into their lives. The Hemingway house, a French colonial style house built in 1851, did not disappoint for it is a beautiful house on Whitehead Street, close to the lighthouse and to the water where Hemingway loved to sail and fish. Climbing the small stairs to his outside separate study it was great to see the place where he created so much of his work. Descendants of his original six toed cat still laze around the house and garden. Another famous and influential American writer Judy Blume lives in Key West and is a co- founder of the busy local bookstore ‘Books and Books’ and often can be found there. I can’t wait to see the film version of her classic book ‘Are You There God, its Me Margaret,’ which is due out later this month starring Rachel McAdam and Kathy Bates.
We also visited The Little White House ‘- the Truman home which is only a few minute walk away from the Hemingway home and is also well worth a visit. President Harry S. Truman was a regular visitor to Key West and loved spending time down there. Truman was one of the most influential American presidents. The House is a Presidential Museum with beautiful furnishings and design and is still used sometimes by American presidents.
It is a real treat to be invited to return to Strokestown Park House and the National Famine Museum in Roscommon and to take part in a very special event focused on Archives to Arts and Bringing the Strokestown Archive to life on Saturday 24th September.
The Museum itself has only recently reopened with a new look after having a wonderful five million euro upgrade during the necessary Covid closedown, with an international panel of Famine experts overseeing the project.
To have an archive of over 50, 000 documents available that provide an insight into the parallel lives of tenants and the landlord is a real treasure for all of us with an interest in the past. As a writer having access to archives is invaluable and plays a huge part in the creation of my work and enriches it often sparking new ideas and stories and books that I simply have to write.
Among the panelists are singer and writer Declan O’Rourke and Anne-Marie O’ Sullivan of Enchanted Croi Theatre and there will be a screening of ‘Treasures of the Strokestown Famine Archive in the National Library’ presented by Professor Mark McGowan.
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.