‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’ on Stage at the MAC Theatre in Belfast

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I am getting very excited as it is only a few week to go until  the stage production of  ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’ opens in Belfast’s Mac Theatre.  It is the first ever Irish stage production of the book!!

I went up to Belfast to meet the cast and crew and sit in on rehearsals.   I found it a bit strange and emotional at first to watch actors playing characters that I have created and care about so much on stage.

However I feel my book is in very good hands as Cahoots Northern Ireland is a world class children’s theatre company, who have produced some truly original and innovative theatre.  The brilliant Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney is directing the play, which was adapted for stage by Charles Way. There is a stirring original score by Garth Mc Conaghie with some amazing songs which really added to the story.

I do hope lots of young fans and older fans of the book will come along to see the show at THE Mac Theatre in Belfast.

The show opens on Thursday 27th September and runs through until Saturday 7th October 2018

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Brilliant Readers in Strabane

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Brilliant Readers in Strabane!

I had a wonderful visit to Strabane in Northern Ireland, where I got to meet lots of brilliant readers from a number of local schools at St Catherine’s P.S in the town and afterwards at St Mary’s P.S in Cloughcor.

Special thanks are due to Bridget Wilders the principal of St Catherine’s School and to all the other teachers who arranged this very special Multi -School visit.

I just couldn’t resist these three figures from the special Under the Hawthorn Tree display in St Catherine’s .

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Coming Home: Art & The Great Hunger at Dublin Castle

Coming Home:-Art and the Great Hunger, is a poignant and striking exhibition of historical and contemporary art and sculpture relating to the Great Irish Famine which has just opened in Dublin Castle.

The works on show are part of the acclaimed art collection from the Great Hunger Museum in Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut which has generously agreed to give Irish people an over the coming months an opportunity to see work from this unique collection.

“Cottage: Achill Island”The exhibition is well worth a visit to see how some of Ireland’s foremost artists and sculptors reflected on Ireland before, during and after the Great Irish Famine. From the landscapes of Jack B Yeats, Alexander Williams and William Crozier, to the illustrations of James Mahoney, the  thought provoking  paintings of Michael Farrell and Lillian Lucy Davidson, and the haunting sculptures of Rowan Gillespie, John Coll,  John Behan and Margaret Lyster Chamberlain.

“The Leave-Taking”President Michael D Higgins opened the exhibition which was curated by Prof Niamh O’Sullivan.

This is a must see exhibition for anyone with an interest in art or history. I found myself both moved and provoked by the artist’s interpretation of the effect of Ireland’s Great Famine on our people. It is highly recommended for students, and older children. I will certainly return  to see it.

Coming Home: Art & The Great Hunger is on at:

The Coach House in Dublin Castle until 30th June 2018.

The Uililinn- West Cork Arts Centre in Skibbereen on 20 July – 13th October 2018

The Glassworks in Derry 18th January -16th March 2019.

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‘Irish Women in Literature’

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It was lovely to revisit Strokestown Park House to participate in their two day Irish Women in Literature Symposium which was opened by Councillor Orla Leden, Cathaoirleach of Roscommon and had a special focus on the forgotten women of Irish Literature

Professor Christine Kinealy of Quinnipac University gave us a fascinating account of the life of Fanny Parnell and her writing and immense contribution to Irish Nationalism.

Professor Luke Gibbons of Maynooth University, provided an absorbing insight into the world of Irish Women Writers some who hailed from Roscommon. He talked about the huge success enjoyed  by the work of Charlotte O Connor Eccles, , Grace Little Rhys, and the  prolific Bitha May Croker who  wrote 50 novels and had ‘The Road to Mandalay’ filmed. Much of their work is unfortunately now out of print but certainly these women deserve to be remembered for their contribution to Irish literature.

Nuala O’Connor talked about her work and read from ‘Miss Emily’ and a wonderful short story that has just been published in her new collection ‘Joyride to Jupiter ‘.

On Friday Dr Margaret Corporaal, Assoc Professor of Radboud University, Holland  gave us an in depth  talk about the life and work of Mary Anne Sadlier , who emigrated to Canada in 1844 and with her writing came to represent  the voice of the Irish Catholic Diaspora.

Strokestown Poetry presented a talented group of Roscommon Poets Reading from their work with Jessamine O’Connor finishing up a wonderful few days by reading from The Hermit Collective.

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 Jason King, Mary Butler, Nuala O’Connor, Orla Leden, Caroilin Callery, Christine Kinealy & Marita Conlon-McKenna

The Famine Way Walkers – Remembering The Great Famine

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The national famine way walkers crossing the gangplank.

Well done to The National Famine Way Walkers led by Caroilin Callery who completed their 150km long journey from Strokestown Park House to Dublin’s Eden Quay on Thursday 1st June. They were walking to commemorate the 1490 evicted tenants of Strokestown Park House, who were being sent by their landlord on assisted passage to Canada in late May 1847.

These men, women and children led by the bailiff and his men followed the path of The Royal Canal as they walked all the long way to Dublin. Although tired and exhausted, I’m sure hope and excitement must have filled their hearts as they saw the River Liffey and boarded the ships that would take them to Liverpool. From there the group would begin the long sea voyage across theAtlantic to Canada.

Many already weak would not survive the poor conditions at sea; others on their arrival in Quebec would die in the crowded fever sheds of Grosse Isle. For those that survived, Canada offered an opportunity for new life, a new beginning and a freedom that they had not known before as they began to settle and create a new life away from Ireland.

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The national famine way walkers in Dublin City.

As the walkers appeared wearing famine costume and crossed Dublin’s busy city street a hush fell among all of us gathered to greet them.

They walked slowly along the cobbles by Rowan Gillespie’s haunting bronze famine figures, real and imagined mingling, as they continued on to the Jeanie Johnson ship which is moored nearby on Spencer Dock on the quays. Crossing the gangplank on to the ship some gave a small wave as one by one they boarded. Their faces and movements symbolised all those that must have boarded such ships during the dark days of the Great Irish Famine.

Watching them it felt like the ghosts of the 1,490 had returned to Dublin and walked our streets once more.

Thank you to everyone involved for bringing this important part of our history to life