I seem to be surrounded by history at the moment. This year’s National Famine Commemoration was held in Newry – the first time this important event was held in Northern Ireland.
I took part in a large event organised for schools held in St Dallan’s Primary School in Warrenpoint, where children from over 30 schools came along to find out about the Famine. In the afternoon we did a live video conference with almost 90 schools and also linking with Pittsburgh in the USA, where former US ambassador to Ireland, Dan Rooney, talked about his own family having to emigrate from the port at Warrenpoint during the time of the Famine.
As part of the Dublin Festival of History I talked to a lovely group in Dublin Castle. What a wonderful setting to talk, as it is steeped in centuries of Irish history.
The Dublin Festival of History runs until 10th October with lots more events in Dublin Castle and in libraries around the city.
I travelled up to Bagenal’s Castle, which is home to the Newry and Mourne Museum, to talk to a lovely group from the local schools about writing and the Great Irish Famine.
Earlier on, as part of the Museum’s ‘Living History’ initiative, the group had been shown how to make stirabout and to use yellow meal. They were also introduced to the strict rules and regulations of the Workhouse as they sat at long trestle tables in the Museum’s re-created workhouse dining hall.
A lovely trip and then back to Dublin and finishing my new book…
I’m not on Facebook myself but heard through my kids that Today FM has posted the original cover of my book Under the Hawthorn Tree on their Facebook page asking who read it as a child. I am delighted with the huge, positive response to the post. Would you believe it, I wrote the book twenty five years ago!
Original Irish cover by Donald Teskey
It was written for my own children with little thought of it getting published. I’m mad about history and wanted to tell the story of Ireland’s Great Famine, in a way they would understand. I heard of three small skeletons from the time of the Famine being found in a field, buried under a hawthorn tree. Suddenly I had a story and Eily, Michael and Peggy and their baby sister were on the page, and I couldn’t stop writing. It was crazy as I wrote the book in 12 weeks. My own son was only a baby and I was still doing night feeds and life was pretty hectic.
I sent the book to a publisher and well…talk about luck!
I am so eternally grateful to everyone who has read the book, bought the book, passed it around their families, and used it in their schools. It is still being read by lots of children and readers of all ages around the world. My original readers are now reading it with their own kids. It is a very special book and enabled me to work as a writer. I am so proud of Under the Hawthorn Tree and its amazing 25 years!
This year’s National Famine Commemoration will be held in Strokestown Park House (home of the National Irish Famine Museum) Roscommon on Sunday 11th May 2014 at 2.30pm.
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister Jimmy Deenihan will attend the ceremony, which is open to the public. There will be music, readings and poetry and the laying of a wreath to remember the many victims of Ireland’s Great Famine.
There is a full programme of events which includes a Famine Walk and a Children’s Soup Kitchen Workshop on Saturday 10th May in Strokestown.
It is so important for all of us to remember the Great Irish Famine and the generations of people who died and emigrated during those tragic times.
Strokestown Park Irish Famine Museum
World Book Day at the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, Northern Ireland.
I had a wonderful day up at ‘The Folk Park’ meeting lots of young readers and talking about what else but books and reading and writing!
Joining in the celebrations and the big interview with David Huntley was Northern Ireland Minister for Education John O’Dowd, illustrator Oisin McGann and publisher Ivan O’Brien. So much talk about books made me want to just curl up and read one!