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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‘The Hungry Road’ Book Launch

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Pat Donlon, Marita and Fiona Murphy of Transworld Ireland

Exciting times with the launch of my new book The Hungry Road at Eason’s book shop in Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre in Dublin on Thursday.  It was great to see so many friends and family brave the elements to come along to celebrate with me on this very special night.    My agent, Caroline Sheldon came all the way from London to cheer me on.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my wonderful publisher Fiona Murphy of Transworld Ireland who encouraged me every step of the way with this epic novel about The Great Hunger. My friend Pat Donlon, former director of The National Library of Ireland kindly agreed to launch ‘The Hungry Road’ for me.  I felt it was serendipity as she has played such a big part in my writing career and was the one who launched my first book ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’.

Thank you to Eason’s who looked after the large crowd really well. They have always been so kind and so supportive to me over all my years of writing and publishing.

The launch party continued as the merry crew made our way to Davy Byrne’s to mark the occasion of the publication of The Hungry Road.  A heartfelt thanks to everyone for helping to make it such a memorable  book launch.

Caroline Sheldon, Pat Donlon, Marita and Fiona Murphy.      P.L. Lynch and Marita

Death of Eileen Battersby

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The tragic death of writer and journalist Eileen Battersby on Saturday 23rd of December, following a car accident, as she went to feed her horses, touched all of us who had the good fortune to know her. This Christmas was tinged with sadness at the loss of such an independent mind and spirit who loved books and literature, writing and words and animals with a fierce and dedicated passion.

I always admired Eileen’s work and looked forward to her book reviews which always drove me to get the book and read it for she had a way of capturing the essence of a story that few writers have. Hearing that Eileen was to interview me on the publication of my first adult novel ‘The Magdalen’, filled me with trepidation for her interviews were legendary and she had a way of getting an insight into a  writer’s persona that few journalist have.

The house was in chaos when she arrived as it was the day of our daughter’s 21st birthday party but I soon found myself deep in conversation with one of the liveliest and brightest minds ever as she quizzed me about why and how I write and the books and writers that I cared about and influenced me.  We are both mad on dogs and the hours flew by as we talked about books we loved that deserved more attention. She was a champion of books and writers and as she finally disappeared down my driveway I realised just how very special Eileen was.

Over the years I always enjoyed meeting Eileen and she came along to Irish Pen dinners and also took part in a few Irish Pen debates and discussions. I particularly remember one night asking her to come along to talk about her favourite books. Asking Eileen to pick her favourites was a bit crazy of me for she had a voracious mind and an immense knowledge of Irish and international literature. She arrived with three massive bags of books which she encouraged us all to find and to read. I still laugh as ~I think of everyone furiously trying to write down everything she said.

There never will be anyone as free spirited and big hearted as Eileen. Listening to her beautiful daughter Nadia talk about Eileen at her funeral made all of us present realise that we have witnessed the passing of a very special and gifted human being.

Sacha Abercorn –Sadly December also brought the death of another special lady, my friend Sacha Hamilton, the Duchess of Abercorn. Sacha worked tirelessly to promote creativity and to foster the imagination and the love of writing, the arts and nature amongst children both in the North of Ireland and the South of Ireland.

Sacha set up The Pushkin Trust in 1987 which was named after the Russian writer Alexander Pushkin who was a relative of hers. At the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland she organised workshops and school visits that brought children together and sought to break down divisions.  Over the years The Pushkin Trust grew and grew and became even more successful. I always enjoyed being part of it and helping any way that I could whether it was with children or with teachers.

Sacha loved meeting children and their families. She cherished creativity in all its forms and often arranged for young prize winners to come to her home in Baronscourt in Omagh. Kind and gentle Sacha had a deep inner strength and conviction and her beloved Pushkin Trust has encouraged imagination and hope in so many young hearts and minds.

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Happy New Year to everyone. May 2019 be a year of kindness towards our fellow man…..