Young Writer’s Day!

D9H5XUMXkAEt6a9What a fabulous day meeting 70 brilliant young writers at the very special Young Writer’s Day in Dun Laoghaire’s Lexicon Library! The day was part of Cruinniu na nOg –Ireland’s national day of creativity for young people with events held all over the country.

The morning kicked off with a big panel discussion with Dave Rudden, Deirdre O’Sullivan, Alan Nolan and me talking to Grainne Clear about how we all got started writing and illustrating. There were lots of brilliant question from the young writers and illustrators… Many of whom are already working on books…. amazing!!

Then it was time to get writing and drawing at the workshops… followed by a really great talk about  publishing  your books with Eoin O’Brien from O’Brien Press and Grainne Clear from Little Island Books .

I also took time out at the weekend to visit the Dalkey Book Festival and attended a brilliant discussion with historian and author Peter Frankopan and Diarmaid Ferriter on ‘Why History Matters.’ My brain was buzzing after it!

Then to the Dalkey Heritage Centre where my friend author Martina Devlin and Andrea Catherwood gave a fascinating insight into the life of one of my great hero’s Countess Constance Markievicz.  Books and writing … can a weekend get any better!

 

The National Famine Way Launch

There was a great turn out for the official launch of The National Famine Way on 30th May at The Epic Museum on Dublin’s Custom House Quay with singer Declan O’ Rourke playing a few of his renowned famine songs and doing the honours!

A group of Famine experts and enthusiasts and walkers set off to walk this New National Famine Way led off by Strokestown’s Caroilin Callery and Professor Christine Kinealy from Quinnipiac University’s Great Hunger Institute, Professor Mark McGowan of Toronto University and writer and broadcaster Cathal Poirteir.

I joined them for the farewell Canadian Wake in the Percy French Hotel and the next morning watched as the  group re-enacted  an eviction outside the gates of Strokestown Park House as they set off to walk along the Royal Canal to Dublin. Schools and walking groups and lots of people joined them along the way!

Six days later watching them arrive into the city, it was emotional to say the least to see them walk alongside Rowan Gillespie’s Famine figures and then board the Jeanie Johnson ship which is moored across from Epic.

The National Famine Way  is a milestone  project that commemorates  the one hundred  mile journey of 1,490 evicted tenants from Stokestown Park House in May 1847, who escorted by the Bailiff walked along the Royal Canal to Custom’s House  Quay in Dublin. There they boarded ships bound for Liverpool and then on to Quebec in Canada.  Many of the children were barefoot and needed shoes for the long walk to Dublin.

The National Famine Way marks their footsteps along the beautifully restored canal and its pathways  with small stone plinths, each with a pair of bronze child’s shoes in over 30 locations along the way in the towns,villages and beauty spots that they passed through.

A digital app is available on the National Famine Way website which gives information about the canal way and local history and nature. I have recreated the story of Daniel Thighe, a twelve year old boy who walked all the way to Dublin on the Royal Canal with his mother and uncle and little brothers and sisters , all of them bound for Canada.  You can read and listen to Daniel’s  journey on the App.

The National Famine Way is a wonderful collaboration between the Great Irish Famine Museum in Strokestown, Waterways Ireland, Irish Heritage Trust and Trinity College’s ADAPT Centre and a  large number of County Councils.  I was very pleased to be asked to also come on board to help them with this exciting and interesting project.

The beauty of the restored canal and its incredible history, nature and wildlife make it a perfect place for people to walk and visit and explore.  Don’t forget to look out for those little bronze shoes as you go!

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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