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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Ireland, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 92
1. BBC and Netflix Team Up For CGI ‘Watership Down’ Remake

The four-part series will offer a new take on Richard Adams' novel.

The post BBC and Netflix Team Up For CGI ‘Watership Down’ Remake appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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2. A tale of two cities: Anzac Day and the Easter Rising

On 25 April 1916, 2,000 Australian and New Zealand troops marched through London towards a service at Westminster Abbey attended by the King and Queen. One of the soldiers later recalled the celebratory atmosphere of the day. This was the first Anzac Day. A year earlier, Australian soldiers had been the first to land on the Gallipoli peninsula as part of an attempt by the combined forces of the British and French empires to invade the Ottoman Empire.

The post A tale of two cities: Anzac Day and the Easter Rising appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Remembering Easter 1916 in 2016

Remembering the Easter Rising has never been a straightforward business. The first anniversary of the insurrection, commemorated at the ruins of the General Post Office on Easter Monday, 1917, descended into a riot. This year its centenary has been marked by dignified ceremonies, the largest public history and cultural event ever staged in Ireland and, in Northern Ireland, political discord, and menacing shows of paramilitary strength. Over the past century, the Rising’s divisiveness has remained its most salient feature.

The post Remembering Easter 1916 in 2016 appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. 100 years after the Easter Rising

This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the Easter Rising, a violent attempt by Irish republicans to end British rule in Ireland. Though a momentous event in itself, the Rising should be understood in the context of a decade of revolutionary activity during which Irish political culture was profoundly radicalised and partition came to look inevitable. It must also be understood in the context of the First World War.

The post 100 years after the Easter Rising appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. The Easter Rising – Episode 33 – The Oxford Comment

This past Easter marked the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, an armed uprising by Irish rebels against British rule in 1916. An insurrection that lasted almost a week, the Easter Rising began as a small rebellion on Easter Sunday and turned into a full uprising by Easter Monday, 24 April 1916. Rebels seized prominent buildings in the city of Dublin, took up arms against British troops, and declared Ireland as a republic and independent from the United Kingdom. However, the rebels were quickly overpowered and surrendered. Although the uprising had little Irish support at first, the execution of rebellion leaders transformed public opinion about British rule and as a result, became a turning point during Ireland’s struggle for independence.

In this month’s episode of The Oxford Comment, host Sara Levine chats with William Murphy, author of Political Imprisonment and the Irish, 1912-1921; Fearghal McGarry, author of The Rising (Centenary Edition): Ireland: Easter 1916; and Robert Schmuhl, author of Ireland’s Exiled Children: America and the Easter Rising. Together, they engage in fascinating conversation about the experience of women during the Easter Rising, the cultural and national identity that was forged between the rebels in prison after the uprising, and the role Americans played as support and inspiration for the Irish.

Featured image credit: The shell of the G.P.O. on Sackville Street (later O’Connell Street), Dublin in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising. Date: May? 1916 NLI Ref.: Ke 121. Photo by Keogh Brothers Ltd., photographers. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The post The Easter Rising – Episode 33 – The Oxford Comment appeared first on OUPblog.

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6. Kiss Me, I'm Irish...

Actually, I’m one-quarter Irish thanks to my maternal grandmother, but that never stopped me from celebrating St. Patrick’s Day! FYI - in Book #6 of The Last Timekeepers series, I'm planning on setting my time travel sites on this beautiful country. So, sit down, take a load off, and pour yourself a pint of green ale. Aye, here’s to Saint Paddy, banisher of snakes, and founder of monasteries and churches. Now, while you’re waiting for your corn beef and cabbage dinner to boil, have a gander at these six amazing places to visit if you ever get a chance to venture over to the Emerald Isle, suggested to me by my author bud and paranormal romance queen, Dominique Eastwick.

Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland

Renowned for its polygonal columns of layered basalt, is the only World Heritage site in Northern Ireland. Resulting from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago, this is the focal point of a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has attracted visitors for centuries.
Newgrange

Constructed over 5,000 years ago (about 3,200 B.C.), making it older than Stonehenge in England and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Newgrange was built during the Neolithic or New Stone Age by a farming community that prospered on the rich lands of the Boyne Valley. Archaeologists classified Newgrange as a passage tomb, however Newgrange is now recognized to be much more than a passage tomb. Ancient Temple is a more fitting classification, a place of astrological, spiritual, religious and ceremonial importance, much as present day cathedrals are places of prestige and worship where dignitaries my be laid to rest.

Kilmainham Gaol Prison in Dublin

Built in 1792, it is Ireland's most famous disused prison. It held throughout the years many famous Nationalists and Republicans in members of the Society of United Irishmen (1798), Young Irelanders (c1840s), Fenians and Land agitators, Parnell, Davitt. The leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were executed here. The prison was closed in 1924. This building gives a good insight into the history of Irish Republicanism.

Dublin Castle (doing Kilmainhaim Gaol first helps with the history) Originally built in the 13th century on a site previously settled by the Vikings it functioned as a military fortress, a prison, treasury, courts of law and the seat of English Administration in Ireland for 700 years. Rebuilt in the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, Dublin Castle is now used for important State receptions and Presidential Inaugurations.

Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland's top Visitor attractions and are a designated UNESCO Geo Park. The Cliffs are 214m high at the highest point and range for 8 kilometres over the Atlantic Ocean on the western seaboard of County Clare. O'Brien's Tower stands proudly on a headland of the majestic Cliffs. From the Cliffs one can see the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, as well as The Twelve Pins, the Maum Turk Mountains in Connemara and Loop Head to the South. The Cliffs of Moher take their name from a ruined promontory fort “Mothar” which was demolished during the Napoleonic wars to make room for a signal tower. And I saved the best for last…


Guinness Storehouse

The best view of the city and Ireland’s number one visitor attraction. Go figure! The home of the world famous GUINNESS® brand, this historical building is central to Dublin’s and Ireland’s heritage, and has been continually updated to create a blend of fascinating industrial tradition with a contemporary edge. Oh yeah, and you’re also invited to pour your own perfect pint. Cheers!

Now, before you go check on your corn beef and cabbage, please raise your frosty glass high to toast Saint Patrick and Ireland with me: May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light, may good luck pursue you each morning and night. Slainte!

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7. Eyes in the wood.

IMG_1155

 

 

Eyes in the Wood.

 

Someone said to go there.

To walk down the tree-lined lane

And enter the moss covered passageway

Of beech and hazel.

Deeper now with thicker moss beneath my feet,

I step back into the past,

And wonder whose steps I have followed

Into the darkening shadows.

Silence is everywhere.

Moss covered and listening always

To my next step back in time,

Where night creatures roam about.

I step around a lordly beech,

A master of this place.

And find myself inside a grove of hazel.

I pause and wonder what I heard.

The low grumble of a mighty crow,

Or something else.

The sniffing of a deer at sunset,

Or rabbits setting up a nightly watch.

Eyes dilated with tension building.

It is all around me.

The Druids are here.

They whisper with their ancient voice.

I move an eye deliberately and there it is,

Right in front of me.

A hooded crow with piercing eyes

And long black beak.

It speaks to me with one eye cocked awry.

With ancient sound and flash of beak.

I feel the words but do not hear them,

 Just deep vibrations echoing into the night.

Other waves of sound surround me.

More voices closer now,

Almost touching, but holding back,

To separate me from their pack.

Afraid no longer but unable to speak.

I let their world work wonders in the night.

I’m welcome here, I think.

To run is not a need to pamper.

The hooded Druid speaks once more

And then retreats back into his hazel maze.

Muffled silence wraps around me

As carefully I too retreat into the dying day.

Denis Hearn 2015

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8. ‘My Darling’s Shadow’ by Conor Whelan

A stylized film noir in three minutes.

The post ‘My Darling’s Shadow’ by Conor Whelan appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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9. A river poem.

IMG_1159Slaney

 

Oily flows toward the widening space

Of the Norse Gods creeping below the tidal fall.

The boiling waves move inexorably downstream

As the exiting tide adds salinity to its fresh taste.

 

Deeper here and greener with a tinge of brown.

The folding wefts of water make rivulets

In the passage from brackish and then to salt.

The wind scurries across the uneven planes to rippling squall.

 

Dark stones watch from the ancient banks.

Glassless space where hope passed and left

To find a new and better space.

Past ancient woods of yew and tangled hazel.

 

Deep nets cast deep below the turning surface.

To snare and capture the giant of the depths.

Spawned in its bowels and carried back

To make a smothering trip to ancient mountain stones.

 

The dapple and dart of the fishers deep,

As they rest and wait below the barnacle cover

Of ancient stones arched in majesty over its mighty girth.

A slow splash of white flashes, as a swan bellies down in its coolness.

 

Morning cows wade stiffly in the flowing motion.

Drinking slowly with deep gasps of inhaled swallow weed.

They stand and watch as the Dublin train rattles overhead

And plunges steaming, into the black gash of deep cut stone.

 

Oars cut deep in early falling tide as a fishing cot

Turns ancient spiraling wake to complete the circle

And encase the meshed walls of entanglement.

To pull the hopeful catch onto muddy shores.

 

Wider, expanding and creeping slower with steady flow

It moves past the place where Harvey hung on the bridge of death.

Past the warm confessionals of the Franciscan fathers.

Past ancient barnacles standing safely on pitch pine timbers.

 

Past the stone faced ballast bank with its stacks of stone.

Turning slowly to port and outwards to the open sea.

Passing shallows and channels.

Free now, it pushes east into the golden rising morn.

 

Denis Hearn 2009

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10. Bagger island has been released.

My latest book in the Conor and Anne trilogy has been released. It is available at Amazon or on Kindle.

 

Chapter 8

 

The cackling voices of fast flying puffins disturbed the morning scene as they approached the high cliffs on Bagger Island and began to descend onto the soft tufts of grass.  The comical birds returned from a fishing trip and were getting ready for their last few weeks of habitation on the island before going back out to sea until their return the following year.  Black and white coats made them look like waiters out for a day trip on the island, and their large orange and red beaks gave the impression that they were living too far north as parrots having missed their country.

The young puffins were ready for the ocean trip that lay before them and had learned to fend for themselves by diving deep into the water to find their prey.  Onshore they stood outside their burrows and watched the boating activity taking place below them on the slow rolling swells.

Two boats lay anchored below the cliff loaded with scuba divers and gear.  The divers stood around a chart laid out on the deck and were planning their next activity.

“That was a good haul last night,” said Soren to Ronan English, one of the divers, “Twenty gold bars and a bag of coins. We need to make another shipment to France by the end of the week.”

“The cave is getting full at this point,” Ronan replied.

Soren Van den Berg was working with the other divers to remove gold artifacts from a galleon wreck located just off the south of the island. The long red hair flowed around his face like Medusa’s nest of snakes.  His skin-tight diving suit gave him the appearance of a black seal basking in the morning sun.

The secret treasure hunt had been in operation for three years.  Soren and his partners, Ronan English, Redmond Doyle and Karl Kramer had been contracted by Don Rua, the owner of Bagger Island, to remove the treasure and smuggle it out of the country.

Don, the self-proclaimed Irish chief of the family Donal, operated the salvage company which had found the galleon using side-scan sonar, a remote underwater vehicle and a team of divers. They had set up a marine research business to hide their true purpose and so far it seemed to be working.

Bagger Island lay on the edge of international waters off the southeast of Ireland. Caves were visible on the south side and nesting gannets, puffins and other sea birds lived on the eastern side where the island’s back provided shelter from the prevailing wind.  Tourists visited the island frequently to observe the bird activity and recreational divers took part in organized trips to the underwater world below.

Nature had carved large blow holes and caves into the craggy terrain and when the tide was right the powerful waves would enter the hollow chambers and blow the water up into the air with a terrifying roar.

A large stone house above the layer of rocks had been built by the family centuries before. It sat behind a grass landing strip which had been shaped out of the thick sod along the back of the island. The strip was used by Don and previously, by his deceased father who had also lived on the island.  Don and his pilot, Joel, flew a Cessna 172 and housed it in a metal hanger at the end of the runway.

Tunnels populated the rock like an ant farm and drew spelunkers who often visited the island to explore the mysterious spaces.  Don allowed all this activity to take place, but also had other motives in mind. A busy tourist area was a perfect cover for the clandestine activity occurring beneath the waves. He knew he had to protect his cache or it would be over-run with treasure hunters.

In 1556 the Spanish galleon, Bella Maria, hadwrecked on a reef just off the south side of the island. She was filled with gold bars and coins from the New World which were destined for Spain but she never made it due to a huge storm in the Celtic Sea and sank off the island where she had remained, lying on the seabed for centuries like an unopened treasure chest. The wreck was covered with sand and kelp and difficult to salvage because it rested on the edge of a shallow shelf before the terrain plunged over eight hundred meters to the bottom.

The diving team lived in one wing of Don’s stone house and operated their dive business from there.  A perfect location on the high side of the island, it gave the inhabitants a 360 degree view around the island in case their activities were interrupted by some nosey government or meddlesome treasure hunters.

“That was a good night’s work!” said Soren as he eased the throttles forward on the service boat and headed for the small dock at the bottom of the rocky cliff.

“We’re goin’ to need more supplies from Cara Quay,” said Redmond. “Fuel’s getting low also.”

“We’ll get over there later today,” Soren replied. “Hey Red, don’t forget to buy more beer.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t. I’ve a couple of things on the boat to fix first, then we’ll be ready to get underway.”

 

Cover June 2015

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11. Review: Those We Left Behind by Stuart Neville

Stuart Neville takes his writing up another notch in his latest thought-provoking and tragic crime novel. This isn’t a crime novel where a mystery needs to be solved or a vicious killer is stalking victims, although you are kept guessing at different times. This is a crime novel about what happens afterwards, after a crime […]

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12. ‘Coda’ by Alan Holly

A lost soul stumbles drunken through the city. In a park, Death finds him and shows him many things.

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13. An Aran poem.

A smoke in Aran

 

Background grumbling

Brings closer words around me.

A slow stream of familiar scent

From plug tobacco packed loosely in a pipe.

 

I turn to see this silent silhouette

Swaying slowly at the bar.

Aran jersey pulled, blue colored,

Under a grease stained jacket.

 

Another sip of the black stuff.

Another puff on the pipe

Anchored by well-worn teeth

In a salt-cured face.

 

Nicotine stained fingers press tightly

On the crinkled cap.

A red glow.

Another blue cloud backlit against the open door.

 

No voice. No flash of eye.

A dark pillar of a man.

Like upturned currach

Black-bellied to the western sky.

 

The pipe goes down

As the pint goes up.

Memories and taste

Blend together in remembered motion.

 

A shuffle of a weathered boot.

A cough.

A well-aimed spit,

Like hardened plug, finds home in ancient brass.

 

A push of the glass.

Another pint.

No words spoken

And silence never broken.

 

Eyebrows like thatch above

Those dark brown eyes,

Buried in a wrinkled world

Of terror in a black night at sea.

 

Hands worn like burled hazel.

Worn smooth and hard

From years of oars

And pounding surf.

 

No separation between

Nails and skin.

Deep ridges from years of hauling stinging meshes

On fingers, gnarled and almost gone.

 

A movement, slow and even paced.

He pushes away into the night.

And casts off from the bar.

Like moon warmed skins of tar.

 

Denis Hearn 2015

 

Ireland April 2012 211.jpg web large

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14. Anthony Trollope: an Irish writer

Nathaniel Hawthorne famously commented that Anthony Trollope’s quintessentially English novels were written on the "strength of beef and through the inspiration of ale … these books are just as English as a beef-steak.” In like mode, Irish critic Stephen Gwynn said Trollope was “as English as John Bull.” But unlike the other great Victorian English writers, Trollope became Trollope by leaving his homeland and making his life across the water in Ireland, and achieving there his first successes there in both his post office and his literary careers.

The post Anthony Trollope: an Irish writer appeared first on OUPblog.

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15. lismore castle: stepping into a storybook

I've read stories about princesses who have rooms in 'the highest room in the tallest tower' of a castle, but I never thought I'd actually get to live that story for a weekend!



When former Irish Children's Laureate Niamh Sharkey got in touch to see if I wanted to be part of a new festival at Lismore Castle called Towers and Tales, of course I said yes. And I brought along my trusty Jampire (knitted by Ann Lam). I'd been asked to do some picture book events for Jampires and There's a Shark in the Bath (but sadly, I seem to have lost my inflatable shark). Here's a drawing inspired by one of the Van Dyke paintings on the wall in the dining room:



It was better even than staying in a castle; we got to stay there with the family who own it, and they were so kind and gracious and provided HEAPS of food! Here's my writer friend Philip Ardagh, tucking in. (We did a lot of tucking in.)



And I wore a lot of hats. But not one with Philip Ardagh on it, unlike Lady Betty Compton, who couldn't resist:



(Ha ha, here are the two paintings the drawings are based on.)



And here I am in the entrance hall with lovely writer-illustrator Chris Riddell, when we first arrived, both of us looking slightly overawed and massively excited.




But I really ought to go back and start chronologically. What's it like, going to visit a big fancy castle? Well, here's Ardagh with his leprechauns, about to board the flight at Gatwick Airport.



And Riddell, who really does draw all the time.



Look, he drew me!



I sketched him, but I was slightly intimidated. Both of us had met book deadlines the night before we left - I finished Pugs of the Frozen North and he finished the third Goth Girl book - and we were both a bit shattered and had packed in a big rush.



Chris let me borrow his super-duper brush pen and I liked how the lines came out on this drawing a bit better. (Note: must order myself a Japanese Kurtake Million Years brush pen.) It's nicer than my Pentel brush pen and I can get more control with it.





After a driver brought us from Cork Airport to the castle, one of the first people we met was William Burlington, who owns the castle with his wife, Laura. He was so kind and down-to-earth and made us feel utterly welcome and at ease.



He and Laura are really into art (that's how they met) and have added some beautiful pieces to the family collection and set up a gallery in the castle and another in the town. But William's also a photographer and I found his website here, with some beautiful portraits. Here's a lovely picture he took of painter Sir Terry Frost (who, coincidentally, had a solo show in 2001 at the gallery that I used to run with friends).



I couldn't believe it when the footman helped me haul my suitcase up the stairs to the bedroom where I would be staying. Here's Jampire sitting on our bed, looking a little bit amazed.



And looking out the bedroom window:



We regrouped for drinks in a beautiful sitting room. Here's Philip, looking rather magnificent.



And Chris on a very flumpy sofa:



Somehow Chris managed to draw a picture of us while he was talking, which is something I find very difficult. I either make a bad drawing or I have the most spaced-out conversation, but he manages to be articulate AND draw, which is quite a skill.



We were given lovely customised festival welcome packs. Check out my hand-drawn shark!



Here's writer Archie Kimpton holding up Jumble Cat from his book with illustrator Kate Hindley.



I share an agent with Kate and absolutely ADORE her work, so I shall have to look out for these two books:



Then we had Afternoon Tea, looked a bit around the gardens, and pottered down the road as a group to see an art exhibition at St Carthage Hall, which is part of the Lismore Castle Arts project. Then it was time to get dressed for dinner. (Actually, William and Laura were so easygoing that I don't think we really had to worry about what we wore, but as you know, I like a good frock.) Here I am at my dressing table, feeling like I'm on the set of Gosford Park.



Such a fabulous dinner! That's Laura, standing on the right, and the butler, Denis, standing next to her. I'd heard about the super-efficiency of Denis, but I sat next to William on the second night's dinner and he said he'd been working for the family for over 30 years. And I got a sense of just HOW quick-on-the-mark he is when I was being filmed on the second day and said I needed to go get my ukulele. And seconds later, Dennis suddenly appeared with another ukulele from a cupboard, in case I wanted to use that one. I was massively impressed.



Here's William's sister, their actor friend Dominic West and Elaina Ryan from Children's Books Ireland.



Then lots of people chilled out on the flumpy sofa. Here's Brown Bag animation director Norton Virgien, Elaina, writer Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, Niamh Sharkey, and Niamh's husband.



I finally couldn't keep my eyes open any longer, and also, I had ambitions of trying out the huge bathtub in my room. But I ended up going to sleep quite late because there was so much to look at, even in my room, including a bunch of old copies of Vogue:



Funnily enough, there was even a long 1935 feature article about Bryn Mawr College, where I'd gone to university, and the article was hilariously anti-feminist. There were loads of funny bits but here's one:



I was talking later to Laura, and she said that they'd found the magazines after the room had been derelict for awhile and was being rennovated. They've been bought by Adele Astaire, the sister of Fred Astaire. And she said that when Fred and Adele had started out, she'd looked even more promising as an actor and dancer than he had. So I did a bit of research on Adele before falling asleep and found this video, with the Lismore Castle link. How cool that we'd been reading the same magazines!



The next morning was FESTIVAL DAY. And the sun shone brightly on the castle's towers!



I reached out the bedroom window to take these photos.



Fortunately we didn't have too early of a start - the festival didn't start until 11am and my first event wasn't until noon - very civilised! I'd seen a small staircase next to my room and heard from secretary Ed Lamba that the Gruffalo had been doing a photo shoot earlier on the roof. So I made a little foray up it, to see if it was the roof staircase. It wound up a very long way.



First I came out on a high platform where I met a friendly plasterer named Pat, who was fixing the crenelations by replastering them and drilling metal strengthening rods through them. He took me up a level higher to the very tip of the tallest tower. WHOA!



Then there was a great comedy moment when I had to go back down the ladder through the little trap door but I went down and my skirts and petticoats didn't, with a great FWOOMP, and billowed out around the top of the stair hole. So Pat fought back laughter as I had to go around tucking all the bits of my skirt back down the hole, so I could at last descend and go to breakfast.



Once again, it felt like something out of Gosford Park or Rebecca. I remember this one scene in Rebecca where the second Mrs de Winter has a huge breakfast buffet to choose from but only takes a boiled egg (or was it a little bit of fish?) and worries about all the food going to waste. Philip and I did our bit and I don't think anything will have gone to waste.



It was fun to see the castle courtyard gearing up for the festival, with lots of people in costumes.



I got to draw some characters on the library bus:



I did a big of song warmup (Photo borrowed from CBI on Twitter):



And then it was time for SHARKS! I read There's a Shark in the Bath to the big assembled crowd of kids and parents at the Heritage Centre and we sang the Shark song. (It was a bit tricky, not having my stage show buddy Philip Reeve there to lead the kids in the song motions and do all the Papa Shark voices, like we did at Mountains to Sea festival, but we did all right.)



Then I led them in making paper sharks! I usually just have the kids draw sharks, but wonderful organiser Maura O'Keeffe provided quality paper and craft supplies, so we were able to make them look extra special. I loved how they all had such different personalities!



Then the Heritage Centre coordinator hung the sharks out front on the railings, which hopefully did not intimidate any passersby TOO much. (Photo borrowed from the Lismore Heritage Centre Facebook page.)



I came back to the castle for a quick costume change, and William's brother-in-law decided he'd play the Queen of Hearts, so I helped him out with a hair pom-pom and lipstick.



His real name's Nicky but he made me guess his name, so I called him Colin all weekend.



And I got to sit in for a story about a dragon from Dominic.



I didn't manage to get a photo of writer Darren Shan, but I said a quick hello to writer Shane Hegarty between events:



And writer Sarah Webb, who'd organised Mountains to Sea festival in Dun Laoghaire. (You can see my blog post from that here.)



My next event was a Jampires Hat-making tea party. (http://www.jampires.com">Jampires</a> is the book I created with David O'Connell and featured creatures who suck the jam out of doughnuts.) I'd never actually done this event before, but Maura said she could supply all the materials, so I decided to try it.



The hardest thing was drilling holes in the paper plates and getting everything to stick on; the Pritt sticks and glue weren't so helpful but we made good use of the elastic, staplers and pipe cleaners to anchor everything.



The hats came out very nicely! I loved the netting, it made everything bigger and frothier.



And the pom-poms were good fun.



We even had a couple adults making hats, such as this one:



And here are some of the finished hats!















Then I had a big tired flop in this beautiful room (I could live happily in this room), and Mike Skinner from The Streets came and filmed me for a documentary video about the festival.



Then another lovely Afternoon Tea with the festival volunteers, and pre-dinner drinks:



William gave great kudos to Maura O'Keeffe (pictured here) for all her excellent planning work.



After dinner, I took photos of Niamh and her daughter, who was proudly wearing the hat she'd made at our workshop. (Yay!) The whole festival idea came about from a conversation one evening in this room, when William, Laura, Niamh and John Huddy from the Illustration Cupboard were having dinner. Lismore had hosted lots of arts events, but no children's book events, and this was a first.



I desperately wanted to stay awake so I wouldn't miss anything, but by 1am, my eyes just wouldn't stay open, I was babbling like an idiot and I had to go to bed. So I was quite envious of Philip, who managed to stay up with the gang until 5am! Many fine drinks and tower-climbing shenanigans. But we had an early flight back to London and Philip didn't look quite so hot when he came down to breakfast at 6am. It was hard to leave. I wrote a message in the guest book:



Chris made a drawing:



Jampire flat-out refused to go.



When I finally got him out of bed, he took long, weepy looks out the window at the sun rising over the Blackwater River. I knew how he felt, this was a storybook I didn't want to close. There were so many things I'd missed and still wanted to do: explore the gardens more, catch a glimpse of the kitchen, take a walk in the woods and see all the follies, see the castle art gallery. But I felt tremendously lucky to have been able to do and see as much as I had.



Jampire was not so mature and the only way I could convince him to come out of the room was to leave a copy of Jampires, so at least some of his friends could stay.



But then he threw a final tantrum on the lawn and could not be consoled.



Thanks so much, William, Laura, Maura, Niamh, John, Denis, Ed, and all the staff and volunteers who made this festival happen. You were amazing!

PS It's not inexpensive, but if you have a party of 16 people or more and want to hire Lismore Castle and its 21 bedrooms, you can find details on its website. And if you want to see an earlier blog post I did about visiting Chatsworth (where William's parents live), you can visit it here.

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16. ireland: mountains to sea book festival 2015

I used to think Dun Laoghaire in Ireland was pronounced 'dun leg hair', but in fact, you say it 'dun leery'. And that's where I went this weekend for Mountains to Sea Book Festival, along with a gorgeous gaggle of other writers, illustrators and book people, including this gang here: Oxford Story Museum's Tom Donegan, writer Judi Curtin, fellow space cadet and co-author Philip Reeve and writer Steve Cole:



But I'm so madly busy working on Pugs of the Frozen North right now (my upcoming book with Philip Reeve), that Philip kindly offered to do the blogging for me! So pop over to his blog for ALL OF THE NEWS:


***Keep reading Philip's blog here!***

Huge thanks to organiser and writer Sarah Webb for making everything go so smoothly! Also, big thanks to Oxfordshire Book Awards for making There's a Shark in the Bath your runner-up winner in the Picture Book category. Fab!



One more thing, journalist Fiona Noble in The Bookseller magazine just featured Pugs of the Frozen North as one of her top books to watch out for. Thanks, Fiona!

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17. Ireland is on the way back

As we approach the annual St Patrick’s Day celebration, the story of the Irish economy in the last five years is worthy of reflection. In late 2010, the Irish Government, following in the footsteps of Greece, was forced to request a deeply humiliating emergency financial bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union (EU). Against the background of the recent controversy over the latest “Greek crisis”, what can be said about Ireland’s experience? Here are five relevant issues

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18. Ten fun facts about the Irish Fiddle

Even though the harp is Ireland’s national symbol, the fiddle is the most commonly played instrument in traditional Irish music. Its ornamental melodies are more relaxed than the classical violin and improvisation is encouraged. The fiddle has survived generational changes from its start as a low-class instrument popular among the poor.

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19. Shamrock and Saltire: Irish Home Rule and the Scottish Referendum, 1914-2014

This is the centenary year of the enactment of the third Home Rule Bill, as well (of course) as the year of the Scottish referendum on independence. Yet the centenary conversation in Ireland and the somewhat more vigorous debate upon Scots independence, have been conducted — for the most part — quite separately.

While it would be wrong to push the analogies too far, there are some striking similarities – and some differences – between the debate on Home Rule in 1912-14, and the current debate upon Scottish independence. These similarities (and indeed distinctions) might well give food for thought to the protagonists within the Scottish ‘Yes’ and ‘Better Together’ camps — and indeed there is evidence that both Gordon Brown and Alex Salmond have ruminated accordingly.

One critical difference between Ireland in 1914 and Scotland in 2014 is that of militancy — Ireland on the eve of the First World War being an armed camp comprising the Ulster and Irish Volunteer movements, opponents and proponents of Home Rule, as well as the British Army. The Scottish political debate has not been militarised, and there is no evidence that it will become so (the Scottish National Liberation Army, for example, has never posed a significant threat). Modern Scottish nationalism has developed as a wholly constitutional and pacific phenomenon.

Of course mainstream Scottish nationalism has only recently, through successive Holyrood elections, emerged as a majority phenomenon. But it has never had to encounter the challenge (faced by Irish nationalism a century ago) of returning a majority of elected representatives, while being lengthily resisted in London.

One aspect of the Irish experience in 1914 was that a fraught constitutional debate, heightened political expectations, and the delaying or disappointment of those expectations (with Unionist resistance and the onset of War), combined to make a highly volatile political chemistry. The hardening expectations of change across Scotland in 2014 mean that national (as well as social and economic) aspirations may need to be quickly and sensitively addressed, whatever the result of the referendum.

Sir Edward Carson, leader of the Irish Unionist Party, inspecting members of the Ulster Volunteer Force. The UVF were founded in 1913 by the Ulster Unionist Council to resist the implementation of Home Rule. Q 81759 Imperial War Museums. IWM Non Commercial Licence via Wikimedia Commons.
Sir Edward Carson, leader of the Irish Unionist Party, inspecting members of the Ulster Volunteer Force. The UVF were founded in 1913 by the Ulster Unionist Council to resist the implementation of Home Rule. Q 81759 Imperial War Museums. IWM Non Commercial Licence via Wikimedia Commons.

One critical dimension of this militancy in 1914 was the trenchant support given to Ulster Unionist paramilitarism by the British Conservative leadership — this in part a symptom of the profound divisions in British and Irish politics and society precipitated by the debate over Home Rule. It is striking that both the Home Rule issue in 1914 and the referendum in 2014 have each attracted an unusually broad range of declarations of allegiance from a complex array of interest groups and individuals. In 1914 there was a high level of ‘celebrity’ endorsement and intervention over Home Rule: taking literary figures alone, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle came out as a Home Ruler, while Rudyard Kipling was a strong Unionist. In 2014 Irvine Welsh has declared in favour of independence, while J.K. Rowling is against. Ian Rankin provides a case-study in the complexity (and profundity) of division: he is an agnostic on the issue, but is clear that his characters would have strong opinions. So, Inspector Rebus joins the unionists of 2014 (though the actor Ken Stott, most recent of the TV Rebuses, is reportedly in the ‘yes’ camp).

The analogies between Home Rule and the debate on Scottish independence extend much further than the ‘A’ list, however. The substantial strength and challenge of Home Rule sentiment produced striking intellectual movement before and in 1914 — just as the strength of the movement for Scots independence has produced similar movement a century later.

In 1912-14 the constitutional impasse over Home Rule in fact helped to stimulate support for (what was then called) ‘federalism’ among some of the Unionist elite, including even Edward Carson. In terms of the (nearly) equally weighted forces fighting over Scottish independence, Gordon Brown has now moved to embrace the idea of a federal United Kingdom; and he has been joined or preceded by others, including (for example) the Scottish Conservative journalist, David Torrance. Discussion of a possible English parliament was broached prominently in 1911-1914 and again in 2014. Both in 1914 and in 2014 it appears that the constitutional shape of the ever-malleable United Kingdom is once again in transition — but because unionists are now shifting no less then nationalists.

And indeed some Scots Nationalists have moved towards embracing at least some of the symbols of the British connection. John Redmond, the Home Rule leader, emphasised monarchy and empire in his vision of Irish autonomy during the Home Rule era, partly through personal conviction, and partly in terms of subverting unionist arguments. In similar vein, Alex Salmond (despite a strong tradition of republican sentiment within the SNP), has embraced the ‘union of the crowns’ as SNP strategy, and has in recent years referred deferentially to the Queen (‘of Scots’), and her central place in an independent nation.

Here, as elsewhere, Ireland’s century-old debate on Home Rule speaks to the current condition of Scotland. Indeed here, as elsewhere, Ireland’s wider experience of Union chimes with that of the Scots.

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20. witing the generational saga

Irish curragh secured onshore at Tory Island
Glossing the new book releases and early reviews, and finding a novel that gathers up far-flung place settings of nostalgic relevance to me, loaded with topics of special interest, and all in one tidy package, seemed like an invitation to further self-discovery.  No Country, by Kalyan Ray, jumped out as promising.  The novel is a family generational saga spanning about 150 years, beginning with the mid-nineteenth century famine years in colonial Ireland, and moving to India in the years of the British Raj, before independence from England, and finally to North America--Canada and the United States.

Over that great a span of time, there are more than a few generations to deal with.  Throw in a complicating roster of intermarriage and trying to track family lines, and the average reader may feel challenged to fully appreciate the sweeping themes of a family's struggles, reversals, and successes, always at risk of being truncated into obscurity with the potential failure of any one generation.  The book is only moderately long; nonetheless, Ray moves his characters through a number of epochal historic events: the famine that destroyed perhaps a quarter of the Irish population; the pestilent voyages of coffin ships that finished off a similar number fleeing the famine to North America; the years of pre-independence revolution and terror in India faced by an Irishman who fled there, and later by his Anglo-Indian descendants; and ultimately, their immigration to the New World and the tough decades following, with the  inner tempering and annealing of spirit demanded for life in a new, industrial age unfolding there.

I enjoyed getting Ray's slant on some of the topics I felt somewhat familiar with, like the Great Hunger, An Gorta Mor.  My Irish grandparents were born shortly after the worst of those years. and left when they reached their twenties.  One can be disheartened reading about the callousness and politics that exacerbated The Great Hunger.  And be no less shocked by the callousness and politics practiced by the authorities in attempting to smother the gathering storm of Indian rebellion against colonial rule by Britain.  Ray uses the deliberate massacre of an unarmed civilian population at Jallianwala bagh to stunning effect.  One has to remember we also had our own My Lai during the Vietnam war, lest we think modern humanity has relegated all such events to the past.

One of the topics I had been interested in was Ray's take on the life of Anglo-Indian residents living in India, which was his own life growing up there.  I had worked in Pakistan (once northern India) as an engineer on a dam and had come in contact with a number of workers from the nearby mountains who stood out from their compatriots as fair-skinned, light-haired, Anglo types.  I often thought of the large number of soldiers in the British Raj Army who had been recruited from Ireland.  On holiday trips through the Khyber Pass to Afghanistan I sometimes stopped to inspect the British Raj regimental crests chiseled into the sandstone along the Pass.  Some of these seemed old enough to have been the crests of units that had participated in the British-Afghan Wars of the nineteenth century.  Whole Raj armies had been swallowed up in Afghanistan, and I wondered how many of the present day Anglo-Indian, or perhaps more precisely, Hiberno-Indian, were descendants of those soldiers who fell there.

A reader can be repulsed reading of the oppressive use of police and intelligence services, paid or coerced informers, and repressive laws, in the dying period of the Raj, and in pre-independence Ireland, designed to contain perceived threats of public dissent to political and economic interests.  That is perhaps not much different than what is practiced in many places today.

I think one difficulty with the structure of No Country is a blurring sweep of characters as the story moves through the generations.  There's not much space to become acquainted with each character.  The main progenitor, Padraig, both biological and adoptive to the cascading line of descendants, is aptly revealed in the beginning as a young man in Ireland, as well as is his best friend, Brendan. When Padraig is compelled to flee to India, the situation of Brendan and Padraig's daughter, Maeve, becomes desperate in the famine, and when there is no news of Padraig for over a year, they board one of the coffin ships for North America.  We get to know young Maeve fairly well on the voyage, and it's an endearing characterization.  After a harrowing ordeal they reach Canada, and that's about the last of expansive characterizations for any of the successive generations.

Another concern from a writer's viewpoint might be the introduction of startling coincidental material into an already ambitious plot.  One of the young woman protagonists travels to New York to seek the young man she had known in Canada, and becomes employed in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory there, the locale of a historic fire tragedy.  It was a dramatic episode in the telling, but it seems not entirely organic to the story thread.  Another coincidental element was a chance crossing of paths with a psychopathic character when a Padraig-descendant's family purchases their home from the psychopath's family, which led to diabolical consequences.

All in all, No Country is an engrossing read and is well recommended.


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21. ‘The Missing Scarf’ by Eoin Duffy

A black comedy exploring some of life's common fears: fear of the unknown, of failure, rejection and finally the fear of death.

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22. Libraries in County Clare

Last week I spent a couple of days in Clare – visited Scarriff, Killaloe, Ennis and Shannon. This time of year always reminds me of the work being done in the libraries in Ireland – and always reinvigorates my hope that we do not go the way of Britain where public libraries are being closed. Hundreds closed so far I think. In the North as far as I know, one has already been closed and ten are under threat (See http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/closures-map/).

What always strikes me in the libraries is the variety of things that happen under their roofs! Storytelling, PC training, book clubs meeting, Leaving Cert and Junior Cert studying, Summer reading challenges, drama workshops, film clubs, creative writing workshops and more!

I took a look at some of the summer activities for children in the Clare libraries, outside of the reading challenge, and they included a Sculpture Trail, a visit to the Ennis Old Friary, Story Time, crafts, jewellery making and  visit to the museum. And all free. All a public service. So … long live the libraries of Ireland and their energetic librarians !

The classes I met, from national schools and secondary schools, were great. In Ennis I had fifty girls from the secondary schools and we did some work together on the issue of child marriage. In a very short space of time they produced some beautiful poems written in the voice of a young girl who had been told she was to be married. Really excellent and empathetic writing, I am hoping they will send me copies so I can put them up on the site.

Off to Wexford and Carlow this week, then Cork next week!

 

In Ennis Library

In Ennis Library

On the way to Killaloe

On the way to Killaloe

 

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23. Throwback Thursday

























This is one of the very first maps I ever did, back when I was starting out as an illustrator. It was inspired by a TOO long ago trip to Ireland. Time to go back!

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24. Dublin

DUBLIN

Stone statues view strangely the sights below

Copper dye melts around the hallowed heads

And drips down to form pools of green.

They sit upon the ancient stones

And watch the urgency far below.

Tram tracks now covered deep.

The old ways  buried with layers of seasons past.

Dublin watches with her dons of old

Her Georgian facades hide songs of older times

She moves within her cast of sculptures; frozen.

Rusty steel arches stands proud and red above the fray

Placed over swirling Liffey, green. A path for trade and friends alike

They join her North and South.

Welcome lines hide ages in their grace.

Many crossed its spans for love or on the run.

Pillared columns stand haughty against the ages

They define the day. They fix the view.

The cut stone gates of Trinity.

The cobbled stones of streets of old.

Where iron shod feet once plied their trades.

Fanlights now illuminate the carpets thick.

In rooms where tailored suits and money meet.

The tea maids are gone. The scones are cold.

The silver set, now frozen behind the water glass.

Portraits watch with moldy eyes, from plastered walls.

Ireland April 2012 412.jpg large webNew blood moves quickly beneath her veins.

Her structure hardened by shells of old.

Her nature, pure, for all to see.

Her ancient stones laid stately, by the Norse.

Her history still defines her course.

Denis Hearn 2002

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25. Rotten fish and Belfast confetti

Winston Churchill’s Victory broadcast of 13 May 1945, in which he claimed that but for Northern Ireland’s “loyalty and friendship” the British people “should have been confronted with slavery or death,” is perhaps the most emphatic assertion that the Second World War entrenched partition from the southern state and strengthened the political bond between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Two years earlier, however, in private correspondence with US President Roosevelt, Churchill had written disparagingly of the young men of Belfast, who unlike their counterparts in Britain were not subject to conscription, loafing around “with their hands in their pockets,” hindering recruitment and the vital work of the shipyards.

Churchill’s role as a unifying figure, galvanising the war effort through wireless broadcasts and morale-boosting public appearances, is much celebrated in accounts of the British Home Front. The further away from London and the South East of England that one travels, however, the more questions should be asked of this simplistic narrative. Due to Churchill’s actions as Liberal Home Secretary during the 1910 confrontations between miners and police in South Wales, for example, he was far less popular in Wales, and indeed in Scotland, than in England during the war. But in Northern Ireland, too, Churchill was a controversial figure at this time. The roots of this controversy are to be found in events that took place more than a quarter of a century before, in 1912.

Then First Lord of the Admiralty, Churchill was booed on arrival in Belfast that February, before his car was attacked and his effigy brandished by a mob of loyalist demonstrators. Later at Belfast Celtic Football Ground he was cheered by a crowd of five thousand nationalists as he spoke in favour of Home Rule for Ireland. Churchill was not sympathetic to the Irish nationalist cause but believed that Home Rule would strengthen the Empire and the bond between Britain and Ireland; he also saw this alliance as vital to the defence of the United Kingdom.

Churchill Side Image
Winston Churchill As Prime Minister 1940-1945 by Cecil Beaton, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Loyalists were outraged. Angry dockers hurled rotten fish at Churchill and his wife Clementine as they left the city; historian and novelist Hugh Shearman reported that their car was diverted to avoid thousands of shipyard workers who had lined the route with pockets filled with “Queen’s Island confetti,” local slang for rivet heads. (Harland and Wolff were at this time Belfast’s largest employer, and indeed one of the largest shipbuilding firms in the world; at the time of the Churchills’ visit the Titanic was being fitted out.)

Two years later in March 1914 Churchill made a further speech in Bradford in England, calling for a peaceful solution to the escalating situation in Ulster and arguing that the law in Ireland should be applied equally to nationalists and unionists without preference. Three decades later, this speech was widely reprinted and quoted in several socialist and nationalist publications in Northern Ireland, embarrassing the unionist establishment by highlighting their erstwhile hostility to the most prominent icon of the British war effort. Churchill’s ignominious retreat from Belfast in 1912 was also raised by pamphleteers and politicians who sought to exploit a perceived hypocrisy in the unionist government’s professed support for the British war effort as it sought to suppress dissent within the province. One socialist pamphlet attacked unionists by arguing that “The Party which denied freedom of speech to a member of the British Government before it became the Government of Northern Ireland is not likely to worry overmuch about free speech for its political opponents after it became the Government.”

And in London in 1940 Victor Gollancz’s Left Book Club published a polemic by the Dublin-born republican activist Jim Phelan, startlingly entitled Churchill Can Unite Ireland. In this Phelan expressed hopes that Churchill’s personality itself could effect positive change in Ireland. He saw Churchill as a figure who could challenge what Phelan called “punctilio,” the adherence to deferential attitudes that kept vested interests in control of the British establishment. Phelan identified a cultural shift in Britain following Churchill’s replacement of Chamberlain as Prime Minister, characterised by a move towards plain speaking: he argued that for the first time since the revolutionary year of 1848 “people are saying and writing what they mean.”

Jim Phelan’s ideas in Churchill Can Unite Ireland were often fanciful, but they alert us to the curious patterns of debate that can be found away from more familiar British narratives of the Second World War. Here a proud Irish republican could assert his faith in a British Prime Minister with a questionable record in Ireland as capable of delivering Irish unity.

Despite publically professed loyalty to the British war effort, unionist mistrust of the London government in London endured over the course of the war, partly due to Churchill’s perceived willingness to deal with Irish Taoiseach Éamon de Valera. Phelan’s book concluded with the words: “Liberty does not grow on trees; it must be fought for. Not ‘now or never’. Now.” Eerily these lines presaged the infamous telegram from Churchill to de Valera following the bombing of Pearl Harbor the following year in 1941, which, it is implied, offered Irish unity in return for the southern state’s entry into the war on the side of Allies, and read in part “Now is your chance. Now or never. A Nation once again.”

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