Category Archives: Ireland

3 Books I’ve Read This Year

Why Just Three?

Basically so that I can talk more about books in a later blog post! I’ve read more than these, but I’m behind in my self-imposed Goodreads challenge. The truth is, I’ve given up on several books this year, so if you count partial reads, I’m beyond my challenge. I know that people feel differently on the topic of whether or not to finish a book that you’ve already invested time in, but for me I’m not going to stick with a book that doesn’t grab me–especially if it irritates me. (Another topic for another post!)

So I thought I’d pick a few that I did enjoy and showcase them.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Have I mentioned that I love historical fiction? Since this one was a best-seller, I decided to give it a try. Rich in detail surrounding the Chinese and Japanese communities in Seattle and California both during WWII and in the 1980s, this book had a mystery to be solved and a character’s heart that needed healing. Loved it!Hotel_on_the_Corner_of_Bitter_and_Sweet_cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd

My reading list usually contains a few books by Irish authors. I’ve found some really wonderful stories from over the pond. This one is set during the troubles when teenage Fergus and his uncle discover a bog buried in a bog. This happens from time to time in Ireland because bogs preserve history. With the mystery of how this child was murdered back in ancient times, Fergus’s brother protesting his political imprisonment by starvation, and his unlikely friendship with a British boarder guard, the story kept me enthralled. Highly recommended.

bog child

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Widow of Gettysburg by Jocelyn Green

After visiting Gettysburg I wanted to learn more about how the battles affected the small population of townspeople. This book was just the thing. Not at all easy to read about, but realistic and compelling. As Liberty Holloway endures trial after trial, she also learns something about herself and her ability to care for everyone no matter their race or political conviction. But that is nothing compared to what she learns about the mother she’d never known, and a history she had no idea she was a part of. It’s also a love story, and a story about compassion, which is welcome considering the horrific subject.

The Widow of Gettysburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you read any of these novels? I would love to hear what you thought!

We’re Connected by Stories

Defining Our Attachment

“…it’s our stories that tell us who we are. Our parents’ and grandparents’ stories are unique to each of us, to which we have an irrefutable attachment.”

This quote came from this blog post. It speaks the truth, I believe.  This is the sum of why I started researching my roots. We are all searching, I believe, for a connection to each other and to God. Stories connect us. Even hearing the stories of someone not blood-related to you brings you closer to that person and that person’s struggles and triumphs.

How Stories are Collected

The post I linked to above is about a family business in Manhattan. There is another story about a family Clarke's photo by Cindy Thomsonbusiness that I have not stopped thinking about since I heard it. This one takes place on the other side of the pond, in the west of Ireland in a town called Ballina. The town, on the River Moy, is known for salmon. Clarke’s Salmon Smokery in downtown Ballina, which Jackie Clarke opened in 1945, is now run by his sons. The story about Jackie Clarke met my attention because I’ve visited Ballina and even eaten smoked salmon in one of the pubs there. (Truth be told my husband and I ate smoked salmon almost everywhere we went in Ireland and even had it in the airport before we flew home because you’re not allowed to take it with you!)

A Collector of History

Jackie Clarke, apparently, was a collector of items of historical significance. When he died in 2000 he left a floor of his house stuffed with items:

It is the most important private collection of Irish history material in public hands, comprising over 100,000 items spanning 400 years. It includes artefacts associated with Theobald Wolfe Tone; letters from Michael Collins, Douglas Hyde, Michael Davitt and O’Donovan Rossa. It also contains rare books, proclamations, posters, political cartoons, pamphlets, handbills, works by Sir John Lavery, maps, hunger strike material and personal items from Leaders of the 1916 Rising.–www.clarkecollection.ie

From the Jackie Clarke Collection

from http://www.clarkecollection.ie/Collection/

His wife donated the collection in 2005, and much of it is on display in a former bank building in town. This museum opened after my visit so I didn’t get to see it, but it started me thinking about the importance one man collecting history can have. How much of what he kept might have been lost had he not done it? I imagine a good bit. Lots of people keep mementoes, pictures, and items related to their own personal histories. But Jackie Clarke must have felt connected to his community and his country when he stowed away all the stuff he did. I can’t imagine why he didn’t share it in his lifetime. Apparently even his family didn’t know the extent of his collection. Perhaps he thought he was the only interested, but of course that wasn’t true.

My mother has stashed away items, particularly newspaper articles, when she felt they would be of historical significance in the future. She has nothing like the Clarke Collection, but she probably shares Jackie Clarke’s convictions. So much is digital now that there is little need to keep everything, but organizing it is still important so future generations can feel connected to their past. What do you think? Are you a collector?

The past connects us in important ways but only if we are able to hear the stories.

Pondering the Psalms

Studying the Book of Psalms

There is certainly more than one way, and I’m not saying I’m a Biblical scholar, but I have been thinking about the Psalms as I consider how to better my prayer life. Some time ago I picked up a small booklet by Thomas Merton, Praying the Psalms. A couple of lines I highlighted within:

PrayingthePsalms“The Psalms are not abstract treatises on the divine nature. In them we learn to know God not by analyzing various concepts of His divinity, but by praising and loving Him…being hymns of praise, they only reveal their full meaning to those who use them in order to praise God.”

 

“Nowhere can we be more certain that we are praying with the Holy Spirit than when we pray the Psalms.”

“How does one arrive at such an appreciation of the Psalms?”

“…acquire a habit of reciting them slowly and well…pausing to meditate on the lines which have the deepest meaning for him.”

 

My Pictorial Study of the Psalms

I underlined more, but this gives you an idea of why I have decided to start my study (or more correctly my praying…Merton says focusing on what you can get out of the Psalms makes it about you and not about praising God) with a verse or two from each chapter paired with my photos from Ireland. Here is one:

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How to Follow my Journey in the Psalms

If you’d like to follow me on this exploration, like my page on Facebook and be sure to click “follow” in the upper righthand corner. If you don’t do that, even though you’ve “liked” my page, my posts probably won’t show up in your newsfeed. It’s just how Facebook works. The more you interact (like, share, comment) on my posts, however, the more likely Facebook is to include them in your newsfeed. But to ensure you get them just click “Follow.” Here is the link: http://www.facebook.com/cindyswriting

If you have anything to share about the Psalms and how they’ve affected you, please comment.

New Irish Photo Giveaway

Some many of you liked the photos I shared last month on Facebook and Twitter, that I decided it was time for a giveaway! These are photos from a calendar I made in the past. They are photos I took in Ireland in 2010. See the giveaway below and enter (the more categories you enter the more chances you will have to win!) Please share with your friends! Oh, and the size is 12″ x 9 1/4″, despite what the giveaway seems to say. 🙂

A Voice From Ireland’s Past

Ancestry.com offers immigrant interviews to listen to for free. I could spend all day listening! Here is one with a lady named Lillian Doran Cavanaugh from Ballymore, County Westmeath.

http://ancstry.me/1g4L7RG

 I found this amusing in some spots, such as when she was asked if she knew how her parents met. She says she doesn’t know: “They don’t talk that way over there.”

This may have been Lillian Doran Cavanaugh’s church in Ireland 

Lillian and her sister Peg departed Ireland at Queenstown for America where their uncles awaited them.

At about 27:09 on the recording Lillian talks about her arrival in America.

Gifts for St. Paddy’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! To celebrate, I would much rather talk about the country and its people than drink in a bar that Americans call an Irish pub. If you feel the same way, or even if you don’t–I don’t mind–I’ve got some things to brighten your day.

Throughout the day I plan to share some of my favorite photographs from Ireland over on my Facebook page. You can find it here: www.facebook.com/cindyswriting (and don’t forget to click the like the button while you’re there.)

And here’s something fun! My friend Corey over at the Irish Fireside is sharing a free ebook of sites to see in Ireland. If you’re not already, you really should be following the Irish Fireside!

Download it at http://irishfireside.com/remarkable/

Reflections on St. Brigid

February 1st is coming, St. Brigid’s Day.

As some of you know, my first novel is titled Brigid of Ireland and it was inspired by the late 5th century-early 6th century patron saint of Ireland Brigid. But why Brigid? How did I get interested in her?

And by the way, if you are looking for a copy, contact me.

Miracles

Have you ever seen one? Experienced one? I know life itself is a miracle and as Leif Enger illustrated so well in his novel Peace Like a River they are all around us all the time if we will only look. St. Brigid, like all venerated saints I suppose, is known for her miracles. She doesn’t just perform them, though, they seem to happen around her whether she notices or not. Take the time she hung her cloak on what she thought was a hook but was really a sunbeam, and it stayed there. Or the way all the butter she gave away from her father’s dairy was just miraculously restored. I see Brigid as not one who invokes these things, asking God to bring about a mighty act, but as one who expects no less because she knows miracles abound. All you have to do is expect to see them.

Her Special Cross

St. Brigid is believed to have woven this cross while explaining Jesus’ sacrifice to a dying pagan. That fascinated me because this is not the typical cross we imagine Jesus actually hanging on. This is a special shape attributed only (in Ireland) to St. Brigid. This also enthralled me. Yes, it could have been a pagan symbol that was adapted to Christianity, but I imagine it being something more. Rather than a physical symbol of Good Friday, it’s a storytelling device. She explained about Jesus as she wove it. Perhaps she turned it as she recounted each step of what led up to the crucifixion. Perhaps the number of reeds represented something in the story (I’m not good at math so I’m not going to try to establish a formula or anything.) Perhaps the four points of the cross helped her explain how our sins are forgiven “as far as the east is from the west.”

Consecrated a Bishop

Yes, in the 6th century. The church has tried to explain that away as some kind of error. But women held positions of power in ancient Ireland so it’s not far-fetched. But it is something women today look up to. I once gave a talk to a group of nuns in a retirement home. They were interested in the novel and all, but what they really wanted to know was did I think she was actually a bishop? They loved that! 🙂
St. Brigid’s Consecration by Bishop Mel, mosaic in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh. ©2010CindyThomson

She Was a Slave

We can tend to forget that slavery has been an institution from almost the beginning of time. Like St. Patrick, Brigid was a slave. Patrick had been stolen away from his family, but Brigid was born into it. Her mother was her father’s slave. The fact that shortly after her birth Brigid was separated from her mother is the detail that launched the plot for my novel. But historically slavery was not the worst option for people. You needed to belong to a household to survive back then and you could do that by either being part of the royal family (and there were many, many regional kings at the time,) or being part of the family of gentry who owned property (which meant livestock, not land,) or you could be a slave in one of those households where you had shelter and food. With none of those things (which is the position Brigid found herself in after her father set her free) you had to figure out how to survive in the wilderness. There were some monasteries, but they were scarce at this time, and Brigid remember ended up being Ireland’s first nun, so moving to a convent wasn’t an option at this point in history. This part of the social structure was interesting to me.

She Has Been Nearly Forgotten

In America anyway, and for non Catholics. But even many Catholics don’t know about this saint. As a novelist I love writing about historical figures people forgot about. Keeping legacies alive is what drives me. (Yes, I know there is debate about whether or not Brigid was an actual person. You can debate that among yourselves without me.)
St.Brigid in center. St.Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh. ©2010CindyThomson
So these are the major things that inspired my novel. Anything here new to you?
Happy St. Brigid’s Day to you all!!

Ireland, Yeats, and My Writing Inspiration

Drumcliffe Church built in 1809. Photo ©Cindy Thomson, 2013

When people learn about my visits to Ireland, most ask if I was researching a new book or if going there influenced my writing somehow. I usually don’t have a definitive answer. All my experiences  influence my stories in some way. But, yes, Ireland is inspirational, and so is Ireland’s literary history.
Since my last trip included a stay in Sligo, W.B. Yeats, who spent much of his childhood there and is buried in Drumcliffe, and how the landscape influenced him (and his brother Jack who painted some of Sligo’s scenery) provided inspiration (but what for exactly, I’ve yet to discover!)

Benbulben, County Sligo. Photo © Cindy Thomson, 2013

Graveyard at Drumcliffe. Photo ©Cindy Thomson, 2013.

Over a century before Yeats spent his summers in Sligo, St. Columcille chose the site for one of his monasteries. In the 6th century, Columcille founded Drumcliffe and it has remained a sacred site since. (Although for all I know it was sacred to the pagans before Christianity, as many sites were.) 

Drumcliffe sits in the shadow of the magnificent mountain called Benbulben or Benbulbin (above.) The church that sits there now is of the Church of Ireland, and Yeats’s great grandfather was a rector there. Not too far from the church’s front doors (below, do you see swans? Some of my friends didn’t when they looked at this pic) lies Yeats’s grave. He died in France, but it was his wish (as written in one of his poems) to be buried at the base of Benbulben.

Drumcliffe church doors. Photo ©Cindy Thomson, 2013

 

W.B. Yeats Grave, Drumcliffe. Photo ©Cindy Thomson, 2013. Yeats’s wife is buried there too.

The churchyard is home to a 10th century high cross, and the ruin of a round tower, which dates at least to the 10th century, but perhaps even earlier.

Drumcliffe Round Tower. Photo ©Cindy Thomson, 2013.

Apparently some of the ancient monastery’s tumbledown stones were used to build the new church. I’m fascinated by the fact that for centuries people have come here to worship, celebrate, bury and mourn their dead. Hearts were full or heavy here, over and over. You can almost feel it.

Author Karen Robbins on Her Ireland Trip


Cindy’s note: Karen is a writer friend who just happens to have been born on St. Patrick’s Day. I asked her to share with you some memories about her trip.

Thanks for inviting me today, Cindy! One of the reasons I love your books so much is the Ireland connection. In 2011, we spent a month exploring Ireland. We began in Dublin and circled the entire island country. It is truly a beautiful country with wonderful people—actually two countries, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which is still a part of the United Kingdom.

Karen Robbins’s photo.

I cannot pick out a favorite spot. Each area was unique and had something different to experience although I do favor the countryside more than the larger cities. One of the most delightful things about each area that we visited though was the storytelling. Ah, the Irish can spin a tale!

On our second day to explore the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland, we found ourselves in the land of legendary giants. The Giant’s Causeway, a spectacular work of nature or giants if you would believe folklore, was fascinating. The rock formation is made from an estimated 40,000 basalt columns which were formed from a volcanic eruption over 60 million years ago. 



The causeway was discovered in 1692 by the Bishop of Derry who immediately reported it to the tourist bureau in Dublin–just kidding–but it was reported to Dublin authorities who in turn contacted authorities in London and the theories and research began in an attempt to explain the phenomenon.

But who wants facts like lava flowing and filling in fissures and creating a layer of basalt and then sun and rain eroding them, more lava flowing, cooling slowly, more cracking, and on and on until you get all of these columns of mostly six-sided stones? Give me the legend. It’s much more fun.

Karen Robbins’s photo.

It is said that an Irish giant named Finn McCool lived along the coast and was insulted by a Scottish giant, Fingal, who lived across the channel. In anger, Finn lifted a huge chunk of earth and hurled it at Fingal. The earth fell into the sea. Fingal retaliated with a huge stone tossed in Finn’s direction. He taunted Finn saying that Finn was lucky he wasn’t a strong swimmer or he’d come over to the Irish shore and give Finn what for.

Finn was enraged and began throwing large clumps of earth into the channel to make a walkway for Fingal to come over and face him. It took him a week to complete the walkway but since he hadn’t slept in a week, he was worried that he was too tired to face Fingal.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. One account says he asked his wife what to do and she told him to disguise himself as a baby in a cot–which is what he did. When Fingal arrived, Finn’s wife said her husband was out but showed Fingal her “baby” laying in the cradle. Fingal saw the size of the “baby” and wondered how big the father was. He high tailed it home tearing up the walkway as he went. The Giants Causeway is all that’s left.

Now isn’t that better than a lot of geological facts? Before we left, Bob and I were feeling a bit adventuresome. We climbed to the top of a group of rocks for a Kodak moment. After all, we were nearing the end of our Ireland trip and a turned ankle wouldn’t be so disastrous.

KAREN ROBBINS is a freelance writer, author, and speaker. She and her husband are travel addicts and stop by home in the Cleveland area of Ohio on occasion to repack the suitcases. Her stories are often inspired by adventures in many different parts of the world.
Along the writing adventure, Karen has published Divide The Child, Murder Among The Orchids, In A Pickle, and Death Among The Deckchairs. She has also coauthored A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts and A Scrapbook of Motherhood Firsts and has contributed to several Chicken Soupbooks. Travel articles, essays on grandparenting, and some of her short stories can be found in various magazines both online and in print.
While the world is fun to explore, Karen most likes to spend time with her eight grandchildren. They offer the greatest adventures of all.
Follow Karen’s travels at Writer’s Wanderings. Connect with her at her Facebook Author Pageto learn when her next Casey Stengel Mystery book, Secrets Among The Shamrocks will be released.
 

An Irish Book Launch

Ballina (EIRE)
Ballina photo by eric.delignieres

When I was in Ireland, I had the unique opportunity to attend Kate Kerrigan’s book launch!

The event was held in the beautiful little town of Ballina (Bow-lynn-ah)–I pronounced it wrong continually until I heard Kate say it. The town is near her home and the place where her mother Moira lives.

Her book, the one just launched in Ireland, is the final in a series about an Irish immigrant who makes a home in Hollywood, and the party was at a beauty salon. Read her blog post about it here. (I actually appear in the background of one of the pictures she has up on her blog. I was on my way back from the bathroom when the costume award was being given. Yep, a photobomb by yours truly!)

I met Kate through my blog, www.novelpastimes.com, where I interviewed her. About a year and a half ago I had another unique opportunity. I learned she was going to Manhattan on book tour just the time I planned to be there to research my book. She invited me to a book blogger luncheon hosted by her publisher, Harper Collins, at the HC headquarters.

That’s me in front of HC holding Kate’s book.
The luncheon was an intimate gathering where we heard insides stories from the author, the best kinds!

Besides being a delightfully nice person, she is a wonderful writer and I’ve enjoyed her books. You should check them out!