Author Patricia Byrne delves into on of the darker chapters of Irish history for her latest book, ‘The Preacher and the Prelate: The Achill Mission Colony and the Battle for Souls in Famine Ireland’.
It recounts the story of an evangelising colony established by Edward Nangle on the slopes of Slievemore, Achill in the nineteenth century. The colony became infamous during the Great Famine with charges of enticing people to change their faith with promises of food and material benefits known as ‘souperism’.
“I have a special affinity with Achill Island and its stories. Over the years, in visiting Achill, I came to realise that within its shores were packed some extraordinary stories, none more so than that of the Achill Mission Colony.
“The colony is a microcosm of nineteenth-century Ireland, famine, emigration, landlordism. I became engrossed in the story and could not let go of it. It was as if, by researching and writing it, I was walking through my own history,” said Patricia.
Born in County Mayo, Limerick became Patricia’s home in the 1980’s when she relocated to work in Shannon Development, where she worked on regional and economic development in the mid west.
Patricia has a BA from Maynooth University, an MBS from University of Limerick and in 2006 she completed a Masters in Creative Writing at National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway, and since her retirement has been writing full time for about ten years.
Patricia has already published a poetry collection, ‘Unstable Time’ in 2009 and her book ‘The Veiled Woman of Achill: Island Outrage and A Playboy Drama’ which was published in 2012 tells another Achill story, about a notorious island crime of 1894 committed at the Valley House in north Achill.
She most enjoys writing narrative nonfiction, “I research my stories but write them using fictional techniques to read like a novel. I also like to write memoir essays where aspects of my own life are intertwined with other material as in my essay ‘Milk Bottles in Limerick’”.
Patricia was included in last year’s list of ‘Notables’ for Best American Essays for her piece ‘Milk Bottles in Limerick’ which linked her life in Mayo and Limerick, “through the prism of Heinrich Boll’s essay on Limerick in his Irish Journal”.
“I find that when I am immersed in research and writing a story it becomes an obsession. Even when not directly involved in the work, it never seems to leave me.
“I find I feel compelled to visit the places where the story takes place. So there have been many trips to Achill Island, to Dugort and Slievemore, to the Deserted Village and other wonderful places in Achill”.
Preferring to write daily and in the mornings, Patricia’s favourite spot is at a desk on the first floor of her house that catches the morning sunshine, from where she can admire a horse chestnut tree in her garden and a neighbouring cat that crawls along the top of the wall to keep her company.
For more information see www.patriciabyrneauthor.com